Search for the ultimate espresso: a video with Kyle of Intelligentsia Coffee

In the video above, Kyle Glanville of Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea shows you how to make a really great cup of espresso (more here).


  1. really cool.. well shot, well explained.. i’m gonna go fix myself, what I hope will be, a far superior espresso.

  2. 2 min: OK….I’ve got no idea. Is it a joke?

    3 min: this guy means it

    4 min: coffee iz juxtaposed w00t!

  3. “You can get into coffee like a wind connoisseur can get into wine.”

    Spend all of your money and attention obsessing over the last 5% better that something could get? That has rarely served me well. I’m pretty happy in the 75-95% goodness range.

    Intelligentsia shops do make a very deliberate coffee drink. I support them having a passion for, but I always feel a little vulgar just shooting the espresso and running off to work. Probably because they watch me while I drink it.

  4. the best cup of espresso I ever had was at a street market in Bogota Colombia from a manual machine that looked about 100 years old and 100% steam punk. drank from a paper cup with about a half inch of the richest crema I’ve ever tasted on top. thirty five cents US.

  5. I hate how complicated and expensive some people make coffee. All I care is that it’s strong and doesn’t taste /bad/.

    I stumbled onto the Aeropress from Aerobie, the hard-rubber flying disc company. They make all sorts of frisbees, boomerangs… and this one coffee maker for some odd reason. It’s basically a giant syringe with a fine filter on the end. Add hot water, fresh-ground coffee beans, stir, and press the plunger down. I may not have the most refined palate, but this tastes as good as any $3/shot espresso I’ve had in coffee bars. Using a thermometer to get your water just right and varying the pressure on the plunger, you get a good deal of control over the results.

  6. Hmm… someone from the country that gave us Starbucks mega-buckets of bland pap telling me how to make coffee?

    Only kidding… beautifully made video, and his passion is quite inspiring. But as the previous comment says, in Italy they just do it without fuss.

  7. Wait, didn’t we already do a joking post about people who take their coffee too seriously?

    Oh wait… this one actually is serious..?

    Anyway, agree with Latente on both points above: 1) in Rome, there is nowhere near as much snobbism about coffee as there is in the States, and 2) I have a little packet of Sant’ Eustachio chocolate-covered coffee beans right next to my computer as I type, from the last time I was there.

  8. I’ve had espresso at both Intelligentsia and Sant’Eustachio (and elsewhere in Italy). I’m an espresso devotee who seeks out these place anywhere I go and who does his best to replicate those sorts of results at home, and I’m sure there must be people who prefer the flavor profile of Sant’Eustachio, but from my perspective any shot I’ve had at Intelligentsia was both technically and aesthetically superior. S’E wasn’t close. Call Intelligentsia fussy if you want, but the fuss pays off.

    Also remember that this is essentially a behind-the-scenes video, not a demo of the Intelligentsia café customer experience. When you place an order they don’t make a big deal out of demonstrating their rituals, they just make and serve you a coffee. They don’t do all this stuff to impress you with razzle-dazzle. The result’s in the cup.

  9. I can’t fault the coffee of Sante Ustachio (never been), but I can say with total familiarity with the subject that nobody does coffee more seriously than these guys at Intelligentsia, although there are a bunch of us who are just as serious.
    Intelli and roasters of that class source, hands down, the best coffees in the world. I seriously doubt the little Roman cafe spends the time and money doing the same, and I suggest that the above opinions were colored by the fact that you were sitting in a precious little Roman cafe, in Rome, doing as Romans have done for several centuries. Can we agree on that point?
    The Italians (or French, depending on how technical you get) may have developed the espresso method, but they don’t own the title. Actually, Kyle Glanville is a title holder- US Barista Champ.

  10. Actually, I was arguing above that, while I liked Sant’ Eustachio, that was all. Romans and other Italians appreciate good coffee, but they don’t go hyper-snobby over it.

    I’m not actually saying it’s a good or bad thing. If you’re really into coffee, there are probably dozens of bars in the States that serve much better quality coffee than the best bars in Rome. It’s just funny that baristas and the coffee culture of the States borrowed so much from the Italians, including of course the language and everything, and then went so much further than the Italians ever cared about.

  11. I realize you’re joking but just to address the issue, it takes time, but no, not that much. Once you have it down to a routine, and are skilled at getting your grind right, you can probably do it in three or four minutes assuming your machine’s already hot. That’s more than it takes to get a Mr. Coffee drip started, but reasonably competitive with the time it takes Mr. Coffee to produce a cup. Really depends on whether the extra effort it worth it to you.

    (Full disclosure: I’m slower than that – I weigh my beans to a fraction of a gram and then grind by hand, so I spend more like ten minutes. But I can catch up on my morning blogs while I grind, so that doesn’t really count as lost time for me. I hand-grind, by the way, not out of some fetishistic puritanism but because it’s quiet and I’m the only morning person in the house.)

  12. I know a lot of you find this nerdy and geeky and overthinking it. In many ways, you’re right. But if these people didn’t exist — these nerds who sink their lives and finances into chasing that elusive top 5% — even the most standard cup at Starbucks wouldn’t be as good as it is today. You don’t have to take any interest in the culture, but the fact of its existence can only be a good thing for all coffee drinkers involved.

  13. “Also remember that this is essentially a behind-the-scenes video, not a demo of the Intelligentsia café customer experience. When you place an order they don’t make a big deal out of demonstrating their rituals, they just make and serve you a coffee. They don’t do all this stuff to impress you with razzle-dazzle. The result’s in the cup.”

    And in the $4 you pay for a regular cup of coffee.

  14. “And in the $4 you pay for a regular cup of coffee.”

    Yes, but it’s still a bargain. A truly good cup of drip coffee is so much better than an average cup that it’s worth every penny. In fact, what’s so shocking about the really great coffee places is that the product doesn’t cost anywhere near as much as you’d expect. A more or less perfect shot of espresso from a shop run by true coffee nerds is almost the same price as a shot of the junk at Starbucks.

    I’m with SamSam. The average cup of coffee in Europe is better than the average cup of coffee in America, but the top places in America make stuff better than anything on earth. People living around the Mediterranean just aren’t anal enough to pull it off.

    I’ve got an old Pavoni lever machine it’s great. It teaches you that 2 shots made with the same beans, with the same grind, made with the same routine literally seconds apart will _always_ taste different due to tiny differences in temperature and pressure. And it’s not some esoteric difference. It can be like the difference between a $200 bottle of wine and 2 buck chuck. It gives you a HUGE appreciation for the gear and baristas that can reliably give you a perfect shot of espresso.

    (And yes, I realize I could get that sort of repeatability with a different machine and a good grinder, but that takes away most of the mystery and fun for me)

  15. I’m actually kind of fascinated with how people moan about how much they pay for coffee here. I figure the average range I paid for a coffee in various Italian cafes was about 2 euro (about $3 USD), and that was only if I didn’t sit down. Price went up (in some places, outrageously) if I decided to plunk down.

    $4 is not *cheap*, but it’s reasonable — especially since a lot of North American places offer a small discount if you take a porcelain instead of paper cup.

  16. I’m the one that made the snark about the $4 cup of coffee. The best drip cup of coffee I’ve ever had is at Philz in San Francisco, which is cheaper than Intelli. I’ve had good drip coffee from Intelli, but nothing in my mind that justifies $4. And the Venice location seems to be trying to make it an uncomfortable place to hang around at.

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