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Dec 28, 2013 10:21 AM

Coffee [split from The Restaurant David Toutain thread]

@ Rio Yeti

When you go to DT, see what type of machine he's using to make that "superb" cup of coffee. Thanks.

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  1. Hehe ok, if I can see it without looking like an italian spy, I will let you know ! ;)

    2 Replies
    1. re: Rio Yeti

      I sure will be snickering if it's Nespresso.

      1. re: Ptipois

        Haha I promise to be objective, and try to find out about the coffee.

    2. Just came back... full review coming soon, but in the meantime...

      The coffee was.... SUPERB indeed ! They use Ethiopian yirgacheffe coffee from a small producer, roasted specifically to their specifications by "Coutume café" (one of the great new coffee places in Paris). They grind the coffee for each espresso, and use a "La Marzocco" machine.
      The resulting cup has a nice acidity, a slight funk (in a good way) and not a hint of bitterness. Superb indeed.

      1 point for Mr. T.
      0 point for the snickering fellows

      And as I said, full review coming soon... teaser : "The coffee was not the only superb thing that entered my mouth this evening".

      30 Replies
      1. re: Rio Yeti

        Oh I don't snicker, I weep.

        I was actually worried it could be Coutume, some of the worst coffee ever served in Paris. Even Nespresso, or even the average sock juice from any corner troquet, is better than that offensive, acidic brew.

        1. re: Ptipois

          @ Rio Yeti
          "They grind the coffee for each espresso"? How can that be? That's something we never see here in Italy. It would take too long to grind each individual portion.

          If there are eight (or six or four) people at a table and they all wanted espresso, how in the world does the espresso come out hot at the table. Grinding a few hours ahead doesn't change the espresso; every bar in Italy does it that way. Otherwise, the bar (or restaurant) couldn't exist. Why do I think someone was pulling your leg?

          1. re: allende


            Unlike the kitchen, which is behind walls, the espresso machine is in the dining room, and my table was the one facing the machine. Nobody told me they grind it to order, I just witnessed it. I saw it. With my own eyes.

            It is a small restaurant, I would say there are maybe 30 persons at the most... so yes, it would be complicated if all 30 persons wanted coffee at the same time, but that's obviously rarely going to happen.

            I ordered a coffee. Then 10 minutes later, someone else ordered a coffee.
            Both times, I saw them (and heard them, like the whole restaurant, as the grinder is pretty noisy) grind the coffee to order.

            By the way, Ten Belles, which is a coffee place not a restaurant, does grind the coffee to order. I've seen the place very busy, and yes it seems like a pain in the ass to do. But saying that grinding it a few hours in advance is the same... well, I think that 99% of all the coffee geek talk on the internet will disagree with you.

            Actually it has been proven, that as soon as 15 minutes after you grind coffee, some volatiles aromas start to dissipate...

            Man ! You guys really are in snickering mode !...

            1. re: allende

              Really? I live in portland oregon USA and I would say that it's standard to grind right before the shot here though many restaurants only serve French press or drip coffee because people are suspicious otherwise. I am spoiled with my espresso drinking though and won't order one unless I think there is someone serious about it making it.

            2. re: Ptipois


              You obviously had a bad experience at Coutume, although I find your comment so harsh I'm wondering what happened there...
              To be honest, I haven't been to Coutume, I just know it from reputation. However I've been to Ten Belles, and Cafeotheque, and both places served me what I consider to be the best coffee I ever had in Paris. Yes they are acidic and not bitter, and they're surprising at first to say the least, but that's exactly how the memorable coffee I had in Sicily tasted (and other parts of Italy too).
              The coffee I had yesterday at David Toutain was of the same caliber, and I didn't find it "too acidic". To call this worst than the average Nespresso (which I'm fairly used to, as I drink it every time I visit my mother) is so surrealistic it's like saying the jamon pata negra you just ate is worst than the Monoprix jambon d'Aoste... nonsense.

              1. re: Rio Yeti

                It is not just a bad experience at Coutume. It is also going to some Paris restaurants/bistros (three similar experiences), ordering coffee, nearly spitting it out and then looking at the cup — and recognizing the characteristic three-drop logo.

                I just don't understand this new thing about harsh, acidic coffee being supposed to be good, Coutume being the worst offender. I certainly have never met that in Italy. As Madame Armfeldt sang, "Let us hope that this lunacy is just a trend."
                And these coffees are generally praised by the very same people who complain about coffee in Paris in general. Something there is not going right.

                1. re: Ptipois

                  "And these coffees are generally praised by the very same people who complain about coffee in Paris in general."

                  Well then I'm guilty... Although this was the first coffee I had from Coutume, it honestly didn't feel harsh to me. Acidic, yes, and fruity, but not harsh...

                  The server told me that Coutume roasts it to "their specification", maybe those specifications included "we don't want harsh acidic coffee" !

                  Maybe I'll go at the source, and try a coffee at Coutume to see what's the deal.

                  Have you tried the coffee at Ten Belles ? Did you also find it this bad ?

                  1. re: Rio Yeti

                    My favorite is Telescope and coffee is ground for each cup there as well. I've had ok coffee at Coutume, sometimes better sometimes not so great. A lot depends on the skill of the person making it. I've also had good coffee at Cafeotheque and Ten Belles. The coffee beans and precise technique at Telescope, for me, is a winning combination.

                    1. re: Rio Yeti

                      @Rio Yeti

                      Am very much looking forward to having espresso at Ten Belles the next time in Paris, which probably will be next fall. That's when Paris is filled with those great white truffles from Alba :)

                      You said:
                      "But saying that grinding it a few hours in advance is the same... well, I think that 99% of all the coffee geek talk on the internet will disagree with you."

                      I don't read the "coffee geek" talk on the internet. I have been to many places in New York, which had "baristas" (at least that's what they called themselves), who had won "barista" prizes for the best coffee. In all honesty, these people were just hipsters who really didn't have a clue. Not a clue. Oh, they could make pretty swirls with foam and could make exotic cups of coffee, but the basic espresso they made me was a bad joke. Really bad. I would ask for an espresso, try it, and leave the rest in the
                      cup... that's what I thought of it. Then I would ask for a ristretto which is really the only way, IMO, to see what the coffee in the cup is really all about. 99% of the baristas didn't have a clue as to what a ristretto was. Totally blank stares. When I told them, they still put way too much coffee in the cup. And Rio, these are the places in Manhattan and Brooklyn that are lauded as the best in New York.

                      Perhaps Paris is different. Am curious to see.

                      By the way, the coffee in Italy varies considerably from region to region. There is no "best" coffee, just as there is no best baguette or brioche. While it varies, there are some good general rules to follow. If you want to taste the coffee and really see what it is like, you have to have a ristretto. If you want to have really good coffee, stay away from the coastal towns, with the exception of Naples and some parts of Sicily (for example, in my town on the Tuscan coast, espresso is mediocre, no matter which bar you go to).

                      FWIW, our favorite places to have coffee, in general, has been Friuli in the number one slot (many, many towns), Mantova in number two and Bra in number three.

                      Again, glad the coffee at DT is superb. While I won't be going there because so many of the dishes that John Talbott mentioned are not to our liking, we will go to Ten Belles (and others if you or others have them)... and you'll get an honest answer from me. Always looking for a good cup of coffee in Paris, something which we've never had.



                      1. re: allende

                        I understand what you're saying... but don't expect the places mentioned here (Coutume, Telescope, Ten Belles...) to be hipster-free... The whole new coffee trend from Australia to England is definitely hipster-full, and so is Paris.
                        Having said that, I still think their coffee is closer to my "eye-opening" experience in Sicily, when I drank an espresso (I ordered an espresso, but got a ristretto) and realized that all these years I had been drinking "Bud Light - beer" when in fact I could have been drinking "Freshly squeezed tropical fruits juice"...

                        All these coffees will probably not satisfy your Italian standards, just like any "good" baguette I eat in the USA, is never quite as good as what's widely available in France. But that shouldn't be an argument against those places, because at least they're stirring things in the right direction, far away from the sock juice served by bars across the city serving only Lavazza and Café Richard...

                        When I go to a "regular" bar or café in Paris, I hope that the coffee will be "drinkable", meaning mellow, soft, chocolatey, ok flavor... because 90% of the time it will taste like ash, bitter, and plain disgusting.

                        But I'll be curious to know what you think, because as said before, I brought an Italian friend, allergic to hipsters, disgusted by the whole "natural wood" atmosphere of Ten Belles... but he still liked the coffee :)

                        1. re: allende

                          I can sum up all that is wrong with coffee today, especially in the US, in two words - Starbucks and Illy. Both roast their beans to cinders. They may as well brew with charcoal. Somehow they have convinced the gullible that is how coffee should be.

                          1. re: jock

                            jock, the coffees we're talking about have nothing to do with Starbucks or Illy (those would be Lavazza and Café Richard in France)... quite the contrary, it is the light roast that makes those coffees more acidic than bitter, and apparently sometimes too acidic.

                            1. re: Rio Yeti

                              I find Lavazza and Richard to be pretty nasty too. Lately I just skip the cafe after dinner.


                              Not sure what ristretto is. I am thinking it is what is called serre (sp?) in France. Where the leave out the first and last 1/4s of a espresso and just serve the middle half.

                  2. re: Ptipois

                    "I was actually worried it could be Coutume, some of the worst coffee ever served in Paris. Even Nespresso"
                    I love you Pti, really, deeply, and i know you are never wrong; but I recall one time when you were working photoing at the Mutualite and I was cooling my heels in the Press Room and they had Nespresso, a lot of types of it, and I sat there and had 3 cups and it was not bad. Now, I do not work for Nespresso, I've never met George Clooney and at home I do Illy (another apparently non-PC drink) and have never had Nespresso since, but I will not condemn it to the 6th circle of Dante's Hell (where the heretics like me reside and maybe they're'll be a Nespresso machine).

                    1. re: John Talbott

                      @ jock

                      A ristretto is just a very short (sometimes very, very short... a "ristettisimo") espresso. Very little water, pure essence of coffee. It is strong and you get to see how the coffee really is. You get what comes out of the machine in no more than five seconds.

                      Next time in Piemonte ( that was some trip, right; hope you have fond memories), go to Bra on Friday for the great market. There are three, and only three, bars on the south side of the market. Go in, order a ristretto, and as Rio Yeti said about having one in Sicily, it will be an eye opening experience.

                      But really, in every bar in Italy, a ristretto, IMO, always tastes better than an espresso.

                      1. re: allende

                        Thanks. Sounds like serre in Paris. Not sure of the spelling in French but it is pronounced serr-A. I have had some serre in Paris that were actually good.

                      2. re: John Talbott

                        But I do not condemn Nespresso, at least not on taste grounds (no pun intended). Political grounds are a different matter. It is at least more drinkable than all that superficial, clueless hipster crap. We're in agreement there. What I am saying is that Nespresso is preferrable to all that, if one really has to choose.

                        Concerning the "light roast", this is not at all what I have noticed. Light roasting does not yield harshness, quite the contrary. Most coffees in Paris, including those of the PC hipster bunch, are roasted to death and I am yet to see an exception to that.

                        Try a Mexican maragogype or an Indian Mysore, light-roasted, and then the same beans roasted "Paris-style" or "hipster-style", as I have, and see all the goodness in those coffees disappear. I don't know what got into people recently.

                        1. re: Ptipois

                          What ? Ok now there's really something I don't understand...

                          If anything, I think the "hipster" coffees are TOO light... I used to buy my coffee at a local torréfacteur (including maragogype actually), it was pretty good... but really dark, now I buy it from hip Brulerie Belleville and am always surprised at how light the coffee beans are.

                          Seriously, something is weird here, because what is typically called a "french roast" is pretty dark, and if anything all this "new wave" of coffee interest brought light roasts to the party (with their nice acidity)...

                          We should do a coffee tasting, at the restaurant "Dans le noir", Souphie should organize it ! ;)

                          1. re: Rio Yeti

                            Yes, the French roast is pretty dark, that's normal. Too dark in my opinion. But the hip-PC wave also roasts too dark, actually now it is trendy to roast too dark. Hence my preference for non-trendy brûleries that understand the importance of light roasting.
                            I'll make an exception for L'Arbre à Café, but Hippolyte is one crazy talented guy who does an incredible, personal job on coffee.

                            Dark-roasted maragogype is a waste of expensive beans. I have never noticed that moderate roasting yielded acidity. Quite the contrary, it brings out the earthy, chocolatey notes. It is not only a matter of how roasted it is, it is also a matter of how slowly roasted it is, and I am sure there are many other variables involved.

                            1. re: Ptipois

                              "Don't understand this new thing about harsh acidic coffee being supposed to be good"

                              It's not new. There have always been premium beans with higher acidity, typically from east Africa and Central America, often used in a blend with heavier-bodied beans but capable of producing a very elegant cup of almost tea-like transparency on their own. What is new is the mainstream interest in the correct treatment of these beans (lighter roast and a non-espresso brewing style) and my experience is similar to Rio's in this regard ie. it's being led by the new-wave roasters and bars, in Paris and elsewhere. Incidentally, Rio, I really liked the single espresso I had at Cafeotheque (although the badness of the service was surreal, for a transaction involving 2 coffees consumed standing up).

                              "I have never noticed that moderate roasting yielded acidity."

                              No, Ptipois, you would not because the acidity is a quality of the bean. A lighter roast preserves it. A darker roast disguises the acid with caramel/ burnt notes, making an inferior bean suitable for the high-pressure espresso treatment, but robbing a superior bean of its distinctive characteristics. I would be really surprised that a light-roast maragogype does not display at least some acidity, but perhaps this just means that careful handling renders it acceptable even to a drinker who doesn't normally care for high-acidity beans.

                              1. re: shakti2

                                I disagree about a lighter roast preserving the acidity of certain beans. Besides, espresso brewing remains the most common method, even in the "new style".
                                When it is present, the acidity persists through heavy roasting and is even enhanced by it, adding extra burnt notes (= adding insult to injury). And I can assure that light-roasted maragogype (I like Liquidambar) does not display the slightest acidity. That is the reason why (good) roasters advise to roast it moderately.

                                If you go to the Ménélik restaurant in the Batignolles on Friday or Saturday nights, you can enjoy the ceremony of Ethiopian coffee, roasted on the spot and immediately brewed. The roasting is quick and light and there is not a hint of acidity or harshness in the resulting brew that is then shared among the diners. Just the full, fruity, round, chocolatey taste of good coffee.

                                This idea of "acidity = premium beans = preserved by light roasting" must be another one of the many urban legends that seem to go along that new geeky coffee trend, which I realize there is no way to escape from since a majority seems to support it, but that still does not make it the ultimate word in coffee drinking.

                                1. re: Ptipois

                                  "One of the many urban legends that seem to go along that new geeky coffee trend"

                                  I already said this isn't new. My perspective is from many years of informed semi-professional interest (I run a commodity-trading business) combined with access to fine beans from various premium regions in their green state, professional roasting equipment and brewing gadgets (and for that matter, results of taste tests and lab work on flavour profiles).


                                  Yes, lovely stuff and luckily for Europeans, relatively easy to buy. But I also recommend Indonesian coffees (Java, Mandeling, Kalosi) - these are fine-flavoured heavier-body coffees where you will have far less risk of encountering the dreaded acidity.

                                  "Espresso brewing remains the most common method, even in the new style".

                                  For the purposes of the France board, perhaps, but hardly the case elsewhere. I encourage you to try an alternative to espresso-brewing since you mention you have access to correctly-roasted beans. Just a plunger or even better, a pour-over funnel. Neither requires much of a commitment and will provide simple daily pleasure if you brew your own.

                                  1. re: shakti2

                                    You said: " A plunger or pour-over funnel."

                                    Each to his own of course, but why do you want to taste water rather than coffee. The whole exercise should be about the coffee, not the water.

                                    Water is critical. It tastes different everywhere. That's why: using the same beans; using the same roast; using the same grind (the grind is critical as well in making coffee for a particular machine); and the same person, an espresso will taste different in two adjoining towns. It's the water.

                                    If you want to taste the coffee, not the water, order a ristretto. A plunger? A pour-over? You must be kidding us.

                                    1. re: allende

                                      allende, quite the contrary, I use an Aeropress daily, with freshly ground beans (I do it myself), and the coffee I get is great, it has absolutely nothing to do with an espresso, and I prefer it in the morning, but it is very far from the grandma piss that you imagine it is (and that for a long time, I too imagined it was).

                                      Ptipois, I agree with shakti2 on everything... but to add a final note, you say : "Just the full, fruity, round, chocolatey taste of good coffee.". I'm surprised that you feel good coffee should have one taste... does all good red wine have the same taste ? Isn't a bordeaux incredibly different from a bourgogne (I'm stating the obvious on purpose). Last time I went to Brulerie Belleville, the guy presented me all their different beans, and one of them was described as "round and chocolatey". It's not the one I bought, but next time I may try it. What you think is good coffee is just one way a good coffee can be.
                                      And I'm not being demagogic with "to each his own" and all that crap... I'm simply pointing to the fact that you seem to be limiting your idea of what good coffee should be, because for a long while (in Paris at least) when you went to a café, the coffee was either burnt/ash/weird/bitter = bad, or round and chocolatey, and still slightly bitter = good... but when I went to Italy, that's where I discovered the different flavors coffee could have, and bitterness was not one of them...

                                      So yay to chocolatey coffee ! And yay to tropical fruit coffee ! (ok, here I'm being a bit demagogic, but sincere nonetheless) ;)

                                      1. re: Rio Yeti

                                        Well Rio, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.

                                        I looked at the Aeropress and the fact that they use the word espresso is funny, but really not so. Mixing for 10 seconds and then pressing for 20! What is going on here? Espresso is an Italian word and no Italian would ever use it in conjunction with a press. Perhaps in France, but not in Italy.

                                        For those who like a lot of water in their coffee, I'm sure, as you say, the coffee you get with the press is great (for you). For those of us who want the full coffee taste, not diluted with water, the press just doesn't work.

                                        No right or wrong... it's just a question of very different tastes.

                                        1. re: allende

                                          "the fact that they use the word espresso is funny"

                                          100% agree. It has nothing to do with an espresso.

                                          "For those of us who want the full coffee taste, not diluted with water, the press just doesn't work."

                                          I hope one day you will have a good experience (similar to mine in Sicily) with either drip coffee or press coffee... I used to be a non-believer, but am one now. This being said, you're right, it's a matter of taste (and I still prefer a good espresso to be honest).

                                          1. re: Rio Yeti

                                            Ii think the mods are on lunch break, because I started this to report on a new restaurant but it's turned into a debate on coffee, once again. The coffee discussion should be split off, it's interesting but has nothing to do with David Toutain's new restaurant.

                                        2. re: Rio Yeti

                                          Don't overread what I write. What I mean is that whatever taste it has, good coffee certainly isn't harsh, acidic, jaw-piercing and migraine-inducing like everything I've tasted from Coutume and from most of those "hipsterish" PC coffees that foodies in Western world capital cities seem to enjoy so much.

                                          Round and chocolatey is one taste among many others, I happen to enjoy it as well as earthy, monsooned, etc., as long as there's no harsh acidity it's all good baby. I am mentioning that taste precisely because the owner of Coutume is trying to replace it with his own conception of what coffee should be (he mentions it clearly in an interview by Paris By Mouth). I find that not only revolting but also extremely pretentious.

                                          Roundness, depth and lengthiness (which is the antithesis of that acid flash that goes up to your eardrums instantly) are after all no-brainers when it comes to evaluating good coffee. Chocolatey or cocoa notes can be part of the picture or not, but one has to admit that they are often part of it whenever roundness is involved. Every time I've had great coffee in Italy, that taste was present. So a thousand "amateurs" telling me that acidic harshness (whether they choose to describe it as "fruitiness", "minerality" or not) is a desirable element in coffee tasting do not make it allright and I firmly stand on that ground.

                                          (Fortunately that craze hasn't reached tea tasting so far - I'm a tea taster, specialized in Chinese teas, and when a tea is harsh, it is called harsh.)

                                          PS: about "tropical fruit" in trendy coffees: with my imagination opened to the max I can't seem to grasp even a hint of mango, guava, pineapple or even starfruit in the horrid, dusty brews I've been submitted do. I often read "notes of tropical fruit" and I'm puzzled: where the hell are they? I think that makes the whole thing even worse. It is tasting snobbery pushed to extreme proportions.

                                          On the other hand it makes sense to discern that sort of aromas in a Sauternes or in a Feng Huang Dan Cong tea simply because they're there. Hype can be fun but at some point it should know where to stop.

                                          1. re: Ptipois

                                            Agreed, harshness shouldn't be a part of it... but I've yet to experience it (again, I have never been to Coutume, nor Telescope... only Ten Belles, and Caféothèque (when it comes to hipster coffee geeks places)).

                                            I don't think speaking of tropical fruits is snobbery. It's purpose, in my opinion, is to differentiate two types of acidity : berries acidity and pineapple-y acidity. A lot of coffees have berry notes in them, but some of them have a brighter acidity (without being harsh !), and overall cleaner taste that doesn't really remind one of berries. I think that is where tropical fruits come into play.

                                            After all, people used to (and still do) think it was wine snobbery to find chocolate, mango or grassy notes in a drink... But nowadays we know that actually when I wine has some "pear notes", there actually are similar compounds in this particular wine, and pears...
                                            I don't know if that is the case for coffee or not, but considering the lack of vocabulary to describe subtle differences between different coffees, I find this kind of description useful, and not so snobbish.

                                            I think the main reason why our conversation can seem a little bit Ionesco-ish at places, is simply because we both like our coffee, but have different experiences with it. I'm not afraid to challenge the status quo, in fact I'm pretty much the opposite, and whenever something is agreed by many people, I approach it suspiciously.
                                            Had I drank something that was "harsh, acidic, jaw-piercing and migraine-inducing" I wouldn't mind speaking out, even if the majority was against me. But that hasn't been my personal experience.

                                            John, you are absolutely right. Sorry for hijacking your thread.

                                            1. re: Rio Yeti

                                              'John, you are absolutely right. Sorry for hijacking your thread.'
                                              First, thanks to the mods for splitting the "coffee wars" part off from the thread about David Toutain, who deserves his own accolades.
                                              Second, Rio Yete & allende are interested in who uses what in what machine.
                                              Third, today at Roca, one of those newbies where pesky Yankees won't go because it's not been anointed by the NYT or CH, they served us up (and like wine, tea, hot chocolate and probably - food, I'm a naif) a Café Coutume suave blend 100% guatemala made in a Rancilio machine (did I get that right Pti?). Mighty fine - strong, acidic, perfect ending to a very special meal where the chef does really neat combos (veal and herring tartare for example).