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Thread: Commercial Machine Fun - Help me improve!!

  1. #1
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    Commercial Machine Fun - Help me improve!!

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Hiya Guys,

    Im working at a film festival this (and last) week and being one of few with coffee making experience/knowledge I got to play barrista on all my shifts (and will be doing a couple more too).

    The machine Im using is San Marino brand, didnt catch the model. It has 3 groups/PFs and some automagic modes as well as simple toggle on/off each pump.

    The automagic modes appear to be something like 1 espresso, 2 espressos, 1 double, 2 doubles or something like that. I can only guess from the pictures on the buttons what they do. I havent and wont touch them, preferring to use the toggles (as we were told to anyway).

    We have what appears to be a typical café-style grinder with doser/auto-grind-to-fill-doser feature thing. I cant see any brand on it so its anyones guess as to what that is.

    When I rocked up on the first night of the festival I was the first to use the machine; the doser was pretty stocked with pre-ground coffee and that machine had been on for a while.

    All of the PFs had double baskets which seemed to vary slighty. Some seemed to run faster than others, though, I never took the time to pop them out and check how clean they were, so it could have just been some more dirty than others.

    I tried pulling a few shots through and found that with any decent dose and tamp it was choking bigtime. Im talking 3mm of coffee with oil sitting on top.

    Dare I play with the grinder? Obviously someone had spent time setting the machine up..

    YES! OF COURSE I DO! ;D

    It took me a little while to figure out how to get the grind to change, but once i figured the little "push this down and swivel the neck" thing, I was cooking with gas... EXCEPT.. the numbers on the neck seemed to go from 0 up to 25. It appeared it was set just over 0 (around 1 or 2) so naturally you would assume to go up to 5 or so and go from there.

    CHOKE!..

    I couldnt figure it out.. I tried 7,.. CHOKE..

    It turns out that the numbers on the neck are either completely useless or out of synch. You could go below 0.. in fact.. the lower the number (including negatives) seemed to make the grind *coarser*.

    I spent 2 hours and a good amount of coffee getting the grind to something that I would not feel embarrassed and ashamed serving to people.. The funny thing was.. the setting that I settled on in the end was 1.. which was about what it was set to when Id arrived. My only conclusion is that either the grinder had been changed after it had ground what was in there OR Id started out using the PF with what I later discovered was a clogged/blocked basket.

    It was a fantastic learning experience since I got to put a lot of the theory that Id learned into practise.

    Now someone remind me -- If a shot is too sour (front tip of the tongue) what is the cause and what is the fix? -- If a shot is too bitter (back sides on the tongue) the same?

    I seem to remember bitter is caused when the shot is either not tamped well enough (gusher) or you have let it run on too long after blonding? is that correct?

    After getting the grind right I had a steam wand to conquer. This puppy was not to be messed with! .. and put up against the steamer on my new Nemox I felt a little.. well.. inadequate... :-[

    I had two jugs that appeared to be 1L and 1.5L in capacity (at a guess) and my first attempt of the "let loose with all the steam" technique failed miserably. It appears that a different tact was required.

    Ive now managed to get better with the steam wand and getting a whirlpool is a piece of piss, but it did take about 10-20 coffees before I started to get the hang of it. Which led to the serving of lattés that sometimes looked like flat whites and sometimes looked like cappas, all without making eye contact with the customers for fear of them seeing the shame I had a laugh..

    I had a lot of fun and still have 2 more shifts to go and am hoping to improve more.

    A couple more questions...

    When someone asks you for a long macchiato, do you treat it like a long black plus the macchiato dash of milk/microfoam? ie. aprx. 2/3 water, doppio, dash milk/foam

    Any tips or suggestions are welcomed.

    cheers
    Lachlan

  2. #2
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Re: Commercial Machine Fun - Help me improve!!

    Quote Originally Posted by asqui link=1141602837/0#0 date=1141602837
    Now someone remind me -- If a shot is too sour (front tip of the tongue) what is the cause and what is the fix? -- If a shot is too bitter (back sides on the tongue) the same?

    cheers
    Lachlan
    Hi asqui,

    First things first.... you need to give the machine a good clean out.... back-flush all three Groups with Espresso Clean or similar and then flush out til all signs of the Espresso Clean are gone. Then, you need to remove the baskets from each PF, and probably the spouts too and get stuck into these with some dish-washing detergent and one of those stiff bristle dish/pot scrubbers. The spout covers will need to be removed so that you can get stuck into these with DW Liquid and a toothbrush or similar.
    Once all have been cleaned and thoroughly rinsed with fresh, clean water then you can re-assemble and try your hand at pulling some more shots.

    Sour shots could indicate that the brew water temperature is too low. Bitter shots, such as you describe, could point towards over-extraction because of...
    a) Insufficient dose,
    b) Grind setting too coarse resulting in too short a shot time,
    c) Uneven extraction through coffee cake..... i.e. channelling
    d) Improperly tamped or uneven tamp.

    This all supposes that you are now testing with clean PFs and Groups :)

    No doubt some of our Pros will be able to provide you with more help than this and measures you can use to overcome them, but these are the first things that come to mind. Sounds like youre doing pretty well though for the majority of the time, especially with a strange machine. Id like to be able to do half as good as you in the time youve had available asqui ;D.

    Cheers,
    Mal.

  3. #3
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    Re: Commercial Machine Fun - Help me improve!!

    Hi Mal,

    I dont think Im going to have the time or tools available the give the machine a thorough clean :(.. I have one more shift this Friday, and its right after my normal job.

    Out of the frying pan and into the fryer, as they say.

    Also, Im not familiar with backflushing, as Ive never used a machine thats required it before :(

    The first thing I did when I arrived was give all of the groups and showerscreens as good a clean as I could without disassembling anything. I kept doing this throughout the shift, keeping things as clean as possible.

    Im getting more "biscuitty" pucks out of it now, although they are still not that solid. I think the biggest culprit here is that Im finding it difficult to get a good consistent tamp using the plastic rounded-edged tamper attached to the grinder (all we have).

    Id call most of the coffee shots Im pulling from it passable to your every day coffee drinker and only really have troubles with the milk.

    If I had a limitless supply of milk at my disposal Id have perfect cappas and lattés pretty much every time. The thing that I struggle with is that the jugs are large and its difficult to texture a small about of milk in them. Because its a film festival, most of the orders come in short, busy bursts and then the odd order until just before or after the next session, so Im left wondering how I can minimise the wastage while still steaming enough milk to get a decent texture and not reuse milk or have it sitting there for ages during the quiet times.

    The festival organisers decided to come up with something fun for the volunteers called the "Golden Bean Award", which will be the best coffee maker as judged by the caterers who are handling the food side of things at the festival club/café.

    Im up against a professionally trained barista who has worked in cafés for years and has trained other people to make coffee, so I think Im pretty screwed there I had a laugh.

    Oh well; I still take it as a privilege to get to play with a commercial rig. The downside being that the Nemox that I just not long bought looks like a toy now.. haha.. I think more than anything its the steam power on the commercial machine that Im in love with... dammit.. now Im going to have to get freaky with the Nemox steam wand/tip.

    cheers
    Lachlan


  4. #4
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    Re: Commercial Machine Fun - Help me improve!!

    Sounds like the machine has been set up perfectly for commercial coffee production --- quick shots using lightly-tamped, coarse grounds. A long way from the desirable.

    Robusto

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    Re: Commercial Machine Fun - Help me improve!!

    Sounds like youre having fun, Lachlan.

    San Marcos seem to run ridiculously hot, so Id be flushing the living crap out of them before making a shot. Depending on how fast you are at dosing, you might find the highest-volume volumetric useful for doing the cooling flush ... remember that were not talking domestic machines; the water in the HX will heat very quickly after the flush, so you pretty much need to lock and load immediately after the flush.

    You might well want to bring your own 600ml jug and tamper; your machine uses a 57mm, doesnt it? Anything is better than the POS grinder tamper.

    ... you think you like that machine? Wait till we get you on a tweaked La Marzocco or Wega.

    Cheers,
    Luca

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    Re: Commercial Machine Fun - Help me improve!!

    Luca,

    I think youll find that Lachlan said he used a San Marino rather than a San Marco. I had a coffee from a San Marco today - no tamper was used and it burnt my tongue. Needless to say, I threw it out and went elsewhere.

    Lachlan,

    Just because you are up against a professional barista who has been doing it for years doesnt necessarily mean that he/she can make a better coffee than you! Good luck!

    victor.

  7. #7
    A_M
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    Re: Commercial Machine Fun - Help me improve!!

    Quote Originally Posted by asqui link=1141602837/0#0 date=1141602837
    Hiya Guys,


    When someone asks you for a long macchiato, do you treat it like a long black plus the macchiato dash of milk/microfoam? ie. aprx. 2/3 water, doppio, dash milk/foam

    Any tips or suggestions are welcomed.

    cheers
    Lachlan
    Well, you could ask them how they like it, for if they are asking for a macchiato then to me, that clearly indicates that they have something in mind and a taste they know...

    With those Milk drinkers who have a dash (15 -30 ml) of coffee in their cup of MILK, you can often fool or hide your less ideal efforts :-) While a true coffee drinker will soon spot the error of your ways with an espresso or macchiato for eg....

    When I am on the run I like a straight double shot with a short pull about 10 - 12 sec (30-35ml), some call it a ristretto. Have it quick before the crema fully separates out... umuummumm very good.

    If I have 5 minutes then the same setup but pulled for the usual 20 - 25 sec thus giving what to me is an espresso (50 - 55ml). As it sits for a moment I you get that distinctive separation of coffee with a thick crema for the top 1/3. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

    When I have a little time, or wish to sit with MILK drinkers, then a macchiato is the order of the day. This in effect is the espresso above with a dollop of froth in the middle and a table spon or two of hot milk dribbled down the side of the glass. Thus you get an visual stimulation from above, and a layering effect from the side, while still have a pleasant flavour and texture to the pallet.

    If I asked for a macchiato and got a version that was watered down as you indicated or full of milk I would have major issues with the person serving. In most cases, when ever I have asked for one of the 3 options above I have been asked how would I like it, and if I have any doubt I speak up first as I like my coffee.



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    Re: Commercial Machine Fun - Help me improve!!

    Good afternoon gentlemen!

    Just some quick (& hopefully not too serious) comments from left field.

    Regarding the comment: ".........Sounds like the machine has been set up perfectly for commercial coffee production --- quick shots using lightly-tamped, coarse grounds. A long way from the desirable....."

    This is fair comment and no observation was made as to whose responsibility this might be.

    But I can tell you this. Without a doubt, most commercial cafe clients WANT their equipment set up this way...particularly when it is being set up for a temporary cart type venue where it is likely the cart will be inundated for coffee in quick short bursts. The usual comment made when the client is advised the coffee should be flowing much slower, goes something like * " were too busy / havent got time / *to wait for THAT".

    A coffee company rep that is not doing his job properly will just do what the client asks without trying to show them the difference...

    A coffee company rep that is doing his job properly will try and find a compromise with the client...but in the end will still have to defer to what the client wants if he wants to keep the clients business.

    There is no future in refusing to supply clients that want to do things their own way, even when it results in sabotaging the product and its brand.

    The comment "were too busy to....." is very common in cafes and its particularly off putting when you are standing there talking to the client and there is absolutely no one in the place hehe....!

    You can get good results from any equipment that can be tweaked....yes there are some brand / models that CANT be tweaked easily...theyre not worth bothering with, but you have to be in the know about which ones they are!

    If a San Marino is not well thought of by some, then *Wega cant be much different because as far as I am aware, internally San Marino, Wega & Astoria are all the same machine.

    Using a small jug (600ml) on a machine that has a ton of steam (like a San Marino), by someone that has not much experience, is in my honest opinion a recipe for disaster. An inexperienced operator will most probably blow such a small quantity of milk "out of the water" and would be better off with the standard cafe size jugs like 1 or 1.5 litres.

    May I respectfully suggest that someone didnt have a substandard coffee from a La San Marco machine.......rather, someone had a substandard coffee that just happened to be brewed with a La San Marco...but the responsibility for the bad coffee rested with the operator, not the equipment Im afraid.... the substandard coffee could have been brewed with anything including some twin boiler machines with inflated egos (about how good they think they are) .........so lets not get into the heat exchanger VS twin boiler thaing again here.........its the operator Im afraid, and we really need to keep away from brand junkieism on this site.

    If we fill Lachlans head with too many romantic ideas too quickly and give him the wrong idea about the importance of experience & training *("Just because you are up against a professional barista who has been doing it for years doesnt necessarily mean that he/she can make a better coffee than you!....) , he may end up losing his honorary position on the machine. It is not generally good practice to devalue the importance of experience in any trade let alone that of being an espresso machine operator, and whilst Lachlan may be able to make a technically excellent one off espresso, the experienced operator is the one that can repeat this over and over again one after the other during peak periods which is actually, what its all about...consistency under ALL conditions!

    Ultimately, you Lachlan as an employee will have to defer to however the boss wants you to do it and if you try and get into a lot of the stuff being thrown at you here (no matter how theroetically "correct" it might be), you could end up "off the set".

    Thats life!

    Nevertheless, no matter what you do, try to do it to the best of your ability ***under the requisite circumstances*** and above all...have fun and learn as much as you can.

    I told you my comments would be "left of centre"!

    Regardz,
    FC.

  9. #9
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    Re: Commercial Machine Fun - Help me improve!!

    Once again,

    Sage words of wisdom FC [smiley=thumbsup.gif],

    Thank you kindly :),
    Mal.

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    Re: Commercial Machine Fun - Help me improve!!

    Thanks to everyone who has provided comments and insights..

    My hot and steamy affair with the San Marino has come to its end. The festival is over and the machine is probably on the way back from whence it came.

    I did learn a LOT during my time on it.

    Here are some of my observations, comments, etc.

    Milk Texturing:

    Towards the end of my time with the machine I was really starting to get a feel for the best type of whirlpool/stretching technique to use in order to get some really nice microfoam.

    The issues I had with milk was how to minimise wastage with such huge jugs. If Im doing one or two coffees its very difficult to do the right amount of milk without having some left over. Then what do I do with the leftovers? It can really only sit for 30 seconds or a minute maximum before the foam and milk start to really separate, and adding more milk and reusing the left overs kind of makes me die just a little bit inside.

    What do pro-barristas do in a commercial environment to turn out some high quality coffees but without having to dump heaps of milk down the drain?

    Pulling shots:

    All the baskets there were double baskets. If someone asks for just one coffee, do I dose appropriately and just let the other half of the shot run down the gurgler? What I mean here is using a PF with 2 "ears", Id just set up one cup under one and let the other one run down the drain? This way I assume you still get the 3-phases of the shot but just less in amount.

    The other option was to just give everyone aprx. 30mls of pull from the double basket ? (seems wrong)

    Im a little confused there, so anything people can clarify there would be helpful...

    Pouring drinks:

    All of the coffees were served into carboard cups, which made it difficult to see if my lattes had the right amount of microfoam on top.

    The cardboard cups had flat sides too, so I didnt get any chance to try some latté art :(

    The flat white sort of boggles me a bit -- Ive had people say flat white is single espresso shot, milk and a very thin layer of foam, and others say its single espresso and hot milk, no foam. Which is correct?

    Customers:

    It seems the vast majority of people arent coffeesnobs. Most people just stick to the common coffees like lattes, flat whites and cappas -- for the most part these people are happy provided their coffee is reasonably pleasant tasting and contains caffeine. I would say this accounts for 80-90% of the people I served

    If you are a barrista in training, be happy in this fact -- You can always strive to better your efforts and make better and better coffee, but once you have the basics down, be happy that these people are willing to accept and pay for what you might consider as a budding coffeesnob, a sucky attempt.

    The other type of people I encountered were the Mock Snobs. Mock snobs ask for a "long soy macchiato with the milk on the side" -- these people have no real clue about coffee but just like to throw around impressive sounding coffee terminology to sound swish to their friends. You could serve them offruns from the drip tray with cold milk and they would barely tell the difference.

    Thats not to say that I did serve them that -- just that its incredibly frustrating to be trying to find out what a customer really wants when they order their long macchiato, to realise that they clearly dont care.

    If I encountered any real snobs during my time they were incognito...

    cheers
    Lachlan

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    Re: Commercial Machine Fun - Help me improve!!

    .. an afterthought..

    Another thing to add to the "You know youre a CoffeeSnob when....." list..

    * When you consider getting some part-time barrista work in a café because its paid work and improves your skills very quickly.

  12. #12
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    Re: Commercial Machine Fun - Help me improve!!

    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Well done Lachlan!

    re"Customers:

    It seems the vast majority of people arent coffeesnobs......for the most part these people are happy provided their coffee is reasonably pleasant tasting and contains caffeine. I would say this accounts for 80-90% of the people I served

    Yup, this is real life.

    I had to close the door to *my office to stop the sound of my guffawing from permeating through to the others in the building, when I read your comments about the mock coffee snobs and their long makkie-ardoes.

    Truer words are not often spoken.

    And in regard to the original title of this topic....you obviously "have improved" ( & enjoyed yourself doing it).

    Regardz,
    FC.




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