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  1. #1
    Junior Member
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    Difference between American and Europian espresso..why??..

    Hey all,

    I''m new to the forum. Just wanted to say hello, and ask a my first question....

    Last April I took a trip to Northern Italy, and Switzerland. Being a fan of espresso, I ordered one my first day, after a meal. I was absolutly blown away at the depth and velvety almost chocolatey flavors. In short, no other bean that I''ve gotten my hands on here in the USA could touch it. I proceeded to order many espresso''s (doubles) nearly everywhere i went. Wouldn''t you know...they were all amazingly smooth flavorfull, deep.

    So what gives? Is European coffee, specificly espresso roasted or just plain approached differently in the region? Why do most all american offerings I''ve come across (either purchased drink or made at my home) taste either slightly sour, and generally inferior in comparison??

    Or is this Euro style stuff available here....and i just do not know where to find the higher end stuff I expereinced at every spot in Europe.

    Hmmmm...maybe its just the water (yeah right).

    Many thanks in advance folks,

    -jasonic

  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    There are two main species of the coffee plant Arabica and Robusta. Robusta is generally considered less flavorful and can have more bitter qualities to it. Italian roasters tend to throw it in the mix to help lower the cost of the product. They use it a lot and have perfected it to an exact science.

    You were most likely experiencing the Robusta in your espresso. Call all your local coffee roasters and ask if they use any Robusta in their espresso blend.
    Have you ever walked through the aisle of your local grocer and smelled the death of a dying bean?

  3. #3
    Senior Member
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    Sourness is fequently caused by incorrect brewing water temperature (and sometimes cold portafilters), too fast extractions (should be around 24 seconds, refer to barista guidelines), or inappropriate grind/dose/tamp. Sourness can also be due to stale coffee (whole bean or more likely ground then staled). Also, consider blend and roast styles as important factors to cup characteristics. Lighter espresso roasts can yield sweeter and more caramelly taste, but can also be more sensitive to brew parameters...with a smaller window of perfection before the taste drifts into sour and even salty taste overtones.
    All things considered, it is likely less-than-perfect preparation, or your local coffee choice, or the available equipment's limitations that yield the sour espresso.

  4. #4
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    Europe has a long history of coffee and has been extracting espresso from the time it was invented. What you experienced, IMHO, is European experience and high quality coffee/espresso standards. Knowledgeable operators, very good beans/blends, fresh roasts, good equipment and a history of good coffee.

    Starbucks and your average restaurant can't touch the quality even if they're equipment is competent. The average North American consumer doesn't look for or even expect high quality espresso. That is changing and it looks like artisan roasters and cafes dedicated to high quality coffee and espresso are becoming more popular but you still have to seek them out. Most North American consumers still want a big bang for their buck and a 1oz single at $2 or more is beyond what most will pay even if the shot is delicious coffee elixir.
    Grinder: Macap M4 stepless, Zassenhaus kneemill
    Machine: Quickmill Vetrano, Olympia Cremina '67
    Brewers: Yama 5cup, ibrik, Bodum e Santos, french press, pour over drip
    Roaster: Hottop programmable

  5. #5
    Junior Member
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    (1) I had similar observations during my trip to Italy. I'm not a coffee expert, and I'm not saying that their coffee is 'better', just that I found that I personally liked pretty much anything I ordered there, more than anything I've tried here in the U.S. I usually ordered cappuccino, or sometimes had whatever was served (is their default 'coffee' brewed?). It is this realization that really awakened my interest in coffee. The locals I spoke to were actually surprised. It was their impression that Americans usually didn't like coffees in Italy. (And the reverse also applied I guess).

    Is there possible a way to produce 'Italian' tasting coffee at home? Could there specific beans/blends to try (are there "Italian" beans)? Technique to preparing it, that is different than what is normally than in U.S.? Specific equipment to use?

    (2) On a separate track, I've read several recommendations to buy beans from local roasters, or home roast. Pardon my ignorance -- is freshness the main difference between different roasters, and aside from that, are all beans the same regardless of where you buy them? E.g. when someone gives a review of Kona, does that apply to ALL Kona everywhere?

    Would appreciate any feedback. I am still trying to find my perfect cup.

  6. #6
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    My coffee experience is coming from North American forums and North American espresso 'pioneer/revivalist' like David Schomer. There seems to be a building interest in high quality coffee and espresso in North America. While the interest in espresso is definitely favouring Italian/European/Worldwide equipment, for roasting and extracting it seems that we're experimenting and finding out for ourselves what works. It's led to some interesting developments in extraction process and equipment.

    Temperature controlled boilers are becoming popular for espresso machines and that's a North American thing, I think. The Aeropress is a North American thing. The Behmor roaster is anxiously being awaited by North America roasters as an inexpensive high volume home roasting machine. Fresh roasted beans for espresso and favouring a double basket is a North American preference as well, I believe.

    This is a good article of a blind test on North American vs. Italian roasts.

    http://www.coffeegeek.com/opinions/mark ... 10-09-2007

    Coffeegeek is one of the forums that reflects the growing interest in North America for very good coffee.

    For serious espresso, Home Barista is a very good forum as well.

    http://www.home-barista.com/

    As far as roasts go, fresh is considered much better than stale so a fresh roast from a local roaster should be better for coffee than a store-bought stale roast. Roasters vary in abiltiy and motivation. Commercial roasters might tend to roast for high volume, low cost. Artisan roasters roast for the customer. They roast per order usually with beans sourced out for high quality and ship the roast to you the day it's roasted. They mark their roasts with the day roasted so you can track their freshness. Their commitment is more to producing high quality roasts than roasting for quanitity. They tweak and experiment with their blends/roasting in a continuing effort to offer the best charactered roasts for espresso/coffee.

    Home roasting is a great way to ensure freshness and have some fun. I use a vendor that offers atleast 50 different varietals of green beans so I can roast a single varietal or blend varietals that I couldn't get roasted elsewhere. Quality could be an issue, though. Those that are serious about their roast quality source out their beans and try to get the best. Beans are like grapes, I think. Some regions have good years, some not so good so the quality of the coffee can definitely vary from season to season. Beans are graded as well so quality can vary within a specific region on a specific year as well. One review for say a Kona would definitely not be applicable to all. You have to watch out when buying on line. Cheap Kona or Blue Mountain offers are more often a you get what you've paid for kind of thing.

    And, while roasting green coffee is pretty easy to do (a $20 popcorn popper can get you started), the roasting process is pretty complex and to get the kinds of roasts experienced artisan style roasters are capable of would take some investment in research and equipment. I've been home roasting for over 3 years now and I'm just starting to understand how to roast for character. My own first fresh roast I french press brewed hooked me on home roasting, though. It was better than anything I ever had up to that point.

    Chasing the perfect cup is opening up the door to what could become a life long obsession. There's no real limit I've found yet to espresso/coffee. It's become a serious hobby for me that continues to be very engaging and rewarding.
    Grinder: Macap M4 stepless, Zassenhaus kneemill
    Machine: Quickmill Vetrano, Olympia Cremina '67
    Brewers: Yama 5cup, ibrik, Bodum e Santos, french press, pour over drip
    Roaster: Hottop programmable

  7. #7
    Senior Member
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    Hartford and New Haven, CT
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    Quote Originally Posted by jasonic
    Why do most all american offerings I''ve come across (either purchased drink or made at my home) taste either slightly sour, and generally inferior in comparison??
    Most American Espresso are without Robusta and require higher water temperature. Also many "quality" espresso shops are pulling ristretto using triple basket or they are over dosing (packing too much grounds into the basket) both usually result in under extracted sour shot.

    Quote Originally Posted by jessc
    (1) I had similar observations during my trip to Italy. I'm not a coffee expert, and I'm not saying that their coffee is 'better', just that I found that I personally liked pretty much anything I ordered there, more than anything I've tried here in the U.S. I usually ordered cappuccino, or sometimes had whatever was served (is their default 'coffee' brewed?). It is this realization that really awakened my interest in coffee. The locals I spoke to were actually surprised. It was their impression that Americans usually didn't like coffees in Italy. (And the reverse also applied I guess).

    Is there possible a way to produce 'Italian' tasting coffee at home? Could there specific beans/blends to try (are there "Italian" beans)? Technique to preparing it, that is different than what is normally than in U.S.? Specific equipment to use?

    (2) On a separate track, I've read several recommendations to buy beans from local roasters, or home roast. Pardon my ignorance -- is freshness the main difference between different roasters, and aside from that, are all beans the same regardless of where you buy them? E.g. when someone gives a review of Kona, does that apply to ALL Kona everywhere?

    Would appreciate any feedback. I am still trying to find my perfect cup.
    Great big milk drinks that are passing off as Cappuccino in the US is not exactly the same as the 5oz Italian cappuccino you had in Italy. Usually speaking the proportion is wrong, espresso blend is wrong and milk foaming technique is wrong. You will have to search out for a few shops here and there that try to do it right or you can outfit yourself with home espresso system so you can do it yourself.

    It all depends what you mean by 'Italian' tasting coffee at home. Different regions in Italy have different preference and taste. But here are two that are more or less traditional Italian roasters that I know of.
    www.caffedarte.com
    www.icaffe.com their robusta ladden Grande Italia is not bad at all. Just don't let it cool down.

    Nope. Freshness is only part of the equation. Quality of green beans is a hugely important factor. Think California Chardonnay. Some are way better than other. Coffee is the same. Also packaging and storing condition impact the quality of coffee.
    You want cream and sugar?
    NO COFFEE FOR YOU! NEXT!

 

 

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