an espresso lover's blog

Saturday, April 30, 2005

A little delayed, but here are some thoughts after working as a barista during the "Microsoft-dagene" - conference last week.

The idea of having a small coffee bar in Exense's (company I work for) booth was mine. I believed it would draw a nice crowd. And it did. We even got several repeat visitors, some of them probably potential customers for IT-projects. They were all very happy with the coffee and service, and so were the people I work for. A big success that will probably be repeated at a later time.

Being a barista is hard work. I already knew that since I have done similar gigs before, but I always forget the tiredness felt after a long day of standing on a hard surface, serving coffee and trying to give good service to all who wants coffee. A lot of respect goes out to Jimmy and all the other baristi I know. Especially to those who manages to serve a sweet and tasty shot throughout the day. That requires focus and good cleaning routines, and a passion to serve the best you can to each customer.

It is interesting to see how the rules and practices governing brewing and cleaning really works. It may be overkill to follow all the schomer rules for instance in a home setting, but I promise you that it is important when you serve hundreds of shots. It is stuff like cleaning as you go, flushing the group, popping out the filter and scrubbing the pf when you have time etc.

Keeping the dose and tamp consistent is also important. Then it is just a matter of adjusting the grind when air moisture changes. People were entering and leaving the conference hall in regular intervals. One moment it was packed, the next it was almost empty since they were all somewhere else listening to a presentation or the like. I had to adjust the grind quite a lot. The shot timer on the Rancilio classe 8 was a big help.

It was nice to work on the rancilio classe 8 espresso machine and the rancilio MD50 grinder. No shortage of steam, hot water etc. Shots came out very nice and I love the steam arm and the way it really gets the milk moving. I like the design too. It is almost like Silvia's big brother. Mmmmmmm, Silvia.

The MD50 grinder is heavy and robust. It is the grinder the marines would choose if they ever got into espresso. I have nothing negative to say about the grind quality or the way the grind is adjusted. Negative points are heavy and sluggish dosing lever and that it is quite loud. I think it disturbed some conversations in our booth, but on the other hand it probably got some people's attention too:).

Some stuff I learned:

- try to plan ahead. Ask several customers in the queue what they want
- letting the group flush/run for a long time can actually make the group hotter, not colder like I believed. Only flush for an instant to get the dirty brew water out before the next shot
- steaming with the 3 dl pitcher works just fine. Just don't steam with full power. Start slow in the stretch phase and then open up more to finish up

Still wondering about:

- macchiatos. Do most baristi steam a 3 dl pitcher amount and throw the leftovers away?
- dosing. What works best? below the line in the filter, or overfilling and swiping. I tried lots of variants, but ended up swiping. I've seen Alexander von der Lippe use surprisingly small amounts of coffee and getting excellent shots. Definitely some differences between E61 groups and traditional groups.

A big thank you to fellow coffeegeek Anders Gulden Olstad who stopped by the booth two times to play. He even brought a single spout pf with LM filter that I could experiment with.

4/30/2005 06:05:00 PM  

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