Spanish people are very active coffee drinkers. Every bar, café, restaurant has an espresso machine. The market for coffee is amazing and from what I noticed; in the mornings its strictly espresso or cortado. As a matter of fact it seems to be the case through out the day. The palate for the espresso is very much sub par. It is a real shame to see such a big city being so behind with anything and everything modern espresso should look and taste like. Many will argue with me, at the end of the day if it tastes good, than its good espresso, RIGHT?? Well trust me, what I’ve seen and experienced in other cities was much much better than Barcelona. All criticism aside, here is how I rated the shops that I went to.
After doing some crafty research on the internet, talking to roasters, growers and baristi; I was left with few places to visit. Café Central which is a 3 store espresso chain in Barcelona and Cafes El Magnifico which is a rostery/coffee shop. So with those 2 on my list I was in hope of further reference, but unfortunately even the roster Salvador Sans struggled to recommend a café that will serve a decent espresso shot.
Café Central (C/ Calvet 3) – this is a very interesting espresso bar, one long bar bench where people have their espresso or cortado and go. It is not the kinda place where you are welcome to hang out for hours. There are no seats outside, so you end up making way for others to order their drinks and move away. They don’t go through a whole lot of coffee; possibly 40kg a week, but turn over a lot of clients. The reason being is their dose amount. A single espresso shot will come out of a single group with a 7g filter basket (one grinder click). They use LaSpaziale machines which are running way too hot and end up burning the coffee through the extraction. The coffee is on a weaker side and they tend to run a long shot making the crema very pale. Never the less, the coffee is very much drinkable and is much better than other coffee shops around town. Having said that, most places will still use 7 grams out of a single portafilter.
There is a trick about this shop, raining Spanish barista champion Chiara Nicolini works there and she has a Compak K-3 Elite grinder, which she used when I was there the 2nd time. This grinder was tuned very much for her competition practice. She used a double group handle with a 16 gram basket and used a “proper” dosing technique. She packed just on the 16g line and pulled very decent shots. I thoroughly enjoyed my espresso, the unfortunate factor is that noone else knows how to use that grinder and they refuse to come close to it. I suggest you find out what time Chiara is working and go in for a coffee, she will treat you to something special – I promise! This blend was heavy, full of body, sweet. The coffee is roasted by Salvador at El Magnifico, not very dark taken up to the 2nd crack.
Cafes El Magnifico (C/ Argenteria 64) - the location of this coffee shop is very cental. It is located in the old town of Barcelona and is easy to find on the map. This coffee shop/rostery some what reminded me of Monmouth in London. The owner, Salvador Sans manages the shop and roasts coffee almost every day of the week. They offer lots of single origin coffees as well as few espresso blends. There have a little SACO espresso machine, nothing special and the coffee is not very good out of it, but then again his market is not in selling espresso but in selling whole roasted coffee beans. I guess that is the reason it reminds me of Monmouth and also long rich history that this shop carries. You can really feel it as soon as you step inside, its been there since 1919. You will be amazed by the coffee cup collection he has on the wall. Salvador invited us to go inside while he was roasting some single origins, he even treated us to something special, 2nd place Columbian coffee from cup of excellence competition in 2006. I took a small batch of it home, so will be trying it in a couple of days time.
This place is well worth visiting, Salvador is very happy to meet new people and show you around his rostery.
I had lots of fun in Barcelona, got to hang out with amazing people like Chiara and Salvador and even randomly bumped into Bronwen Serna (2004 US barista champ) We had lots of fun getting lost in in this big city and hunting down amazing foods, hahaha good times! Be warned though, if you are a milk drinker or tap water drinker – both are not drinkable. All coffee shops use long life pasteurised milk, which tastes revolting!