Handle Bar Coffee|Santa Barbara

Yesterday we visited Handle bar roasters in Santa Barbara, and it was not what we expected to say the least. The shop is pretty cool with a roaster at the front, a P series, a compact artisanal solid drum by the German company Probat.

The owner a cool guy was working on roasting while we waited for our coffee. He explained he uses several different beans and roasts what he calls, an expresso blend. While Kim Anderson and Aaron Olson seem very nice, honest and dedicated, their coffee was terribly burnt, and that wasn’t the only issue.

I ordered an expresso, a short and the coffee was almost filled up to 3/4 of the cup. The owner was agitated when I asked if it was a short coffee, so I paid the coffee, sipped it, and left. He explained to my wife, “you need to tell me how much to fill the cup, as its different for everyone”. While we do not agree, its their shop and their call.

What I wanted to explain, while I try to avoid any kind of in-store discussions is; a ristretto espresso is 0.5-1 fluid ounces and not more. A short ristretto is about 2/3rds to half the total brew volume that you get with normal espresso, and my short ristretto was just the opposite.

To make a good ristretto you need to grind a little more coffee, use a larger portafilter, and or have the grind such that the pressure and water passes through for creamy perfection 25 second shot, producing a ristretto crema.

I understand Kim and Aaron traveled extensively in Spain and Austria, but I wouldn’t recommend opening a coffee shop unless you make a trip in Italy from the south to the north, to see how coffee is made. Don’t forget that it was the Italians in Italy who invented espresso and a ristretto coffee is universal.

If you have the intention to overfill due to the fact “big is better” and consumers like it that way, do it, but that doesn’t make it right. Each customer shouldn’t have to be in a position to define their own coffee, or at least if that’s store policy, ask the client in advance of making the coffee.

PS: The coffee beans are probably getting burned due to the fact that in a drum roaster, much of the chaff that comes off of the roasting coffee beans remains in with the beans throughout the roast. The chaff burns and smokes, causing a burnt flavor, especially in dark roasting.

For those who are not familiar with chaff, coffee bean chaff is a waste product of the roasting process of coffee beans. The chaff is green pieces of skin or hull that come off in different ways depending upon the type of roasting process used.

Standard guidelines for a single ristretto:

-a normal single espresso is 1.0 US fl oz. [+/-.5 oz]
-a normal espresso is poured in 25 secs [+/-5 seconds]
-a normal espresso uses 7grams of ground coffee [+/2g]
-a normal espresso is brewed with 93C water [+/- 3C]