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Chasing Quality: A Walk Through Espresso QC

We’ve shown you how we source and roast some of the finest coffee for our espresso drinks, the popular 700 blend. We’ve given you a peek inside the complex training our baristas undergo to learn to craft those beverages. Now we invite you to see how we bridge those two worlds with our weekly Espresso QC (Quality Control).

Every week, our roasting team meticulously dials in the coffee we use for espresso. Doing so helps our baristas and our many customers continue to make and enjoy the best possible espresso and therefore the most delicious espresso-based beverages. This is how and why we do it!

WHAT IS ESPRESSO?

The cornerstone of all lattes, cappuccinos, americanos, mochas, and many more classic beverages, espresso isn’t a special type of coffee, or even a specific roasting profile. Espresso is a brewing method: finely-ground coffee that has been brewed under high pressure. This highly concentrated extract can be a little intense to newcomers, but is delicious once you get accustomed to it.

Performing Espresso Coffee Quality Control at our St. Louis Roastry, standing at our Black Eagle espresso machine

While espresso is primarily a specific brewing method, there are some requirements for the coffee itself. Espresso coffee should be particularly well-balanced and precisely roasted. While drip or manual brewing can be fairly forgiving of slight variations in a coffee’s roast, espresso coffee is far more sensitive because of the intensity of the brewing process. Espresso coffee is also very finely ground — in fact, the grind is one of the most important control points for a barista to master in order to deliver excellent espresso all day long.

Kaldi’s Coffee espresso beverages are traditionally made with our longtime 700 blend, which has been developed over decades of intense calibration to be the ideal espresso for our cafes and customers. 700 combines subtle chocolate and fruit notes with mild acidity and rich body to not only deliver a rewarding experience when drunk as a pure shot of espresso, but also makes excellent lattes, cappuccinos, and mochas. At our cafes, we also offer a rotating single origin coffee as an alternative espresso brew. The next time you visit, just ask your barista what new single origin coffee is available, and enjoy a unique espresso from one of the growing regions around the world.

A finished espresso coffee drink with milk on a wooden board with seltzer water.

WHY DO QUALITY CONTROL?

Kaldi’s Coffee has a Roasting Team that is responsible for small-batch roasting every single one of the hundreds of thousands of pounds of specialty coffee we produce each year. While they hold routine cuppings to sample all of the coffees being produced each week, only 700 and the single origin espresso offering of the week get a dedicated QC session every Thursday, with multiple samples of that week’s roasts, and dozens of espresso shots pulled (and maybe a little too much caffeine consumed). 

A single shot of espresso is pulled - i.e. brewed - for between 20 and 30 seconds, but represents a lot of preliminary work. The barista must spend several minutes or more delicately tuning the grinder, verifying the pull time on the espresso machine’s group head, and carefully weighing and tamping down the coffee into the portafilter. An intense training background and deep knowledge of coffee and its extraction underlies all of this. The difference in extraction between coffee ground at the bottom of a grinder’s funnel, and coffee all the way at the top, illustrates the need for the barista to always be “dialing in” on their espresso machine.

Espresso Coffee being tamped, brewed, and then poured into a small cup

This is why our Roasting Team makes time in their crazy schedules to get together for almost an hour every Thursday and dial in on the 700 roasted a few days before. That 700 is what all of our cafes and wholesale partners will be brewing their espresso with over the subsequent weekend, as the coffee needs time to de-gas. to aid in proper extraction. The notes and feedback Kaldi’s Coffee roasters submit after their QC meeting helps all of our cafes’ baristas to better lock onto the always-moving target of delicious espresso.

EXCEEDING ESPRESSO-TATIONS

We know great coffee, and so do our regulars. At Kaldi’s Coffee, we are always looking to exceed your expectations. We strive every week to ensure that our espresso, the cornerstone of the cafe experience, is at its absolute best so your lattes, cappuccinos, or classic espresso served Italian style can all be truly exemplary. And as part of our mission to chase quality and serve people, our espresso quality control is a key part of what motivates us and keeps us going, day after day. 

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READ NEXT:
MUCH MORE THAN A BLEND: 700
A 700 Sign from the St. Louis Roastery of Kaldi's Coffee, blog "Much More Than a Blend: 700"
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