One of the kindest folks in coffee, Andrew Barnett of Ecco Caffe, recently spoke to SF Weekly about what he feels is the current state of restaurant coffee:
Restaurants aren’t held accountable for their coffee by critics in the same way as a weak link like a wine program or service. Coffee is the last thing you taste at a restaurant, and there’s some really nice restaurants serving really bad coffee. If they served bread that was as stale tasting as their coffee they’d be taken out to the woodshed by a critic.
I get it. No one wants to spend the time cleaning the machines and back flushing, or, if the shots not pulled right, pulling it over and over again. They just want to get it out to the customer quickly. Honestly I’m surprised that more places don’t just stay away from espresso. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of espresso, and I would want nothing more than for a restaurant to do great espresso, but so often I think it just becomes an afterthought.
Why is this? It’s a question our industry has been asking for years, but we do feel the duty to point out: a great many restaurants have made vast leaps forward in their coffee service over the last year or so. This does not just include the high-flying Strand-approved 11 Madison Park, or our own gushed-over Canlis – there’s plenty of joints in LA, Atlanta, Chicago and Portland doing exemplary restaurant coffee. Andrew’s comments are nothing new – this conversation has been had over and over in the industry for years – and we’re glad it’s out there in the SF Weekly, but we wish he’d pointed out some prevailing exceptions to his otherwise prescient critique.
We’ll be focusing a lot more on restaurant coffee in 2012, because restaurants that make great coffee should get as much love as possible.