By Kyle Hughes
Have you had a latte, cappuccino, or espresso in the Bay Area in the past 30 years? Pfft? I’m the dummy for even asking, right? You think you know everything there is to know about coffee due to your morning trips to Blue Bottle or Four Barrel. Welp, you probably owe a big thanks to Mr. Espresso, the Oakland-based company that helped to facilitate a trend in the Bay Area long before the 10-minute-wait-for-a-pour-over was a thing. Mr. Espresso provided the first real commercial sale, service, and training of espresso machines in the Bay Area and continues to do so to this day.
Earlier this week, I attended a very caffeinated coffee clinic and master lecture at Mr. Espresso headquarters in Jack London Square. I learned more about the history of the company and its process of making the perfect espresso, along with variables involved in "pulling” a perfect shot.
Carlo Di Ruocco founded the company in 1978, after immigrating to America, where he worked for Otis Elevators and sold coffee machines on the side. Mr. Di Ruocco was soon able to sustain himself on espresso machine sales and service alone. In fact, (time to pay attention) Mr. Espresso was responsible for working with Caffé Mediterraneum in Berkeley (one of the first places serving espresso in the East Bay) to provide their espresso machines and service (and possibly the very invention of the first latte) starting back in the late '70s. EVERYTHING IN COFFEE in the Bay Area came after. Luigi Di Ruocco, son of Carlo and now VP of Mr. Espresso, was sure to note, however, the importance of places like Blue Bottle, Four Barrel, and others who have only helped with uncovering tastes in San Francisco and making really great espresso the norm.
Mr. Espresso has now grown to service a large number of local restaurants, including Flour & Water and the Delfina Group. You may recognize Mr. Espresso from the most influential and important Italian restaurants in San Francisco because they offer “full-service espresso,” that is, the machine, the beans, the service, plus the Italian attitude and fashion sense. Luigi also co-owns Coffee Bar and its three San Francisco locations. Mr. Espresso is still the only game in town that is roasting its beans over an oak wood fire (rather than gas), a process that needs to be consistently monitored and managed by a master roaster to maintain temperature. It’s a bit technical, but I imagine it's like trying to get a perfectly medium-rare steak by cooking it over a campfire.
As for pulling a perfect shot: the extraction of flavor from the ground beans is paramount and it’s all achieved by the correct ratio of volume of espresso in the cup, granularity of the grind, and length of time hot water is introduced.
And if you want to learn more than that, contact the experts at Mr. Espresso – they’re really good.
Photos courtesy of Mr. Espresso