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Sep 10, 2007 05:22 PM

Intelligentsia Coffee...boring, sanitized & oh so precious

There's a point at which you can try just too hard. Intelligentsia's coffee has been so scientifically calibrated that they have managed to reduce all coffee's character to a boringly smooth semi-hot drink. I tried a variety of drinks, hot, cold, regular coffee, cappucino, and none of them passed my coffee standard which is Italian coffee (can't be found in LA, by the way.) If you've ever had real Italian espresso, then you know what coffee should be. I wonder if the tastemakers at Intelligentsia have ever had the real thing? Too bad. It's a great location and looks great. Boo hoo.

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  1. I disagree. I think they make a pretty good cup of coffee but their Black Cat espresso is fantastic. I grind it at home and brew it as my everyday coffee. I also long for a rich cup of coffee closer to an Italian espresso but have had a hard time finding it in L.A. The Black Cat definitely satisfies my picky taste in coffee, although it is an marketed at an espresso. I have tried Kings Road,which many swear by, but it ALWAYS makes me jittery. I absolutely refuse to go to Starbucks or Coffee Bean. I may go to Peet's in a pinch. I would choose a cup of Intelligentsia coffee over these massive chains any day.

    1. Their ice coffee tastes like fruit.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Hershey Bomar

        I'm not sure what coffee they use for the iced coffee, but some of the medium roasts like the Ethiopian have definite berry flavors (well, coffee beans are berries, right?). I have a hard time getting used to it since I'm so used to the more caramel flavors of dark roasts like espresso.

        1. re: Chowpatty

          Everyone has their own opinion, if they don't like something, they don't like it. But I have to disagree vehemently by the characterization of Italian coffee being superior to the best we offer. The coffee produced by the some of the micro-roasters in this country is as good and in many cases is far superior to anything roasted in Italy. I will go so far to say the coffee movement in New Zealand and Australia also compares with Italy.

          1. re: chipman

            Most Italian coffee is roasted really dark, a legacy from the days when Italian peasants were getting really crappy coffee and nearly burning it to cover its terrible taste. Intelligentsia doesn't roast its coffees nearly as dark as most houses so as to let the natural flavors of the beans come through. I can easily see how drinkers whose palates are accustomed to the superdark (read: burnt) taste of traditional Italian coffees or the neo-Italian roasters like Starbucks could be thrown off by the more delicate tastes of Intelligentsia's roasts. (For example, their Yirgacheffe is the first one that actually did taste of the jasmine notes advertised.)

            My recommendation would be to get the Chemex for Two if possible. That really lets the clean, sparkling nature of the varietal coffees (which are the real gems on offer at Intelligentsia) to come through in a special way.

            1. re: chipman

              i wholeheartedly agree with you on the superior quality of coffee 'down under.' every cup i had in australia, whether in melbourne, sydney, or up in queensland, was excellent. even starbucks is good there!

            2. re: Chowpatty

              You are so right.

              A little more info. They only use one roast for the ice coffee. When I told them I didn't like it they did tease me a little but also gave me coupon for a free espresso.

          2. I disagree about Intelligentsia, but coffee is such a particular thing... to each his/her own :)

            I heard they are bringing an Italian barista (or would that be baristo?) for the new cafe opening next to Ugo's in Culver City. Perhaps you will finally have your Italian coffee. No word on an opening date yet.

            1. My complaint is that the cap I had was mostly milk, they poured straight from the steamer and never added foam or held back the milk, it was more like a latte! Otherwise I enjoyed it.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Burger Boy

                Burger Boy, while you may not have enjoyed your particular cap, a latte or a cap is supposed to be poured straight from the pitcher and foam is never supposed to be added nor is milk supposed to be held back. I may be generalizing here, but I imagine that you're more used to the larger chain style coffee shops preparing your beverages where they will spoon in more foam to make a cap or hold back foam accordingly for a latte.
                ALL true specialty coffee companies that use baristas who have been trained accordingly free-pour their milk directly from the steamer with no need for a thermometer, a spoon, or adding/holding back milk or foam.

                1. re: peanut112

                  I am not used to large chains, I am used to great coffee in SF and small boutique like Mi Cultura and some very good barista friends. Explain the difference, if you steam/foam the milk in the pitcher and just pour it together? I was under the impression a cap is smaller and more foam than milk and a latte is larger and mostly milk and a little foam. You are saying a cap & latte are equal foam & milk just more or less?

                  1. re: Burger Boy

                    The classic definition of a cap is 1/3.espresso,1/3 milk, and 1/3 foam.

              2. I've had the famous 'Sant Eustachio espresso and I know that's what espresso shouldn't be. I don't even know what the heck that is - it's like coffee merengue.

                I can't speak for Intelly SilverLake since I'm on the other side of the country. But I work with Intelly coffee every day and have also been to Italy couple of times in the past three years specifically to study the food and espresso.

                Here's my take on Italian espresso - it's much more consistent place to place than US espresso. In the US, bad espresso is the rule. However, I've yet to have an espresso in Italy that's knocked my socks off. But I've been wowed several times in the US at better cafes.

                If one knows what they're doing with Black Cat, one can consistently produce better espresso drinks than the typical Italian bar, whether a straight 1.25oz shot, a ristretto-style doppio, an Americano, certainly a 5.5oz cappuccino (where I think Black Cat shines) or a Shakerato, where it is equally awesome.

                Certainly part of the reason is the Intelly blend, but it's also the freshness. In Italy, bars using Lavazza, Illy, Segafreddo or similar mass market coffees are already behind the 8-ball as the coffee is getting stale. Equipment also tends to be dirtier, I think - lots of old grounds left in grinders and portafilters.

                FYI, the best espresso I had in Italy was Oka Caffe from Florence. It happens to be the coffee the engineers at the La Marzocco factory use to calibrate their equipment and drink for enjoyment.

                If SilverLake isn't for you (although I can't imagine why), you might also try CoffeeKlatch in San Dimas or Groundworks which has several places in LA.