Knoxious Gas: Kevin Does LA And HATES It

The overall feeling here is of a place long on attitude and short on product knowledge (pretentious menu descriptions notwithstanding), though I have no doubt that customers paying more for a simple cup of coffee than a sane person would pay for a full pound feel they’re drinking the very best.

Kevin Knox has penned a scathing piece on his negative experiences at Lamill Coffee, Intelligentsia LA and Peet’s Coffee and Tea. It’s well worth the read.

Some of it kind of sounds like a Yelp review, but from a reviewer who actually knows what he’s talking about:

The hot chocolate might as well have been Hershey’s given how overly-sugared it was – about as far removed from authentic French or Italian hot chocolate as one could imagine (and I say this having had the genuine article at Valrhona’s home city of Tain l’Hermitage).

But most of it (and the most cringe-worthy parts of it) hit close to home:

Tasted an espresso here as well and it was the usual Third Wave case of a very well selected and roasted blend brewed so as to be undrinkable except with milk (or by masochists). From the look and flavor it was the now-standard 20+ grams of coffee with a bare one-ounce yield: thick, bitter uber-ristretto that is the coffee equivalent of Herb Caen’s old joke about the ideal cocaine substitute (smear the inside of your nose with battery acid and burn a hundred dollar bill). It’s particularly sad to see state-of-the-art machinery and skilled baristas offering something so atrocious when a reduction of about 5 grams in the dose and a half-ounce or so more yield would produce something worth savoring straight, instead of drowning in steamed milk.

The hyper restricted, the uber-ristretto. The up-dosed, tight grind super-sweet mouthful of concentrated Sucker Pucker nothingness. We’ve all been there. Collectively, we could all probably talk about our experiences with this phenomenon in every great cafe in North America. It happens. It’s gonna happen. But you know what? Sometimes it can taste great. It’s not black and white. It’s not 2oz doubles or nothing. However, it’s our opinion that, purposeful experimentation not withstanding, a double espresso should yield more than one ounce of liquid.

His thoughts on batch brewing versus single-cup brewing is illuminating and we think it’s time that everyone reexamine their coffee offering programs in 2012.

Do you agree with Kevin? Should our uber-ristretto obsessed culture turn an about face and Knox it off already? Should we drop manual pour over only and bring back the batch brew? Is there room for both? Or do you think Kevin is just being obknoxious?

Comments

  1. GHHowell says

    Refreshing stuff – and a lot of arrows which hit the mark.  Why are we so into power with our black coffee drinks? Power can drive out transparency and nuance.    

  2. David says

    I LOVED Kevin Knox’ write-up.  For a few reasons but mostly because it reveals the wide world outside the doors of a high end and respected cafe.  Some customers care and some customers know and some customers understand but they still don’t approve…And that’s cool.  Really cool. 

    A city the size of LA can handle extreme experiences in the cafe world and still every one of those cafes will serve 700 cups per day on a slow Sunday.  It’s one of the advantages of having several million people to serve.

    In LA you can be cool and thrive.  In a small market you can be cool and survive.  Viva the Struggling Barista!

  3. S S Komik says

    Your talk of ounces confuses me. Is there not an agreement these days to ditch the volume talk in favour of weight?

  4. says

    Personally, I loved what he said about batch brewing. That’s the only thing I happened to like about his post. I think he totally missed the point of the Intelligentisa experience if the only thing he took away from it was that a lot of people use computers at coffee shops. The fact that people like to work/surf/tweet/blog while drinking a coffee is nothing new. I’m not saying it’s necessarily a good thing that most cafe’s are basically computer labs, but in the case of Intelligentsia, which he asserted was only good for dosed-up espresso and people on their iphones/macbooks he must have been blind to all of the stuff happening in front of their cafes, specifically their Silver Lake and Venice locations. Yes the insides of those cafes are fairly small, but they’ve done more than an awesome job of creating a space that people can chat and hang out while enjoying the sun with their coffee. I visited both locations only a couple months ago and had stellar customer service experiences both times. The espresso I had from all their cafes were stellar. I thought Lamill in Silver Lake was dirty and uncomfortable, not to mention the espresso was terrible. I’m also sad that he left out so many other cool coffee places in his “LA Coffee Tour”.

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