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Thread: Tell the Barista what you want

  1. #1
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    Tell the Barista what you want

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    In April my wife and I went on a holiday via the Murray NSW and Vic, Barossa, Adelaide, Fleurieu Peninsula, Limestone Coast, Mt Gambier, Portland, Great Ocean Road then returning to the Blue Mountains via Wagga.
    Of course there was a need to have a good coffee at least once a day. Sometimes we got what we wanted and sometimes we were quite disappointed.* *
    It took a while to realise that I was part of the problem.* *What I am getting at is the communication issue between the customer and the Barista.
    How can we expect to get what we want if the Barista has only a general idea of our expectations?*
    There are problems in communication, including
    1) Direct communication with the Barista is available only some of the time
    2) Is the customer (me) capable of stating what he wants in language that is (or should be) universally understood by the Barista (or order taker)?
    When I can get to talk directly with the Barista the conversation usually goes like this after any pleasantries.
    Me “We would like two flat white coffees served in a cup (pointing at standard ceramic cup warming on the top of the machine). We really like to taste the coffee. You would know the coffee you use. Should we have a single or double shot?”
    Barista “Our coffee is pretty strong a single shot should suit”. Sometimes a barista has suggested he will pull an extra shot in a glass and we can add that if required.* *We have always used the extra shot! Baristas are loathe to suggest that we need a double shot to get a good taste of his coffee. That is understandable.
    On the trip we probably ordered coffee about forty times.* It took some time for it to sink in but to get close to our requirements we needed to order double shots. About 70% the time the result was very fair to very good. Other times the result was poor (in our view) due to incompetence of the Barista or other unknown factors.
    What are we looking for?
    I’ll do my best to describe our perfect cup.
    It has an overall lively full-bodied flavour with an excellent crema. It has the luxurious “mouth feel” of milk with good microfoam. The temperature of the coffee is hot enough so you can linger for maybe 3 minutes or so and the coffee stays pleasantly warm. The coffee should be approachable instantly.
    At home I make a form of Ristretto by limiting the quantity of coffee extracted, typically extracting for 20 seconds only. I get a fair bit of variation due to the limits of the grinder I use, principally.* (Shortly I will be upgrading. I have both grinder and machine, ordered.)*

    I think there is a better chance of getting a higher percentage of coffee to our taste by ordering what I do at home. That is, I should order double shot Ristretto flat white.
    I hesitate doing this because it sounds pretentious and how will this be interpreted by the Barista directly or through communication with the order taker?
    The article I picked up through a post somewhere here tells a story that relates.*
    http://bit.ly/kz1qXr


  2. #2
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    Re: Tell the Barista what you want

    When you hit the road you will struggle to find coffee that isnt made by a button pusher and so your quest for an answer to this question is not going to easy. What you are after I agree shouldnt be so hard but when workers (generally) arent passionate about their product and even when they are their training isnt as good as it should be this isnt going to add up to the coffee you are chasing.

    I am a fan of the coffee you order, what my order generally starts with is a question about what the base for the coffees are. The answer to that dictates what I order, if it is knowledgeable then I ask for a double ristretto base, if I get a "dunno" look then I generally ask for tea!! ;D

    Good luck with your quest for great coffee, you should have dropped me a pm to let me know you were coming through wagga I would have fixed you up with a good coffee.

    Brett

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    Re: Tell the Barista what you want

    The last time I tried to order a double ristretto flat white in the country.....

    "Hi, can I have a double ristretto flat white please?"
    "Sorry, a what?"
    "A double ristretto flat white"
    "Huh?"
    "A double ristetto flat white"
    "Whats a rusteto"
    "A ristretto"
    "A rusesto"
    "A ristretto"
    "Sorry, we dont sell them"
    "A ristretto is like a short espresso, about 20mls in size"
    "Ah, yes, we sell expresso"
    "Great! Well, I would like a double espresso then please, but can you just stop the extraction a little shorter, when it is around 40 mls in volume"
    "Let me just check with the boss to see what button I need to press for a double expresso"
    "Ok, no worries"
    (turns to boss)
    "What button do I press for a double expresso?"
    (Boss answers) "A what?


  4. #4
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    Re: Tell the Barista what you want

    Good one wholeshotalove ;D

    Reminds me of an occasion a couple years back at a cafe/convenience store in rural Victoria

    Me: "Two flat whites please"
    Employee looks blank, pauses then says "whats a flat white"
    Me: Tea with just a dash of milk.

  5. #5
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    Re: Tell the Barista what you want

    Quote Originally Posted by 312A202B2231271C30430 link=1308106746/0#0 date=1308106746
    In April my wife and I went on a holiday via the Murray NSW and Vic, Barossa, Adelaide, Fleurieu Peninsula, Limestone Coast, Mt Gambier, Portland, Great Ocean Road then returning to the Blue Mountains via Wagga.
    And you didnt stop in for a coffee* :(

    The single shot thing is a pet peeve of mine a single shot in a cup/glass around the 200ml mark is dishwater and even worse is when you finish up with a short pour single* :P.

    My preferred brew to customers starts at 1 1/2 shots made from double baskets and if I get asked for a strong coffee a full double. Single shots into 200s are for "grannichinos" not coffee shops regardless of blend unless they are using an Italian dark roasted robusta blend in which case I will have a juice please.

    Asking for a Ristretto in a country cafe/bakery or even just a run of the mill city cafe is pointless and can be seen by people you are trying to prove your superior coffee knowledge. This whole Ristretto thing compared to a "normal espresso" is a topic all of its own.

  6. #6
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    Re: Tell the Barista what you want

    beanflying,
    Damn.* *
    I have learned quite a lot here in recent days.* One thing I will do in future is let it hang out where I am travelling.
    Its too late for the trip thats gone.
    I did enjoy good coffee at Port Fairy.* *Bella Claire Deli served excellent coffee to complement a very good light lunch.* * I had ordered double shots for my wife and I. The date was Friday April 15.
    You have confirmed what I was thinking. Ordering Ristretto is seen to be pretentious even if all you are doing is trying to be specific.* When the Barista is not flat out I have asked for 1and 1/2 shots if this seemed a good idea.*
    Talking about double shots there seemed to be a dilution fetish in many South Australian places.
    The vessel of immediate choice at the machine when a double shot is ordered is a giant mug that ensures very few coffee molecules can be tasted.
    wholeshotalove and who me?
    My wife and were laughing out loud reading your stories.* Rippers!
    ;D

  7. #7
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    Re: Tell the Barista what you want

    I too would like to be able to order a flat white based on a double ristretto.

    Unfortunately few places speak that language.

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    Re: Tell the Barista what you want

    Quote Originally Posted by 0539243F353423363E35510 link=1308106746/6#6 date=1308210356
    I too would like to be able to order a flat white based on a double ristretto.

    Unfortunately few places speak that language.
    Gee, thats how we do all of our milk coffees.

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    Re: Tell the Barista what you want

    An opinion from the other side:

    Standards are set for a reason and in my own coffee house all brews except mugs are based on a single dose unless the client asks for a double.

    Newcomers to cafe and coffee business seem for whatever reason (discussed elsewhere) to advocate ristrettos as "their standard".* Established business seems more likely to stick with the actual espresso standard. In my opinion a ristretto manipulates the character and profile of a coffee rendering it incomparable to the same coffee made into a standard espresso. As already stated there are reasons for having standards. Baristas in barista comps that brew and serve ristrettos where stadard espressos are called for in the comp rules, lose valuable points for the sake of trying to be "fashionable" in coffee.

    A ristretto used as a base for a standard milk coffee will render it far too milky ergo the need for a double restretto....when* a standard espresso will suffice.

    In this market where only a minute percentage of the population are CoffeeSnobs, my own experience is if you automatically give people a double, those likely to complain will usually say it is too strong...

    A good barista should be able to make a great standard coffee with a single dose......ours certainly does, and you will find that a lot depends on the baristas skill with the milk and not just with the coffee.

    In business if you automatically give everyone a double you use more coffee than necessary without recouping the extra cost. Great for the coffee supplier* but not if you happen to be the cafe owner....it is therefore a management and business and income decision to automatically do double shots in coffees.

    When you walk into a cafe that you have never visited you dont know what kind of attitude and reception you are going to receive from the people behind the counter. Therefore if you tell them how you want them to make your coffee there is a 50% chance that it wont be well received, eliciting a negative experience.

    You dont know how they make "their standard" coffee and it may be perfectly good without you having to ask for anying "special" or different to their norm. Essentially you dont know this until after you experience what they will serve to you and only then will it be appropriate to respectfuly approach them with your comment....

    And of course double shots and ristretto portions are really not the issue, training is the issue, but you have to be dealing with people that realise its value.

    My comment and opinion on all this then is, you cant tell the barista what you want until after you have had his coffee. And at that point you can make an informed decision on whether it is actually worth the trouble.

    I usually dont buy coffee when travelling for the very reason that you cant seem to get a good standard coffee anywhere and again, thats training to a proper standard across the cafe industry. On the one hand the situation is better than it used to be, but on the other it seems thee is no shortage of "coffee fashionistas" going all out not to have one (a standard).

    Go the annual round of aasca barista comps about to start again shortly.

    Rgdz,
    Attilio
    very first CS site sponsor.


  10. #10
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    Re: Tell the Barista what you want

    Quote Originally Posted by 625641574C7B674B42424141240 link=1308106746/8#8 date=1308443834
    A good barista should be able to make a great standard coffee with a single dose......ours certainly does, and you will find that a lot depends on the baristas skill with the milk and not just with the coffee.
    Out of interest what sized cups are you running with singles? 160s or 200ish?

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    Re: Tell the Barista what you want

    Hello T,

    from memory they are around 180 and owing to the discussion I will be measuring again accurately tomorrow just to see, as its been a while.

    (by the way not on topic but.....weve just had a similar occurence to "your" GJs / K10 but investigation pointed the finger squarely at variable dosing by the main barista after which the problem stopped. There is no voodoo inside a coffee grinder ;)).

    Rgdz,
    A.

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    Re: Tell the Barista what you want

    FYI

    Our cups accurately measure up to 160 mls of drinkable liquid. That is, not 160 mls to the brim, but at about a quarter inch down from the brim.

    Rgdz,
    A.

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    Re: Tell the Barista what you want

    Thanks Attilio makes my shot and a half standards into 8 oz takeaways seem near a similar ratio then* :)

    On the K10 I need to go back to see how he is getting on and if anything was ever found.

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    Re: Tell the Barista what you want

    Attilio,
    Thanks for an enlightening statement from the "other side". To some extent it puts me in a quandary. My past experience indicates that if I simply order a flat white (cup) there is a 70% chance the coffee will be not to my liking (short on flavour).
    If I could know that the Barista is well qualified I would be inclined to run with a "standard" flat white and be happy with the result probably. Very few coffee shops display anything regarding the accreditation or awards of the Barista on deck.*
    Suppose I order a flat white without additional comment and I dont like it. I dont feel it is worth making an issue over it. If I am asked I will respond.
    If I can get to talk with the Barista about the nature of the coffee being used in general terms and if appropriate, state my preference* for a rich tasting brew, I am on the way to something good.
    On some occasions the Barista will even tell me he will do 1 and 1/2 shots. I have never had a Barista suggest a double shot!*
    I respect the Barista profession. I wish people were not allowed to operate machines without good training.

  15. #15
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    Re: Tell the Barista what you want

    ;D Formal Training is a can of worms. Would rather have a coffee made by someone who understands and loves what they do than anyone who got a bit of paper to make wages.

    The reason I asked Attilio about his cup size is that it is one of the biggest problems at a lot of the average cafes. Your average cafe favours circa 200ml cups so the customer feels like they are getting a good sized drink only to abomonate the drink by using a single shot.

    So where I am heading here is that in spite of most likely having a TAFE barista certificate the Barista is either told how to make it by the owner trying to maximise yeild/kg of beans or they still actually have no idea of how to make a good coffee in spite of the bit of paper.

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    Re: Tell the Barista what you want

    I drink espresso at home but long blacks in cafes. The coffee blends they use seem suited to milk drinks (I suppose thats where the money is) but to me are unbalanced in an espresso but tolerable in a long black and I can sociably sip away. Or maybe they make so many milk drinks they dont have the skill to make espresso well.

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    Re: Tell the Barista what you want

    I think you are going to get a pretty good idea when you walk through the door of a place as to whether you are going to get a good or even drinkable coffee or not....have a look at a few obvious things first like, Im sure we have an idea what a semi decent coffee looks like have a look at other peoples coffees on there tables.Do you see every table with 30litre irish coffee mug filled with dishwater looking latte with sprinkles??....the coffee grinder,is it clean and well kept or is it filthy, oily and dusty?

    same goes for the coffee machine, do the steam nozzles look like they have 2cm of baked on milk crap?.....is the barista texturing the milk like a pro or is he/she making milkshakes in that thing!.

    If the answer to any of these and a whole range of similars is yes then dont even bother asking for dbl ristretto anything!.......hoping that what you saw wont happen to you because it will!

    great coffee places can be found for sure ........but best thing to do for you is to not even bother explaining to baristas, just come here(there are so many snobs here from right around the country) do your research before you go,asking people in the know and set yourself a coffee itinery...it is a great resource this site!. It will definately prove to be a better experience coffee wise for your next trip. ;)




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    Re: Tell the Barista what you want

    Sometimes everything looks good at the machine and there may be no evidence at a table to suggest otherwise. But I do look for signs. What the Barista looks like means little. Only Monday i got an excellent coffee done by an unlikely looking guy at a Parramatta shop.
    The good coffee where by itseslf is not enough to plan coffee stops.
    I take your point and in future I will hang out a proposed travel plan and ask for ideas, here.

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    Re: Tell the Barista what you want

    Quote Originally Posted by 4069747263060 link=1308106746/16#16 date=1308739132
    I think you are going to get a pretty good idea when you walk through the door of a place as to whether you are going to get a good or even drinkable coffee or not.
    Not always, I saw one of the worst looking and tasting Piccolos came out of a place with more Synessos Roburs and Roasters than you can poke a stick at on Monday in Melbourne (not going to name and shame). 4pm in the afternoon shouldnt be an excuse for this or any other place but this one the Barista should have picked up and sinked. The piccolo and the shorty I had on the other hand were not to bad.

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    Re: Tell the Barista what you want

    Quote Originally Posted by 65626669616B7E6E6960070 link=1308106746/18#18 date=1308806558

    Not always, I saw one of the worst looking and tasting Piccolos came out of a place with more Synessos Roburs and Roasters than you can poke a stick at ....
    Yep, its just another example of my pet theory that to have such (and like) equipment is nothing more than a coffee fashion statement that you pay very very dearly for and to have as a part of your decor......to make it look like you are trooly trooly searius about your coffee.

    Oh well....must be that part of the afternoon where you just cant help feeling jaded (again) .... ;D !

    Rgdz,
    A.

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    Re: Tell the Barista what you want

    Quote Originally Posted by 7C7B7F707872677770791E0 link=1308106746/18#18 date=1308806558
    4pm in the afternoon shouldnt be an excuse for this
    Totally agree and in fact at 4pm in the afternoon you would think that they would most likely be quiet and have plenty of time to get it right.

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    Re: Tell the Barista what you want

    Yes but by 4pm the energy has well and truly gone and you probably have the b or c team on the machine. I always want the Barista to be busy but not bombed that gives me the best chance of good coffee (just my theory)

    Brett

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    Re: Tell the Barista what you want

    In my experience working as a barista, I like it when it is possible to get into a conversation with the person about their coffee (if they have any special requests/queries that is).

    Usually people who ask questions are people who have more experience with coffee than the average punter, I will ask them questions about how they usually like their coffee, show them the size of our cups etc so they can see how much coffee they would like in order for it to not feel washed out for them.

    I understand that one espresso shot should be enough in a flat white but also I know in my own experience I used to drink single shot flat whites and lattes and now days I would find that too milky.

    Another one over here in the west cafes tend to top a macchiato up with milk rather than water and a stain of milk, so someone from the eastern states wouldnt get what theyre after if they ordered a long mac topped.

    Basically I will do whatever I can do (within reason) to serve up whatever the customer believes is a great coffee for them.


    Someone also touched at some point on the topic of the machine and the equipment. Id say generally that if a cafe had good equipment itd mean that the owner of the cafe cared enough to invest in good equipment then theyd care enough to have trained the baristas operating it but I know of a couple of places where great equipment (synessos and the like) are wasted on people who dont know or care about what theyre standing behind.

  24. #24
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    Re: Tell the Barista what you want

    Engaging the clients in conversation is a very good thing but is time dependent and cant always be done.

    If there was a modicum of logic and possibly even intelligence in the market the "manufacture" and presentation of wet coffee would be standardised so it shouldnt be necessary for people to ask for things done their way if they were done properly and well in the first place.* Asking for stuff to be done your way when you are the client is a double edged sword. Firstly , yes the client should ask for and get what they want because they are paying BUT.....it assumes the client knows something about what they want. Some CS and others have a good palate and have some knowledge, but most of the market does not.... Also, you cannot ask for something to be done your way when you havent even tried how they make it, to see if is just fine the way it is. The whole lot is a can of worms, much of it because just as the cafe industry was starting to get into proper standardisation of coffee making through accredited training and AASCA barista comps where participants have to abide by the same set of rules, there was an explosion of even more new cafe owners and roaster operators that are more about "fashion in coffee" than anything else and reinventing the wheel.

    I will respectfully disagree with your reference to "good" equipment.

    There are some very good machines out there just as there are a lot of el cheapo machines. In my opinion a "good" coffee machine is not necessarily defined by its brand name or whether it has multiple boilers and slide or paddle steam valve actuators. Also of course whether a machine is good or not is very much dependent on its operator and his/her ability, professionalism and expertise. When I walk into a cafe and see dual boiler machines with minimalist bodies, paddles and the like, I dont see "good coffee", I just see a coffee culture fashion statement made by cafe owners trying to market themselves to a particular audience and grow their business. That is fine and is part of their chosen business plan & marketing. I cant see "good coffee" until it has been served for me to *cup* after which I can make an observation on whether it is to my liking or not. An operator (barista) that cant make excellent coffee without any fuss, on a good name good condition well serviced one boiler HX machine should be looking for another job. People that dont know anything about grinders but are being allowed to use coffee machines in cafes, are in the wrong job. And telling them how you want your coffee made, if they are only a button pusher, wont necessarily help either them or the client get a better coffee and just helps the button pusher add a repertoir of confusing side issues to the stuff he already doesnt know how to do properly. And of course you cant tell the expertise of a barista when you walk into the cafe and take a look at them....(let alone the equipment)

    Just my opinion, and as I said this is a can of worms probably having no answer while the cafe and coffee markets continue to explode with newcomers and their attendant opinions on how to do things, coming from a background of no past experience and just looking sideways at current coffee culture fashion as driven by cyclic academic internet discussion..

    In closing, here are a couple of real life and recent examples of problems in coffee making being confused with use of certain name brand ("good?") equipment:

    1) client complains bitterly about the existing high output grinder being used in their cafe due to "grinds inconsistency" ie grind fluctuates very frequently throughout the day and client "baristas" cant handle it. Client demands replacement of grinder with a known brand name (Mazzer) because they recognize the name as being "good" equipment, to fix the problem.*

    Supplier audits the situation, and finds that early every morning the client premises is completely fogged up with condensation and very high humidity, causing vast fluctuation in density of beans and grinds. Problem explained, and action to solve taken.* Existing grinder not swapped out. No problem since.

    2) A separate client complains about needing to change the grind setting several times throughout the course of use of a single 1 kg bag of beans, saying either the beans in the bag are inconsistent or the grinder is faulty. The client is using a high output conical grinder, the beans are an award winning blend.

    Supplier audits the situation, and finds the barista is using inconsistent technique from coffee to coffee. Action to solve is taken, client continues to use the same beans and grinder without further "problem".

    The answers lie in cafe owners and managers themselves realising they need to employ and train the right people to act as their baristas, not really in presenting equipment brands they think the coffee drinking public might want to see, or in clients that may not know much telling a barista they dont know in a cafe they are unlikely to visit again,* how to make their coffee. Im afraid thats the tail wagging the dog and looking at the problem from the wrong end.

    Rgdz,
    Attilio
    very first CS site sponsor


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    Re: Tell the Barista what you want

    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    I love a double ristretto base 3/4 latte. I know one place where I can ask for that and not look like a pretentious twat. ;D Its called home...!



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