Oh wow, I think this is the longest its ever been between posts on here!!
Very sorry, dear reader(s). Well, I finally made it, I am in Regina, Canada, and now gainfully employed as Head Barista and front of house manager at 13th Avenue Coffee House. Most of these adventures are detailed over at my The Regina Monologue blog, but I am not quite sure where this one fits. It’s my coffee adventures!
I’ve mentioned in a previous post already about the Canadian love affair with filter coffee. Virtually every food place I’ve been in had great tanks of the stuff, their beloved Bunn machines, where “medium” or “dark” blends are kept hot (and stale) in the equivalent of giant thermos flasks all day every day. My new employers have three such tanks of coffee. They also do a lot of award winning, excellent vegetarian food, and wonder of wonders, they have an espresso machine!
It’s a Rancilio Epoca 2 group, and it has not been well used. The vast majority of the place’s trade comes from the restaurant side of the business, and the next largest proportion is the filter coffee. Espresso barely gets a look in, and their machine was not well loved or cared for. This is through no fault of the staff nor the new business owners – it was simply that no one had ever been shown how to use the machine, or more importantly, how to clean and maintain it, and because it accounted for so little of their trade, it was never a priority. But now I am here. And it is my priority! So, I had it sent away for a repair and a service, which cost a rather painful amount of dollars, but the improvement is stupendous!
I honestly found it difficult to believe it was the same coffee going in to the machine. Regina, unfortunately, has really, really hard water. Most of the repair work done on the espresso machine was just unclogging it and removing all the limescale inside it. It now has a shiny tank again, and new water filters! The difference in the taste of the espresso, made with clean, softened water, with the right amount of pressure, at the right termperature and with no leaks was incredible! I even got approval from The Boss’s Italian Dad, who requested a Doppio Espresso – presumably to test me! 🙂
Next week I am going to do a bit of Staff Training and make baristas of them all. I am encouraged by the fact that some of the team actually seem genuinely interested, admit to drinking an unhealthy amount of coffee, and do prefer espresso to the filter coffee they serve up to the customers. This is a great start as it means they will know when they make it badly. I’ve always found it harder to train up non-coffee-drinkers for that very reason – they can’t tell when it’s good! Hopefully, when I have a crew of skilled baristas, the customers will notice and we can start weaning them off the tanks of filter coffee in favour of the good stuff too!
Part of the training is going to have to include cleaning and maintaining the machine though. They can’t do much about the pH of the water here, but they can learn to detect problems with the machine. Everything from changing the filters to backwashing and checking the group head seals, to the simplest thing: getting in to the habit of wiping the milk wand after EVERY use. I usually tell people, “you have to wipe your knob otherwise it won’t squirt properly!!”. Strangely, this tends to stick in their heads quite well…
Updates on progress to follow!!