Grind House, the Grand Avenue coffee shop housed within the ThirdSpace complex, is a strange little place. In an aging casita, with exactly one tiny indoor table (and ample patio space), the spot could be called "charming" or "kind of grimy" depending on your take on things.
Grind House prides itself on selling "White Espresso." What is this, you ask? Well, we've got the answers.
See also: When Good Restaurants Have Bad Coffee
"White Espresso" might raise some eyebrows among devoted local coffee folk for its unconventionality. The concept is pretty straightforward. The drink has a presence in other parts of our country, but has yet to gain any real respect within the specialty coffee industry. Local roaster Morning Bell Coffee supplies the beans, which are typical other than the fact that they are roasted extremely lightly. Like, barely even at all.
In a somewhat indecent move for an establishment called "Grind House," these beans are pre-ground and stored in a plastic cup for an indefinite period of time. We're going to ignore this major espresso technique faux-pas on account of the fact that the whole thing is really only sort of espresso.
The barely-browned beans serve a few purposes. First, the flavor is very mild and could best be described as sort of green-tea like. The taste, on its own, is similar in some ways to that of poorly-developed light-roasted coffees (read as: grassy, herbal.) But it's also a little bit nutty (think cashews), and decently sweet (like a bell pepper). So if you're not a huge fan of the richness and flavor density of regular espresso, you may find this enjoyable.
Second, caffeine is burned off in the roast process. The darker you roast a bean, the more caffeine it loses (so, contrary to popular belief, that cup of French Roast doesn't pack as big an energy punch as its lighter-roasted companions.) The theory behind the White Espresso is that barely toasting the goods will preserve its caffeine content, yielding a super potent cup.
This theory could be challenged pretty easily in the case of Grind House - their White Espresso is pulled in a pretty willy-nilly fashion. The volume of ground coffee placed into the portafilter wasn't monitored in any way, the shot ran for less than ten seconds, and the extraction was very thin and watery. We'd speculate that the shot was so poorly extracted that any additional caffeine wouldn't really even have a chance to make it to the party.
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That being said, it didn't taste terrible on its own - green, and tea-like, we'd say it was more pleasant than regular poorly-extracted espresso. And with milk and a touch of sugar, as in the staff-recommended White Espresso Vanilla Latte, the nutty note in the coffee really came through. But mostly it just tasted like milk and vanilla syrup.
We'll add this to our list of strange Arizona coffee drinks; try it if you're in the mood for something different, or if you don't like coffee that tastes like coffee. Or don't.