Monthly Archives: September 2012

A fear of pretension

“A part of me thinks that an eagerness to simplify speciality coffee as just good or tasty, as well as dumbing down narrative and context is an attempt to reach the largest possible audience; but a deeper part of me thinks that it could be a symptom of a ‘fear of pretension’ that is waiting at the doorstep of speciality coffee.”

This is how my last post finished up and I do indeed see reaching the largest possible audience as highly valuable.  In fact the last article, setting the stage, aimed to display that achieving this goal is more complex than it can seem.  Ironically reaching more people is not as easy as just simplifying everything, with misleading narrative actually hindering accessibility.

Below are a few definitions of pretension:-

Attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture etc than is actually possessed.

 – Characterized by assumption of dignity or importance.

 – Claiming or demanding a position of distinction or merit, especially when unjustified.

 – False or hypocritical profession.

Lastly this Urban Dictionary explanation is very useful to show how the word is often used:-

Its meaning has also become the complete opposite.  In the English speaking world it has become a catch all phrase to criticize anything or anyone that is vaguely heartfelt, intellectual, earnest, sincere, artistic, non-conformist or non-commercial.

I would add to this, that when the word pretension is used in regards to speciality coffee, there is also a referencing of other words such as ‘snobby’ – one who affects an offensive air of self-satisfied superiority in matters of taste or intellect.  And ‘elitist’ – a person or class of persons considered superior by others or by themselves.  ‘Elite’ can also be used positively to suggest the best of something although in this context we will be using it negatively.

Naturally in speciality coffee there is uncertainty and a worry of misinterpretation.  I do believe that a rational caution and a continuing assessment of what we are doing is highly valuable.  To strive not to be off-putting, with approaches that are intimidating and alienating, is a key goal for speciality coffee.  The concern of being labelled ‘elitist’ or ‘snobby’ is a fear that strikes through the heart of speciality coffee.  It is the fear of either real pretension or of being labelled ‘pretentious’ or of encouraging pretentious attitudes. All of which can be very damaging for speciality coffee.

In order to traverse the thin ice that awaits and establish positive foundations we need to embrace an open explanation of how fascinating and wonderful it all is.  We need to display our excitement at what coffee is capable of.  There needs to be an understanding of the complexity of taste or else risk the snobbery that other fields of taste inhabit.

Trying to simplify and dumb down speciality coffee will not help avoid pretentious type-casting.  We are after all the speciality coffee industry, we think coffee is special, we weigh doses and we weigh water, we are interested in extraction yields and we care about how all this affects taste.

The suggestion that speciality coffee is just ‘good tasty coffee’ that doesn’t need any context is especially problematic, and this idea itself can actually go a long way to confirming pretentious labelling. Philosophically this line of thought is dangerous, in so far that it is highly snobby, it ignores the complexities of the product, and the different relations people have with coffee.   Suggesting that speciality coffee is just a ‘good’ or ‘better’ version of the product shows snobbery that the other approaches are inferior.  It infers that if a “balanced” speciality espresso with acidity and all sorts of intense aromatics and flavour is not at all up your alley compared to a more traditional, commercial shot then you are just a tasteless fool.  When we consider that coffee is often used as part of a cocktail (Coffee as a Cocktail) with sugar or cold milk in a filter, then speciality coffee isn’t always as good an ingredient.  To turn our nose up at the individual who likes a continental style espresso with sugar, or just as awfully, to assume they do not know any better, is why we will be labelled pretentious.  Saying speciality coffee is ‘just better’ does also not consider the fact that most coffee consumed is not on a cupping table.  I think speciality coffee has parameters for quality based on collective agreement within a field (Isn’t it All Essentially Subjective, Just a Matter of Taste?) but that doesn’t mean it’s what everyone wants and it doesn’t mean that other parts of coffee’s wider world outside of this field do not also suit peoples’ needs.  It is pretty arrogant or simply naive to think everyone can or should agree on what tastes best. The only way to avoid pretension is to accept differences and understand many viewpoints by talking about different goals and then judging quality once goals have been established.

The solution is to be open and honest about what we value, that there is a valuing of provenance in our field, rather than looking for an espresso that works with sugar or mimics a traditional Italian style espresso and so forth.  The solution is to shout loud and proud about our passion for the aspects of coffee that we pursue, the kind of passion that encourages writing about coffee in the very way I am now.  Why would we want to hide the passion and love of our product that keeps us hooked?  Maybe we are embarrassed.

One thing that really must be considered when exploring pretension in coffee is that the very aim of eradicating all suggestions of pretension is unachievable.  The field must come to terms with the fact that however we present ourselves, speciality coffee will have the terms pretentious, elitist, and snobby pointed squarely in its direction.  Going to such lengths to understand and explore the intricacies of any subject (especially one that it is taste orientated) will be labelled pretentious, elitist, and full of snobbery by some.  I am not saying that we should not be careful and thoughtful about how we represent ourselves but that the very nature of what we do will be subject to such accusations.

Here are two thought processes that stem from the notion of flavour and specialism in coffee:-

“Life is too short to make all of this fuss about coffee, it’s silly and over the top.  Just leave it as it is and drink it”

“Life is too short not to make a fuss about coffee, not to explore its possibilities and enjoy its complexities”

Neither of these two opinions is wrong.  They are just based on different priorities and different world views.  I realise that speciality coffee folk are not really worried about the top quote.  They are actually more concerned about the in-betweeners, and rightly so, with many a barista/coffee person lurking out there who embraces the elitism and exclusion that speciality coffee is capable of.  There is nothing more worrying and damaging than the individual that lords their coffee preferences and knowledge over others, especially as their expertise are often much smaller than boasted and therefore pretentious. The most skilled baristas have learnt that there is a lot to know and still a lot to learn, retaining an open-mindedness and curiosity, and because of this they are often more approachable (not always). I firmly believe that an open dialogue and discussion with customers around coffee and its different aspects, increases the understanding of both the coffee maker and the drinker.

The pretentious presentation of coffee to an unsuspecting drinker without a modicum of service in mind has already made a damaging indent into speciality coffee’s reputation. Add to this branding that promotes the same old product as special, and the idea of a complex product that’s worth getting all fussy about begins to seem highly pretentious. To cite these as problems however is rather easy. More complicated is the assessment of an effective way to counter these problems. It is not only the barista that acts outwardly snobby that dents credibility, it is also the perfectly nice barista or coffee person who is not in the slightest bit pretentious but who also feels they cannot share their knowledge; the barista who stays quiet and believes they need to simplify things for their customer base to understand. This also does very little to combat perceptions of snobbery, widening the gap between speciality coffee and the consumer.

As a business selling speciality coffee we have needed to be aware of the bigger pretentious problems that occur elsewhere in the industry that in turn can set a negative stage for people before they have walked in to our store. What happens next is important. This is indeed where a fear of pretension can skew solutions.  Simple friendly service is an attempt at damage control, to douse the flames of a labelling that can engulf all that is positive about speciality coffee. But this is just hiding from the problem. All that will heal this burn is an industry that gives clear and logical reasons for why it does what it does, and acts as a field that empathises (not conforms) with other coffee cultures and tastes.

A common counterargument to this implies that an informative passionate approach may put off those who don’t respond well to coffee fanaticism. My counter to this would be, that when passion is displayed earnestly it will more often win out, nudging opinion away from the judgment that specialism equals pretension and towards the judgement that specialism equals a love of what you do.

I can see two perceived gains from getting rid of narrative or just explaining speciality coffee as tasty. The first is the argument that staying quiet lessens the chances of being seen as patronizing or condescending. The second is the suggestion that it is more respectful and effective to let people discover the approach on their own terms.  This argument can go both ways though.  I can just as easily argue that simplyifng the product shows a lack of respect for the customers’ ability to understand the concept in the first place, and I can also argue that it is misleading due to the lack of context which then confuses the discovery altogether.  This can very easily become a ‘choose your side of the fence’ situation. The reason I find it hard to sit on the silent and simple side of the fence is that silence leaves a neat little space that misunderstanding likes to occupy; Snap judgments (based on previous experience) will happily set up home where words don’t hold court or offer support. The label of pretension holds firm in a silent arena. The solution requires a bit of both sides – to not overcomplicate and exclude but also to not dumb down, undermine and mislead.

I must say that it is possibly misleading of me to use moral markers, questioning amounts of respect, when really both sides show a respect if displayed well. The question is then not about respect (as this should be a pre-requisite) but is indeed a question of usefulness.

Ale really is a wonderful analogy.  It contains the same notions of provenance and flavour as wine but doesn’t suffer the close relationship with pretension, a fear of suffering from the pretension that wine can suffer from can then lead to a poor assessment of what is valuable in terms of description and presentation within that industry.

When you walk into a pub with a range of ales on and ask for a pint, the barman will ask a few questions, and these will revolve around descriptions of flavour.  Would you like hoppy, citrusy and light, or creamy and malty? And so on. You may try a few samples, but all along the suggestion that they are all just tasty would have been of little or no use to you unless you knew the beer companies or are friends with the barman (he knows your tastes). This is no different to wine info, unless of course we are talking about obviously pretentious taste descriptors such as “it is like dancing through fog when a waft of sea air hits you.”  These kinds of descriptors can be fun depending on how you see it, but are hardly useful and potentially off-putting. In the bar, information is given regarding flavour and provenance as a useful tool and guide for the drinker. In fact it will be deemed bad service if the products are not adequately explained. When narrative is useful it is anything but pretentious but when narrative/information are seen as superfluous and unnecessary that is when the word pretension comes out to play.

I think the main symptom that stems from a fear of pretension is a miss-allocation of blame regarding the presentation of speciality coffee.  Dialogue is really the only way forward I can see to display that we have thought about coffee in depth, but also that we have thought about others’ taste and what that means, and to then use dialogue and communication in order to show that we love what we do and are eager to share it with others. That is of course if they are interested, otherwise it is just a case of giving some simple useful advice about the product and approach. Dialogue either increases or stops at this point. People will then realise that the shop, the roaster, or the employees are not there to be part of an elite club, or to recognise what good coffee is whilst others do not. They will realise that we do not think speciality coffee and the various formats involved are just better and nor do we think that those who disagree are just wrong. Otherwise the fear of pretension itself will do nothing to help shift the negative tag that is so eager to sit around the neck of speciality coffee.

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Setting the stage

Over the past few years we have spent half of our time theorizing about how to best serve speciality coffee, putting a spotlight on flavour and its origins.  The other half of the time we have been putting these concepts into action and developing the reality of concepts based on evidence drawn form the results.  It is very easy to believe in a concept intuitively, or even to appreciate the potential success of many different ideas by understanding different perspectives.  I highly value this kind of open mindedness, but ultimately a road has to be chosen and the valuable theories are those supported by tangible evidence.

This Article will focus on one main concept that I would say underpins many other service choices.  The concept is that of setting the stage upon which the customer’s speciality coffee experience takes place.  It is the concept of valuing story, narrative and understanding.  The concept in itself is quite straightforward but it is the execution that provides many challenges.  It requires a broader perspective, challenging those approaches that may on the face things seem effective and positive, but can hinder the bigger picture.

Solutions in other environments or other cities and so forth may differ, but I also believe that many of these observations are broad enough to be applied to speciality coffee or in fact any innovative product that occupies a small section of a larger market.

Below are four different possible reactions to a single experience revolving around a simple order for a black filter coffee.  They do not represent every possible reaction but some of the most useful ones to consider.  Each displays a viewpoint of not only the product purchased but also of the shop it was purchased in.  They are effectively in two pairs, the first pair lacks framing and dialogue (we have found this to be damaging on a larger scale).  The second pair are with targeted framing and dialogue (which has provided much more success overall).

A quick summary of our shop’s offering and set up will be useful to cover before we continue.

We offer three espresso coffees (single estate/co-op as well as the odd small blend) which we recommend either on their own or with steamed milk in a 6 ounce cup.  There are flavour notes to accompany each of these eventualities.

We also serve three different freshly brewed filter coffees. All filters are recommended black and will improve as they cool down in temperature.  Although there will be much difference between the different coffees, the filters will in essence all be lighter, more crisp and elegant than a traditional roasty coffee.

All of the coffees we have on will have unique individual flavour and are a move away from traditional continental style blends and darker roasts.

All coffees are recommended without sugar in order for each of their characters to be displayed.  This advice is also a cautionary note as many of the coffees we use actually develop negative flavours with the addition of sugar.

Lastly, the coffees we have on offer will all change weekly to showcase what is available.

Four possible viewpoints/reactions to one of our black filters:-

No1 “ I didn’t really like it in there, they only had a small selection of teas, the seats were hard and the filter coffee was not very hot and didn’t have that gutsy taste, I could see through it as well which means its not well made. You shouldn’t be able to see through a good black coffee.”

No2 “ I really liked the coffee in there it had a great taste, I will go back and grab the same one at some point as well as take some friends of mine who really like coffee”

No 3 “ hmmm, I don’t think it’s really for me in there, interesting what their doing but I think I prefer my heavier style black coffees, you know, a hot smokey rich coffee that I can sit in a comfy seat and have a chat over.  I think I will go to my usual coffee shop”

No 4 “ I really enjoyed my filter coffee.  It was lighter like they said but full of different kinds of flavour.  I really enjoyed the crisp elegant flavours and I was genuinely surprised at how much the flavour changed as it cooled down, I will try another one next time”

How we feel in our business about these four results is based on the importance of understanding and communication, more importantly it is our intention to avoid a negative ripple effect that starts with no clear message.  The two reactions we would be happy with are No 3 (negative but with understanding) and No 4 (positive and with understanding).

No4 represents the most positive outcome. It represents a liking of the product and an understanding of the product as part of the business as a whole. Understanding leads on to more possibility of success for the shop and speciality coffee. This will result in a positive ripple effect.

No 1 (negative and uniformed) and No 2 (positive but uniformed) are problematic for one reason – they both show a misunderstanding/misrepresentation.  The wrong stage has been set.  I find this particularly interesting because the immediate positive outcome of reaction No 2 (positive but uninformed) very easily masks the issues that may stem from here.  Reaction No 2 (positive but uniformed) shows no awareness that the coffees will change every week, this may easily result in a failure to meet their expectation on a second visit.  Neither does it show any concern that our set up may not suit the needs of their friends, whom may be looking for an Italian espresso that works well with sugar or a filter that takes milk.  Response No 2 (positive but uninformed) represents a simple serving approach – a coffee enjoyed with no context will naturally suggest that we will be able to deliver on all well-established ideas of coffee.  A negative ripple effect is likely.

Response No 1 ( negative and uninformed) is obviously not particularly great, firstly they may well have been more open to and possibly enjoyed the type of drink they received if it’s differences were made clear, setting an expectation relative to what we serve rather than competing with traditional norms.  Most problematic, though, is that anyone they chat to about their experience will also be less likely to have an expectation that matches the reality of our approach.  In effect it will be harder for not only the individual to get to No 4 (positive and informed) but also for many others to reach No 4 because of less accurate word of mouth and so forth.  For a more accurate representation, the business needs clear communication and a strong brand with an image that aligns with the expectation it intends to meet.  This is achieved through every transaction that takes place, not with one advert or a La Marzocco on the bar.  Brand image lies in the perceptions your customers have of you, perceptions they will then share.

With this in mind, reaction No 3 (negative but informed) is arguably more desirable than reaction No 2 (likes but uniformed).  A great example of this occurred today in the shop.  A lady whom had visited before returned with a group of friends and said“ could you please talk my friends through your offering as they haven’t been before”.  After an explanation, each member of the party chose a coffee and format.  When we asked the lady who had brought the party in what she would like, she continued“ No thank you, I prefer traditional style coffee but I thought my friends may be interested in your shop”.  I cannot tell you how happy this made me.  Not only was there a realisation of our goals and brand promises as a business, she was also very happy to come into a shop that doesn’t suit her needs.  Why is she not offended or upset by this? (possibly because she is a very reasonable individual) but also because presentation and service are honest and transparent. There is no argument or inference about what constitutes the right approach to coffee but instead there is a realisation that different approaches are valuable when the narrative is unique, when the goals are different.

Ultimately one must be happy with the fact that not everyone will like their product, but through the use of communication the chances of reaction No 4 (positive and informed) can be maximised.  At the same time an attempt to achieve a result that a business is not trying to provide is less likely to happen.  I believe this is fair on everyone involved, resulting in less annoyance for those simply looking for something else.  Everybody knows where they stand.

This one example does not explain or display all of the aspects of serving a product like speciality coffee in the way we do.  It should however serve to show that from our experience attempting to simplify the process and ignore the complexities of this product causes more problems than it solves.

To achieve the results in reactions No 3(negative and informed) and 4(positive and informed) requires presentation that lays out how our shop works and why it may be different.  More specifically the communication from staff must show an understanding of many view points, as well as realising that what they say and do has a far greater ripple effect than often meets the eye. This is a big undertaking and requires everybody involved to be professional and committed. I understand why a lot of businesses don’t go down this road (for example, we only hire fulltime staff, individuals whom all value the intricacies of service and value their responsibility, with a far longer training period than most coffee shops).

Very possibly, those more au fait with the workings of speciality coffee may note that I have failed to represent them in any of my examples – I am talking about the individual who already realises the filters will be light and that the espressos will be fruity and odd with sugar, the kind of person who has had significant exposure to the ins and outs of speciality coffee.  However an individual with that experience in speciality coffee represents an incredibly small percentage of our custom.  Why is this?  It’s pretty damn simple really.  Speciality coffee is not widely represented across the UK and often where it is, it is not really explored.  Many speciality coffee shops are struggling to try and meet previous traditional expectations whilst serving a product they love because it breaks away from those very traditions.  It can be a bit of a sad paradox really.  There is also much despairing that the discussion of flavour and provenance in speciality coffee will not yield the best results.  However, a flavour base approach has not been presented very well or offered very often.  In effect we are just starting to explore presenting speciality coffee’s possibilities to the wider public.  Although, if we do indeed expect speciality coffee to take off in the established “café” model with a basic uninformative service then we can rightly be despairing.

An often touted counter argument to the emphasis on narrative and context is that speciality coffee is not that different anyway and people don’t need it explained. Customers can simply slip over to speciality coffee (interestingly this is an industry viewpoint, not one I see often from customer bases).  I have not included this type of experience in my four examples because firstly I don’t think its as often the case as people like to feel it is and secondly because this group won’t mind some context and explanation either.

Our aim with our business has never been to pander to a specialist coffee scene, but to employ as utilitarian an approach as possible that spreads speciality coffee to a large and varied audience.  There is a wide audience who really enjoy speciality coffee when it’s presented with them in mind.  It is quite fascinating to note that many industry people are wary of and question the interest that the wider public could have in flavour notes and origin/story.  With what we have done over the past four years with our business, I would posit that it’s the wider public whom are more easily excited and intrigued by flavour and narrative than anyone else.  Indeed I remember my first single origin Kenyan espresso served to me by a barista that told me it would have strawberry and vanilla notes.  At first I was surprised and doubtful, but when I tasted the cup I became very excited.  I was not resentful of the context she had provided when I ordered the coffee.  In fact its one of the key experiences that has led to me being so involved with coffee.  It must be noted that I was in some ways prepared as I had been told to visit the shop.  I had heard that they served single origin espresso with different exciting flavour.  Their brand ripple effect aided my experience, but I still found the information useful as my previous experiences hadn’t suggested coffee could taste like this – even though I felt I was in to coffee.

Today, like every other day, I noted the context of how each customer entered our shop.  Yes many were regulars whom either choose their coffee or let us do so for them, but it was the amount of new custom I was interested in assessing.  Only one person who walked through the door asked for just a cup of coffee, every other made enquiries such as how does it work?  What coffees do you have on?  Do you make a cappuccino?  What does it mean by washed?  And so forth.  Everybody had a stage set for them.  Not an annoying hurdle to overcome at the till, but something to embrace and be excited by.  This for me is evidence that our brand image is working well.  From a business point of view it sets us apart in a crowded market place and very interestingly as our brand becomes stronger, more of our trade is a kind of coffee tourism.  With people visiting to see what its all about, to taste and ask questions.  Today as I watched the shop in its daily ebb and flow I realised more than ever how valuable context and story are.

A part of me thinks that an eagerness to simplify speciality coffee as just good or tasty, as well as dumbing down narrative and context is an attempt to reach the largest possible audience; but a deeper part of me thinks that it could be a symptom of a “ fear of pretension” that is waiting at the doorstep of speciality coffee.  My next post will explore why this need be no obstacle but merely a doormat we recognise but in the end leave outside.




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Milk as a coffee collaborator

You could be forgiven for making the assumption that our shop would be anti milk; indeed we do recommend our filter offerings without milk.  Steamed milk however, can work so well with speciality espresso.  Add to this the overwhelmingly large percentage of milk-based beverages that dominate the espresso driven café market and milk can actually become a complimentary partner for the bean.

This is not to imply that there are no drawbacks to a milk-centric approach.  A milk-focused approach can lead to the judgement of quality centring on the symmetry of a rossetta, as opposed to that of the entire drink, of which the pretty pattern is just a finishing touch.  This makes every sense, as in so many commercial environments there is little interest to be found in the preparation of espresso – a boring darker espresso is used, grinders come with a ‘do not touch’ warning sign and shot buttons are set with an encouragement to press and leave.  Even as one moves into a more craft based/artisan setting, the tradition and institution of blends, the “great espresso is one thing” viewpoint means that interest often shifts over to milk preparation.  Many people are then rightly surprised when I exclaim that espresso is ultimately far more challenging and rewarding (for me) than the perfection of the pour.

However, in commercial speciality coffee environments an ironic role reversal easily occurs where little is made of milks potential as a coffee collaborator. Focus can shift over to a sole appreciation of espresso qualities, with the role of milk ignored.  In this instance fresh cold milk is indeed carefully textured and heated to 65 degrees or lower* and combined with a carefully prepared espresso. The result is assumed to be successful as the espresso was well made and the milk well steamed, but a cocktail made of quality ingredients can fail to be of quality in and of itself.  It’s about ingredients that work together – it’s about synergy.

My first competition routines explored this concept.  I brewed espresso with coffees that were stunning when cupped or filtered but didn’t suit typical espresso brewing so well. Interestingly, this could actually result in a beautiful cappuccino that shows great flavour and character.  The main tenant was that when building a milk and espresso drink, the espresso needs to be considered as one half of the whole if the finished drink is going to display character and flavour that makes the most of both ingredients.  This isn’t just about using a single estate coffee that struggles to balance as espresso**.  It also means considering a change in the recipe of an already successful espresso to be more effective when combined with milk.

In our coffee house it is something we are very keen to consider and communicate, how does a particular coffee taste with a particular milk? It definitely doesn’t just taste like the espresso plus milk. The two ingredients can come together to create a flavour experience unique to their partnership, not a mere 1 plus 1.  On our menu we like to display a separate set of flavour notes to represent the different tastes that stem from these combinations.

The idea of pairing specific milks from different breeds of cow and feed etc with different espresso is definitely worth pursuing.  We possibly do this already when exclaiming that a particular coffee works so well in milk, or do we really mean that it works so well with that particular milk?

A complaint I often hear from people whom have tried various milk drinks in many speciality stores is that they often taste very milky.  This naturally leads to a suggestion that a darker roast will work better in milk, and a misunderstanding that lighter roasts cannot be flavoursome with steamed milk.  In these circumstances there may also need to be a reconsideration of the ratios being used with different coffees and approaches. Our Latte is a double shot in a 9.5 oz cup which is a far stronger ratio than that of an Antipodean style latte – 1 shot to a 7oz glass.

In fact, milk based drinks are arguably our most successful in terms of a realisation of the different flavour coffee is capable of  “wow, this has a very unique taste, I really get the nougat flavour and something fruity as well, where is this coffee from?” A dialogue often starts from this point and an interest in espresso or filter is ignited where there was none before, or there is just an excitement to taste a different coffee with milk next time.  Either way this is great, the interest is centred on the taste of the coffee!

Although we have been careful to make sure this dialogue is not skipped by not focusing on ideas about what makes a “great cappuccino”.  Dialogue needs to be shifted over towards a discussion centred around “how this espresso” tastes with a “certain amount of steamed milk”. This is where presentation comes into play (this requires a separate article).

I wish not to suggest that I don’t see real value in concept coffee stores that focus on black brewed coffee alone or say espresso alone.  I do however feel that milk will be a big part of speciality coffees’ future, and that there will be various models.  We can utilise milks partnership with espresso particularly positively, making speciality coffee as accessible as possible.  If it’s on our menus, if we offer this combination then we should embrace its possibilities.

* There has been much discussion that cooler is better with suggestion that 65 degrees is itself a commercial compromise on taste, that cooler milk will be sweeter and provide better texture and quality. I am not so sure, I feel that in my experience going below 65 degrees allows the milk to dominate, that the uniqueness of the two ingredients union is less successful.

 * * Since using the LaMarzocco Strada (Red) this doesn’t seem to be as much of an issue. There is less of a worry as to whether a great coffee works as espresso and an ability to let the coffee’s character shine without acidity, sourness or astringency dominating is becoming more readily achievable. Espresso for us has become just another brew method rather than alluding to a more narrow group of coffees and flavours than filter (there are still exceptions, but considerably less).  The way we are currently brewing espresso results in more positive combinations with milk than before. We do still use different recipes where needed.

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