15 August, 2010

I Hate Single Origin Espresso

I wish I could articulate half as well as Mark Prince:

The Verve training video is pretty spectacular...
I look forward to part 2!!

**Update: I don't hate it...but I largely...(almost completely) agree with Mark...

**And I would also add that I think it an unfortunate reality that the specialty coffee culture and its associated pursuits and fads look to barista competitions for inspiration. More on my opinion about competitions effect on our sub-culture here.


  1. Wow... that Verve video is hilarious!

    I only have one real problem with that article, which is that the author seems to think that consistency in taste profile over time is preferable. While I can see that consistency in taste (note: Quality should always be consistent - I am only talking about espresso taste profiles) is nice and even necessitated in some areas of the globe and in certain types of shops, I very often get bored with getting the same espresso every single time. I love new tastes and experiences and often gravitate towards shops that can give me an espresso that surprises me on a regular basis. I love the idea of "flavor of the month"!

    Of course, this has very little to do with the heart of the article. I completely agree that creating a great blend is impressive and can result in a very complex shot. Blends take a lot more work to perfect, and they give much more control to the roaster and blender. However, while I find this article compelling and see the validity in the author's argument, I'm not convinced that blends are inherently better than single origin coffees for espresso. Maybe I'm just young and restless :)

    I would love to ask a bunch of specialty coffee farmers what they thought about their coffee getting mixed in with coffees from other countries. Would they be offended that their coffee wasn't good enough by itself? Would they think it's exciting that they're part of a greater global coffee community? Would they just be happy that someone paid for all of their coffee? It would certainly make a great case study!

    I'm looking forward to seeing what the author has to say about temperature and pressure profiling!

  2. There were a lot of things in this article that rubbed me the wrong way, but I think what bothers me the most is how little the author talks about his experience with single origin espresso. He says he has had 1-2 shots/week for the last five years, and he doesn't reference even one interesting or enjoyable shot he has had... Really?

    I understand having some issues with the rock star type phenomenon going on in the coffee world, but I fail to see the harm in people wanting to try single origin espresso. In my experience with espresso, I have gotten pretty bored with drinking the same blend over and over and over, and am alsways excited to travel and try new things. That being said, at our shop we pull espresso from different roasters and different origins... and it has been a lot of fun (and really challenging - I don't know what the author is talking about when he said single origin espresso is easier... it is so finicky and a lot of work!), and really keeps me from getting bored. Our customers have really seemed excited to try new things as well.

    I will say that I have had some pretty unbalanced shots of single origin espresso over the last few years, but I have also had some of the best shots of my life (at our shop and other shops... some that come to mind are a panama, a brazil, and a costa rica).

    I think that the specialty coffee industry is still incredibly young, and I think that experimentation is an enormous part of how progress happens. Sure there are some trends that will come and go, but I don't see the point in trying to stifle creativity. He states issues with the new trend towards pourovers, chemex, etc... saying that they are old methods, but why stifle excitement for these things?

    I respect the author's passion for maintaining good blending practices, but I feel like his aversion to people getting excited about coffee (even if they are just rediscovering some old methods) can only be detrimental. I love seeing people that are new to the coffee industry get excited about different techniques... I have learned a lot from people who have only been barista's for a short amount of time.

    Although I could do without the rock star ego's at some of the competitions, I will gladly welcome the passion of the younger generation to try new things (even if it sometimes isn't all that great), and try to embrace the good things of our relatively brief heritage in the specialty coffee industry.

    p.s. Ryan... I totally understand why you resonate with parts of this article (that latte art competition was wack!), and I appreciate your desire to keep coffee real.

  3. Yah..I hear you...Maybe he comes off too strong against single origin...what really resonated with me (outside of complaining about competition!)was the lack of discussion about good espresso blending. I still think there is nothing like a nicely pulled well-crafted blend for espresso.. I think it celebrates the best of what the farmer, roaster and barista are all contributing to in the final product. I think there is a tendency to only talk about SO when it comes to espresso instead of adding it to the discussion it becomes the discussion... The french press is starting to experience a similar demise as a result of pourover popularity. This doesn't make what we are testing and talking about bad, but it does expose an interesting reality about how we look at and talk about coffee...