The man didn’t know what he was doing. I was at a Brooklyn coffee shop whose name is synonymous with donkey and I ordered an iced latte. The man (I’d call him a barista, but he clearly wasn’t) took a glass and filled it with ice. And then–this was the crucial error–he pulled two watery flavorless shots of espresso which he poured on top of the ice. The ice melted a lot. Then he topped the whole thing with a splash of milk. It was insipid.
The next day at my favorite coffee shop in America (including Seattle) I paid close attention to how the baristas at Joe make their iced lattes. Ice in the glass: check. Then they fill the glass almost to the top with milk. “Whoah,” you might think, “there’s so much milk. How can this taste like a latte?” The answer lies in the picture you see above: they pull a really strong shot. Not just a strong shot, an expert shot. It infuses the milk with magic coffee flavor and produces the best iced latte I can imagine. The secret is in the espresso.
Lucky us, one of Joe’s most prized baristas has a blog. Welcome to the world of Erin Meister and her blog Meet The Press Pot. I stole this post’s image from a post in which Meister writes: “To say an espresso is good is sort of like saying a girl on the street is pretty: Every good shot of espresso and every pretty girl may share this or that characteristic, but if you were to line them all up, one hopes one’s taste is varied enough that they would all be rather different piece by piece. Right?”
She concludes: “So how does one train one’s pupils to pull good espresso? By making them taste, taste, taste and taste again. This is a people-driven industry, and a taste-bud driven industry. And if there’s no way of standardizing ‘great’ espresso, the least we can do, I guess, is create great baristas. One hopes.”
Let’s hope the Meisters of the world outrun the donkeys. Or, at least, that more people learn how to pull a good shot of espresso. I know where I’m headed for my next iced latte!
7 thoughts on “Don’t Make A Mess-o of Your Espresso”
there’s a coffee shop named “ass” in brooklyn?
ROFL, sabrina! That’s the first thing I thought when I read this – a coffee shop named ‘ass’???? C’mon Adam, tell us its name!
…”There’s so much milk. How can this taste like a latte?”…
Just fyi: ‘latte’ is Italian for ‘milk’
It’s true, Lilla — that’s one of the great jokes in American coffee, that “If you order a ‘latte’ in Italy they just hand you a glass of milk.” Which, of course, is the way most coffee shops’ lattes here taste, unfortunately.
Not for long, though — we’re gonna give the big guys a run for their coffee!
(Thanks for the kind, kind words, Adam — about my silly, piddling little blog and about Joe. You’re one of our favorites, too!!)
That made my month. Thanks for being such a great supporter. J
Adam, did you see the NYT bit on cold brewing coffee a week or two ago?
Well, that “barista” is not the only one to make a coffee mess. Check out how I screwed up an espresso pot: Espresso Mess-o and let me know what you think of THAT!
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