Editor’s note: This review was discussed on the greatest podcast you’ve never heard Deranged Pengwin 171: Coffee Correspondent
There are numerous and highly subjective criterion used to judge espresso. I’ll do my best to avoid roaming into that area and instead focus on a few broad categories: equipment, presentation, and taste.
Estate pulls shots on a single group head Slayer Espresso Machine. I admire that the shop went small with its machine. Far too many shops have triple group head machines that go to waste from too little use.
Cappuccino with almond milk
It is worth noting that Estate is a “third wave” coffee shop. There is an apparent focus on bean origin, quality of roast (they roast in house), and quality/style of preparation. Whether third wave has died and if we have indeed entered a fourth wave is a “debate” in some circles, but not a convo probably worth having. At least not here? For a quick rundown on “waves”.
For those wondering “what is a group head?” – A group head is the portion of the machine where the portafilter (the handle that holds the coffee grind) is inserted. None but the highest volume of coffee shops need more than a single group head IMO. Think Local at the Pearl at noon on a Saturday if you are wondering what shop needs a triple group head machine.
So applause for Estate for being practical and going small.
A focus of third wave shops, beyond quality of brew, is presentation. Beyond the machine pulling the shot, a pretty easy way to tell if the shop give a “f” about your drink is how they serve it to you. In a paper cup? They don’t care. Without a palette cleanser? May as well of ordered a venti vanilla latte. Estate serves their espresso on a wooden plank (over played, but nice) with a shot of sparking water, decent ceramic ware, and the most adorable ceramic espresso spoon.
As was discussed at our visit, not all stir. I am a stir-er. However, as any google search will tell you, stirring is optional. Ritual is maybe a third of the experience, and missing the cleanser and spoon can tank a decent shot. Estate covers their bases and provides all the accessories needed to allow their espresso to stand out. At the most recent visit, the espresso was (judging by taste) something of Central American origin. The shot was pulled well. An easy way to judge if you are a regular coffee drinker: (1) stir, (2) sip – does it taste acidic? does your face cringe? does your tongue roll out of your mouth? If any of the above, it was a bad shot. Your barista maybe stopped it too early, let it run too long, or had some variation of temp, grind size, or amount of grind wrong. Too often I find people equate terrible taste with “strength.” Well pulled espresso holds just as wide a spectrum of flavors as hand brewed coffee. To that point: Estate has had, on previous visits, one of the best espressos I have ever tasted. Their Ethiopian is good enough to bear (or bexar) with a few minutes of spice talk.
Estate shares a space with a small scale spice hustler. Together they call a turn of the century building on SA’s eastside home. I’m a fan of the urban decay that surrounds the shop, and the large windows that cover the whole front of the building. In terms of decor – look at an anthropologie catalog and you’ll get the direction they went with.
_Colton with girlfriend, enjoying some coffee_