The difference between a cup of coffee from these new style coffee bars and what was available before is striking.
These shops use only beans that have been roasted in the past 10 days (though some say two weeks is fine), so the flavors are still lively.
The beans are ground to order for each cup. Certain coffee bars have a skyline of grinders: one for espresso, one for decaffeinated espresso, one for brewed coffee. If they offer more than one variety of espresso bean, that gets its own grinder, too.
Milk is steamed to order for each macchiato or latte. A telltale sign is an arsenal of smaller steam pitchers, instead of one big one.
And coffee bars reaching for the highest rung use only manual espresso machines run by baristas who, in the past three years, have been able to attend classes given by the leading roasting companies in the intricacies of these devices. Many chain stores are turning to automatic machines with preset levels for coffee, temperature and timing.