Fish Oil and Damp Cardboard


I've been patient. I've been quiet.
But I can't cope with this anymore.

American espresso sucks now.

I'm incredibly tired of drinking bad espresso and incredibly frustrated by trying to produce quality espresso from crappy, inconsistent coffee.

Over the last decade the objective quality of American espresso has steadily declined. The basic craft skills of blending and roasting have declined. But most of all, the interest and care that is put into espresso has fallen off a cliff.

American espresso is consistently either sour and astringent and under-developed; or dirty and baggy and poorly selected; or all of the above. In addition, an espresso from a quality coffee bar will taste radically different day to day. An espresso blend from a quality roaster will not only taste different batch to batch - it requires radical changes from a barista batch to batch.

I'm incredibly tired of drinking shots that taste like battery acid, or fish oil and damp cardboard, or super concentrated hot cranberry concentrate, or bakers chocolate and damp mushroom. Do any of these descriptions taste good to you? Of course they don't. But this is the espresso you're serving to us - this is the coffee you're selling to us.

I'm fine with changes in taste and philosophy and approach.
I'm not fine, however, with the idea that the peak of espresso quality in the US has passed.

Honestly... y'all need to try and little harder and give a little bit more a fuck.
Because this shit sucks.


You Should Be Ashamed

Once upon a time I believed that San Francisco was a special place - a better place. I believed that the culture of SF attracted better people. I loved San Francisco and the people who lived here because I felt that we stood for something different - something more humane.

Once upon a time I believed that craft coffee was also a special place - a better industry. I believed that the culture of artisan coffee attracted better people. I loved coffee and the people who worked in the coffee industry because I felt we stood for something - something real and humane.

So I keep waiting for someone in coffee to talk about the problems the industry has around harassment, discrimination and abuse. And I keep waiting for someone to decide to lead.

But the silence deafens.

And today I walked by Four Barrel Coffee.

In the San Francisco I once loved, these doors would be permanently closed. Because nobody would be going to a business founded by a serial sexual predator and now owned and run by his friends and fellow owners. Nobody would support a business whose (new) owners - the ones who had enabled and covered up the founder's criminal abuse - promised to turn over ownership to the employees - which turned out to be a lie. In the San Francisco I once loved, none of the people in this photo would have been willing to be associated with such a toxic business.

And in the coffee industry I once dreamed existed companies would be calling this company out, companies would be publicly distancing themselves, companies would be refusing to do business with them.

Instead, the store is busy - crowded with people who could give a fuck about ethics and morals and values.
Instead, the coffee industry remains silent - demonstrating that those within it also could give a fuck about ethics and morals and values.

I'd love to say this is a call to action.
I'd love to say that I believe this post will result in a company or two taking a public stance against both the abuse that started this shit-show and the utter ethical failure of the current owners.
I'd love to believe that this post will result in a single SF coffee buyer deciding to go somewhere else for their latte.

But I know better.
It's too late for SF.
It's too late for coffee.

With your silence, you give tacit support.

I'm embarrassed. By all of you.


SF is past its sell-by date

"The reason there are rules is that there’s a society here, and we’re all supposed to fit in somehow. But not anymore. The progressive, fussy, overly sensitive, yammering groups of San Franciscans asserting that we need to have our needs understood and rights acknowledged in order to get along together don’t matter anymore."

Yeah... it's a so-called "Long Read" (as if that were a bad thing).
Yeah... it's another "requiem for the SF we loved" (again, as if that were somehow bad).

But this piece is a true must read for those who love San Francisco or at least love the San Francisco that was.

"We are all in this together. We always have been and we always will be, no matter where things go. But for the past few years in San Francisco, it’s been apparent the counter-myth is ascendant. And this is why I left — it turns out there are places that haven’t yet conspired in the assisted suicide of “we.” There are places where people look each other in the eye, even when they drive."


On Patriotism

"By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality." - George Orwell


Extinction Level Event

Amazon to Acquire Whole Foods for $13.7 Billion

If you own or manage a coffee business and you don't have a plan for the coming collapse of the traditional retail and distribution channel in the United States you will be out of business within three years.

This is your only warning.


we should have hired designers!

In the coffee biz, folks spend a lot of time worrying about competition.

Pretty much every single coffee shop has a competitor right nearby - and those competitors are usually selling a product that the end user cannot differentiate from their own product, and at the same price.

So understanding what causes a customer to choose your coffee biz - and what causes them to become a loyal customer for your shop, and not the one down the block - is a huge area of interest.

Like most people who have spent time in coffee, I tended to think about the drivers as things like: Brand and Marketing, Convenience, Customer Service, Speed and Efficiency, Ancillary Products and Services, etc.

Well... today I saw this amazing video.
And it explained that the real culprit is "Service Design."
It explained that, if all of us had just used the right design process when developing our mobile apps, we too would have won vs our competition.
If we had just hired a super kickass team of ninja rodeo clown coders and ethnographers, our coffee bars would have been hugely successful.

All snark aside - you all should watch this video.
Yes... the arrogance makes my jaw hurt and the ignorance makes my ears ring.
But this is the way "smart" people think about coffee as a business.
This is the way people are going to say you should run your coffee business.

So you need to be prepared.

PS. If you had anything to do with that video... you should be ashamed of yourself. You understand absolutely nothing about the speciality coffee industry and the idea that you don't need to is arrogant beyond belief.