What do you order at a coffee shop...?

Hi Hustlers,

Just wondering what you order or what other sensory things you use when trying a shop for the first time? For me, I look for clean working conditions for the staff behind the counter and I listen for the hum of grinder burrs and not the ‘snap’ of a doser. From there, I usually try to get a little information about what they’re brewing [origin (if it’s not posted…), dose, yield, etc.] which can be tricky if the person on register isn’t the barista. Finally, my typical ‘espresso flight’ is an espresso and a cappuccino.

I start with the espresso and I’m looking for decent sweetness + balance. If I get it, great! I finish it and move on to the cappuccino (now with higher expectations than I had a few minutes ago and assuming the milk is stretched/steamed/frothed fairly well). If I taste any sourness or bitterness that are unpleasant, I move on to the cappuccino and look for the same. If I get it in one and not the other, I normally give the barista a mulligan and chalk it up to bad luck. If both drinks exhibit the same off-flavours, then I know there’s some ‘tuning’ to be done and reluctantly gulp what’s left of both drinks and discreetly leave. If I like both the espresso and cappuccino though, I usually go back up to the counter grab a long black or americano to take with me.

This experiment costs me less than $15, takes 20-30 mins. and usually determines if I’ll go back or not.

Would love to know what you order when you’re trying a spot for the first time…?

an espresso and a pour over if it’s my first time at a shop. Whether or not they have more than one pour over offering and how they measure the pour over (measuring everything vs. just the yield) are the biggest things I look for. I think it’s essential especially if the shop also roasts. The espresso I’m less picky about, but I’m still looking for a balanced, sweet, not overly bitter extraction.

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Thanks for the feedback @Chuck_Maier. Specialty coffee is still growing where I live in Ontario, Canada. I think there’s only 1 shop offering a pour over option around here and it’s usually a terribly dark roast with poor technique so it never ends well.

The machine they’re running. How much they appear to be emulating Starbucks (do they have a giant fridge with all of the things in it). Are they steaming the milk correctly(ish) - listen to the sound. Are the beans for sale recent. Are their espresso beans super dark roast. Do they have every variety of milk. Do the sizes of their milk drinks exceed 12oz (in the US) and, by how much? Are the crew calm and attentive.

A LOT of stuff. :smiley:

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An espresso and an iced cappuccino/latte. And honestly just am super stoked when the barista or person at the register are nice!

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…curious then, are you suggesting that the more they emulate Starbucks, the more likely you are to return?

…it helps for sure! #sadbuttrue

First look is what different coffee offerings are on the board/menu. It the only option at the espresso machine is a house blend, I check the hopper visually. If they are dark and oily I usually will order tea. Yup!!

If there is a house blend, and one or more single origin options, I’ll have a look at what’s in the hopper, and take a chance. My usual drink from the espresso bar is an Americano… that way I can taste the bean, roast, extraction, and get a god idea what they’re about.

If the shop is fairly active and offer optionis on a brew bar, again, I’ll do a visual on the beans after checking the options, maybe ask a couple questions about those offerings, then decide… pourover (if I can watch them do someone else’s and see how well they do, that’s a good thing. If I’m impressed they are actually doing it well, I’ll take the chance.

Redetnly was visiting friends in Tempe Arizona, they went wild over what I served them in their home (french press, mt hand roast single oriogins) and wanted me to try and find a good local shop for them. After some online research we took a drive… to Press Coffee, a decent sized shop near the UNiversity. I observed, decided I’d try a single on pourover, we shared, and it was very acceptable. I then ventured a straight shot… again, it was “in there”. I’d done the same thing at Brown Coffee in San Antonio some time before… but the thing that drove me to try them is their offering list on their website. They had three different single origin direct trade offerings, and I knew them all. SO… serving THOSE coffees I knew they were “doing it right”. My “coffee afficionado” friend I had taken there was absolutely blown away. Single origin espresso shot was the first he’d ever been able to drink. As we enjoyed that, the chap at the bar crafted our pourover, a different origin, and again, my friend was astounded. They are the ONLY place in San Antonio area I’ll unhesitatingly recommend. Another, not far away, touted as “really good” proffered a pourover that was so bad I could not finish it.

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There are definitely some Starbucks out there whose customer service flat out sucks… and the same goes to many specialty shops here in LA. So if their CS is on point and I feel good going there and the coffee isn’t bad, I’d be happy to support them again

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…thanks for the feedback! I love to hear how other people approach a shop and what they look for. Truthfully though, regardless of how the coffee tastes or is prepared, if the customer service is stellar and the shop is buzzing and friendly, I don’t even remember the coffee… On the other hand, amazing coffee can never overcome poor + pretentious service.

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Where do you live in Ontario? I can maybe give you a good list of places. (I’m a roaster rep in Ontario)