Espresso "reviews"

As many are aware, I have always had some major issues with espresso "reviews" as both a concept and as a practice.

First and foremost... too many "reviews" are conducted without truly skilled baristas involved. This, of course, is akin to "reviewing" espresso using a Ouiji Board.

Secondly... the vast majority of "reviews" seem to assume that there is one generalized brew temp, brew pressure, dose and extraction volume/time that works for all espressos.

Third... almost all "reviews" are not adaptive and iterative. I.e. the "reviewers" do not provide feedback to the "barista" to help them tune the espresso extraction parameters to get the best our of a coffee.

Fourth... there seems to be no appreciation for the importance of the machine/grinder choice, cleaning and servicing.

The above has, by now, resulted in my suggesting to any and all roasters that they not provide espressos for review. It's simply a crap shoot - and the damage that can be done to your brand and your business is significant. It's not worth the risk in my opinion.

This has recently become demonstrated to me by a couple interactions and experiences.

First - I had a moment of hope last week where I honestly thought that we might see the first serious and respectful treatment of coffee and espresso in a mass market publication. All the signs were looking good. And then I found out how the espresso "tasting" was going to be done.... depressing.

Second - one of the best coffee cuppers out there (and someone I really respect) reviewing espressos and pulling all shots with a dose of 14 grams and an extraction time of "17-23 seconds." No indication of what the brew temp was. So... you get an espresso that is "thin bodied" and "sharp". Ummm... maybe you might want to up the dose to more like 18 grams? Maybe take the extraction time to 27 seconds? Or pull the shot ristretto? Maybe your brew temp is too high? Or you get another espresso that is "lean in body" with an "astringent finish." Again... perhaps your brew temp is off. Or your extraction time and volume is wrong (for this coffee). And... what a shock, the best reviewed coffees seem to all have an optimal combination of low dose, short extraction time and high brew temp.

Now this is why I suggest roasters not provide espresso samples for review.

We need an independent espresso review and analysis and research lab.

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