Restaurant Coffee

I don’t usually post much work related stuff on here, but taking this photo it struck how ludicrously easy it can be to do a great coffee service in a restaurant. This photo was taken in a restaurant in London called Trinity. Trinity is a small restaurant in South West London, in a fairly residential neighbourhood. A few months ago they took out their espresso machine and replaced it with brewed coffee.

Looking at the photo is seems almost ridiculous. They have a great equipment setup there, and it cost a lot less than even a cheap 2 group. It also takes up a lot less space. They offer different, contrasting coffees. The staff are passionate and informed about the product. 1 They consistently serve really, really tasty coffee. People like really, really tasty coffee.

This doesn’t mean it has been easy. People still come to restaurants expecting to end a meal with an espresso. I think it takes some bravery for a restaurant to admit that espresso is incredibly difficult to do, and instead choose to do something of which they can be proud every time it is served. Inevitably success here comes down to service more than it does product, and I was really impressed by how thought out their approach was.

This isn’t new globally – but it is new to London. There are restaurants out there that are willing to invest in staff, equipment and training. There are many more restaurants knowingly serving an item on their menu that isn’t very good. In fact they know it is pretty bad. Many are too scared to make the change – I hope Trinity pave the way for others to follow. As a consumer and as a coffee professional I’d love to see more great coffee coming out of restaurants.

  1. Doing staff training here is so much fun. We brew coffee, talk about it, argue preference and I answer lots of questions. I love it! That and the technical side of the training is easy to do, and the staff remember everything and just do a good job. The same is sadly not true of espresso training.  ↩︎

25 Comments

  1. Good post!
    I wrote something more crude recently, from the customers perspective, and it strikes me that it is all down to equal responsibility of education and replication of that knowledge into the cup.

    There seems to not be enough communication between provider and restaurateur where I am from. Hence the constant disappointment, even though on paper it should be at least decent.

  2. To think that Heston is using Nespresso…

  3. To think that Heston is using Nespresso…

  4. I was exactly thinking the same thing, forget about espresso or higher a train your barman. But doing a good filter coffee with bunn/fecto is easy, consistant and great with a good coffee.

    The major thing to do is to educate restaurant people about how coffee can be so good.

  5. I’ve always wondered if the reason for terrible espresso in restaurants is – in a large part – due to the management not allowing the staff to run a ‘noisy’ grinder in a busy restaurant. I’m sure there are many restaurant owners who think like this, as it seems quite normal in Oz for the espresso machine to be located at the bar, within the middle of the restaurant. In that case, other forms of brewing would also be horrible due to the stale beans :(

  6. Attempting to drink the espresso at Heston’s resturant was one of the biggest let downs I’ve ever had. I’ve had worse coffee, but never that disapointing. It pretty much completely killed the entire meal for me. They did furnish me with a small amount of steamed milk though to try and improve it, but when the milk is burnt as well, it doesn’t help.

    It’s a shame that sub-standard espresso has become the norm. As it is now, whenever a resturant offers coffee at the end of a meal I always pass or go for tea instead.

    The UK has some of the best resturants in the world now – after our fairly dire reputation for food a few years ago. Hopefully improving the coffee, wether it is brewed or espresso, will be the next thing to change.

  7. Great to see that Trinity are prepared to take a stand here. Let’s hope other restaurnats can see this same opportunity.

  8. There is a boutique restaurant in Perth that flies in a technician in order to adjust the grinder. Why train your staff, hey?

  9. I especially like that you mentioned the ‘easy’ factor. Once they learn enough to brew great coffee, people won’t mind waiting for it because they will obviously be waiting for food at the restaurant. I only wish I could say I’ve shared this experience.

  10. Another great post. One can only respect restaurants that admit there limitations in espresso brewing and are able to provide a customer with an acceptable alternative . There are far to many pretenders extorting and giving coffee a bad name.

  11. James — you ought to send a bag of Square Mile coffee, along with brewing instructions, to the Fat Duck. Or better yet, invite Blumenthal to your roasting works and brew a cup for him there. I bet he would change his mind about what to serve if he tasted something better.

  12. Restaurants have slight margins, and playing with a new element in an already working environment may scare a few off. Espresso drinks are nasty to do right, even the showrooms make mistakes and the consistency isn’t always on track, and these guys only have a single function to operate. In a 10 course dinner with so many factors demanding attention, I have no faith in espresso in restaurants without a dedicated barista, which will cut the profits pretty much in a steep economic environment.

    Pour over is easier, but it needs to be integrated and fitted to the courses, else it will fail. Your last lot of Finja Kilimanjaro could be served as a dessert, but again the lack of skill (staff) and availability (beans) is a hard fit.

    I would only include coffee in a menu if it gave the dining experience a finish or distinction.

  13. Great post. We also have a wine bar and restaurant called Monvinic here in Barcelona that listened to my reccomendation and prepares two different kind of coffees every day with the Techniworm. It was very risky in an espresso country like Spain, but fortunately, the customers have responded in an incredible great percentage to filter coffee.
    Many chefs fill their mouths of how important the quality of the raw material they use in the kithchen is for them, but they completely forget or dont think about the importance of the service of coffee and teas is for their customers. Following this idea, and saying that espresso is very difficult to make, in order to really appreciate the value of the “raw material coffee”, the best they can offer is the easiest way for them: filter coffee.With this they can help to spread coffee culture delivering great single origin coffees in their full flavour and taste and, with a help of the sumellier explaining a little bit what coffee they are about to drink. Here in Spain, some michelin star restaurants also are using nespresso, meanwhile in magazines and interviews they claim for how they contribute to help neighbour farmers who grow fruits, vegetables, etc.
    Hope my english has been good enough to explain my ideas¡

  14. This is an almost mirror image of my coffee experience at Restaurant Gordon Ramsey on Hospital Road. Not the worst coffee I’ve ever tasted, but the biggest disappointment.

    In retrospect, while every item of food and wine on the menu was talked about with knowledge and passion, I should have realised there was something wrong when the only information given about the espresso was that it would be “very quick”!

    As you say, mediocre or sub-standard espresso has become accepted, and restaurants that consider their food to be in a different league to McDonalds and KFC are quite happy to try and emulate Starbucks when it comes to their coffee.

    If people can’t serve a delicious product, then they shouldn’t be letting it go out to their customers. I would greatly respect any restaurant that admitted they could not make a world class espresso, and were therefore not offering any.

  15. One thing I don’t understand, though: Why is everything sooo different as soon as you cross the italian border? I never had a bad espresso in Italy…(and almost never a good one anywhere else)… I’m really wondering, does it require a special DNA to get it done properly? Or is it the fact that north of Italy most people don’t really care?

  16. personally i think this is a great idea, often i will go to a restaurant that offers espresso and i will just pass, i have also worked with a company that supplies to restaurants and they are often unhappy with the hand they are dealt with the espresso, when, in all actuality it is a great coffee when made right.

    in response to axel, i hear a lot of good things and bad things about italian coffee… most people seem to assume that they are spectacular, and most people from italy will say that it is. though from the comments from the majority of my friends in teh business the coffee experience they have had in italy is an overall bad one… im not quite sure what to think as ive never been myself. but the perspective that i have been passed on from people is that italians make great machines, but terrible coffee.

    can someone clear this up for me? or will i have to go and make my mind up for myself?

  17. In Italy, coffee is very standardized. Most baristas are trained to do the exact same thing and have been doing so for years and years. This is kind of a good thing because it means that you will rarely get a “terrible” shot and the average quality of coffee is somewhat respectable. By the same token, this is unfortunate since it also means that in Italy, they have not embraced many of the new standards that we have come to understand as necessary for exceptional coffee.
    In general, I would say that most of the people who say that Italy has the best coffee are operating under the influence of the romance of the place as well as ignorance of what coffee can actually be. As a friend with Nuova Simonelli said to me once “In Italy we have more good baristas but not many great ones. In America you have more awful baristas, but also more who are amazing”. I tend to agree.

  18. It requires training, practice and commitment to quality, which are things most Italian baristas have plenty of. Unfortunately, a lot of their training is somewhat outdated.

  19. Would SQM be ready to shed 50 thousand quid just to be there? I guess not … its the same story everywhere else, top notch restaurants dont really care about the quality of coffee they serve. I have made countless cuppings and coffee tastings to the top chefs and restaurant owners here in Czech Rep, trying to persuade them to try a french press or vacpot program, do some fun stuff with dessert pairings etc … the response was always the same: coffee is just not that important for us, how many machines are you willing to give us for free?

  20. Would very much agree with the reference to people being influenced by the ‘romance’ of drinking coffee in Italy. In my experience, across a wide range of different outlets, the ratio of good to average to poor espresso I’ve had in Italy is roughly: 20/40/20. That is to say, the vast majority of it isn’t great. I’ve also had some of the most overpriced/worst coffee in Rome.

    With reference to the main post, I’d completely agree that a good filter coffee (relatively easy to get right) is far preferable to a poor espresso (extremely easy to achieve!) 

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