I really intend to keep these ramblings positive. Walking into a recently renovated Ravenna restaurant/cafe of supposed high repute located umm, near a bookstore of DEFINITE high repute only to find an extra-spiffy illy-emblazoned espresso machine, serving illy dashed my hopes for restaurant coffee in a way I hadn't expected.
Sure, this restaurant could have fallen into the typical restaurant coffee trap of serving no-name espresso or poorly brewed airports. Instead, these folks actually put out a mental and monetary effort, only to emerge in a different trap that I wasn't aware was still happening in spro-soaked Seatown: dropping big bank on a fading foreign roasting brand and their "tools". Sure, the magical bean cans keep the coffee perfectly conditioned and the click tamper helps make sure you're getting a 30lb tamp, but the lack of a training regimen is obvious in the cup. No grinding-by-the-cup, no free-pouring milk means a musty, milky lump of a cappuccino- albeit in a beatiful cup.
Dear Seattle restaurants,
If you don't want to invest big bank in a serious espresso setup, then don't. Save your self some counter space, skip the big steel (and the electricity bill to heat it) and - buy a gs3, a single major, and get yourself a small, flexible wholesale roaster account. Fine, you're right, that's still a lot of cash-- how about a couple silvias, a super caimano, and a handful of bags of espresso and decaf that you sneak out of one of our fine local roasters? Between that and a little training for your staff, you'll be serving great coffee on the cheap in no time. You won't have an upside-down wholesale roaster contract to keep up with and there's a chance that you'll generate enough business to support a serious espresso setup... and be able to pay for it in cash.
In this town, big and shiny doesn't impress... if you're serving bad coffee out of big steel, you overpaid or undertrained. The result is the same-- I'm going home for coffee.