The hobby is back

I got a little cynical posting about bad espresso and cafes. Working in a coffee shop also as made me cynical as to how others prepare and drink their coffee.

It’s time to step back. Time to go back to my roots of just plain liking coffee and coffee shops. Stop being so critical and just enjoy.

I’m not going to watch the barista and see if my drink will taste badly before it even shows up. I’m going to order and sit and enjoy. If the coffee is bad, then I know to not go there again. At least I will have enjoyed the experience while I was there.

With this in mind, I did find a sweet new-to-me coffee shop in Gunbarrel- Tod’s espresso. It’s small, it’s comfortable, and it’s all about the coffee. A few good baked goods were surrounded by 2 Synesso’s and several grinders. They serve Concious Coffee (yum) and my espresso was great. I enjoyed being there and I’ll go again for sure.

I’m excited to be back to being excited about cafe’s and trying new coffees.


Try it Black

People don’t realize that coffee, black with no additives, can actually taste good. Through convince and mass marketing, we’ve come to believe that coffee should be easy to make and additives make it taste better. This notion is incorrect. Coffee is a wonderful bean that takes time to grow, harvest, and nurture before we consume it. It should be treated as well as a good bottle of wine. Would you add sugar and milk to your wine?

Through proper coffee preparation, the end product should taste good, with nothing added. Use quality beans, a quality grinder, and a simple method of coffee preparation- pour over, french press, or chemex. Don’t let a machine make your coffee and don’t add things to your coffee without trying it first.

The Crux — 3

Finally! The Coffee Disappoint Tour de Boise has ended. It took some searching. This place is new and has no web page and no twitter, but as soon as we walked in and ordered, I knew we were going to get too coffee.

The Crux opened in January, serves Stumptown beans, has been trained by Stumptown people and, by far, has the best coffee in Boise (that we have found). The Baristas do it “by the book”- weigh the amount of ground coffee, purge the machine, pull 25 sec shots that equal 2 oz, and taste the coffee they make. Not one place in Boise, that we have visited, has done either of these steps.

The only thing that would make Crux better, in the espresso department, is if they used different espresso–the Hairbender is a little too citrus-y for me (I don’t like fruit in my espresso).  I’ve been to The Crux two days in a row and I’ll be back.

Big City Coffee–8

During my time at the American Barista and Coffee school, they taught us to keep the focus on the coffee. If you have a passion for coffee and open a coffee shop, focus on making and serving good, quality coffee. If you want to make pastries and sandwiches, that’s fine as long as you don’t let it take away from your coffee service.

We visited Big City Coffee in Boise, ID. Right when we walked in, I saw a giant burrito, and some sort of egg dish that looked really good. They lady said I have got to try their tamales, they are “to die for”.Tamales in a coffee shop?

Their baked goods looked like they were to die for as well. But, this is not a baked good or tamale blog–this is a coffee (espresso) blog and we are looking for good coffee.

We did not fine good coffee at Big City Coffee (the third espresso was especially awful). It was clear they do not specialized in quality coffee service. I could list all the things the barista did wrong in the making of the espresso, but I don’t want to. I could go on and on why having pots and pots of drip coffee on the ready is bad, but I won’t. Plain and simple, if you want lunch or a good pastry, go to Big City Coffee. If you want good quality coffee, pass.

Sucky-ness score- 8.

Coffee Disappointment Tour

It has officially been named.  Going to bad coffee shop after bad coffee shop in town after town is now officially called the Coffee Disappointment Tour.

A rating scale has begun. 1- not sucky, 10- as sucky as sucky can get.

To be fair, the decision has been made to rate the coffee shops on the coffee and coffee drinks only. Atmosphere doesn’t matter. Baked goods don’t matter. Service doesn’t matter.

Today’s stop– The Flying M in Boise Idaho. 3 drinks were ordered; 1 espresso and 2 macchiatos. The ratings- espresso- 7 (bitter, burned, not much “mouth feel”), macchiato- 6, macchiato- 7 (remember 10 is extremely sucky). This gives the Flying M a score of 6.6. Side note–the music was horrible and turned me off as soon as I walked in.

Other shops currently on the Level Of Suckyness scale have been too bad to write reviews of.  From here on out, I’ll write a short review about each place and add them to the scale.

Level of Sucky-ness

As unfortunate as it is, I have come to learn that there are more bad coffee shops than there are good coffee shops.

I have stopped critiquing each place I visit because it was getting rather pitiful. This place serves bitter espresso, another place steams their milk wrong, so and so place over roasts their beans, etc.

Going to bad coffee shop after bad coffee shop ruins the entire coffee drinking experience. Thus, I have decided to create the Level of Sucky-ness scale. This way, it makes it fun to get bad coffee, because then it can go on the Level of Sucky-ness scale.

Stay tuned for the scale. Over the last 2 weeks, several coffee shops have made their lasting mark on the Level of Sucky-ness.

Augie’s Coffee House

Is it ever OK to critique a barista? Positive feedback, yes, that’s ok–but constructive criticism is it OK?

I made a visit to Augie’s Coffee House in Redlands, CA last week. My first impression was very good. They roast their own beans, serve latte’s complete with latte art, they even had a Barista Exchange sticker in the bathroom.

I ordered the standard, espresso. At first glance it was a “long pull”. Meaning there was a large amount of espresso in my demitasse. Sure enough, my espresso was bitter–very bitter.

I peaked around the bar and watched the barista make the next shot of espresso. It came out at around 4 sec, turned blond around 18 sec and finally the barista stopped the shot at 25 sec–this is a guess as I couldn’t watch anymore because this sight was hurting my eyes.

This is when I wondered, would it be appropriate to tell the barista that he needed to make the grind finer? I wanted to tell him my espresso was bitter and the shot was pulled too for too long and the grind is too course. Instead, I walked out and hoped he would read my mind and make better shots the rest of the day.

Handlebar Coffee Roasters

I’ll admit, my expectations for Handlebar Coffee Roasters, where high. The owners, Kim and Aaron, attended the same American Coffee and Barista School in Portland that I did. I’d heard about their success and they are cycling friends of mine.

My expectations were blown away. Handlebar Coffee Roasters in Santa Barbara IS killing it. Their coffee is exceptional. Their drinks are amazing. Though small, the atmosphere is friendly and welcoming. I went to Handlebar every single day for 7 days straight.

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I had espresso every day. Their shots are more like ristretto’s but they are jam packed with flavor. My cappuccino was perfect–great micro foam and latte art that was competition worthy.

Handlebar Coffee Roasters is a coffee person coffee shop. No peppermint latte’s, no sandwiches, no iced mocha frappuccinos. Just good coffee.

Mixing Flavors

I recently made a visit to Boxcar Coffee Roasters. It had been several months since my last trip- here’s the review – and I wanted to bring some beans home for the Bezzera espresso machine.

Two 10oz bags of Stella were purchased and brought home. The first few day’s espresso shots were not good. I thought it was me–not the right grind, too much or too little coffee–but, regardless, the flavor was not right. It kept tasting and smelling salty.


It took a few days to realize the beans, when ground, smelled and tasted like salty ham. Boxcar Coffee Roasters share a space with Cured, a dried meat and cheese place. Coffee is porous.  Beans absorb flavors and moisture that are in the air. Looks like Boxcar’s beans have absorbed Cured’s flavors and the result is not good.

We threw the rest of our Stella Espresso away.