July 15, 2013 Coffee shop No Comments

When putting together the 2013 Guide to Edinburgh, we thought about including the Top 5 places for coffee, in a subtle distinction to the Top 5 cafes.

An espresso!

An espresso!

However, a Top 5 seemed the wrong kind of thing to reflect the explosion of diversity that we’ve recently enjoyed in Edinburgh coffee places. This is where the idea of the Espresso 100 sprang into being.

Over the course of the next five days, we’ll release the results, twice a day in batches of ten at a time, until the full 100 is populated.

I’m an espresso drinker, so can’t vouch for whether the list I’ve put together reflects the best places for flat whites, long blacks, brewed coffee and all the other subtle variations that have grown up and become the norm.

I’ve produced the list as an entirely impressionistic snapshot, and aside from some of the rationale explained with this short introduction, I don’t propose to include reviews of each espresso, besides placing it in the league table.

The holy trinity - espresso, water, silly hat

The holy trinity – espresso, water, silly hat

Judging is purely on the espresso as served to me on my visit, and doesn’t reflect any of our usual consideration of things like the setting and the service.

For rather more trenchant analysis of Edinburgh’s coffee scene, I’d recommend the Edinburgh Coffee Lovers site.

The Espresso 100 will be ever changing, with new entries added, as and when I sample new and interesting varieties. What I hope to develop is a list of 100 very good espressos, much like we have a list of good to exceptional soups, over on Soupquest.

This initial list has some very bad espressos on it. The places ranked from 90-100 really need to consider taking action to improve their offering, as what they’re currently serving is well short of a good standard.

In sunnier news, congratulations go to everyone in the top 50, as you’re all doing very good work.

Particular plaudits go to local heroes Artisan Roast for being the dominant force towards the top of the 100. Their commitment to working with the cafés and restaurants that stock their beans, to ensure a consistency of product, is to be highly commended.

The folks at Matthew Algie could learn a thing or two from them, as their beans are served in a hugely variable fashion, with some places truly murdering what others have demonstrated to be perfectly decent coffee.

MJ made me include the big chains in the list, which was good advice. They’re still where the majority of coffee is sold, but perhaps their lowly rankings may serve to make you think twice next time you consider crossing their thresholds.

Of the big players, Caffe Nero’s espresso was so over-roasted as to be beyond the bounds of recognisable coffee flavour. Their product was just burnt bitterness incarnate, and should be avoided at all costs.

The main positive thing to take from the list is the sheer variety of coffee on offer in our fair city. A few years ago, this type of list would have been dominated by a small number of big coffee names, but today we have over 50 different blends currently featured on the list.

Go and sample them all is my advice, and find your own favourites. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll agree with how I’ve ranked things, but that’s all part of the fun.

Written by BKR