There are some hugely influential indicators I use when I walk into a coffee shop to size up their product and service before even tasting the coffee. Are these signs that set off alarms in my mind okay? Should I be attempting to curb these natural reactions? I suppose it is alright to keep my coffee assumptions fully charged and running as long as they prove accurate. I'm going to discuss a few- I repeat, a few- of these now. It is possible you may disagree with me. In that case, comment below. But, more likely, you'll read of these indicators and have flashbacks to the shops you've visited and sit in awe of my ability to size places up.
First of all, there is the machine. There is almost always one straight giveaway- if the place has a La Marzocco, they will probably know what they are doing. They will know how to pull a shot generally. Their grind will be decent at the minimum and will have a respectable crema. A quick glance to the top of the La Marzocco will show that they have traditional drink cups: 2oz, 6oz, and 10oz cups for espressos, Americanos, Cappuccinos, and Lattes. No viewing of the menu is necessary if these cups are present. A shop serving traditional drinks well will have a consistent customer following drinking those beautiful creations, so check the tables.
On the other hand, a place sending off red flags will almost always have a two group machine, never a La Marzocco, and usually will be badly organized and dirty around the grinder and espresso machine. Their syrups used will be something cheaper (this does not mean that the syrups have to make the drink taste bad, but does show the shop's lower dedication to quality ingredients and preparation), usually DaVinci or Torani instead of 1883, Monin, or Ghirardelli. The types of coffees used will not be displayed proudly, with a short description of their origin or blend type if of high complexity- this will almost always be present at a higher quality shops.
Things like cleanliness, coffee scents, and welcoming customer service are all obvious factors of great coffee shops. With these few points in mind: espresso machine, traditional drink cups, syrup type, coffee description display, and of course cleanliness, scents, and service are all telling factors of a coffee shop's quality. I'm not saying become such a snob you'll walk out of a place without even giving it a chance, but maybe these tips will allow you to prepare yourself for a letdown. Perhaps these indicators will help you choose how much money to spend a location on a first trip. More than anything, if you find a shop with numerous red flag signs, it may be smart to not get your hopes up.
Lord, thank you for great coffee and the shops that serve it. Keep my head deflated and on straight. Here we go.