Hawknc wrote:Thankfully there is no shortage of excellent cafes and coffee shops in Melbourne; I was actually surprised how much trouble I had finding a decent coffee in Sydney when I went there, which I guess is a sign of being spoiled for choice here. Probably the best I've tried is actually an hour away in Geelong, a place hidden away in a side street called Coffee Cartel. They do some amazing single-origin coffees and roast their own beans locally.
I'd actually heard a couple news stories about coffee in Australia recently. The most recent was that McCafe was apologizing for how bad their coffee was, and was going to try and improve it for the Australian market. And the other was that Starbucks ended up closing a majority of their stores they had opened, and the press release was something like "we've underestimated the sophistication of the Australian palette" or something like that. The basic message from both being "we sell this swill everywhere else and no one seems to mind, but we can't get away with it in Australia."
Hawknc wrote:I'm still learning how to make my own espresso coffee. Sometimes it turns out amazing, other times it's extremely average. Before I started I wasn't aware how sensitive the taste of coffee was to minor changes to temperature and time, but I certainly have a new appreciation for good baristas. Not up to roasting or grinding my own blends yet, but maybe in time.
Espresso is certainly very tricky. The italians have it down to a science, but it's a very strict science. They've figure out how to make consistently good espresso by making sure that every step of the process is consistent. From the coffee, which is a similar blend, roasted a similar way everywhere to the grinders, machines and even cups. Even small changes though can cause problems. For example, when a cafe is busy they can make one great espresso after another, but when the machines sit idle most of them will end up a lot hotter or cooler then they're supposed to be (they're designed to hold a certain temperature when in constant use) and the first shot or two will be off.
But you can also play with all the different variables, starting with trying different coffees, but once you do you can't take anything for granted anymore. A small change in grind, dose or temp can have a big effect, especially when we start going more complicated brew methods or espresso. All things considered though, I would rather have good fresh coffee and brew it with whatever's available/easiest than try to use stale (or just boring) coffee with the best equipment in the world. However, I still think that a good grinder is a great investment, even if it's just a simple hand grinder
. Fresh ground coffee just smells so good, it's got so many volatile compounds, and as soon as it's ground it starts to oxidize much faster, it just can't hold on to those flavors very long.