November 18, 2012

Bad Shots

I will not name the place, both because doing so would be unkind, and you're unlikely to visit Lawrence anytime soon, regardless. But it was a Lawrence coffee bar, which I entered, having already consumed two cups of coffee and two shots of espresso earlier in the day. The sun was setting and it was getting cold, though not there yet, and I wanted something to work from the inside, as my coat is only so thick, and I am myself quite lithe.

The espresso machine looked dirty - superficial concerns, but I noticed. There were grounds strewn about, a rag draped over the steamwand. To the side, there were ceramic pour over cones, each filled with old sediment. I noticed that too much was clumped high up the filter, a sign that the pourer had not allowed a full bloom.

These things did not encourage me, but I ordered a double espresso, having already been dissuaded from trying the pour over. The barista had thick rimmed glasses and full sleeves of tatoos - at least looking the part of hipster coffee savant. He did not demonstrate such capacity, however, clicking on the grinder, and walking away, to do nothing at all, so far as I could tell.

After a too long grind, he dispensed, tamped, and pulled. I heard a buzz as the machines stirred to life, and then the espresso poured forth, too rapidly, too light. Ten seconds and it was done.

"Two fifty," he said.

I paid with three ones, tipped fifty cents, and damned ever so slightly that my courtesy had cost me earned tip money.

I took the shots and left, walking with my paper cup, which yes, I know, is not the way to enjoy espresso properly. But I enjoy walking, and the promise of a cold night had not yet been fulfilled; it was yet pleasantly crisp, the aesthetic quite nice, and so I wanted to enjoy a walk while enjoying my espresso.

The walk was nice; the espresso was thin, bittersweet, with an aggressive pungency. I puckered like the cup had been full of grapefruit juice; which, oh by the way, I hate grapefruit juice. I pounded the shots and kept walking, grimaced, and then walked some more, until the taste of autumnal air had whisked away the film of truly awful espresso.

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