The quest for a perfect espresso will probably end in my own kitchen, when I buy and learn how to use the perfect machine. But for now, I wander.

Intelligentsia in Venice has become too hip for itself. The coffee is good, but people wearing suspenders is annoying. The Ferry Building’s Blue Bottle is passe, and there aren’t even suspenders there.

Jones Coffee Roasters in Pasadena makes a warming cup that you drink surrounded by an atmosphere like an East Village aunt’s living room. At Four Barrel on Valencia, the barista starts the machine, introduces the cup as the flow is flowing, then pulls it before the stream ends; you end up with the fat middle. It nears perfection most days. They get extra karma points for having a good bike rack. The supermarket Starbucks has a machine that produces exactly the same cup every time, brown methadone for the caffeine addict. It pings all the right neurons.  Stumptown in Portland and New York captures the fuzzy elegance of the Ace in a small cup. Sightglass Coffee in San Francisco opens your mind with a small cup in a large space. It is the only espresso I can drink straight, without additives like sugar, the way you’d knock back a good whiskey. It is intoxicating and almost illegal.

I wander now, and I am well aware that this odyssey will end where it began, in Italy, where I lived for a time and had far too many coffees.  At just a mille lire for ‘uno singolo, per piacere,’ each one was perfect then and now lives perfectly in memory.