Lately George has become so blindly infatuated with the French Press it seems as if espresso has taken a back seat here at the Clean Hot Dry blog. Time to get things back on track.
Espresso was after all, the darling of coffee many of us fell in love with in the first place. But something has changed. Nobody actually drinks it on it’s own anymore. Maybe they never did. Rarely these days, have I seen it embraced, au naturel, without milk. It doesn’t count to just “taste it” as frequently happens, where someone tries the coffee, checks up on it if you will. Maybe because they’re in a new shop or there is a new blend. That doesn’t count. I’m referring to ordering it based on a hankering. Drinking all of it all down, done. And then maybe having a second espresso because the first was so good.
Even amongst the fringe elements of the coffee community, the bleeding edge of passionate, forward thinking coffee professionals what I see is espresso + milk. Most frequently taken as a macchiato. Sometimes as a cappuccino and of course, just recently, as the fast spreading Gibraltar (maximum style points). Each and every one of these is enjoyable, flavourful and satisfying-no doubt. But why not get an espresso instead?
You hear all sorts of descriptors about espresso don’t you? Endless superlatives that flirt with the romantic in all of us but rarely in that mix do you catch mention of the word “balanced.” When the acidity and body play paddy cake together on your tongue. Flavours remain subtle. There is simply synchronicity between the parts. It all just works and you finish it, satisfied. Nothing more, nothing less.
For me this means a single shot. There is a place for doubles but I just ordered an espresso, a small drink. A drink delivering flavour, intensity and satisfaction.
Along with the double shot, naked portafilters and many contemporary techniques also act as a subterfuge to this destination of “balanced.” Starting with lots of coffee, finishing with an abbreviated pour and showcasing that sexy viscosity can make for great photos but I would argue, tends to deliver the furthest thing from balanced in the cup. Up front there is an attacking intensity followed by abrasive acidity that trends caustic. The middle might have some texture that carries you to the finale but that last bit of coffee at the bottom, sour to the extreme. And I thought we were friends. For all the knowledge, passion and great coffee being pulled, I experience variations on this taste profile frequently. Often in the shops and at the hands of people considered the “ne plus ultra” of their town. Is this why everyone is drinking macchiatos?
Taste your espresso again for the first time. Ask yourself if what you are serving is balanced? Is it approachable? Do you need 24 hours before you could possibly drink a second one? Are there beads of sweat on your forehead after the first?
Maybe you are choosing to serve espresso that is the equivalent of the 90-minute, continuously hopped IPA, but if you’re not, may I humbly suggest…Oh look at that, we’ve run out of time.
Join us again next week for “Three easy steps to becoming an Espresso Pariah.”
See you then.
About The Author: Aaron De Lazzer is the Director of Coffee for the Ethical Bean Coffee Company in Vancouver.