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  • Helping the local cafe

    I had the fortune of visiting a small town in Tasmania, the name of which I wont mention.
    There were two coffee shops that I tried. One served a flat white to me in a cup almost as big as a soup bowl, It was way too hot, sorry did I say way too hot? I meant to say WAAAAYYY to hot!!! Burnt my tongue, and you all know the taste when milk goes beyond 74 degrees...
    So I gave up there, couldnt drink it, couldnt taste it either thanks to the burnt tongue.

    The other cafe had a pretty reasonable coffee, all things considered. They use the same Australian Fine China standard coffee cup that I use at home. The coffee didnt have any concerning aftertaste so typical of your average coffee - rancid, bitter, sour, ashtray character - none of that.
    So I decided to have a chat with the guy. I wanted to not sound like a know all or anything, just that I happen to appreciate a good coffee. One thing led to another and I found myself behind their machine. One group handle was kept in their (two group) machine, the other group was empty. I suggested keeping the other group handle hot, theres a fair chunk of metal in the handle and the shot can suffer if the handle / basket arent up to temperature.
    They seem to keep the baskets clean, flushing them out after each shot, which is good. And they keep the wand clean and reckon they back flush every night.
    So I got hold of their double shot handle and dosed up, he explained he didnt like the grinder, it was a pig to set up. So they dont touch it.
    Went to pick up the tamping tool to tap the basket before scraping / levelling, no tamping tool. Only this little plastic one that is nearly a centimetre smaller in diameter than the baskets they use, or the bump on the doser, which also suffers the same size deficiency compared to their baskets.
    I told him the single most important thing he could do to improve his coffee was to get a real tamping tool that fits his baskets, explaining how water will take the easiest path etc...
    So using the north south east west method to get the tamping done (and NE NW SE & SW...) I poured the shot.
    This is all getting to latte art, they served consistent enough coffee (which was even more surprising when you see the tamping methods). But it would have been so easy for them to add a bit of latte art if they steamed the milk properly then did a bit of a wiggle with the pitcher.
    So we get to the milk. Open the fridge - only skinny milk. No full cream milk, he says they only use the skinny milk. Alarm bells are now ringing, this guy said hed done a coffee course. I didnt discuss the merits of full cream milk - cheaper so the profits per cup would be higher, more consistent at producing microfoam for latte art, better taste for those that dont ask for skinny.
    Look for the pitcher. There are a few to choose from, two standard size but with funny wide pour spouts, and a really large one. All have been used, some a while ago by the look of them.
    I made my double flat white that I was getting to, got some christmas-tree like pattern on it but nowhere near good because the commercial machines have even more steam than I have in my VBM, and theres either on or off with it. I got a whirlpool, but it happened pretty fast with enough milk for 1 cup.
    It sat there for 3 or 4 minutes while we discussed things, then a coffee order came through, he made a latte (with no foam on top, more like a flat white in a glass), and also served the coffee I made.

    I felt bad for him, he has so much potential to produce a great coffee, but simple things are letting him down. Its unlikely I will be back there to have a coffee any time soon (like this year), but Id like to be able to offer further advice to get him on the right track.
    Should I? Or do I accept that he thought I was a know-all who was having a dig at him and let him continue to let his customers down compared to the nirvana they could have if hed make a few changes.

  • #2
    Re: Helping the local cafe

    To be frank, its not your problem.
    We all see bad coffee and get frustrated but if hes happy to serve it up and his customers dont complain, there isnt an issue.

    Hopefully he takes on board your suggestions but we have to remember than many cafe owners arent passionate about coffee as we are and thus dont take pride in, or any care with, it.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Helping the local cafe

      Very interesting, and a situation most coffee snobs see daily, i suppose it depends on how he took the advise, was he appreciative? or did he seem to pay you off? I had a simular situation a while ago with a local coffee cart, he had lost his mojo, i didnt say anything, i didnt feel comforatable saying anything......he is now bankrupt, spent all he had on the cart......lost it all, do i feel guilty.....a little, without being there feeling what situation you were in, picking up his signals........hard to say what to do. Thanks heaps for telling the story though, good one

      cheers
      warren


      EDIT: He is now bankrupt

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Helping the local cafe

        People will only learn if they are open to new ideas, which unfortunately shuts out most people. You did really well being let behind the machine most attitudes I come up against when talking about coffee centers around the fact that "everybody loves my coffee/I make great coffee".

        Dont be surprised however if some of what you were talking about rubs off.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Helping the local cafe

          Originally posted by 3A343936213736580 link=1264727371/3#3 date=1264731956
          Dont be surprised however if some of what you were talking about rubs off.
          So true ;D As far as coffee goes, ill take advise from anyone who can make a better cuppa than me......they have to prove it first though ;D

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Helping the local cafe

            No real advice for you Tasadam but to just echo what MotoCoffee said - hoepfully some of it has rubbed off and hell make little adjustments and improve. If not, then it is his bad... :-[ but youve done your best.

            Originally posted by 4A4E687171746B7C731D0 link=1264727371/2#2 date=1264728787
            Very interesting, and a situation most coffee snobs see daily, i suppose it depends on how he took the advise, was he appreciative? or did he seem to pay you off? I had a simular situation a while ago with a local coffee cart, he had lost his mojo, i didnt say anything, i didnt feel comforatable saying anything......he is now bankrupt, spent all he had on the cart......lost it all, do i feel guilty.....a little, without being there feeling what situation you were in, picking up his signals........hard to say what to do. Thanks heaps for telling the story though, good one

            cheers
            warren


            EDIT: He is now bankrupt
            Thats so said to hear, Warren - I read your original post and really, really felt for the guy: you painted such a dejected picture of him and the fact that hed lost his mojo. I feel like shedding a tear for the guy...

            Cheers
            Di

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Helping the local cafe

              Originally posted by 5753756C6C6976616E000 link=1264727371/2#2 date=1264728787
              i didnt say anything, i didnt feel comforatable saying anything......he is now bankrupt, spent all he had on the cart......lost it all, do i feel guilty.....a little
              Ah, I remember that thread too and wondered what the outcome might have been.

              Warren, sometimes its harder, yet more appropriate not to say something. I think its admirable that you noticed, you cared, and ultimately did what either consciously or subconsciously thought was best. I dont think you have any cause to feel guilty.

              Originally posted by 7461736164616D000 link=1264727371/0#0 date=1264727371
              Should I?
              Next time you go in I bet hes still using the plakky tamper. That should be enough feedback for YOU to zip your lip. I dont mean that to be insulting. If he felt there was an issue he would have addressed it long before you happened to walk through the door.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Helping the local cafe

                Tasdam, I generally say nothing to the barista or manager, if the coffee is bad, but leave a half or three quarter full cup on the table.

                I will however say something if the food is just not good enough.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Helping the local cafe

                  Martybean, likewise for me. I am not arrogant or rude enough 2 say something ( and scared ) but i always leave a coffee half drunk if its bad!!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Helping the local cafe

                    Originally posted by 222E3D3B362D2A2E214F0 link=1264727371/7#7 date=1264792688
                    Tasdam, I generally say nothing to the barista or manager, if the coffee is bad, but leave a half or three quarter full cup on the table.

                    I will however say something if the food is just not good enough.
                    AND

                    Originally posted by 0D2E3D3D2E2C244F0 link=1264727371/8#8 date=1264798758
                    Martybean, likewise for me. I am not arrogant or rude enough 2 say something ( and scared ) but i always leave a coffee half drunk if its bad!!
                    I am sure that the Quality people here would be shocked...

                    I am not arrogant or rude enough 2 say something
                    While many people behave as such... It does not mean that you need to be, when leaving feedback..


                    I try to put it nicely or if in a rush - The plain truth in simple terms... I have yet; to not have my feedback heard... And in a couple of cases, on returning have had them make a coffee and ask for me to Comment ASAP. Two issues at hand - The Person behind the Group (PBTH) wants to know from a personal point and then from one of a general - The coffee is good.

                    The local place has even asked me (by phone for advice) ???? A customer took a sip, put it on the counter / commented and walked over to a table and sat down.. The PBTH made a shot for him self and apparently was shocked at how.. Bitter !!! After some quick chatting with other staff - and they called me as I had provided feedback on two other occasions..

                    Short fix for the client - Wanted a single.... Was to pull a double short... He was happy and has returned a number of times..

                    Issue was a dirty machine... And the staff just hit the button and do not take notice of any blonding etc etc.. Thus no grinder management or tweaking of the machine.

                    My wife had a Coffee to go there yesterday.. And it was CRAP.. New staff again.. I rang and the PBTG was shocked... I just put in new beans he said ??? I commented that it could have just been us, but found teh coffee undrinkable. He then said he was going to make himself a coffee...

                    Will find out the result on Sunday morning..

                    I am amazed at the number of staff that never make and or drink their own product.. If I sport staff making a milk based drink or espresso shot and having them... Then I feel much better as to having a coffee there...

                    Note:

                    If ya have a great coffee, dont just leave an empty cup... Say something... The satff and management deserve positive as well constructive feedback.

                    I can not read coffee cups... 1/4 full - 1/3 full - 1/2 full - lid still on - not touched - Empty and full of sugar wrappers- Empty ???? What does it all mean ? Maybe the first few got called away ?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Helping the local cafe

                      Originally posted by 17383133241B37383731333B333822560 link=1264727371/9#9 date=1264800689
                      Short fix for the client - Wanted a single....  Was to pull a double short...   He was happy and has returned a number of times..  

                      Issue was a dirty machine... And the staff just hit the button and do not take notice of any blonding  etc etc.. Thus no grinder management or tweaking of the machine.
                      I think part of the problem is that its relatively easy to "hide" a bad shot in a longish milk drink, which is often consumed with a lid on it.  And this is what a lot of punters are drinking.

                      Whereas if the customers are drinking straight shots in correctly warmed porcelain cups, the whole situation is far less forgiving. In this case the cafe needs to be pulling quality shots, very consistently.

                      Look at Starbucks and Gloria Jeans. They are selling basically weak, coffee-flavoured milkshakes.

                      Drinking coffee with the lid on probably removes about 40% of the taste, and the large milk volume accounts for the rest. Throw three sachets of sugar into the mix and its easy to see why some cafes never seem to get called for poor espresso shots!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Helping the local cafe

                        Thanks for taking the time to read my topic.
                        The thing is, its so SO hard to get a good coffee in Tasmania. Only a few places that I can go and actually enjoy a coffee.
                        I was in this particular town for 4 days, and the only thing that stopped me from taking my VBM, grinder, and freshly roasted Ethiopian (MMmmmm), was the lack of time.
                        This location is a popular tourist town, so I reckon there is potential for this guy to get a great "coffee" name for himself. Already the foods pretty darn good.
                        Some good points raised, like has been said if I go back in more than a month from now and there is no proper tamping tool, he probably needs a slap in the face - and the best way to do that would be for me to take my VBM, grinder & beans there, and make him a coffee.
                        Then give him a few web addresses where he can go and read up on the merits of a proper tamping tool, full cream milk, other changes like cleaning the pitchers very often and keeping the group handles in the machine.
                        Heck, I dont claim to be any sort of expert, most of what I know was learnt here on this forum then self taught at home. But I do know what I like, and I also know that there are things that this cafe, and for that matter, nearly every cafe could learn.
                        It all comes down to IF they are willing to. That might mean they need to see the benefits of making changes. They might not be about to go bankrupt - happy in their circle as it is. But in a perfect world, how good would it be for all of us if every cafe was striving for the perfect cup of coffee in every cup they made?
                        I seriously thought about doing a course with Chris or some other coffee training school, and selling myself down here as an educater but I really doubt thered be anything in it for me. And it would probably concern me too much when I find out the coffee-making practices of most cafes, if the content of the average cup down here is anything to go by.
                        There are exceptions, for which I am grateful.

                        I cant remember what beans they use, its not Vittoria or Lavazza or Illy, maybe it was Grinders, dont know.
                        If they arent locked into a particular bean supplier because of a "cheap machine rent" deal, perhaps theres a chance they can improve there too. Veneziano, Merlo, diBella or some other Aus roasting company (CS?)
                        I know the crema could have been better, I put that down to the tamping and the grinder not being tweaked, I didnt dare touch it as he said it was tempermental, and my only experience is with my Rocky. I should do something about that one day too.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Helping the local cafe

                          Originally posted by 19363F3D2A153936393F3D353D362C580 link=1264727371/9#9 date=1264800689
                          Originally posted by 222E3D3B362D2A2E214F0 link=1264727371/7#7 date=1264792688
                          Tasdam, I generally say nothing to the barista or manager, if the coffee is bad, but leave a half or three quarter full cup on the table.

                          I will however say something if the food is just not good enough.  


                          AND

                          Originally posted by 0D2E3D3D2E2C244F0 link=1264727371/8#8 date=1264798758
                          Martybean, likewise for me. I am not arrogant or rude enough 2 say something ( and scared ) but i always leave a coffee half drunk if its bad!!  
                          I am sure that the Quality people here would be shocked...

                          I am not arrogant or rude enough 2 say something
                          While many people behave as such... It does not mean that you need to be, when leaving feedback..


                          I try to put it nicely or if in a rush - The plain truth in simple terms...  I have yet;  to not have my feedback heard...  And in a couple of cases, on returning have had them make a coffee and ask for me to Comment ASAP.  Two issues at hand  - The Person behind the Group  (PBTH) wants to know from a personal point and then from one of a general - The coffee is good.

                          The local place has even asked me (by phone for advice) ????  A customer  took a sip,  put it on the counter / commented and walked over to a table and sat down.. The PBTH made a shot for him self and apparently was shocked at how.. Bitter !!!  After some quick chatting with other staff - and they called me as I had provided feedback on two other occasions..

                          Short fix for the client - Wanted a single....  Was to pull a double short...   He was happy and has returned a number of times..  

                          Issue was a dirty machine... And the staff just hit the button and do not take notice of any blonding  etc etc.. Thus no grinder management or tweaking of the machine.

                          My wife had a Coffee to go there yesterday.. And it was CRAP..  New staff again..  I rang and the PBTG was shocked... I just put in new beans he said ???  I commented that it could have just been us, but found the coffee undrinkable.   He then said he was going to make himself a coffee...

                          Will find out the result on Sunday morning..

                          I am amazed at the number of staff that never make and or drink their own product..  If I sport staff making a milk based drink or espresso shot and having them... Then I feel much better as to having a coffee there...  

                          Note:

                          If ya have a great coffee, dont just leave an empty cup...  Say something... The satff and management deserve positive as well constructive feedback.

                          I can not read coffee cups... 1/4 full  -  1/3 full -  1/2 full - lid still on - not touched - Empty and full of sugar wrappers- Empty ????  What does it all mean ?   Maybe the first few got called away ?
                          You left out my (and scared)

                          Of course if i was asked i would gladly guide ppl. I suppose i have been worn down over the years by trying to help or guide ppl and have rarely (if ever) accepted advice!! Maybe its me though :-/ I would however rather help the ppl who hunt me down at work and beg for advice!! ppl who are really on the great espresso quest and are searching for themselves.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Helping the local cafe

                            Originally posted by 61425151424048230 link=1264727371/12#12 date=1264848785
                            ppl who are really on the great espresso quest and are searching for themselves.
                            I think the problem in the case I saw, he just doesnt realize how off the mark he is. With the best coffee in that town yet with so many things that can be easily improved, theres great potential. I hope he sees it.
                            Ive decided to write to him & will leave it at that. I could post a draft here, but its a bit long... It does include this link - http://www.home-barista.com/espresso-guide.html
                            And a link to the FAQ at the Pullman tamper site (Great write-up Greg).

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Helping the local cafe

                              Originally posted by 446B62607748646B64626068606B71050 link=1264727371/9#9 date=1264800689
                              I am sure that the Quality people here would be shocked...
                              Yep.
                              (I swear Id already replied but my post seems to have vanished.)

                              Originally posted by 41606B6B6C76050 link=1264727371/6#6 date=1264766148
                              If he felt there was an issue he would have addressed it long before you happened to walk through the door.
                              Im with Dennis on this one.

                              Originally posted by 71647664616468050 link=1264727371/13#13 date=1264892229
                              With the best coffee in that town yet with so many things that can be easily improved, theres great potential.
                              Hes got the best coffee in town.
                              Whats his motivation to meet the expectations of a blow-in (you)?


                              Comment

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