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Thread: Surly barista.

  1. #1
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Surly barista.

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    Called into one of the better known and well rated coffee places on the Main North road in Adelaide a few days ago, ordered a cappuccino for my wife obviously without any drama, then instead of ordering my usual doppio espresso when out and about thought I would test the water by asking for something different.

    I asked the young lady behind the counter for a lungo, and the response was, whats that, I explained that if she told the barista what I wanted he would understand, which she did, I could see their interaction, it ended with mr barista shaking his head, she came back and said no can do.

    Soooo, I had the temerity to approach the barista and plead my case, and was told in a surly manner that their beans are not suited to that type of drink, when I attempted to explain that what I wanted was not a long black or an Americano but a slightly courser grind with an extraction of approx 90ml in 30 seconds he shook his head and went on with his work.

    My wife enjoyed her coffee, I ended up not ordering anything.

    No, they were not busy, I suspect the guy didn't know what a lungo was and was certainly not prepared to listen to my explanation or even attempt to make what I requested, regardless, his attitude has cost them a regular customer, I won't return.

  2. #2
    Senior Member saoye's Avatar
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    I would have at least expected a verbal response from the barista as to why. A head shake is just rude...and there's only one decent roaster / cafe on main north road that I know of and typically they have been ok for me the times I've been.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Have been fine with me over the years as well, the statement that "their beans are not suited to that type of drink" floored me, guess I shouldn't have rocked the boat.

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    Pitty, maybe the owners of the establishment would be keen to hear this and have a chat with one barista! Have always enjoyed both the coffee and food served there.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Erimus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yelta View Post
    Called into one of the better known and well rated coffee places on the Main North road in Adelaide a few days ago, ordered a cappuccino for my wife obviously without any drama, then instead of ordering my usual doppio espresso when out and about thought I would test the water by asking for something different.

    I asked the young lady behind the counter for a lungo, and the response was, whats that, I explained that if she told the barista what I wanted he would understand, which she did, I could see their interaction, it ended with mr barista shaking his head, she came back and said no can do.

    Soooo, I had the temerity to approach the barista and plead my case, and was told in a surly manner that their beans are not suited to that type of drink, when I attempted to explain that what I wanted was not a long black or an Americano but a slightly courser grind with an extraction of approx 90ml in 30 seconds he shook his head and went on with his work.

    My wife enjoyed her coffee, I ended up not ordering anything.

    No, they were not busy, I suspect the guy didn't know what a lungo was and was certainly not prepared to listen to my explanation or even attempt to make what I requested, regardless, his attitude has cost them a regular customer, I won't return.

    I don't think he'll be sorry to see back of you, going around testing people, it's quite rude to do that imo, infact it's tantamount to showing off.
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  6. #6
    CoffeeSnobs Owner Andy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brevillista View Post
    I don't think he'll be sorry to see back of you, going around testing people, it's quite rude to do that imo, infact it's tantamount to showing off.
    I don't agree.

    I think a customer knowing what they want is a great start, and if there is enough time and the customer is happy to pay extra for the wasted coffee shots in changing the grinder then I can't see a problem asking.
    ...far worse than a customer saying "oh... whatever is fine" and then nit-picking what they receive.

    I agree, tell the owner. If it's his policy then at least you know where it came from.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member Erimus's Avatar
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    If it's not on the menu and this sounds like it wasn't, then you already have an idea that you're on dicey ground. We can all make better coffee at home 95% of the time, so prepare to be disappointed sometimes.

  8. #8
    Sleep is overrated Thundergod's Avatar
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    I once asked for the first coffee listed on the menu, asked the order taker to check with the barista that he knew what it was ,and still got nothing like what I ordered.
    So be prepared to be disappointed whether it's on the menu or not.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brevillista View Post
    If it's not on the menu and this sounds like it wasn't, then you already have an idea that you're on dicey ground. We can all make better coffee at home 95% of the time, so prepare to be disappointed sometimes.
    Your probably right Brevillista, certainly won't make the same mistake again.

    Testing people, showing off, far from it, naive? probably, I thought a (trained barista) would have known what I was on about, I certainly won't make the same mistake again, from now on when I'm out and about its a doppio every time.

  10. #10
    Senior Member saoye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brevillista View Post
    I don't think he'll be sorry to see back of you, going around testing people, it's quite rude to do that imo, infact it's tantamount to showing off.
    You mean kind of like being a coffee-"snob"?

    the least the barista could do was to respond and not ignore and shake his/her head.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Erimus's Avatar
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    ^

    Sorry about that Yelta, I'll take those remarks back.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brevillista View Post
    ^

    Sorry about that Yelta, I'll take those remarks back.
    No harm done mate, I've got broad shoulders.
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  13. #13
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    I can understand him not wanting to mess with the grind settings for a one off drink, but he should have dealt with the request more politely.
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  14. #14
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    I would likely refuse it too as it's not something I've played around with enough to have any confidence in serving it well.

  15. #15
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    Yelta has correctly raised a real issue ( note opportunity) with the Aust Cafe scene as I see it.
    * Over-rider, First off Aust fresh coffee (cafe's) can in general be rated as good as or better than
    Most if not anywhere else in the world.
    What I am about to say is as a result of years 'experience' in trying to find out / know what I'll be served once ordered.

    ....That is that most cafes do not have trained, nor do they train, the behind counter staff. 'The Barista' is shown
    how to offer what is on the menu, and unfortunately that's as far as it goes.
    IME on avge approx 6 out of 10 cafes in a straight walk up and try situation will not serve a quality cup.
    What's a quality cup ? Well we all know what we like - in my case if it is not sour bitter or burnt, andthe shot has an inherent
    Sweetness plus character to its flavour as well as the temp that it is served at ( flarvwhite) is near were I requested it
    - then it will easily pass My subjective taste test.
    I'm happy to try new cafes however I only return to those that I have confidence will (and have previously ) passed that simple test.

    IMO some of the responsibility could to be sheeted home to the fresh coffee industry (some suppliers.... note). That is that
    the training given to the cafe is lacking. In general the training by suppliers of the beans ( and then often machine and grinder)
    It appears they only train how / what's required to serve a cup / this is how you do iut etc ertc rote form
    In general the operator cannot answer basic questions regarding the cup they serve.
    - Do you serve a single or dble shot? What size basket / amt of grnd coffee is in your shot? What temp do you serve the cup? (flat white) Etc etc.

    What I tasted as coffee in London just recently was very disappointing - burnt and bitter!
    So really Aust does offer a very good coffee in general - when compared fairly against the rest of the world, but
    There is lots of room for improvement ( read bringing the low hanging fruit up to the mid rating ) so that at least
    The cafes / retailer supplies what the customer wants !

    There end of rant n off my chest !
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  16. #16
    Senior Member Rocky's Avatar
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    It's tough when you're the 'expert' and you don't know what the customer is talking about (in any field).
    That's where your professionalism shows (or not).
    It's hard to suck in your pride and be a bit humble and say "I'm not familiar with that - tell me about it".
    Sometimes the customer is off with the fairies and you have to say "Sorry, I can't help you with that".
    But other times you actually learn something, which should be a real buzz.
    Depends how you feel about your job.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by EspressoAdventurer View Post
    Yelta has correctly raised a real issue ( note opportunity) with the Aust Cafe scene as I see it.
    * Over-rider, First off Aust fresh coffee (cafe's) can in general be rated as good as or better than
    Most if not anywhere else in the world.
    What I am about to say is as a result of years 'experience' in trying to find out / know what I'll be served once ordered.

    ....That is that most cafes do not have trained, nor do they train, the behind counter staff. 'The Barista' is shown
    how to offer what is on the menu, and unfortunately that's as far as it goes.
    Hi EspressoAdventurer

    I share your concerns, having had way more bad coffees than good over the years (and yes, Oz is way better than most AFAIAC).

    I am not / never have been in the coffee industry as such, however in my 15+ year "mid sized IT company owner life" I trained over 50 staff in high level IT work (designed 2000+ WAN's & software to suit). Most of them got head hunted, as they actually knew what they were doing, unlike most tech guys. I did the maths a year before ex-wife2 "took the lot" and worked out that I had never made a profit out of any of the best guys I trained before some freeloader picked up a bargain (note to self: idiot!, should have checked long before that).

    My issue is quite simple: who is going to pay for the "much needed" barista training. Even worse, most barista trainers I know of (via their students knowledge / lack thereof) are not very good.

    1) The bean side:
    I am sure Andy (CS owner / roaster) and other roasters would rightfully say it is not their prob. Mind you, Andy's craftmanship in producing good roasted beans means he would probably love his customers to get the best possible coffees out of them.
    Ditto the wholesale distributors: although I reckon they should have the people and resources to deliver good training. Perhaps the distributors could do so for a fee...
    What about the cafe chains? Although they have the front line need, very few chains train their staff properly: I was going to say none, however I know of a few isolated instances where an individual franchise owner from a chain has provided training. Guys like me (lots of previous "part time" front line experience & passion, but other professional lives) have even been shanghaied into one off "ad hoc" sessions every so often.
    What about smaller cafes? They are pretty unlikely to be able to afford formal training.


    2) So we are down to the makers, wholesalers and retail sellers of the coffee equipment itself. At every stage they are under pressure to compete with "box movers" (IT term for cash & carry places, often online these days).

    I am sure the manufacturers would be delighted to provide training, even if only to reduce warranty claims & user "ignorance issues". Of course, there is the minor matter of geography... most makers are overseas.

    The wholesalers are really the next best bet, however a lot of retailers would have issues in referring their customers "up the chain" for training as most Oz businesses have had a wholesaler "steal" a retail client in their recent past. In my IT trade, it is almost the norm.

    So really, it is the coffee equipment retailers who may choose to give some training: only to see their potential customer say "thanks" and buy the gear for a few dollars less to some online box mover with no overheads.

    3) The only other option is "reading up" (whether by book, DVD, Kindle or whatever) on the methods. Unfortunately, for every Illy there are numerous also ran attempts. Some of them are embarrassingly ignorant. That then requires the person seeking the knowledge to be able to distinguish the Scott Rao's sound approach from the "you tube horrors". A bit of an ask to make such a judgement call when by definition the people concerned are seeking out knowledge they do not yet possess... catch22?

    Unfortunately, my conclusion is "don't hold your breath" awaiting ubiquitous training. In my view the only hope is to obtain more enlightened customers who appreciate that good coffee / good service is worth paying the extra dollars for. A pretty rare breed, however they do exist.

    TampIt
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  18. #18
    Senior Member Luke_G's Avatar
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    In my experience, if i do not not know the latest lingo or newest coffee fad when someone asks for it, i simply tell them that i will make whatever it is they are willing to pay for as long as they can explain it to me.
    Not to defend the said "barista" but not everyone knows what a lungo is. Either he is too "pro" or too scared to touch the grinder in case he could not get back to where he was.

    P.S. Not everyone on a machine has had formal(if there is such a thing) training and to me, a certificate means nothing when i am hiring new staff.

  19. #19
    Senior Member GrahamK's Avatar
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    I'm curious why the grinder settings need changing, all the descriptions of "lungo" I have seen are basically a std Espresso but with the extraction continued to around 90ml, so weakening it and extracting more of the bitter elements?

  20. #20
    Senior Member Bosco_Lever's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yelta View Post
    Called into one of the better known and well rated coffee places on the Main North road in Adelaide a few days ago, ordered a cappuccino for my wife obviously without any drama, then instead of ordering my usual doppio espresso when out and about thought I would test the water by asking for something different.

    I asked the young lady behind the counter for a lungo, and the response was, whats that, I explained that if she told the barista what I wanted he would understand, which she did, I could see their interaction, it ended with mr barista shaking his head, she came back and said no can do.

    Soooo, I had the temerity to approach the barista and plead my case, and was told in a surly manner that their beans are not suited to that type of drink, when I attempted to explain that what I wanted was not a long black or an Americano but a slightly courser grind with an extraction of approx 90ml in 30 seconds he shook his head and went on with his work.

    My wife enjoyed her coffee, I ended up not ordering anything.

    No, they were not busy, I suspect the guy didn't know what a lungo was and was certainly not prepared to listen to my explanation or even attempt to make what I requested, regardless, his attitude has cost them a regular customer, I won't return.
    A good business knows and promotes that it cannot be everything to everyone.
    The establishment in question (for those who do not know it) is owned by a very passionate coffee roaster who knows his stuff, and hires good staff. They are a former sponsor.
    This is not a question of a barista not knowing his products, simply a case of him choosing to refuse to serve an off the menu item. It makes great business sense, and he must be commended for it, and not derided.
    To make the Lungo, he would need to adjust the grinder whilst grinding and waste at least two doses. One dose for the lungo, and another two doses to dial the grinder back to espresso setting. About 100g of coffee. At $30/kg (approx wholesale value of coffee, even if they roast their own), cost is $3, plus time. For a lungo that would sell for no more than $4, it is clear the establishment would lose money.
    As there was no offer of paying extra for an off the menu product, the barista is in the right.
    Whilst competition is fierce today, pandering to the free babychino, free extra shot, etc etc crowd, is not good business sense. Yelta is free to go elsewhere, but sorry to say, I know there is not much in the vicinity, and certainly not a place able to produce a good lungo.
    In the past the said establishment has always provided excellent service and the proprietor has gone over the top sometimes with what he has offered or given away. It is an establishment that I have, and will continue to visit frequently.

    I am pretty sure that though this one time, you did not get exactly what you wanted, in the past the service and product was above standard and hence why you "were" a regular.

    On another note, given that 90% of beverages served in cafes etc are espresso based milk beverages, asking for something such as a lungo, you must expect that it is a tall order, especially for Adelaide, and in that neck of the woods.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bosco_Lever View Post
    On another note, given that 90% of beverages served in cafes etc are espresso based milk beverages, asking for something such as a lungo, you must expect that it is a tall order, especially for Adelaide, and in that neck of the woods.
    I guess that raises the other issue.

    On a board like this, we are enthusiasts and hobbyists. Not everyone working behind a coffee machine is as "into it" as us however.

    If you've ever seen George Constanza and "Eric" The Clown, you'll get what I'm saying.

    George v Bozo the Clown on Youtube

    A lungo is a very obscure version of coffee, and when you order something like this, in some cases the person making the coffee may interpret it as an attempt to humiliate them. (Not saying it was the case in this instance).

  22. #22
    TOK
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    Quote Originally Posted by EspressoAdventurer View Post
    .......
    IMO some of the responsibility could to be sheeted home to the fresh coffee industry (some suppliers.... note). That is that
    the training given to the cafe is lacking. In general the training by suppliers of the beans ( and then often machine and grinder)
    It appears they only train how / what's required to serve a cup / this is how you do iut etc ertc rote form
    In general the operator cannot answer basic questions regarding the cup they serve.
    - Do you serve a single or dble shot? What size basket / amt of grnd coffee is in your shot? What temp do you serve the cup? (flat white) Etc etc.
    ......!
    Agreed, these days Australia generally has a higher standard of cafe "espresso" coffee than many other countries.

    However, with regard to the passage quoted, I am afraid this is another Yes and No scenario, and I am glad you wrote "...SOME of the responsibility could be sheeted home to the fresh coffee industry (some suppliers...note)..."

    Most roaster/suppliers really are over people telling them that if some galloot in a cafe makes a bad coffee, that its their (the suppliers) problem, if its an observation that is made "carte blanche" (and as I said at the beginning, I know it wasnt)....just saying.... If we were to apply that sentiment to all industry, that would for example, make General Motors responsible for the driving habits of and ongoing training to, everyone driving their commodores

    When can we expect that people working in cafes are going to take enough interest in their professions, to take some responsibility for gaining the expertise they require to do their job properly?

    My vote is for all roaster suppliers to withdraw all branding, and for all people that want to own, or manage, or work in cafes, to take some responsibility for all the products they purvey especially those they remanufacture (coffee being only one of them...).

    And so to add to the quoted passage, SOME of the responsibility should be taken by cafe owners and managers that are employing people who lack expertise OR who wont train (or obtain training) or supervise their staff....

    Now what was the original topic...oh yeah surly barista. The type of coffee requested has nothing to do with anything. Its nothing more than an attitude problem, and with the attitude displayed, I wouldnt go back. You can handle almost any scenario, if you do it with diplomacy and with regard to the fact that the person you are interacting with is a client and represents dollar signs. A bad attitude problem in a cafe means the axons and dendrites floating around in someones head havent yet made the connection, that bad attitude ultimately means lower revenue in the back pocket, coupled to the fact that people talk leading to even less revenue, and that = stoopid.
    Last edited by TOK; 4th November 2014 at 06:49 AM.
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  23. #23
    Senior Member speleomike's Avatar
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    Hi all

    Many years ago my wife and I (or was she my girlfriend then? it was quite a while ago ) asked at the bar in Jenolan Caves House for a cappuccino and the waiter there said "Oh do I have to make one of those, their so complicated.". Yes please :-)
    And she did make it OK.

    Mike

  24. #24
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    While baristas and wait staff should try to remain pleasant, dealing with the public is not always easy.

    While serving coffee to my friends they have told me I should open a café. I say NO. I don’t mind making coffee for friends and being pleasant to them for about an hour at a time but to do it all day would be impossible for me.

    Barry
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  25. #25
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bosco_Lever View Post
    A good business knows and promotes that it cannot be everything to everyone.
    The establishment in question (for those who do not know it) is owned by a very passionate coffee roaster who knows his stuff, and hires good staff. They are a former sponsor.
    This is not a question of a barista not knowing his products, simply a case of him choosing to refuse to serve an off the menu item. It makes great business sense, and he must be commended for it, and not derided.
    To make the Lungo, he would need to adjust the grinder whilst grinding and waste at least two doses. One dose for the lungo, and another two doses to dial the grinder back to espresso setting. About 100g of coffee. At $30/kg (approx wholesale value of coffee, even if they roast their own), cost is $3, plus time. For a lungo that would sell for no more than $4, it is clear the establishment would lose money.
    As there was no offer of paying extra for an off the menu product, the barista is in the right.
    Whilst competition is fierce today, pandering to the free babychino, free extra shot, etc etc crowd, is not good business sense. Yelta is free to go elsewhere, but sorry to say, I know there is not much in the vicinity, and certainly not a place able to produce a good lungo.
    In the past the said establishment has always provided excellent service and the proprietor has gone over the top sometimes with what he has offered or given away. It is an establishment that I have, and will continue to visit frequently.

    I am pretty sure that though this one time, you did not get exactly what you wanted, in the past the service and product was above standard and hence why you "were" a regular.

    On another note, given that 90% of beverages served in cafes etc are espresso based milk beverages, asking for something such as a lungo, you must expect that it is a tall order, especially for Adelaide, and in that neck of the woods.
    Agree with most of what you say here Bosco, my issue was with the unnecessary attitude.
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  26. #26
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrahamK View Post
    I'm curious why the grinder settings need changing, all the descriptions of "lungo" I have seen are basically a std Espresso but with the extraction continued to around 90ml, so weakening it and extracting more of the bitter elements?
    Not quite Graham, a lungo needs a slightly coarser grind than a standard espresso, lungo extraction = approx 90ml in 30 seconds, running a shot of espresso to 90ml would take over a minute and would be well and truly over extracted.
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  27. #27
    TC
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    G'day Yelta,

    FWIW, I suspect it's unlikely a barista would be keen to dial "out" for your lungo and then dial back for espresso. Too time consuming and wasteful.

    Perhaps a long black would suffice? Double over water is still a great drink when expertly pulled.

    I think you may have to bend a little when you're out mate.... and when home, you get to roll your own!

    Cheers

    Chris
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    With all due respect there are also a couple of different definitions of Lungo on the net. A couple I read did not mention a coarser grind, merely extracting for longer. Not surprised the Barista didn't make it. However, rudeness is never ok in customer service and the service you received was not good enough.

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    Well, I think lungos are featuring way too much of the ass end... the blond end in espresso...

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by JavaBeanery View Post
    Well, I think lungos are featuring way too much of the ass end... the blond end in espresso...
    Well, don't drink them then...

    Mal.
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  31. #31
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dimal View Post
    Well, don't drink them then...

    Mal.
    Thanks Mal,

    Was going to respond, then thought, it simply ain't worth the effort.
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  32. #32
    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    The poster in question is just another of the recent wave of Ray-clones it appears. Whatever gets one through the night I guess.....
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  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
    FWIW, I suspect it's unlikely a barista would be keen to dial "out" for your lungo and then dial back for espresso. Too time consuming and wasteful.
    This is what I'm thinking.

    As for the attitude, not acceptable if it's objectively as-described, but on the other hand, you never know what's going on in the other bloke's head, and it could well be that he cops requests for off-menu drinks often enough for it to be a pain (as a presumably busy person) to explain to everyone why they won't do xyz.



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