The Art of Coffee

Via Dave Pell’s Next Draft comes this interesting taste-test of Nespresso versus a house prepared espresso, and another espresso of the author’s — Julian Baggini’s — choosing:

Coffee-making lends itself to automation, since all the key variables are strictly controllable. […]

In theory, that is bound to result in a better brew than the traditional process, which, for all its romance, is full of opportunities for degradation and mishap. A bag of beans, once opened, will start to lose its flavour very rapidly once it is ground. Calibrating temperature and pressure is also difficult and subject to human error.

This is true enough, but I maintain that a good barista will prepare a better cappuccino than any machine can, time and time again. Nespresso is inoffensive to the point of being bland. The beans I prefer1 all produce shots higher in acidity and have a much lighter roast profile than a typical espresso (where by “typical” I mean your average Starbucks, Second Cup, or Seattle’s Best shot). This is polarizing — I know a lot of people who love their French roast — but I prefer it every time. And, of course, a barista is necessary to produce decent, consistent microfoam, something a machine simply can’t do right now.

  1. Phil & Sebastian make a few great espresso blends, though their Ethiopian is the best. 49th Parallel’s Epic Espresso is a favourite, as well as Fratello’s Competition Roast. ↥︎