Archives for posts with tag: espresso machine

When stepping into a coffee shop there is of course the smell of coffee and usually a great display of cakes and tarts.

Customers like to think that a barista has an easy day at work.

In fact, the head barista is in charge of various things which could change the way coffee tastes. This member of staff is generally the first in the shop in order to switch on the espresso machine to gain the right pressure as well as various grinders too. But this is not all.

Turning and pressing buttons can only happen once the grinder is correctly setup. Dialing in is about making sure that the correct quantity of coffee (between 18g and 20g) will be in the portafilter. The size of the grind is essential too. Most people in the coffee trade are aware of it…but surprisingly not the customers. They are just after their caffeine fix. Quality comes with time and rushing it wouldn’t deliver the correct extraction and ratio coffee-water.

espresso dose on scale and tamper

espresso dose on scale and tamper

The counter, group heads and grinders have to be kept as clean as possible in order to avoid a real mess inside and underneath the cup. Wiping steam wand and drip tray can be seen as a waste of time when waiting for that coffee hit. But all these details are what makes your coffee tasting fresh and clean. No one wants to have bits of dry milk or old coffee ground floating on their drinks.

Some chains don’t actually care whether you are new in town, regular or just passing-by, because there is enough foot fall to fill up their tills. As for an independent shop, the story is completely different: keeping the existing coffee lovers is important but getting new loyal customers will keep the ball rolling smoothly with no worries.

Running an espresso bar is more than making coffee – there is the customer service too. Looking after people is a service which is so often missing. Serving a cup, taking the cash…this is not enough. People want more and this includes an interaction and checking that their drink/cake are as expected. Ignoring feedback is never a good idea. Listening to comments and recommendations will help the business to develop better/faster and improvements are always possible.

It is also thinking about the little personal touch that can attract more people to come in. “Attention to details” as recruiters like to say.

What could this be?

Fresh tap water available to continue the day after having had a snack. Some newspapers and magazines to go through while waiting for a friend. Able to guide clients when it comes to buy some coffee beans and eventually grind them at no extra cost.

In other words it is about being sociable and keeping this communication going as the barista is the host and keeping the guests entertained is what creates the buzz. People always like to keep or take home something from a great place.

Remember as a child, yourself would certainly like a promotional sticker or fridge magnet – this is still applicable when being an adult. It is just to show to your entourage that you have been there (been there, done that, got the t-shirt) . This can just be a paper take-away cup with the logo of the business on it or even better, a reusable keep-cup which will stay with you for a long time.

Over all it is not about the actual value, this is secondary.

Finally, thinking of restocking (soya) milk, sugar, stirrers, tea leaves, disposable napkins and all other ingredients vital to run the business is part of the head barista’s duty.

It happens (rarely) that there is a short period during the day when the staff can sit down to sip a well deserved flat white or cup of tea. If this is when you are actually coming in for your brew, it would be wrong to assume that he/she has been slacking since 8am… Remember that if you want to smell the coffee, baristi are actually up and working hard well before everyone else.

Wake up and smell the coffee - animation

Wake up and smell the coffee – animation

It seems that a lot of people think that an espresso machine used by barista, makes cappuccino or latte by just pressing a button. This is not the case.

Same goes with how the coffee is harvested then roasted. Green coffee doesn’t smell like coffee… The coffee “bean” is actually the seed of the coffee plant, the pit inside of the coffee fruit (cherries to be more precise).

Coffee ready for harvest

Coffee ready for harvest

Suddenly, more and more people are switching from tea to coffee. As if drinking an americano, filter or flat white would make you part of this “exclusive” coffee culture, blending with connoisseurs and geeks. Meanwhile, being “addicted” to a daily coffee only makes you a regular drinker.

There is sometimes a real paradox when a man/woman comes into a espresso bar and asks a lot of questions about the house coffee as well as the guest in the hopper and eventually about brewing methods…but ends up drinking an extra hot cappuccino. This could almost be seen as a waste of time  – as we all know coffee shops can be extremely busy – and customers in the queue can be very impatient…simply because they need that coffee hit.

Asking for a cappuccino and deciding to change the order for a latte (or vice versa) is never an issue as long as the barista hasn’t started to work with the milk. Yes indeed, the milk is what makes the difference between the various drinks. Pressing the button on the espresso machine will only dispense the espresso shot (which is the foundation of the beverage).

A few customers don’t actually seem to know what they are actually drinking. For them it is a coffee with milk. The milk texture will be different between cappuccino, latte, flat white. All ingredients are the same (ground coffee and milk)…it is just the final touch which will actually change the name of the drink.

There is also the question about “what happens with the used ground coffee in the knock box“? In general a local business collects daily what has been used in order to re-use it as fertilizer/compost. It can be done by an organic farm ( or just a person who has an allotment/garden. And as the saying goes “what comes around goes around“…this is the perfect cycle. It is in most cases available to take or collect otherwise it would be lost and binned. Recycling is the way forward for most things including coffee pucks.

Coffee puck - espresso

Coffee puck – espresso

Coffee puck - aeropress

Coffee puck – aeropress

Keeping such thing would be pointless. It has to be used rapidly or it would dry out.

Whether you go to an independent coffee shop in London, Bristol or in a more remote location such as North Devon where the recycling system is in place thanks to Coastal UK… it is working like clockwork. Rather important especially with the coastline not that far and the beautiful countryside to look after and preserve.

Running a coffee shop is more intricate that people think. Too often, potential customers becoming then regulars see the life of the business from their side of the counter. Generally it is a warm and cosy place to hang out and socialize. But the team behind the counter has to be consistent and working rapidly but efficiently is the key to keep everyone happy. But there is more to it.

Making sure the grinder and coffee machine are correctly set up, in order to respect a perfect extraction ratio or the brew could taste awful.

Cleaning the group heads daily is a must, to avoid any residue of ground coffee.

Group Head Espresso Machine

Group Head Espresso Machine

What happens behind the scene of a coffee shop is all about preparation, organization and planning ahead for tomorrow. Having enough of everything but never too much. Coffee beans, paper filters for Aeropress/V60 pour over and milk are the top three items to have in stock.

Being a barista is usually perceived as a “cool job“.

Barista at work

Barista at work

It is also demanding because it involves standing, serving, cleaning, brewing using various means according to what is ordered and of course there is a big part of customer service as well. It is not just about pressing a button; guiding and advising undecided individuals whether a flat white would be better than a cortado or a latte. It is can be fun, no doubt!

Nevertheless, it can also be a hard and long day. There is no way to hide or to have an easy day because each drink is unique and different. The situation is almost like a live show where there is no room for mistake…without altering the quality of the crafted hot drink(s) to have in or to take away.

A barista will make the drink you are after (as long as it is on the menu) – the espresso machine will just provide the espresso.

Wanting a coffee is understandable but it is also about being patient until it is your turn, as rushing the order won’t help. It is obvious that people are always short of time either because of a meeting or a train to catch, but this is not a reason to put the staff under pressure. It is about time management and respect.

Getting the drink right is pleasing; for the person making it and for the one enjoying it. It is worth waiting for quality.

Latte art on take away cup

Latte art on take away cup

An espresso machine so beautifully designed… Unpacking it and using it seems to be a dream for so many coffee shops.