The God Shot The search is over: Nicholas Stein has found the world's best cup of coffee.
(FORTUNE Magazine) – One hundred miles east of Venice, the sleepy port of Trieste is home to much of Italy's coffee trade--including gourmet roaster Illy, which sells beans to cafes and restaurants around the globe. But frustrated with the inconsistent preparation and presentation of his company's product, third-generation CEO Andrea Illy has taken matters into his own hands. Last fall he launched the "Illy bar concept," a blueprint for the ideal espresso bar.
Aspiring owners can license the concept for free, as long as they agree to buy coffee exclusively from Illy for five years. In exchange, they get sleek interiors designed by renowned architects, expert barista training, and access to the knowledge the Illys have compiled during 70 years in the business.
Espresso is the souffle of beverages, notoriously difficult to produce with even the best raw material. The perfect shot begins with quality beans, ground to a precise consistency, which changes depending upon the atmosphere and humidity. If the grind is too coarse or the coffee not packed tightly enough, the water fails to extract enough body and flavor--leaving a watery, acidic brew. If the beans are ground too finely or packed too tightly, the water clogs and the coffee burns, bitter and harsh.
Next, the machine must generate sufficient pressure (nine bars) while keeping the water temperature between 90 and 92 degrees Celsius. Old stovetop espresso makers didn't separate the steam from the heat source, leading to burned coffee. In 1935, Andrea's grandfather patented the modern espresso machine, which separates the two. Exactly one milliliter of coffee should flow through the machine each second, leaving 30 milliliters of liquid in the ideal 30-second extraction period.
At Barviadelletorri in Trieste, the first of the concept bars to open (there are plans for 20 more this year), all these disparate elements come together in what connoisseurs call the "God shot." The aroma is intoxicating. The crema--the caramel-colored top layer of emulsified oils--is dark and luxuriant. The taste deserves terms--floral, complex--reserved for wine. Illy says that espresso stays on your tongue for 20 minutes. Just try waiting that long before ordering another.
Barviadelletorri, via delle Torri 3, Trieste, Italy; 011-39-40-765251