Funny espresso rant

Jeff Simmermon recounts his recent experience with a snobbish barista at Murky Coffee in Arlington, VA.
200807141145.jpg I just ordered my usual summertime pick-me-up: a triple shot of espresso dumped over ice. And the guy at the counter looked me in the eye with a straight face and said "I'm sorry, we can't serve iced espresso here. It's against our policy."

The whole world turned brown and chunky for a second. Flecks of corn floated past my pupils, and it took me a second to blink it all away.

"Okay," I said, "I'll have a triple espresso and a cup of ice, please." He rolled his eyes and rang it up, took my money, gave me change. I stood there and waited. Then the barista called me over to the bar. I reached for it, and he leaned over and locked his eyes with mine, saying "Hey man. What you're about to do ... that's really, really Not Okay."

Murky Coffee, Arlington: Hold That Espresso Between Your Knees (And I Am Not Lying)


  1. I grab a 50/50 blend of decaf/regular sumatra beans at Starbucks once per week and grind that at home. Thats the extent of my coffee snobishness.

  2. At times like this, you realize you’re just dealing with a deranged person.

    Thankfully he wasn’t (yet) a high official in the Bush Jr. administration in charge of crucial public policy.

  3. I watched a very similar exchange once at Ritual Roasters in San Francisco. A guy asked for a decaf mocha, and the counter guy gave a really pompous lecture about protecting their mission and their brand or something, all by way of telling him he could not in fact have a decaf mocha.

    Customer, dripping with sarcasm: “Uh. Okay. So, what, it’s like a purity thing for you guys or something?”

    Barista, completely straight faced: “Yes. Exactly.”

  4. The customer isn’t always right – and I’m glad there are shops like Murky around.

    Murky is well known in coffee/espresso fan circles. They’re one of the first shops to go with a Synesso machine, and have been setting a gold bar on quality. I live in NYC and consider it a treat when I’m down in DC to make it over there.

    Espresso over ice really does ‘shock’ the coffee, and often ruins the shot. Blends , grinds and machines are dialed in to get certain profiles – and there’s a world of difference whenever variables are changed.

    The shop had two choices: serve the coffee without a word and risk the coffee tasting like crap and tarnishing their reputation, or try to enforce a store policy that would leave an irate customer blogging about their ‘policy’ but not about a shitty drink they knew they’d be served.

    1. > Espresso over ice really does ‘shock’ the coffee, and often ruins the shot.

      Only that kind of Espresso with a central nervous system. As far as “ruining” it, the last I heard is that matters of taste are, well, matters of taste.

  5. Years ago in Sea-Tac airport, I made the mistake of asking a young female barista at an airport SBC outlet how they did their cappucinos (I basically was trying to get a dry one). She huffily answered “This is Seattle, and in Seattle a cappucino is a cappucino”. In a city where the busses have poems dedicated to coffee, that’s par for the course.

    Of course, if she were really a purist she’d have told me what I heard in Italy: Signor, a cappucino is for breakfast! At other times of day, they’ll give you an espresso macchiato and that’s as close as you’re going to get.

  6. I think the shop had a third option: Explain WHY they wouldn’t do it. That seems to be what was missing. Condescension does nothing but piss people off, a little education might have made a repeat customer.

  7. I order a triple espresso and get an extra cup with a few ice cubes in it. I then pour the espresso over the ice, add a bunch of sweetener and then add ~6 ounces of half-n-half.

    My wife says “It takes like an ice cream cone!” :)

  8. Oh, please, Jonathan. There’s another perfectly acceptable option – “We’d encourage you not to, because [explanation about taste]. Are you sure you want that?” And then act accordingly.

    Anyway, they’re not *really* concerned about tight adherence to rules. Why did they have to close their DC location? Oh, right, they couldn’t bother paying their taxes. Maybe they had a policy against it?

  9. lk hw vryn blvs tht ths rlly hppnd. Whn t s clr tht ths s wht th nrd WSHD H SD. Ppl hv blgs bcs thy dn’t hv th blls t sy thngs lk ths n pblc. f t ws m th kd wld b hsptlzd wth 2nd dgr brns t hs fc.

  10. I think that is unacceptable. I was a barista for a very non-indy place off and on for years. And if a customer showed interest, we would gladly tell them about shot timing and making great coffee. But if a customer asked for a crappy “blended coffee beverage”, which I personally find disgusting in texture and taste, I also served that with a smile.
    While it is the mission to serve the best product possible and share knowledge with your customer, you shouldn’t deny a request from a customer that will not harm them or your business. Perhaps they aren’t a supertaster and can’t tell the difference between the taste of a good shot of espresso and a bad one.
    OR if your policy is not to serve certain beverages, it should be clearly stated on the menu, and not served with pompous disdain by the barista.

  11. #14 posted by SpicyMeatSandwich , July 14, 2008 12:19 PM

    I like how everyone believes that this really happened.

    …If it was me the kid would be hospitalized with 2nd degree burns to his face.


  12. It’s VA, fer Crissakes. Those ‘cnsrvtvs’ don’t like anything that doesn’t have the stamp of central authority all over it.

    The next thing you know that ‘Barista’ will probably be telling you that vtng fr bm ‘rlly sn’t cl’ and that same-sex marriages need to be punished by death.

  13. #2

    I want to see a follow up. Not because I want you to go fuck with a barista, but because I want to see what happens in le monde réel when a minor incident between two people gets picked up and slung around the world by the Tubes.

    In the comments at And I Am Not Lying there’s a link to another blog post by someone who observed the exchange…there are photos on Flickr…soon a horde of flashmobbing philistines will descend on Murky, demanding perverted coffee! Yes. Yes!

  14. thanks for posting that, #9… the thread there is VERY enlightening. i’d be interested to know if that really is his dollar with his comment scrawled on it, now posted above the register. the fact that they had a sign up that specifically *says* they don’t ice espresso is interesting, too. i agree it’s kind of bad customer service, but if they are (1) known for their passion and precision in all things coffee and (2) have the policy posted, then why push it? i agree that maybe the barista should have taken the opportunity to educate about why this is their policy, rather than just be a snot about it, but overall, i’d had to say i’m on the side of the coffee place for having standards and trying to keep a level of quality you can’t find that often.

  15. @Spicymeatsandwich-

    And people comment on blogs so they can anonymously threaten baristas they read about with assaults they wouldn’t have the balls to perform in real life.

    If you want to talk tough and belittle “nerds”, there’s a better forum for you.

  16. “I guess their motto is: the customer is not always right and so what if they are?”

    No I think their motto is “we can treat our customers like crap.” And apparently they are right since this guy bought not only one thing there but two things.

    If you get treated like crap at a store and them come back for more should you really be complaining about it? Shouldn’t you actually do something about it like, I don’t know, not give them any of your money?

    It seems to me that he not only got treated like crap but then rewarded them. I think their business model works pretty well if he is reflective of their customers.

  17. Murky Coffee supposedly has some “house rules,” none of which apply to espresso nor ice:

    From their site:

    Q: Any ‘house rules’ at murky?
    A: The only real rule right now is that you can’t sleep, or appear to be sleeping, in the shop. Other stuff is common sense stuff, like don’t wet the bed. Oh, actually, there’s one more rule, but it’s not really a rule, because it’s more about enforcing an existing rule. If you play Monopoly, you MUST know that the $500 in the middle that you get if you land on “Free Parking” is NOT a bonafide Monopoly rule. Neither is the “you have to go around the board once before you can start buying property” rule. Know your Monopoly rules. That’s the rule, buster.

  18. Murky does have a pretty high snob quotient, but they single-handedly redefined my concept of what a latte should be. Unlike Starbucks or any of the other chains, you get what you pay for at Murky. You might have to wade through a sea of yuppies and tolerate obnoxiously haughty baristas, but it’s totally worth it.

  19. Quote:

    Espresso over ice really does ‘shock’ the coffee, and often ruins the shot.

    you are full of it, my friend, whether you realize it or not. Cold does not “shock” expresso, it merely reveals its characteristics more readily. To think it somehow ruins otherwise excellent espresso is merely a subjective psychological experience, without which all forms of delusional snobbery would be impossible. You’re also giving way too much credit to the machine. Because I know what I am doing, I pull perfect shots all by my wee little self in my home on a cheap machine, and I assure you when I drink my espresso on ice it is every bit as “good,” just different. Oh yeah, also tell that story about shocking the espresso to the makers of fine tiramisu. They will find it as amusing as I do.

    Now, what ice might do is either add it’s own flavor or, as I mentioned before, reveal inferior coffee- and that I believe whole heartedly. If you use ice made from filtered water and don’t scrimp on the beans, icing espresso should be an exquisite experience. I have had bad iced espresso, but only because the temperature makes it easier to spot problems with the brew. A lot of espressos are made with beans that are too far gone- a trip to your local ‘bucks will reveal this readily, with no temperature modification required. Some beans are just on the edge, so it takes a bit more attention to determine. But all flaws are immediately evident when the espresso is cold. It’s strikingly so, which is why I evaluate new coffee cold rather than hot.

    I must also chuckle at the barista who think they are purists- if anything the experience of cold espresso can be more “pure” than hot. Pack that in your basket and pull a good long one!

  20. No I think their motto is “we can treat our customers like crap.”

    Sure sounds like a coffee shop to me.

  21. i frequently order a triple espresso over ice. you know why snobby barista? Because that’s what i like to drink. Hey, i don’t tell you that you can’t live with your mother anymore.

  22. I kind of like the snobbery at this place. It’s amusing, but maybe I’d be less amused I was the one who wasn’t getting his fix made up the way I like it.

  23. This is why Starbucks is closing shops left and right, and Dunkin Donuts is expanding.

    They sell you good coffee sans barista bullshit.

    DD iced coffee is pretty much the only thing that’ll keep you going during one of Boston’s insane heatwaves, and since, in some parts of Boston, a medium iced coffee will just about get you to the next DD on your way to wherever you’re walking.

    You want an espresso with a couple of extra shots over ice? “Sure, here you go.”

    THAT’S how you sell coffee, no BS about the “integrity” of the coffee, or how what you’re doing is really non OK.

    Oh, and DD does not incinerate their beans, unlike Starbucks.

  24. (“Starbucks incinerates their beans”)

    OMFG THIS. I’ve been waiting for SOMEONE to notice this.

  25. I was dragged into a Starbucks once and they refused to give me lemon for my iced tea. They weren’t allowed to have any in the store because the lemon scent interfered with the coffee smell.

  26. (“Starbucks incinerates their beans”)

    I’ve heard people call it “Charbucks.”

  27. From reading about it on the linked site…

    … the Barista is perfectly within his rights to refuse to serve an iced espresso. If they don’t serve it, they don’t serve it. I wouldn’t yell at them for not serving elephant sandwiches, either.

    However, yelling at the guy for making it himself? That does seem to be crossing the “bad service” line. Once you’ve sold the coffee, what he does with it is his business.

  28. #18, you are mistaken. arlington is in northern virginia. this is completely different from ‘virginia’. murky is 3 miles or so from the dc border, and is one of the most liberal-leaning places in america. i believe around 80 percent of us voted against bush last election. also, one of our county commissioners is openly gay.

    please criticize virginia as a whole, but don’t talk down arlington for being conservative until you’ve at least visited or read a little about us.

    also murky coffee is fucking awesome. the baristas in general are super-nice. i am curious as to who was the specific barista who refused this.

    its seriously one of the best coffee shops in america and the baristas are top notch. they have the trophies to prove it.

  29. This reminds me of “Five Easy Pieces” with Jack Nicholson trying to order whole wheat toast at a diner:

    Bobby: Wait a minute, I have made up my mind. I’d like a plain omelet, no potatoes on the plate. A cup of coffee and a side order of wheat toast.

    Waitress: I’m sorry, we don’t have any side orders of toast. I’ll give you an English muffin or a coffee roll.

    Bobby: What do you mean “you don’t make side orders of toast”? You make sandwiches, don’t you?

    Waitress: Would you like to talk to the manager?

    Bobby: You’ve got bread. And a toaster of some kind?

    Waitress: I don’t make the rules.

    Bobby: OK, I’ll make it as easy for you as I can. I’d like an omelet, plain, and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast, no mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce. And a cup of coffee.

    Waitress: A number two, chicken sal san. Hold the butter, the lettuce, the mayonnaise, and a cup of coffee. Anything else?

    Bobby: Yeah, now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich, and you haven’t broken any rules.

    Waitress(sarcastically): You want me to hold the chicken, huh?

    Bobby: I want you to hold it between your knees.

  30. The Coffee Girl above has the very best read on what a barista is, and probably got lots of tips when she was one.

    also: @ ANTINOUS #26:
    I like water.

    >EvilJim@31 :”Five points.”

    you forgot the two-point conversion

  31. oh also, i failed to mention that this sort of policy exists at a lot of places.

    its usually instituted in order to prevent people from making a ‘ghetto latte’.

    you see people do this on occasion:

    price of latte: 3.00
    price of espresso: 1.50

    take espresso, pour over ice, dump in a cup or two of milk thats provided for people to add a few tablespoons at a time to their drip coffee. save 1.50 at the expense of the coffee shop.

  32. Hilarious. My wife went to Chez Panisse, the famous French joint in Berkeley, CA, run by uber-chef Alice Waters. Ranks high with critics and carries a lot of stars. Anyway, at the time they served their bread on the table, just threw a loaf down. My wife asks for a bread plate, so she doesn’t get so much crumbs all over the place. The waitress says, “Alice Waters is in the restaurant tonight. If she looks on your table and sees a bread plate, I’d have to explain to her that you asked for one.” Then the waitress sort of nodded like “you understand” and walked away. I will never eat at Chez Pannisse.

  33. Yes, Starbux burns their beans. Never did see how it’s gotten so popular. $4 for burnt beans and water? Didn’t ride the AOL rocket to riches either though, so what do I know. Maybe insulting/refusing customers is the new key to success?

  34. “The customer is always right” brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to WalMart, Starbucks and environs.

    Imagine, a worker taking pride in one’s creation. THE FIEND.

  35. @Mark

    A lot of people call it Charbucks… Something that Dunkin’ and Starbucks have in common is that they both sell awful coffee. However Starbucks also sometimes sells good coffee depending on what they’re brewing that day. Some of their roasts taste like an ash-tray and some of them don’t. Usually people who bitch about how burnt the coffee is at Starbucks are really expressing their displeasure with the general culture of the place. The rest of them just don’t know what they’re ordering.

    Incidentally, I find the new “Pike’s Place roast” that they have every day at Starbucks lately to be revolting.

  36. Man, just inject the freaking coffeine in your veins and stop ranting with poor other-people-tasting-experience-concerned baristas…
    I like my needles cold, by the way.

  37. As a coffee geek and espresso art competitor I love to see people (baristas especially) fight the good fight against crap coffee in this country. Every consumer who demands great (not necessarily expensive) coffee means higher standards all around. Still, it’s clear that this barista doesn’t care much about customer retention, and the bottom line is that if Simmermon wants to put crazy shit in his mouth then he has every right to do so.

  38. “You can NOT get to heaven unless you drink the espresso in the correct manner!”

    Considering that the customer has had this drink many times before, I think he KNOWS what it’s going to taste like, more or less. The barista and other snobs will consider it ruined, but not the man who ordered it. Everyone has their inane laws about the “proper way to cook a steak” or “the only way to make real BBQ” but these rules are stupid; when I first saw pad thai I thought “that’s WRONG, you can’t put crushed peanuts on top of pasta!!” Of course now I love pad thai.

  39. @45:

    A large (Venti) coffee at the closest Starbucks to my house is $1.79. A large coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts across the street is $2.39.

    Being smart in business is getting somebody to buy expensive coffee… But it takes Genius(tm) to get somebody to pay even more while convincing them they’re paying less.

  40. @ #25


    Thank you for outdoing the snobbery with *well-informed* snobbery.

    Can I try one of your espresso shots sometime?

  41. Sometimes I don’t want an elaborate tasting experience…sometimes I just want coffee.

    Apparently there is something wrong with that.

    @2 After you order be sure to pull out some flavored non-dairy creamer and pour it right in there.

  42. The whole DD v. SBX thing is simple.

    DD is a bakery chain that roasts to a light french roast and sells crappy cheap pastrys, SBX is a coffee chain that roasts to a dark italian roast and sells crappy overpriced snacks.

    this is the same as the pilsner v. ale discussion.

    There is no accounting for taste.

  43. psssttt don’t tell anyone, but I drink instant espresso… cos I can’t be jiggered anymore to fuss around with my espresso machine firing through ten or so shots until it is set up when all I want is an espresso…

  44. In other news, according to the article, three shots of espresso only lasts this guy an hour. Then he has to order four more.

    He should probably just go ahead and move up the scale to black-market Provigil, or something.

  45. There’s definitely merit in the place’s devotion to, y’know, the coffee experience, but given that a majority of customers probably just want a fix, it would’ve been best to explain the possible downside to the guy’s request, and then just serve him what he wanted.

    But jeez, a triple espresso followed by an Americano with four shots? No wonder he’s edgy.

    Also, is it just me, or did Charbucks become less charred after they closed all the shops to retrain the baristas? Probably just in my head (their subtle publicity stunt worked!).

  46. I’m glad I’m not a coffee snob– as long as it’s not burnt and has a certain modicum of flavor I’m more-or-less satisfied. I can go to a Dunkin Donuts or a Starbucks or a truck stop diner and get something that fills my needs. Sure, a real good cup from a dedicated beanery is nice once in a while, but if I get hooked on “the good stuff” I’m just hobbling myself.

  47. I love fighting with people on the internet

    1- Keep in mind folks, we’re reading blogs about people who had a bad experience – not an article that was fact checked. Do you *really* think a well respected coffee shop is going to go antagonistic on its customers? Sure – the customer felt ‘wronged’ but I highly doubt the barista was being anything but cordial and explaining their policy. Even blogs & blog comments around the net are coming in from people who claim to have overheard the situation and said the customer was being a douche and escalating the situation.

    Call me jaded, but i think the conversation probably went like this:

    Customer: I’d like an espresso over ice.
    Barista: I’m sorry, we don’t serve that here. We believe it compromises quality…. explanation
    Customer: Ok. Thats Fine.

    Customer returns to seat, decides to blog about an evil fanged barista who refused service, punched him in the face, then made jokes about his mom until he cried.

    2- @anonymous #25 — i seriously question what you call ‘good’ coffee. i’ve never had espresso that was even slightly passable out of a ‘cheap little machine’. I’ve been into espresso for 7 years; in my kitchen I have a commercial machine and grinder, plus a heavily modified high-end prosumer machine hacked and re-designed for temperature stability and water pressure. between beans and machines, every shot that i’ve pulled in the past few years has floored what I could get at all but a few shops.

    am i coffee snob? sure. but good coffee is one of those little things that makes life worth living. having a starbucks espresso on ice might be a good idea; pulling a good shot over ice is like making sangria with a $300 bottle of wine — you just don’t do it.

    i’m going to go look at now

  48. @ #59 – the difference is that no wine shop I know would deny to sell you a bottle of $300 wine just because you plan to make sangria with it.

  49. The funny thing on Boing Boing and on the link andiamnotlying is how people claim that ice ruins the flavor bla bla bla. What BS! For you. People have different taste buds, what ruins the flavor for you is perfectly fine for someone else. My dad doesn’t have any taste buds and thinks water is water. I’ve very sensitive and weird taste buds and frequently claim water tastes like something and no one can tell and am picky in what container water is served. They taste different to me! There’s one water that tastes of carrots to me and no one seems to notice -(It’s a Spansish water so you wouldn’t know, it’s called Bezoya). Temperature changes flavors for me, I don’t like most things hot, totally different flavors so I would probably PREFER the espresso on ice.
    I do detest coffee, and can only tolerate it with lots of other things like vanilla, hazelnut syrup to disguise the coffee. It’s not the beans, I just cannot tolerate the taste of coffee, though I love how it smells. Now chocolate is disgusting for me UGH.

  50. Hmmm… I have had GOOD iced espresso. It is possible. I am also aware when I order it that I may receive BAD iced espresso and have to add copious amounts of half-and-half to drink the stuff. Refuse to sell me iced espresso if you want, but shut the hell up about it.

  51. jonathan_v writes:

    Do you *really* think a well respected coffee shop is going to go antagonistic on its customers? Sure – the customer felt ‘wronged’ but I highly doubt the barista was being anything but cordial and explaining their policy.

    Doubt away, but that mainly makes me think you haven’t been to a sufficiently snobby coffee shop. I don’t even really drink coffee, and know a couple of places in San Francisco where I could easily see this level of attitude happening.

    Years ago in Chicago, the Duke of Perth’s bartender wouldn’t put a good single malt scotch over ice, at least not at first request. However, je would happily make you a scotch and soda or a scotch on the rocks, using some low-grade blended scotch for that. Or anything else you can order at a typical bar.

    Even the espresso-on-ice thing really matters like it does with scotch (and I’m still skeptical) then I’d say that Murky’s is still acting foolishly. If their espresso is so damn precious that they just can’t adulterate it, then they should find some other way to satisfy a reasonable customer request.

  52. Jonathan V, you are correct!! As a barista, I follow a strict procedure with the timing, tamping, and over all pull of every shot of espresso to guarantee the quality of each drink I prepare… so I do find it quite irritating to be asked to deliberately shock a shot; however if that is their desire I will politely oblige… but I do undergo a certain degree of pain to try to combat the sharp temperature change that causes the shock… Pulling into cool but not freezing water/cream/what have you, can sort of alleviate the effect to a minor degree…

  53. #59 posted by jonathan_v , July 14
    I love fighting with people on the internet

    Me too. :)

    #54 posted by mdhatter
    SBX is a coffee chain that roasts to a dark italian roast and sells crappy overpriced snacks.

    this is the same as the pilsner v. ale discussion.

    There is no accounting for taste. Same to you! Starbucks coffee tastes like WEAK, BURNED beans, as if they’ve been annihilated like the vitamins that drain out when you boil green vegetables. This is *not* “Pilsner vs. Ale” — those two things are prepared and brewed differently. Starbucks beans taste, objectively, terrible. Order a bag of your choosing from CC’s and tell me again that Starbucks is “just different.”

  54. I don’t normally drink coffee because I can’t comprehend why anyone finds the taste appealing. Now I have another reason to not bother.

  55. And this is where I come in and say “If people were as concerned about their government as they were about their coffee, we might not be having the problems we’re having with this administration”.

  56. Short version of what I posted in the source blog: Go to Java Shack up the street. The owner, Dale, is almost always around and is about as awesome a combination of non-elitist yet knowledgable as you can get.

  57. #65 – whatever. I never stated if I had a preference.

    As you seem to prefer DD, i think I’ll go to SBX.

    they have good pie.

  58. The best cold caffeine delivery system in the world is affogato; a scoop of vanilla gelato with a shot of espresso poured over. It’s Italian, and no one seems to mind if the espresso is shocked when they are enjoying it.

  59. how can anyone say they “drink water” when there is only one correct water to drink and so many frauds?

  60. Just to be clear, I shall never understand people who are willing to pay that much for coffee….

    That said, I can’t help but mock the concept of the “integrity of the coffee”.

  61. Does it cost extra for the impudent berating of your coffee preference?

    I feel the barista should have just swallowed his pride on this. Moral stances on coffee? Not a smart business policy to deny sales because the customer doesn’t want his coffee “the right way.” Couldn’t the reason for not icing an espresso be explained to educate the customer and if he still wanted it, who the hell are you to deny him?

    I can’t believe I just wrote a little rant about buying a stupid cup of coffee.

  62. Okay, as a fellow barista (10+ years on and off now, trained by Italians out of high school along with the “One day, son you’ll go to the Barista National Championship dog and pony show” local coffee snob place) I have to throw my 2cents in here.

    I take an alongé— double long, run through, preferably twice. In a trad cappucino cup, about 3/4. No, I don’t want hot water(americano’s suck)- just let it roll.

    And no, I don’t want a lecture either.

    Still, God help you if you ask for that at some coffee snob places- basically, you over-extract the shot if you let it roll beyond the religiously-sacrosanct 22- 30 seconds and yes, I understand that certain blends/grinds are tailored for certain machines, calibration, yadda yadda yadda etc etc etc-
    But…thats how I make ’em for myself at work, so thats how I like to drink ’em.

    Work is where I pull proper ristretto shots for grouchy old Italian longshoremen (Remember that scene in the Soprano’s where they’re in a Starbucks-ish franchise coffee bar? Yup. Those guys) who know espresso better than some college kid who drank the company kool-aid and bases their identity on their day job.

    Anyways- I’ve dealt with the same crap in the article from snide little pricks behind the counter and what I hate more than having to play the “well, this is what I asked for and what I am paying for” card is getting into the stupid Barista Pissing Match: Fellow coffee-chumps, you know what I mean: you mention you do the same job and out comes the aggro nerd behaviour. Of course this isn’t specific to coffee- doesn’t matter if it’s talking sports stats, record collectors or Trekkies or /b/-tards, its all the same.

    Anyways–I don’t want a lecture about how I want my coffee done. Nor do I want to talk shop. Good coffee is hard enough to find (even here in Vancouver)and really, I just want my goddamn fix without you screwing it up.

    So, yeah- you with the horn-rims at JJ Bean- Newsflash: It’s a wage slave coffee job. YOU.ARE.NOT.DOING.GOD’S.WORK.

    Also: 33. +5 points. Starbucks is garbage.

  63. Just to be clear, I shall never understand people who are willing to pay that much for coffee….

    How about superbowl tickets? or gold and diamonds? or guns? or art? or sex? or salvation?

  64. Holy….man, you guys take this stuff seriously. Like stabby seriously. I’m glad my palette isn’t so discerning. I crank out a double of Goya-cheap-ass-espresso-in-a-bag from my almost never cleaned, eight year old Franci at 6am every morning. And for about 10 minutes that tiny little cup is at the center of the universe.

    I don’t frequent coffee houses except when I’m on vacation or travel for work. It’s actually pretty cool to see folks that go to such lengths to produce a good cup of coffee.

  65. Maxwell House with a little bit of honey in it. It was good enough for Teddy R., it’s good enough for me.

  66. Baristas are often reluctant to sell shots over ice for the reason given in comment #42 — many customers order a shot over ice in order to make a “ghetto latte” at the condiment bar and save $2-$3 over buying an iced latte. Why is this bad, you ask? Because the condiment bar is for drip coffee drinkers and drip coffee is a loss leader. In other words, cafe owners are already losing money by offering free condiments and cannot afford to give away even more free stuff to espresso drinkers. If you do the math on how much a quality espresso drink costs, you’ll find that the margins are actually very tight.

    At my cafe, we make shots over ice, but we do so only in small cups that make it impossible to add huge amounts of expensive cream. That way, the cafe doesn’t get ripped off and customers who truly enjoy iced espresso (with maybe a little cream) can have their drink.

  67. @60:

    the difference here is that, sure, a wine seller would not balk at selling you a $300 bottle of wine that you could take home and make into sangria… it’s another thing altogether to ask them to pop the cork on it at the counter and make it into sangria themselves.

  68. Yup the same thing happened to me at Starbucks. I asked for an iced Cafe au Lait and they refused to make it saying it was against California Health Codes to give me a drink with steamed milk over ice.

    This all sounded suspect to me considering that all the other cafes I frequent including Peets and the Beanery and a handful of other mom&pop cafes in San Francisco make it just fine.

    They still refused.

    So I ordered a coffee with steamed milk, and yes, a glass of ice.

  69. The problem with these types of coffee places is that educating the customer as to why that’s a bad idea is good idea. And the people who work there and might do that won’t because apparently you’re supposed to already be some kind of insider just to be there.

    A little like this really:

  70. The entitled American consumer versus the over-educated wage slave!

    Sell this on pay-per-view and I’d be… uh, bored.

  71. @79 – Right, because serving wine (or making sangria) for you isn’t what wine shops do. Making coffee for you IS what coffee shops do. Or at least, what they’re supposed to do.

    Anyway, where does this “shocking” thing come from? It sounds a lot like unreliable word-of-mouth wisdom. Of course, I’m pretty cynical about calling the cashiers and drink-makers at coffee shops “baristas” too, so I’m not inclined to think they really have the inside line on perfectly prepared coffee.

  72. Forget the coffee. I want to know more about the flecks of corn. This guy sees corn when he’s angry?

  73. Maybe he likes his coffee “shocked”. Who the hell are these baristas to tell him what he likes?

    Not everyone has the same taste, and just because you consider yours to be more “refined” doesn’t make it so.

    If it’s no extra work for the person behind the counter, and isn’t breaching any OH&S laws, what’s the issue?

    Just because you work in a premier indy coffee shop doesn’t mean you get to tell people how they like their coffee. You’re labouring under some High Fidelity-esque illusions people.

    If you work in a SHOP, and you SELL things to people, you’re in retail. Not art. Not public service… retail. Kinda like the kids who work at K-mart. Get over yourself.

  74. I think I agree with the coffee shop here.

    Why? Because sometimes the customer is an idiot. Icing an espresso seems like an idea with no possible good outcome to me. And there’s something to be said for doing things properly. Margaritas don’t come in any other flavours but “margarita” Martinis have 2 possible recipes- one with vodka and the other with gin. period. Hefeweizen should NEVER be served with an orange of lemon slice. Spaghetti doesn’t involve ketchup, and so forth.

    If they’re known for having the top stuff, then the opinion of someone like this won’t chase away their normal clientel.

  75. If I ask you for a venti espresso with a shot of piss, please urinate in it, give it to me, and tell me to have a nice day.

    anything less is ‘not cool’.

  76. I used to work at a place that was legendary for its coffee. We used stellar beans, great water, and stainless steel US Navy vacuum pots for every single cup of joe. And we made abominations under the eyes of the Pure Coffee Gods.
    Two heathen drinks that sold like sno-cones at Burning Man:
    Iced Viennese Espresso — Espresso brewed into mason jars, lidded and chilled. The chilled coffee juice was combined in a steel Hamilton Beach commercial milkshake cup, beaten with the wand, ice, and raw sugar. A float of heavy whipping cream.
    Godzilla — same chilled espresso, frozen espresso cubes from a tray, heavy whipping cream, chocolate, sugar, and a Vitamix blender.

    It’s okay to be aware of purity and high ideals, but be sincere about your joy and love of coffee, not so serious. Have a laugh in the church of the bean.

  77. Maybe Murky Coffee should implement some kind of genetic / experiential test to see whether the customer has the proper “pure” physiological and psychological make-up to really taste the difference between a good cup of coffee and a bad one.

    After all, if the customer isn’t genetically superior in sensibility the experience of drinking the perfect cup of espresso will not obtain.

    After the customer has passed a test, they can be implanted with a special scanable RFID microchip that will identify them as worthy of drinking only the best coffee at special retail establishments around the globe.

    Yearly re-testing will be required to prevent customers, who have had some kind of disease or head-trauma which impedes their ability to taste the subtleties of the coffee, from further participation in the program. If they fail, the microchip can be dug out of their arm.

    This program should prevent tasteless genetic degenerates like Jeff Simmermon from even getting close to refined baristas in places like Murky Coffee.

  78. The owner of Murky Coffee has posted an “open letter” to Jeff Simmermon at

    He writes:

    Dear Jeff Simmermon,

    So as you’ve seen, there’s a little blog-thing going around today on BoingBoing and Metafilter about some sort of incident at the shop this past weekend.

    I suppose some sort of two-cents is warranted here.

    Okay, we don’t do espresso over ice. Why? Number one, because we don’t do it. Number two, because we don’t do it. Mostly for quality reasons. Also, because more than half the time, it’s abused (Google “ghetto latte”).

    We have some policies at murky coffee. No sleeping in the shop. If you’re asleep, you’ll be tapped on the shoulder and asked not to sleep in the shop. We’ve had to ban a customer because of his chronic napping.

    No modifications to the Classic Cappuccino. No questions will be answered about the $5 Hot Chocolate (during the months we offer it). No espresso in a to-go cup. No espresso over ice. These are our policies. We have our reasons, and we’re happy to share them.

    To others reading this I will say that if you don’t like the policies, I respectfully recommend that you find some other place that will give you what you want, or select something that we can offer you. David, the barista in question, is respectful, passionate, and cares about making good coffee, and he cares about murky’s policies. Nobody’s perfect, and maybe David could have chosen different words or a slightly different tact in responding to Jeff Simmermon’s request. But that’s life. At murky, we try to treat people with common courtesy, and expect the same from our customers. Not in response or in turn, but because that’s how people are supposed to treat each other. We’re not supposed to go through life looking for reasons to get pissed off. Life’s too short for that sort of thing.

    To Mr. Simmermon, you overplayed your hand with your vulgar tip-schtick. While I certainly won’t bemoan you your right to free-speech, I have to respond to you in your own dialect: Fuck you, Jeff Simmermon. Considering your public threat of arson, you’ll understand when I say that if you ever show your face at my shop, I’ll punch you in your dick.

    Owner, murky coffee

    IMHO, this response is a bit over the top and over the line. One would assume that a small business owner would be a bit more professional than threatening to cockpunch a critic.

  79. initially, i was on the customer’s side of the fence. it’s his coffee, if he wants it with vinegar and jalapenos, be my guest.

    then i remembered that this is in AMERICA … where people get to sue McDonalds because the coffee was too hot. the barista needed to cover his bases to make sure that some random customer won’t complain that his iced expresso didn’t taste any good.

    if the barista was rude or condescending, then i would concede that he had every right to rant. unfortunately, it’s a case of he-said, she-said and without an impartial witness, i don’t care to judge.

    but if anyone here harbors the illusion that the customer is always right, i’d have to direct your attention to this catastrophe:

    – chudez

  80. Wow. What a pompous shit. Excuse me sir, as a paying customer, it sure as hell doesn’t matter whether or not *you* like what I order. You’re not the one consuming it.

    I’m sure minimum wage fast-food employees don’t balk at dishing out the tripe they serve on a daily basis. I’ve never heard one of those saucy gits say, “that double quarter pounder with cheese… we just don’t serve that with bacon. It’s bad, and it’ll kill you.”

    Then again, I don’t eat a whole lot of fast-food…

    But I can’t stand arrogant coffee snobs. Drunk with triple-filtered, espresso roast, 100% organic, French-pressed, caffeinated, freshly-ground Sumatran bean juices, they have gone absolutely mad.

    Yes, I feel customers are entitled to get what they ask for, without the attitude. Why is that such a foreign concept? The customer may not always be right, but this wasn’t a ridiculous or outrageous request.

  81. hey, he don’t want the business, he don’t want the business. He’s not discriminating by race,gender etc. But I will never go there.

  82. $5 hot chocolate? Nope.

    Buy another bev after being pissed on the first time? No fucking way!

  83. I know it makes me a bad person, but I have two rules with regards to this situation:

    1) Noone gets to tell me what I do or should like.
    2) Noone who’s “career” involves having their name on their shirt and who doesn’t earn enough in an hour to buy a good bottle of wine gets to tell me I’m wrong.

    Hell…if I want catchup in my coffee, give it to me. I suppose I can’t keep you from rolling your underemployed hipster eyes at me. But tell me “no”? Twit.

    P.S. – I have a good friend who’s a chef who refuses to prepare steak “well”. Says it ruins a fine piece for meat. I completely agree, but still call him a douche for doing it.

  84. My reply to the coffee-shop owner, whom I don’t entirely trust to post the comments that his site asks for:


    Seriously? That’s the best you can do, Nick?

    First, you’ve lost all claim to the high ground here. You can’t possibly go with “respectfully” and whine about “common courtesy”, and then go on with “fuck you” and threats of a cock punch. Either actually be respectful or be fully an asshole.

    Second, you’re displaying exactly the kind of high-handed, condescending snobbery that your barista was accused of. Before, people might have thought that somebody was having bad day, a weird anomaly. But no, you’ve made it clear that being an arrogant jerk to customers is the house style, and that it comes from the top.

    Third, hiding behind mysterious “policies” is bullshit. You can either be a small, independent joint, and have personal reasons for what you do. Or you can be a large chain with policies that come from the 8th floor of some glassy building, no explanation attached. But trying to hide behind “policies” in a single store is a painfully obvious way of avoiding responsibility.

    Fourth, you’re still in the wrong. Yes, your customer was a jerk. But the barista was jerky first, and obviously wasn’t “happy to share” the reasons behind being refused a reasonable request. If you can’t even be man enough to admit that you and your minions were in the wrong, even by the low standards you set for yourself in this post, then it’s no wonder you flamed out trying to run a whole second shop.

    My advice: man up, say you’re sorry, and show at least a vague awareness that you’re in a customer service business. That doesn’t mean that you have to ever serve an iced espresso if it bruises your delicate sensibilities, but it does mean demonstrating the respect that, so far, is just hot air on your part.

  85. I can see the shop’s point of view – heck, all they have in the world is coffee, and we all need to feel all righteous about something.

    Most coffee shop seems mediocre to me now that I use the Aeropress.

    I do get a big kick out of stories like that. The internet is a wonderful Engine of Gossip.

  86. and that’s the nub: manners. The ice-lover didn’t come in and say “Ho lower-class vartlet, fetch me a cold beverage and be quick about it, boy!” It all went downhill the moment the barista basically disrespected the humanity of the customer. Manners, they keep us from killing each other out of hand on a daily basis. Ignore them at your peril.

  87. The first thing that popped into to my head when I read this was a few lines from the Dead Milkmen’s ‘Punk Rock Girl’:

    We went to the Philly Pizza Company/
    And ordered some hot tea/
    The waitress said well no, we only have it iced/
    So we jumped up on the table and shouted anarchy

  88. I think pretty much everything that needs to be said has been said by someone at least once. I would just like to point out, though, that the author of this post is someone whose world goes “brown and chunky”, and who sees “flecks of corn” floating past his pupils upon being denied a drink, meaning that he’s not only a bit of a drama queen, but an atrocious writer. I haven’t seen imagery that bad since the Counting Crows came up with the immortal line “the smell of hospitals in winter”.

  89. I would just like to point out that the baristas happily served him an ICED AMERICANO his second time around.

    What is the difference between an iced espresso and an iced americano? The addition of a third ingredient: bunch of MELTED ICE.

    But um. Hey, uptight baristas, newsflash: iced americanos are still mingling ICE and ESPRESSO. :O

  90. @ Takuan
    “hey, he don’t want the business, he don’t want the business. He’s not discriminating by race,gender etc.”

    No, he isn’t. However, if he’s not IN the business of serving people what they want, then he will be OUT of business. It shouldn’t matter if every customer asks for an over-sugared cup of caramel-coffee sludge, if that’s what people want and it’s readily available at his place of business, he shouldn’t deny the request. Customers don’t exist because the store exists. The store exists because there is a market for what he has to offer, and it’s unfortunate that the proprietor doesn’t understand that. Yes, people can go elsewhere, but he shouldn’t *want* them to go elsewhere (supposing that he wants his business to be a successful one).

    Also, “ghetto-latte”? More evidence of coffee snobbery. I find it funny that there is a term for such a thing (which I’d never heard of), considering that it wouldn’t exist without ridiculous prices at certain establishments. Not to say that it’s right; I think it’s downright tacky, but that doesn’t justify the pretentious attitude.

    In response to that letter…
    “Okay, we don’t do espresso over ice… Mostly for quality reasons.”
    And what reasons are those? Honestly, I sure would like to know.
    “We have our reasons, and we’re happy to share them.”
    Get with the sharing already. That should have been done directly to the customer, instead of letting this spiral out of control.

    “Public threat of arson” aside… I wouldn’t piss on this place to put out a fire.

    Won’t be going there, ever. Owner made no attempt to resolve the situation. No, the customer is NOT always right, but a proper business owner would do good to make at least one honest attempt to get a happy ending for all. Instead now he just looks like an ass.

  91. In my limited experience of the US I came to the conclusion that Coffee there on a whole was as crap as it gets.

    With crap like Starbucks every second corner and people arguing that “Dunkin’ Donuts” makes a good cup I think generally 95% of the US population probably doesn’t know how good coffee can taste. Oh and then there’s the obsession with filtered coffee. Filtered coffee belongs in offices and homes of old sad women that get heart murmurs when they drink espresso. No place should ever sell someone a filter coffee!

    Also as far an espresso over ice. This isn’t bad. It does not ‘shock’ the coffee. Hell this is a very popular drink in a lot of places that do know something about coffee. You just have to do it right.

    Lots of ice, not too much coffee. Providing you make the coffee cold quickly the flavours will not be destroyed. They’ll just taste different because they’re cold.

    Oh and to whoever said that coffee shops do this to stop you making ghetto lattes. Lattes should be server with hot milk and hot coffee. So I don’t see how ice will help.

    Melbourne has good coffee. If anyone happens to be travelling towards our lovely city head to Fitzroy. Ask someone how to get to ICI. Order any cup of coffee and anything off their menu. It’s not the cheapest place around but god damn is it good. And they’re not snobby wankers.

  92. I read this post earlier today and at first I wasn’t going to comment because I wasn’t sure where I stood on this issue. On the one hand, I am diametrically opposed to snobbery of any kind– I believe that if a work of art or what have you is genuinely good, you wouldn’t need an army of snobs defending it from the ignorant plebs with a cavalcade of weak excuses nor would you need to educate yourself with a specialized vocabulary just to “appreciate” it. On the other hand, having worked for years at a couple coffee shops myself and thereby having developed a fondness for espresso and all its permutations, I can see why the barista might be irked at a customer ordering that type of drink (fresh pulled espresso starts to taste bitter if you let it sit for longer than 10 seconds, I think it has something to do with the volume of the crema), though I still don’t agree with the way the barista treated the customer.

    I can understand why people get snooty over things and there definitely is an undeniable positive correlation between snobbery and respect for a work of art but honestly, there ought to be a limit as to how snobby one can be. Being stuck up about your own work of art? Fine. Being a stuck-up, self important critic of said work of art? Fair enough. But being a stuck-up deliveryman of a work of art who gets all prissy about the angle from which you view the art piece and all of a sudden you’ve crossed the line from elitist jerkoff to pretentious jerkoff.

    This, in a nutshell is the heart of the problem. I will concede that there is an art to roasting coffee in the same way that there is an art to making fine scotches or whatever. But insofar as constructing the actual espresso drink the customers buy, there is no artistry whatsoever. Almost all of the work that goes into making an espresso drink is done by a machine and unless you built that machine piece by piece from scratch, you are in no way responsible for what comes out of it. Hearing a barista extol the quality of “their” product is tantamount to giving myself a congratulatory pat on the back for making a badass David Bowie mixtape. While it is indeed an amazing mixtape, at the end of the day I’m still a no-talent hack who used the creative endeavors of another person to assemble something I try and deceive myself into believing is my own.

    I really disdain “coffee culture” as stereotyped by the self-important jerkoffs at Murky Coffee. It combines three things I really dislike: drug addiction, consumerism, and typical pretentious bourgeois bs.

  93. About the cockpunchery: if someone would threaten to burn your shop down (did he? I’m reading this in the open letter…) then he has every right to punch him. In the cock. No ice.

    About the Ghetto Latte: how is there even ice in a latte? Latte means milk. No ice involved.

    About the guy with the 17 cups of coffee: stop being someone with bad taste.

    About the barista person: I guess he could’ve been less of an asshole (if the accounts are true) but I do believe that good taste is something to stand up for. If the man believes in good coffee, he really should deny crappercino and ketchup espresso and all that other bs. There is accounting for taste. If he takes pride in creating good stuff, there’s nothing perverted with telling a customer he’s doing it wrong. There are ways to eat or drink certain foods, and this is not one of them.

    About coffee: I just got back from a week’s holiday in Sicily. I’ve found the perfect espresso, about 20 times. There IS accounting for taste.

  94. Some of the responses to this remind me of a scene in Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry yells “The customer is NOT always right, and he’s usually an asshole!”

  95. I dunno, I live in italy, and no barrista here would pour an espresso over ice, unless they’re making a shakerato.

    That is, a shot of espresso, ice cubes, and sugar in a metal shaker, shaken for 2 minutes, then strained into a martini (or wine) glass.

    Much more pleasant way to drink your coffe in the summer.

  96. Dear # 25,

    You wouldn’t happen to have a spare monocle on hand, would you? Mine got scuffed on some of out-of-control cuff-links, and…

  97. The customer has a right, he is not right himself.

    He could have refused to have business dealings with them when he was told they didn’t serve what he wanted. Taking your money elsewhere is your fundamental right as a consumer. He did not exercise it there.

    Whilst not drinking coffee myself and finding snobbery to be foolish, I respect that murky coffee have a policy of delivering good products and don’t want to make inferior products even if the customer asks for it.

    The customer can take his business elsewhere, that is his right. He does not have the right to tell the business to change its practices.

  98. People are being forced out of their homes due to foreclosure. Don’t bother to ask me if I care about a snooty barista in an overpriced country. Or post it on Consumerist, where it’s at least relevant.

  99. so they sell coffee with a license – “you can drink this coffee, and you can share it with your friends. Please blog about it, and tell others about it. If you really like it please buy some more, or consider leaving a donation for our baristas. You may not alter, transform, or build upon this coffee.”

  100. Yanno, I can usually keep it together in 4chan rage threads, but this whole thing is making me want to step on kittens. I had to duct tape the top of my head on to keep it from exploding.


  101. Having read the shop owner’s open letter, I emailed him my response, and included my name and address.

    I’m signing this note with my name and address. I’m not using any cuss words or insults or threats of physical violence.

    You can see I live in Silver Spring, MD. That’s DC area, and I make it in to Arlington from time to time. Potentially I’m a customer of yours, though I don’t think I’ve ever been in your shop.

    You had a chance to respond to Jeff Simmermon, and a wide audience to see your response, and you chose to do it an obnoxious way that only made you and your shop look worse. You are contemptuous of your customers, you are a pettifogger, and you use racist language. The term “ghetto latte” is inherently racist.

    A month from now, if I happen to walk or drive past Murky Coffee, I won’t remember why I don’t like Murky Coffee. I’ll just remember that there’s something about the shop that left a really bad taste in my mouth, and I won’t go in.

  102. This is about more than a cup of coffee… The idea that people are patting this guy on the back for launching into a profanity-laced tirade at someone who by the nature of their job isn’t allowed to fight back is completely pathetic. Has the internet truly made us so coarse? I don’t care what this guy does over on his tentacle-porn forum posts but where I come from it is never appropriate to swear at someone in a service position and certainly not over something as piddly as this. Whatever happened after the fact with the shop owner is irrelevant to the utter, unrepentant prickishness of browbeating a barista because you can’t have what you want. And shocker, this typical INTERNET MALE (has a moral right to everything he desires, lacks any perspective, has self-indulgent personal blog, references “hot” girlfriend – check, check, check and check!) wanted to go and do the EXACT THING that the Murky Coffee policy is there to prevent – he wanted to get an iced latte without paying for one… I will GIVE you the extra buck you cheap shmoe. And to think he posted the whole rant because he thought it made him look too cool for school. Shame on BoingBoing for indulging this kind of behavior. Adults resolve problems. They don’t escalate them. NEW RULE: Whenever you confront one of life’s curve balls (No iced espresso — EGADS, MAN!) pretend you have your five-year-old daughter standing next to you. If you can’t do it in front of her, you shouldn’t do it.

  103. Really good customer service is a good thing, but it isn’t something that the world owes you. If you don’t like the shop, leave. Scribbling profanity on your tip reveals to the world the whiny, self-entitled jerk your barista already met.

  104. I’m a non-coffee drinker myself (I never developed a taste for it), so all this talk of “shocking” the coffee confuses me.

    Can anyone point me toward an explanation of what’s actually going on, chemically, with the coffee, or is this just one of those magical “it’s true because ‘experts’ say so” things, like homeopathy and tiger-repelling rocks?

  105. Chemically, you know what happens to espresso when poured over ice?

    It. Gets. Colder.

    How many have been in 7th grade science class, raise your hand. *notices that Nick, owner of murky coffee, is not raising his hand*

  106. Murky is awesome. The coffee is delicious. The people who work there actually care about making a good product and serving it well and, more importantly, are generally incredibly friendly, nice people.

    Sometimes the customer is just wrong.

    No matter who you are, no matter what a shop did to you (in this case, put up with a difficult customer) there is NEVER an appropriate time to scrawl “Fuck you and your precious coffee policy” on a crumpled bill and lob it at the staff.

    That this person has gotten so much attention for being rude is not so much “funny” as distasteful. I mean, I know this is the internet… but still.

  107. Brittany, you’re letting the caffeine cloud your judgement. Nick is clearly not an “incredibly friendly, nice” person, he’s a pretentious prick who has no issues threatening to cockpunch his customers and huge issues maintaining the same integrity in his business dealings (nonpayment of half a million in taxes) as he does in his precious coffee allowances.

    And lest anyone believe your take on it, it’s pretty clear from the original blog post that no dollar bill was lobbed at any delicate staff member; it was placed in the tip jar just like any other.

  108. Screw it. I’m siding with Murky. I haven’t been to the VA location, but at Eastern Market they’re always very polite. The barista should have been more helpful when explaining the policy, but it is the right of the store to make and carry out that policy.

    Jeff Simmermon sounds like a jerk who yelled at the guy who didn’t write the policy and who will get in trouble if he doesn’t ask customers to respect the policy.

    I’m going way out of my way to murky today to buy a drink because I think that this public lambasting is unfair and that Jeff Simmermon’s behavior was unacceptable.

  109. “Margaritas don’t come in any other flavours but “margarita” Martinis have 2 possible recipes- one with vodka and the other with gin. period. Hefeweizen should NEVER be served with an orange of lemon slice. Spaghetti doesn’t involve ketchup, and so forth.”

    Get off it. I tend to be a purist myself, I like my whiskey straight and my caipirinhas with cachaça, not vodka. I drink coffee, drip or espresso, not coffee-flavored iced drinks. But I don’t look down on other people who prefer different styles, different flavors, or different temperatures.

    OK, except the ones that have been conditioned by Charbucks to think that almost-burnt coffee is “good.”

    I live in italy, and no barrista here would pour an espresso over ice, unless they’re making a shakerato.

    “That is, a shot of espresso, ice cubes, and sugar in a metal shaker, shaken for 2 minutes, then strained into a martini (or wine) glass.”

    And how is this different than just pouring the stuff over ice? Get over yourself!

    If I’m ever in the area, I’m going to walk in and order an iced espresso. They won’t serve it, and I’ll walk out. If enough people do this they might get it.

  110. i’m with you, francescaveitch, and brittany. love the coffee there, the baristas are really super-awesome and nice, assuming you’re nice in return.

    i’ve conversed with nick before. he is a really nice guy too.

    however, i have reduced the amount of money and time spent at murky after the whole tax debacle. as far as i am concerned, its really fucked up to charge and take sales tax from your customers, and then not give it back to the governments its supposed to be funneled to.

  111. The first time I went to the coffee shop on my college campus I asked “do you just have a mocha or something?” and the guy totally lectured me about how mocha was a port in Yemen and not a drink, it was just a term that Starbucks made up for coffee with chocolate in it, so on and so forth.

    I was pretty pissed and explained to him that I’d never been to Starbucks because there were none where I grew up, but that all the local coffee shops sure as hell had a “mocha” on the menu and could he just get me something with coffee and chocolate in it.

    I ended up with a “chocolate latte” instead, which was fine.

    The moral of the story is: fuck all that pretentious bullshit. Don’t treat your customers like uncultured idiots, and don’t treat service people like assholes for caring about their job.

  112. Well, it looks like this hasn’t been posted here yet, but apparently Murky is not as nice a place as some people seem to think:

    Apparently being a snob about his coffee is more important than paying his taxes OR his rent.

    Personally, I think they’ve both acted like asshats for the amusement of the inter tubes, but talk about much ado about nothing. Two random guys arguing over a cup of over-priced coffee? Me thinks some priorities are mightily out of whack (starting with Murkey’s owner not paying his bills and instead getting into internet pissing contests)

  113. There’s no reason for a store to tell you what to do with something after you pay for it. It’s coffee, not a gun. It’s a refreshment, not a prescription. He’s buying, not renting. If he wants to take it into their restroom, pee in it then swill it down, it’s none of their business. They should have given him a cup of ice with his coffee, explained to him that what he was asking them to do went against the sacred rules of their cult, patted him on the shoulder and helped the next infidel in line.

  114. If the “ghetto latte” is a problem, couldn’t they a) ask customers not to do that, or b) sell their iced espressos in tiny cups?

  115. i can’t understand the fuss about putting ice in an espresso. from what i understand the shop’s policy is not to use ice in order to “preserve” the “quality”. only that this is plain bollocks.

    so in the states you have this starbucks-style coffee shops that sell a classic italian product, the espresso at ridiculous prices and with even stupider names like “venti”(btw means twenty in italian) and you call the people that work there “barista” as if it where somenthing cool (it just means bartender nothing fancy at all).

    please allow me to explain a couple of things: in italy we don’t have starbucks (thank god) but i had the chance to go to starbucks in greece. they SUCK. their coffee is overpriced, tastes like soap and they think they can explain to me how to have an espresso which is like explaining to an american how hot-dogs are made.

    in italy a cup of espresso costs 80 cents of a euro and a cappuccino costs 1euro. and you can have espresso on ice. in the city of Lecce in southern italy it is a summer tradition to put an ice cube in the espresso cup, or you can have a shacherato which is an espresso shaked with sugar and ice everywhere.

    oh and biscotti (singular-biscotto) are nothing more than COOKIES. yep nothing mystical or traditional about. in starbuckese it’s just a pretentious use of a foreign word to justify a premium on the price of a plain cookie(like barrista, venti etc etc).

  116. The situation with the Capital Hill Murky Coffee proved that Nicholas Cho has no idea how to run a business (which he even admits to in that WaPo article linked above). His response to this incident falls neatly in line with not remembering to pay taxes or rent.

  117. Sorry DON. You’re totally right. Now I have to figure out where the hell I’ve been going. Any Washingtonians know the name of the place that replaced Murky at the corner of Pennsylvania Ave and 7th Street SE? They sell excellent Absinthe flavored pastilles.

    Anyway, even if I’m not speaking from personal experience as I previously thought, I stand by my position. They have the right to make whatever policy they want and the barista has little say in whether or not he follows that policy.

    This guy was a jerk. Was it necessary to be so rude?

  118. I guess I’ve gone and become a New Yorker. If there’s a combination they CAN make, and I want it, and will pay any reasonable cost, I think they should do it and not tell me I’m wrong.

    There IS a deli in New York with a sign on their wall that says “Nebraska driver’s license required for mayonnaise with pastrami,” but they’re joking.

    If a Chinese restaurant has tofu dishes, and they have chicken with black bean sauce, and they won’t make tofu with black bean sauce, I walk out.

    The barista in this story was being a total freakin’ jackass. If they’ll give someone a triple espresso and a cup of ice, where the HELL does he get off telling him it’s “Not Okay” to combine them? That guy is just plain crazy. If I want mayonnaise in my tea,* I’ll bloody well put mayonnaise in my tea, and I don’t have to pay any attention to the goddam barista’s opinion about it, which he can keep to himself, thank you very much.

    Also, if I read this story correctly, that same stupid-ass barista later made him an iced espresso diluted with water, apparently just to add insult to injury.

    I do think it was inappropriate to write an insult on a dollar bill in the tip jar, though. I think when an establishment is uncooperative, your remedies should be limited to walking out.

    *I don’t. Just picking a bizarre example. I’ve never put mayonnaise in tea, and I think it would be disgusting. Waste of mayonnaise.

  119. And gods that Nick is a jerk. Not like I’ve ever in my life been in Arlington VA, or am ever likely to be, but if I do I will certainly avoid patronizing Murky Coffee. What a wad of fail that guy is.

  120. what about those coffee shops and restaurants that have made a reputation and clientele by the “abuse the customer” schtick?

  121. As was said earlier here, tax evasion pretty much trumps crappy service.

    That said, I’ve never been treated poorly by a barista. They seem to truly relish it when a customer is courteous and will ask questions. It gives them a chance to suggest drinks and so on, which is fun.

    If a barista told me I couldn’t have my drink some such way, I might ask why instead of blankly farting-out the phrase “buh dat how I lub muh cawffee!”

    Let the guy vent why you can’t have ice with your espresso. Agree that his reason makes sense, then counter that you’re not trying to achieve the same effect the barista is trying to preserve. Be disarming. Be friendly. Nine times out of ten, logic will set in and the barista will think, “well, it IS just coffee.”

    If he remains adamant, then you can either leave or order something similar to tide you over. Ask the barista what he suggests to achieve the effect you were going for.

    And if all else fails, grab the nancy bastard around his pencil-thin neck, place the other hand on the back of his head, and slam his face into the counter until his head is mushy. Tell any surviving baristas to make the damned drink before things get ugly.

  122. Never mind baristas; I’ve had co-workers refuse to bring back the coffee I wanted when they were doing a general Starbuck’s run. You’d think there was something strange about wanting a six-shot iced latte.

    The Other Michael @45:

    “The customer is always right” brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to WalMart, Starbucks and environs.

    Well, bless my contransmagnificandjewbangtantiality. What sounds does the thunder make in that continuum?

    Avram @85: And is it related to being able to squirt milk out of your eyes?

    Anonymous@92, quoting Mr. Murky Coffee:

    We have some policies at murky coffee. No sleeping in the shop. If you’re asleep, you’ll be tapped on the shoulder and asked not to sleep in the shop. We’ve had to ban a customer because of his chronic napping.

    These guys definitely aren’t playing to the narcoleptics.

    Anonymous @94, if you think the McDonald’s lawsuit was simply about the coffee being too hot, you’ve gotten hold of one of the disinformation versions of it. There are good reasons they lost that case.

  123. Takuan 144: Outside comic strips, I avoid them. If I wanted to be verbally abused I never would have moved out of my parents’ house!

  124. Baristas are not artists, and a good number of them need to get over themselves. Taking pride in your work is one thing, but this crap about being artists is wholly over the top.

    Act like a jackass and I might well respond in kind, depends on the day I’m having. I might be nice, I might fire it right back in your face. The real rule of thumb is, don’t be a jackass. The owner? Hey, he’s allowed to be an asshole and damage his business. It is HIS bottom line and if he wants to “respectfully” threaten to “punch people in the dick”… well, he should probably learn the definition of respectfully.

  125. The Moderator said, “Never mind baristas…. You’d think there was something strange about wanting a six-shot iced latte.”

    The profit margin on coffee is small. I’d sell it to you by the gallon if you wanted to pay for it. I’d include an IV line too.

  126. And about the “ghetto latte”—first of all, I think using ‘ghetto’ as an adjective is, if not actually racist, at least racially insensitive. But if a place has half-and-half out free, and they charge a lot more for putting it in your coffee, guess what? They’re overcharging for the damn latte!

    Man, fuck all coffee shops. I’m not a coffee drinker any more, but if I ever want coffee I’ll buy a damn French press and make it myself.

  127. If you need proof that Americans are spoiled, puffed-up, priggish jerks, it’s this crap lately of “baristas” (that means “a guy who makes coffee”) lecturing people on “quality” of coffee. That’s their passion. That’s their focus in life.

    I recently heard my 19-year-old niece giving me a similar lecture. She just started working at Starbuck’s. And started drinking coffee about six months ago, when her boyfriend convinced her it was cool.

    Now she feels fully qualified to rant on ad nauseam about how you “must” handle coffee.

    Fight the man! Rage on!

  128. OMG! It’s pronounced “lah-tay”?!?! I thought it was a cutesy spelling of “laddie,” which in turn I took to be a cutesy name for an Irish coffee. No wonder I always preferred the Irish coffee at Four Provinces to that weak drool they served at Murky. My bad!

  129. I don’t get why people are so upset that coffee shop employees take coffee seriously. The physics and chemistry of espresso is a really cool real-life application of science.

    Calm down.

    I understand that you don’t want your barista to make you feel like you’re inadequate because you’re not a coffee nerd, that’s fair. But stop hating on coffee nerds (TAKUAN AND KIBBLE). It’s our right to obsess over espresso the way other people obsess over sound systems or shoes or whatever.

    Everyone just needs to take a deep breath. Okay, and exhale. Feel better?

    (This comment has less to do with the story and more with the thread. Sorry.)

  130. Barista = Counter worker

    I don’t know why we have to call coffee pourers by some fancy name. I never take their coffee because it stinks, but by the beans and brew it at home. It’s cheaper and tastes better.

    Why should I call someone a fancy name for selling me pre-packaged coffee beans?

    Silverman was a jackass, but the coffee shop is worse.

  131. If the King found out Julio was refusing to serve Whoppers without tomato’s, heads would roll. Admittedly a “barista” is above a fast food server on the grand scale of things, but well below the fry cook at Denny’s.

  132. Theresa @146

    >What sounds does the thunder make in that continuum?

    There are ten variations (collect them all!), 100-hundred letters each, made in Bangladesh, and on sale through Friday, while supplies last.

  133. “The moral of the story is: fuck all that pretentious bullshit. Don’t treat your customers like uncultured idiots, and don’t treat service people like assholes for caring about their job.”\


    Thank you, 135.

    Now /thread already.

  134. So basically everyone involved in this was a macho ass. The barista could have said “hey, we don’t do ice espresso. I can make you an iced americano.” and the dude could have said “sure, great” or “huh, why no espresso over ice?” and everybody would have been cool.

  135. @141–you’ve probably been going to Bread and Chocolate, or possibly the Marvelous Market at the next corner.

    I think people are getting the wrong impression of Murky based on one overcaffeinated post by a quasi-drama queen. Based on the comments, people seem to think that a gang of hipster Soup Nazis worked there, and that’s just not true. I went to the Capitol Hill Murky for about 3 years before the whole tax non-payment issue closed it down, and the baristas that worked there were just like any group of people–most were nice enough, some were friendlier than average, others were kind of annoying.

    I also can’t support the accusations of snobbery by Murky baristas in the comments. I can’t say that I ever saw anyone actively being “snobbed”, even though I really, really wanted the baristas to taunt all the people who would come in and order things “venti” or ask for a frappuccino.

  136. Wow… I’m still a bit shocked at the comments in defense of the barista and owner. Coffee shouldn’t be sold with a damn EULA. It’s COFFEE!

    Re: #139 posted by zio_donnie
    “so in the states you have this starbucks-style coffee shops that sell a classic italian product, the espresso at ridiculous prices and with even stupider names like “venti”(btw means twenty in italian)…”

    I’m not a Starbucks employee (or fan – all the good coffee joints are just so far from home), but I have had venti-sized beverages there. I believe that it is a 20 oz. serving of coffee, so that could be the reason for the name.

    And yes, unless it’s really sugared up, the coffee from Starbucks does have a rather noticeable soapy taste.

  137. #162 posted by genericvox

    “I believe that it is a 20 oz”

    ah ok thanks for the info, it actually does make sense if they called it “venti” for that. at least in america i guess… in europe we use the metric system so i don’t have the slightest idea how much a “venti” is in mls. anyway it is way too much soapwater for my taste in litres or in gallons. (did i mention how much starbucks sucks?)

    btw the people that work at starbucks are pretentious even in europe. for example when i’m in greece and i ask for a greek coffee i don’t want do be snobbed of frowned upon by a stupid teenager who thinks that knows all things coffee (which they don’t. good coffee isn’t synonymous to coffee imported from 3ld world countries or absurd names.)as it happened both times i visited a SB.

  138. @Bucky_Katt –
    “I think people are getting the wrong impression of Murky based on one overcaffeinated post by a quasi-drama queen. Based on the comments, people seem to think that a gang of hipster Soup Nazis worked there, and that’s just not true.”

    Perhaps you missed the owner’s response? Because I think its pretty clear that that is exactly what is going on, from the top right on down.

  139. I’ve been watching this thread with interest. I’ve been on both sides of the snobby retailer/annoying customer transaction.

    One thing worth noting is that a guy who walks in urgently needing a whole lot of caffeine might not be at his most patient and stable at that moment. I know when I’m jonesing bad for it, nobody smaller than me better get in the way. I’m inclined to cut all involved some slack for maybe being a little chemically nerved up over the whole event.

    But for goodness sake stop treating it like it’s the 9th Sacrament. It’s a beverage. Some people are Passionate About Coffee but that doesn’t entitle them to snarl at those who just want to drink it the way they like it.

    And don’t get me started on Wine Bores.

  140. As a true English man I can’t believe there is so much complexity in coffee… if it was tea I could understand the problem!

  141. Funniest thing in all this?

    The people who say they are real coffee lovers and then go on to compare this guy’s store with Starbucks and think Starbucks is all that with coffee.

    Sorry, goto Italy. Drink an espresso or cappuccino. When you Starbucks-lovers have come down off the ceiling because you’ve never tasted caffeine in your lives, then tell me Starbucks is good coffee.

    FFS. Starbucks is watered down crap. I’d prefer to goto somewhere independent, rude or not, rather than slave-labour low-wage anonymous and crap coffee chain.

    Oh and Americans – sort out your coffee strength. Weak or what? Spent a whole 7 days in San Fran last time looking for decent coffee (the italian places were laughably weak) until I found a small Algerian place. As you say – geez.

  142. This is *fantastic*! Not only do I now know of a place in DC where I can get good coffee, but I also know of a place in San Francisco and saw a mention of 9th Street Coffee in New York. This is a veritable Who’s Who of good places to get coffee if you are a strong taster.

    I don’t think the “no ice” policy is particularly great, but it looks like it’s having its desired effect: people who don’t care about coffee quality will stay away, and people who do now know about the place, even people like me who live far away from DC.

    If you care about quality coffee, it’s something you’ll go out of your way for. I suspect that this will result in more customers, not fewer, and better still, they will be the customers that Murky is trying to attract – strong tasters.

    The point isn’t snobbery. We all have different sensory strengths and weaknesses. If you’re a strong taster, it mostly means that stuff other people like you won’t like, and so you wind up either eating a lot of stuff you don’t like, or else spending a lot of effort seeking out stuff that tastes good to your overly-fussy palate.

    So it’s nice to have a bit of info like this handed to you on a platter. :’)

    BTW, Ink in the Denver area is also really good. I don’t think they do the coffee snob thing, so you can probably get espresso over ice there, but their espresso is very, very good.

  143. The reason for all the great methods that coffee (or any other) snobs love is that at some point it was invented.

    That means that someone used something in a novel, hitherto unfashionable way, and it caught on. They knew what they wanted, and they did it that way.

    It’s the reason you enjoy foreign cultures, and the reason we’re not all a bunch of automatons.

    Snobbery is utterly pointless, and if every restaurant were to pour disdain on a customer out of keeping with their own tastes, then there would be precious few anywhere.


  144. Baristas abusing the customer? Excuse me. But baristas are nearly almost always the ones taking the abuse. And they take a lot. Especially ones who work in higher-end coffee shops that have special standards and have to be the ones to explain them to people. It’s astounding to me the disrespect people have for polite, competent service-people, especially when they make stupid or strange requests that compromise the company’s business reputation and then walk away mumbling about the “bitchy” or “incompetent” barista.

    As someone said earlier, a good steak-house will not serve a well-done steak. You can go to a lesser steakhouse, one with lower standards, and order your well-done steak. They are under NO obligation to give you exactly what you want, contrary to your consumerist upbringing. As a career barista at a coffee shop with reasonable and respectable practices such as these, I know for a fact that having these standards greatly improves business, because people only ever have great-tasting drinks.

    You can call it snobbery, but it’s really just passion and standards held by people who actually know what they’re doing. People have been groomed by corporate coffee companies in this country to order ridiculous, and typically awful, coffee drinks, and are upset and flustered and entitled when they can’t get the same fluffy, nasty, or sugary drink at a different shop. As though all coffee shops are supposed to be exactly the same and offer the same products. It IS an art form for many who work in coffee, despite what you may have encountered or learned to expect elsewhere. For some, it is just a temporary, part-time, crappy job at a chain somewhere. For others, it is a way of life, a business model, a continuing culinary education, and a career. Please respect that.

    Also, ghetto lattes ARE a huge problem, and people are conniving about them. Don’t think we don’t know what you’re doing when you ask for iced espresso in a tall glass.

    Sometimes, you really can afford to just fire a customer. Like this iced espresso crazed queen.

  145. This is ridiculous. This is just completely ridiculous. The customer came in, made a completely reasonable order, and the basta-err…barista decided that it wouldn’t taste good. Ok, but you’re not the one drinking it, so fork over my iced latte, you douche. Seriously, why would a company even have such a dumb policy? If I want my coffee with a turd in it, take some ex-lax and get to work, dammit!

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