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Thread: Snob my café!

  1. #1
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    Snob my café!

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Hi all,

    Ive been working at a largish, busy café for the last 3 months and have gained the role of "resident coffee snob" by virtue of always hassling the boss about coffee.

    Unfortunately, the café has some problems with coffee standards/consistency.

    Fortunately, I have an opportunity to help with this in the coming months, as a likely change in coffee beans means new equipment, hopefully to be finely tuned to make great espresso!

    I want some advice from baristas and café-operators on how to maximise this opportunity.


    I should start by describing the problems:
    -- Lack of training: if new employees say they can make coffee, theyre allowed on the machine no questions asked. One girl began making her trademark meringue-cappuccinos within minutes of starting her first shift.
    -- Lack of standards: there is no consensus on how much to dose and tamp, and most people just give the doser two yanks, squish it down and plug the PF in (volumetric machine breeds laziness).
    -- Poor milk hygiene: most people re-heat milk, make no effort to steam only enough for the drink(s) theyre preparing, and are admonished from chucking already-steamed milk down the sink (which doesnt stop me doing it...).
    -- Coffee freight: while the (soon to be replaced) beans are roasted in Melbourne and delivered fresh (as far as I can tell), the boss chooses to get large deliveries, less often, meaning that the beans - while ok - are not in their prime by the time we use them. New beans should mean fresher beans.
    -- Poor coffee handling: except for the end of the day, people leave the doser auto-fill function on (Mazzer SJ, btw), meaning that the ground coffee is likely to stale before it is used.

    That list makes it sound like a coffee-snobs version of hell, but its not that bad - thats a list of the worst of the worst! I enjoy working there because I enjoy changing all of the above (or whatever I can) to make better coffee. But it can be frustrating when Im the only one who cares. Im sure other can relate to that.


    What Im really asking is for some advice from people in the industry which I can pass on when it comes time to switch to the new machine and grinder. I realise that our problems wont be solved just by nailing the grinder/doser/volumetrics settings, but I think it will help, and if I can show the boss why it matters, he might want to do some training sessions with the crew. Also any advice on the best way(s) of explaining/showing the boss the importance of things like grinding, dosing, tamping and extracting espresso "properly"...

    Cheers
    Stuart.

  2. #2
    Sleep is overrated Thundergod's Avatar
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    Re: Snob my café!

    In no particular order:

    1 - Try start with the bosss favourite coffee made with freshly ground coffee and another with whats left in the hopper from yesterday (Ill bet that currently they leave it there).

    2 - Show the boss some espressos made the same way so they can see the lack of crema from the old grinds.

    3 - Point out that consistency between baristas is paramount.
    As a customer I hate going to a café and getting something made differently depending on whos working the machine.

    4 - Give the boss the same taste test with just milk, fresh and reheated.
    As I dont do it I cant say for sure but reheated milk must taste worse than fresh.
    Actually, go back to number 1 and make the boss their favourite with both stale coffee and reheated milk (if they drink their coffee with milk).

    5 - Check the volumetric output; does it overextract? If so, good. The worse a coffee you can make the boss using the current practices the better for your argument. Compare one of those to the best you can do and that should sell your argument.

    6 - Find out if the new supplier will do more frequent deliveries of less beans and just argue logically about it regarding the freshness. The quality of the end product keeps customer returning; some from quite some distance.

    Does the boss want to be run of the mill or stand out from the crowd?
    How much influence will you really have?
    Does he really trust you or not?




  3. #3
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    Re: Snob my café!

    Take your boss to a cafe that produces good coffee. Show him how busy they are and that will push his buttons.!!!
    I recently trained up a head barista 2 months ago and the kgs have gone up by 20percent. But the only way that happen was the boss encouraged his head barista to improve. He wanted his team to get better. What does your boss want????

  4. #4
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    Re: Snob my café!

    I guess as mentioned already there are a few issues apart from the coffee. What does your boss want, and how much say do you have. If you can get your boss to agree on the fact that the coffee he serves could be better, which will drive up sales, and he actually wants to do something about it, then you could be in luck.

    I would start by stating the problems from a customer point of view. e.g. customers hate inconsistent coffee, leave the technical side alone for a while. Then mention that you would be happy to take the role of head barista with no extra pay until sales pick up. As head barista you will be responsible for training, procedures, coffee orders in order to maximise his profits and free up his time.

    If he genuinly cares about his cafe he will say yes, if he does not than move on or accept his position.

  5. #5
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    Re: Snob my café!

    Just a note regarding throwing out milk, if you are only steaming enough for each drink then the little milk left in the jug is ok to add fresh milk to. At over $3 a bottle if you were working for me throwing out milk I wouldnt be too impressed as margins are fairly tight and wastage is a no no!!!

    Everything else good on you for not accepting others standards!!

    One thing might be find out what customers have the bosses ear and get them on side, as the customer is always right he might listen to them if your ideas fall on deaf ears.

  6. #6
    Sleep is overrated Thundergod's Avatar
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    Re: Snob my café!

    I pay $5 for 3 litres of full cream dairy Farmers from my local petrol station.

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    Re: Snob my café!

    Make a nice deli sandwich with fancy cheeses, quality cold cuts, etc and then make a similar sandwich with cheap cheese, cheap meat and put it on sliced white bread. Take both to your boss and say "If you went to a restaurant and got this the first time and this upon a second trip there, would you return to the restaurant a third time?" Tell him how his serving coffee that varies because of who makes it is no different and that he should have a standardised recipe book that all of the barristas are trained from.

  8. #8
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    Re: Snob my café!

    Thanks all,

    Some good ideas there. Thanks for the replies... Ill respond properly when I get the time - I think I need to clarify some of those issues (ie. what can I realistically hope to achieve? etc) and get back to you.


    In the mean time, another question for you. The new coffee beans weve been trying out (and will go ahead with as long as the feedback is good over the next couple of weeks) have been described by the boss as "stronger". From the smell of the freshly-opened bags, Ive noticed that the OLD beans smell like high% Brazil, whereas the NEW ones probably have high% East African (and accompanying stronger acid profile as espresso). Not sure what the boss definition of "strong" is, but the new beans do seem to cut through the milk with a bit more left over (if you know what I mean). The problem (for the boss) is that hes not sure if "stronger" is what people want. Whats the best approach, in your opinion, to toning down the coffee:milk ratio (read: making them weaker :P) while making things easy for baristas who may not always take care? Underdosing seem like a bad idea. Ive already suggested setting the volumetrics to, say, 20/40mL, but this may increase inconsistency?? Any ideas? [NB. I realise that the correct answer here is "train the baristas", but lets assume thats not an option... because its not likely to occur unless the boss begins to see the light... You can see the conundrum!]

    Cheers
    Stuart.

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    Re: Snob my café!

    Hi Stuart,

    Out of interest, what is the demographics of your clientele? Are they mostly commuters/working proffesionals? Or mums n dads, grandma and grandad types?

    I look forward to hearing how things pan out with this.

  10. #10
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    Re: Snob my café!

    From my experience most customers associate "stronger" with bitterness and so are not excited by that prospect. Education does get over that but that is a long term ideal, however saying that Mcdonalds have recently moved to a "stronger blend" so maybe I am wrong about that. What I have found is that the "average" customer is after is a medium roast bean without any major faults, do that and you will impress about 80% of the people who walk through the door.

  11. #11
    A_M
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    Re: Snob my café!

    Quote Originally Posted by moto coffee link=1228372082/0#9 date=1228521064
    From my experience most customers associate "stronger" with bitterness and so are not excited by that prospect. Education does get over that but that is a long term ideal, however saying that Mcdonalds have recently moved to a "stronger blend" so maybe I am wrong about that. What I have found is that the "average" customer is after is a medium roast bean without any major faults, do that and you will impress about 80% of the people who walk through the door.
    I agree, from my own experiences with the general public and even many "so called coffee drinkers", they often associate "stronger" with bitterness..

    The hard part is realising that education takes time.. and they have to want it, you can not force feed them.

    the "average" customer is after is a medium roast bean without any major faults, do that and you will impress about 80% of the people who walk through the door
    I would suggest that you would also not *loose that 20% but that most of those who might like a stronger coffee would recognise your consistency / efforts and ask for an extra shot etc

    Depending on layout and through put you can cater for those who like something different.

    If you go too strong up front then many who like a milder coffee will vote with their feet etc and there will be more than 20%

  12. #12
    Senior Member GregWormald's Avatar
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    Re: Snob my café!

    I think the "stronger=more bitter" association is often made because people associate all coffee with bitter because theyve only had bad coffee! I know the staff at work dont like acidic coffee much either--probably because of the association with bad coffee.

    When I have taken my machines into work (I do this at Easter with some high class Hot Cross buns as well) while they say they dont want their coffee too strong, or drink much, they will have 2 or 3 cups made with 20 grams of beans into a doppio ristretto piccolo and not notice how strong this is.

    In short--if the strong is flavour, Ill bet your customers will like it and come back for more. If strong is bitter or acidic they probably wont.

    Greg
    ps-I hope this makes sense. :)

  13. #13
    A_M
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    Re: Snob my café!

    Quote Originally Posted by GregWormald link=1228372082/0#11 date=1228523920
    I think the "stronger=more bitter" association is often made because people associate all coffee with bitter because theyve only had bad coffee!

    <snip>

    In short--if the strong is flavour, Ill bet your customers will like it and come back for more. If strong is bitter or acidic they probably wont.

    Greg
    ps-I hope this makes sense. :)
    You said what I have found, yet I failed to put across.

    I could not agree more.

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    Re: Snob my café!

    Hit the nail on the head of my opinion too!!

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    Re: Snob my café!

    Stuart, do you sell many straight espresso/ristretto and long blacks?

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    Re: Snob my café!

    Hi again all. Bit of an update!


    Weve officially changed coffee suppliers (not a CS sponsor :(; no surprises there though) and had our new gear installed 3 days ago.


    Machine is a La Scala Carmen 3-group (any opinions on this machine? Any quirks or known issues that may need addressing? Its a HX machine, right?).

    Grinder is a Santos 55 Automatic (again, any opinions? Id never heard of Santos... is the grind quality ok?).


    Firstly, having an automatic, grind-on-demand grinder is FANTASTIC for consistency when so many poorly-trained people make coffee. It has meant that Ive been able to fiddle with the fineness and dosage such that every shot is great (hopefully I can say "perfect" within the week)! Only variable is tamping, but I would consider that secondary to both grind fineness and dose in terms of getting the pour right.

    So, in terms of this thread, its a happy ending, so long as we can accept only a modest advance in the snobbery of said cafe! We have had a problem with our crema dissipating quickly, however; check out this thread for that story.

    Cheers
    Stuart.

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    Re: Snob my café!

    Stuart,

    I can only talk from my own personal experience as I was in a position similar to yours about 7 years ago. *If I had to go through the same choices again in your shoes, I would find myself a place thats serious about coffee whether it be a roastery or an espresso bar and spend my time learning with them. *Im going to sound pessimistic here, but time spent being a warm body and looking after someone elses business when they dont have the right attitude is time wasted. *I spent nearly four years at three different high volume cafes and after that I joined cibo espresso. *I was only there for 6-9 months but in that time I learnt more than what I had known in both places combined and that time has carried through extremely well into my current job. *You have the passion, dont let it burn out surrounded by people who dull it. *

  18. #18
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    Re: Snob my café!

    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Completely understand what youre saying, ant_. Sometimes I find myself cutting (albeit small) corners at work just because everyone else does and, to be honest, I dont think the clientele would know the difference. But then I remember that if I want a future in coffee (commercial or hobby), I need to keep standards up just for myself.


    Having said that, at this stage (of my life) Im not in a position to shop around for alternative jobs just yet.

    Firstly, my wife and I are moving overseas for 12 months in April (!) and money is more important to us at the moment than my (currently irrelevant) hopes to be involved with the coffee industry long-term.

    Secondly, I really love working there ... to my utter surprise! The people are great, the intensity of the average workday is satisfying, the coffee standard ARE improving, and I DO get the occasional small victory that makes it all worthwhile (eg. a co-worker who Id taught several weeks ago how to pour a rosetta finally nailed one yesterday and was over the moon telling me about it!).

    Thirdly, despite what some have said, Im gaining lots of valuable experience in the industry in general. IF (big if) I were ever to be involved in running a café, I know many key differences it would have to the café I currently work in - which is not to insult the place; its just got a very different focus to any espresso bar/café Id be involved with. But there are also lots of things that would be the same (eg. stock handling, ordering systems, staffing, bookkeeping... maybe even marketing) and which I am therefore gaining experience in!


    So, Im comfortable working there in my current circumstances. But youre right; I probably wouldnt be happy there if I couldnt see an end/purpose to it.

    Cheers
    Stuart.



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