Calibration. I've been fooled by hopes and acidity. In L'usine today, I witnessed their coffee delivery - boxes with Illy logos on them. Not that I dislike their coffee, but I've never been blown away or taken to a magical land by the espresso it produces. Properly prepared, it usually makes a pretty good/decent espresso, especially the first day after breaking the seal on one of their hopper cans. But never have I enjoyed it as much as that first double ristretto on L'usine's outdoor patio. (emotions and taste perception?)
Have I never had a well-prepared Illy espresso? I've had it at least a dozen times at different cafes with various standards. Plus, I'd like to think I'm an adequate barista and I've had a couple of chances to play with it in a commercial setting, all leading to the same verdict of "pretty ok, but not amazing." Granted, I've never had a fresh metal hopper to open and burn through - it's always been valve bags (don't recall seeing roast dates...).
Nevertheless, it's a good wake-up call for me. In order to stay calibrated, I must find some great coffee soon. More likely, I'll be ordering up some goods from my buds at Olympia Coffee just to keep in mind what I'm working toward.