Espresso bliss in Berlin

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A recent trip to Berlin, Germany, afforded me an opportunity to check out the local coffee scene there. The Berlin coffee crawl was a about as sobering (if not more so) than a recent espresso crawl with a couple of friends here in Seattle.

I’ll spare you the details of all the disappointments I had on the way but will say the following was true for each of the espresso bars (all of which roasted their own coffee) I went to:

  • the espresso machines were of the single-boiler type with little to no temperature control; I spotted no LaMarzoccos or Synessos or any other quality make of an espresso maker;
  • while the interior design of many cafes was truly breath-taking, the emphasis on design didn’t apply to what type of cup to present an espresso in. Most espressos were presented in an 8-oz cup; one time I asked for a double espresso and received – it’s really true! – a 4-oz cup full of a brown and bitter substance which might have been concocted in a Melitta drip filter contraption using old coffee and the wrong grind;
  • If the baristas’ equipment and techniques were lacking, the quality of the coffee didn’t help. Coffee often was overroasted, the blends struck me as unsuited for an excellent espresso (single-origin espresso was not an option anywhere I went), the roast date was often not noted on the package.

In all, given the pride Germans take in fine food, the espresso scene was lacking at best. There was a notable exception – Bonanza Coffee Roasters in Prenzlauer Berg. My heart started jumping when I saw a beautiful three-group Synesso Cyncra. The espresso was superb. I briefly met Emile (sp?), one of the two roasters at Bonanza. Bonanza uses a 3kg Probat. Small. Very small. But very very fine. There is hope!

P.S.: After I’d left Berlin, I received a note from Barista Academy Berlin with a couple of recommendations: Double Eye and Berliner Kaffeerösterei. I’ll have to try those out the next time when I am in Berlin.

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