The Dirty Portafilter

My corner of the Internet, mostly espresso related but occasionally life will interfere.

Monday, September 19, 2005

A dismal search for a drinkable shot...

Well my friends, I am back from a week long business trip to Newark New Jersey. As any self respecting coffee geek, I tried to research the offerings in my destination city. Having come up short on a web search I turned to my friends at Coffee-Geek. I was met with less than enthusiastic results, but I thought to myself, it can’t be that bad. After all, this is next door to New York and a major metropolitan area.

Once I finally arrived at my final destination, it was too late to go searching for a café. I made note of a two group in the hotel bar as I passed. I also made an inquiry with the hotel attendant; once again the results were not hopeful.

I set out on my quest the next day. A walk through of the bar provided the expected let down. There was a machine, but no grinder. As I sat at the bar I noticed the two big boxes of POD’s. I had the unfortunate experience of watching the bartender prepare an espresso and cappuccino for another unlucky patron. He picked up the portafilter from the drip tray (good and cold) opened a POD and dropped it into the PF. Now, as I sit there watching I notice that there is no POD adapter on the machine. He promptly drops the POD into the PF basket, locks it into the group and hits the double button. What came out appeared more like tea than espresso. Now he moves on to the cappa, same procedure, same result, but then came the milk. Now this machine was not too dirty. The steam wands had a little residue on them which is to be expected after a few uses. The froth was the typical dish soap bubble and the drinks appeared to be more milk than anything else so decide to pass. A couple of days later I notice the froth wands still have the same residue on them and portafilter still had residue in them. I appears that they did wipe the machine down with a damp bar towel, but I seriously doubt it has had a good cleaning in weeks. My search continues…

I wonder around the hotel and happen onto a café that looks promising, so I return the next day to sample their wares. The place was jumping, a line of customers out the door and the aroma of coffee floating on the breeze, my hopes were elevated. They even had a sign describing each drinks proportions, and it was correct. So I order up a double cappuccino and an orange/cranberry muffin. Now I can not see the preparation area, but I do see a couple of Mazzer’s beside the machine. I hear the grinder spin up. A few moments later I hear the milk being frothed. Now I can tell from the sound of gurgling that it was going to be a bit bubbly. I get my drink and have a seat at a small table. I pop the top on the cup. Now that was not microfoam by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a medium sized bubble and appeared drinkable. The key word here is ‘appeared’. The beans had a distinct stale taste to them. They were probably a couple of months out of the roaster and purchased through a general restaurant supply house, but the muffin was good. So my search continues…

Now it is off to the local StarBucks. Say what you will, they at least have consistency, most of the time. I found one a couple of blocks from my hotel so I wander in about 5pm. Now my first impression was not good. Neither person behind the counter appeared to know what they were doing. So I ordered a medium cappa with an extra shot (quad shot cappa), pay the lady and step to the side to watch the PBTC make my drink. I really, REALLY, wish I had looked behind the counter prior to ordering. They had the filthiest machine I have ever seen. Baked on milk splatter all over the machine, crusty parts, yes folks, coffee crust. There was no drip tray, there was a drip reservoir, but there was no tray on top. You could not see into the dose chamber of the Mazzer through the windows, they were caked and stained with ground coffee and the grinders and work surface was just flat out disgusting. They under dosed into the PF from the doser, tamped using the leveling attachment on the old nasty looking Mazzer and locked it onto the group head. Then he picked up two nasty looking shot glasses out of the drip tray, remember there is no cover, they are sitting IN the drip tray. You can not even begin to imagine how filthy these two shot glasses were. It looked like they had been pulling shots into the same two glasses all day, and neither had been washed in who knows how long.

Now you may be thinking it can’t get any worse, but it does. After putting the two nasty shot glasses into the drip tray and pulling my shots into them he proceeds to froth my milk. He dumps milk into a dirty pitcher, jams the crusty frothing wand into the pitcher and blows milk completely out of the pitcher. Heat, heat, heat, stop and stare into the pitcher. ‘Ay, ther anint no froth in here’ he calls out to the lady. To which she replies ‘Ya gots to move it up and down to make bubbles’. So they pour some of the scalded milk into my cup, then pour more milk into the scalded milk currently in the pitcher and away they go again. Woosh, goosh, splatter goes the milk. Now they have some bubbles, and quite literally boiled milk. So they dump more of it into my cup and proudly hand it to me. I give them a half hearted nod and walk over a small table by the window.

Now my stomach is turning. The cup is so hot from the boiled milk that I can not even hold it. I sit there in a daze staring out the window as the crush of humanity goes by. Bankers, lawyers, secretaries rushing to Pen Station to get out of Doge, the drunks, vagrants and occasional stoner staggering around in the sea of humanity, just to end up staggering into an ally where they slump down against a building. I do hazard a sip, just because I went through all of the trouble to walk here. I wince at the scalded, acrid taste, stare out the window for another few moments, walk to the door and drop my drink in the trash and retreat to the hotel bar to drown my sorrows with a beverage of another kind. Owe how I miss home…


  • At 3:49 PM, Blogger SonnyM said…

    Took me awhile to find a good blog ...glad I came across yours. I like it a lot!

    Sonny M.

    I have a related site that focuses on anti depression drug you may like too. It pretty much covers anti depression drug related stuff.

    Come and check it out if you get time :-)

  • At 8:12 PM, Anonymous Roberto Crema said…

    Thanks for reminding me how lucky I am to be sipping a restreto in California and at the same time feeling a tinge of homesickness.
    Ain't life a freekin trip!

  • At 8:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Newark ... my friend, Newark is no place for anyone who doesn't live in Newark.


Post a Comment

<< Home