March 2014 Newsletter
"You can quote me on that!" and in fact many people have done so. I
was unaware that the pearls of wisdom that sprout from my keyboard
were so widely scattered until I saw my name pop up in the
"Quotable Quotes" bit of Home Barista. Since other people are doing
it, I thought that I may as well quote myself! Quotes are from Coffeegeek and HB.
On pressurized portafilters:
Pressurized portafilters and pressurized filter baskets come in
many guises, but they basically have a single purpose: to allow the
customer to get the appearance of acceptable crema from stale,
poorly ground supermarket coffee.
Pressurized pfs produce the espresso equivalent of microwaved
On employing top baristas:
In my experience excellent baristas are like excellent chefs; their
ultimate ambition is ALWAYS to open their own place. How would you
feel if Jamie Oliver had been an apprentice in <your> kitchen? All
you can do is to train your staff to do as well as possible, and
recognize that ultimately the really top ones will either move on
or buy you out.
On blaming the $2000 machine for poor espresso:
Sometimes you've just got to laugh. "We don't have a grinder" is
100% of your problem.
On blaming wholesale roasters for stale coffee in large stores:
I suspect a commercial reality check is in order. If a large
department store chain rocks up to a relatively small specialty
roaster and says "we'd like 10 tonnes of your coffee in 200g bags
for our winter rollout, and 2 tonnes a month thereafter" do you
think the roaster is going to knock them back? Most likely they'll
ring their spouse and say "Honey, contact the bank and tell them if
they can hold off on foreclosing until next month we'll pay out the
mortgage in full. Oh, and the kids can get new shoes."
They might worry about in-store freshness after they've cleared
their debts, but since they have absolutely no control over it,
they'll worry more about losing the contract if they make an issue
of it. The only practical way to ensure you're getting fresh beans
is to buy direct from the roaster, or roast them yourself.
The Italian manufacturers I've talked to use vibe pumps for tank
machines, rotary pumps for plumb-ins. Simple as that. All of them
recommend that rotary pump machines should only be used when
attached to a permanent water supply.
There are some parts used in espresso machines where releasing your
inner geek and refurbing or repairing is worth it. Vibe pumps and
safety valves are not among them.
On what female Italian baristas wear: (Yes, somebody asked.)
If husband is alive: Floral scarf, baggy floral print polyester
dress (not matching the scarf), knee high thick beige support hose,
flat heel scuffed black slip on shoes. All black if husband is
At trade shows, spray on t-shirts and high cut hot pants on
twentysomethings seem to be the order of the day, and the shots are
still pretty good
This month's special coffee is both rare and expensive.
It's a peaberry bean with an intense nutty aroma, soft sweet acid
front palate, medium body and a milk chocolate finish. Seriously
Until next month