This weekend we hit up two espresso places in the East Bay, Blue Bottle Oakland and Local 123.

First, we went to Blue Bottle.  It’s only taken me 8 months (an eternity!) to get my husband to trek down to their Oakland location.  I keep telling him it’s the best cappuccino in Oakland.  But only this Saturday after our friend Alexis celebrated her 2nd birthday in Chinatown did it make sense to my husband to stop by (although I’ve been several times alone).  Sure there are more convenient locations in Oakland to find espresso, but I’m not really prioritizing convenience so much these days.  I just really want to find a solid shot from people who know their stuff.  I want to pay $2.50 because it’s worth it.  I want to pat my barista on the back and tell them all that I tasted in the bean because of their craftsmanship.  Is that too much to ask?

The shot was perfect.  Very smooth and not overly smoky or dirty.  Just the right amount of liquid and temperature.  The last thing I had that compares to it is visiting Barista and having Sightglass, but that was a whole month ago!  I had forgotten how many crappy shots I have consumed in the East Bay and how very easy it was to settle for sour shots.  Oh, Blue Bottle… just talking about it makes me want to trek down there again today! I just wanted to give my barista a high five!  (But of course, I’m a Portlander at heart and would never do something so assertive or social with a stranger!)

I chatted with the barista afterward and he was super friendly.  I think he was proud, it was really cute.  He mentioned loving the flexibility that their new Strada gives him and that he loves the machine.  It made me feel really bad for giving them a big preemptive thumbs down on a previous post.  My husband loved his cappuccino and I was awarded with an approval because he agreed that it is indeed the best cappuccino in the East Bay (even broadening it from my privious Oakland’s-best category).  At the time (Saturday) I was still holding onto the fact that I loved Local 123 and thought that they were my East Bay favorite.  The sun this weekend and their new outdoor seating was a big bonus and I think makes me feel more comfortable about returning again with the whole family (we have a 7 month old girl).

When we went to Local 123 yesterday I ordered a Sightglass double espresso and Donovan (husband) had the same bean in a cappuccino.  There is so much that really works about Local 123: great space, nice patio, just a short drive for us, some knowledgeable baristas who know us, excellent choices in products (even Coava!), and some pretty decent past experiences.  But the last few times I’ve been there I’ve been really disappointed in the taste of my shot.  I feel like it’s a classic example of a cafe expanding their scope and losing some of the craft of espresso pulling.  The same barista has pulled our shots the last two times on the weekend and we were not impressed.  My shots were distinguishably sour and hard to swallow, not a good sign!  I thought that it was just in my head when I returned from Portland and tasted Sightglass back to back (once at Barista NW and then a few days later at Local 123) and noticed a huge change (not for the better) with the same beans.  A Local 123 guy later told me that the batch of the week was experimental and included some new beans (Columbian maybe) that were not as good, so I held out my judgment.  But after today I realized that the last 4 visits to Local 123 have produced under 3.0/5 ratings for my shots, so they are officially dethroned by Blue Bottle Oakland for the best espresso in town.  Sorry Local 123.  I hate to do it but I have to.  I recommend investing in some more barista training if the goal is still to be on par with other great espresso providers in the Bay area.

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