Most of my coffee-drinking life I’ve steered a pretty steady course of brewed coffee. I’d occasionally order an espresso on a whim, and most often find it wasn’t worth the effort. Even given my penchant for tastebud-tweaking flavor, most espresso drinks I tried proved to be undrinkably bitter–or, worse–relatively tasteless. Quite the extreme of experiences. After hanging around in the alt.coffee newsgroup for a while I was convinced that some really good stuff was out there, and that my home coffee roasting was a great first step to achieving espresso nirvana–the God Shot.

Based on the advice of the A.C. collective I bought a Rancilio Silvia to replace the department-store steam thingy that was sitting–unused–on my kitchen counter. I’m already very enthused about the results that I get making espresso with the Silvia–far, far better than anything I could have hoped to achieve with a steam toy. Rich flavor. Much crema. Decidedly not bitter. But I’m still an espresso infant, and uncertain as to how my at-home results compare to what I might get in a professional coffee house. So I’ve started something of a quest… to taste, in a fairly systematic manner, what the coffee houses of Kansas City have to offer.

To start, an easy mark: the coffee bar in my local Borders’ bookstore. Their cappuccino: something quite a lot like styrofoam in texture, with a taste that is somehow reminiscent of the smell of wet paint.

Score: Coffee House 0 — Doug’s House: 1

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