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Mediocre Coffee, It's Your Fault by Aaron De Lazzer
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jester
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Joined: 19 Dec 2001
Posts: 33
Location: Vancouver
Expertise: Professional

Posted Sun Jul 13, 2003, 12:00am
Subject: Mediocre Coffee, It's Your Fault by Aaron De Lazzer
 

Mediocre Coffee, It's Your Fault
by Aaron De Lazzer

This installment, Aaron De Lazzer talks about drip coffee faults in cafes, and your role as a consumer in making coffee shop and cafe coffee and espresso better.
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onocoffee
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onocoffee
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Posted Sun Jul 13, 2003, 8:54am
Subject: Waste of Time
 

Aaron-
Just wanted to drop you a note to give you feedback on your article and let you know that I regard it as a complete waste of my time.  

First off, you go on incessantly about what? How poor drip coffee is across North America?  And then your solution is to just tell the manager that your experience wasn't what you expected - and that's it?  Sure, be nice, be firm but telling the manager/owner only that your experience wasn't what you expected does absolutely nothing to improve drip coffee quality.

Readers should be encouraged to give additional information about why and what the concern is about.  Tell the manager explicitly what the problem is so that it can be identified and corrected.

You worked on the line doing machine service, how would you respond if someone called you and simply said that you need to come service the machine because the coffee doesn't taste "good".  You'd want to know more specifics - especially what exactly "doesn't taste good" means.

Yet you go on and on attempting clever prose without providing anything solid for the reader to grasp.  Ranting and raving about your disillusionment with drip coffee and talking about some Trademarked "Coffee Emergency" van.

You give as an example the manager of a busy coffee shop, one who would respond with a "Look how busy we are!"  Well, the reality is that if the only thing you complain about is that your experience wasn't what you expected and give nothing else, that's exactly the response the manager of the busy, successful coffee shop is going to think.  This CoffeeGeek comes in, says that his experience was shite but gives no reason why.  There's nothing to correct because you've placed yourself as a dismissable anomaly in their business because you've given no concrete points to examine and correct.
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jester
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Joined: 19 Dec 2001
Posts: 33
Location: Vancouver
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Posted Sun Jul 13, 2003, 10:58am
Subject: Yes and no
 

Hi onocoffee,
Thanks for patiently working through my attempt at clever prose to formulate your extensive response.  I'll try to be more concise next time.

Touche, you make some good points but if we could agree to disagree for a moment.
(Are you a service tech?  It would change my response slightly.  I'm just guessing but the 875 grinder you mention in your profile is ok if you live at the bean bar in  a grocery store but odd for most home users-just curious)

The article is not meant to train a service tech.  It's a plea to encourage dialogue and feedback when you have a poor cup of coffee-something that happens far too infrequently but that I think would be greatly beneficial if it happened more often.
I'm not sure how you think that a CoffeeGeek is going to go from "dismissable anomoly" to some credible source by throwing out some concrete points to examine and correct.  People are going to think you're on glue.  Unless of course you are a service tech or have that kind of experience...The CG feedback is like a warning bell that something is wrong they are not necessarily in a position to troubleshoot.  There is also no need, that's why a phone call is made and the coffee rep or service guy can come out to have a look.  Mark Prince puts on clinics all the time without invitation-I think they scare people and I've told him as much.  :)
 
I wish that when I got the call, people on the other end would have already solved my problem for me.  Typically they tell you that there have been complaints, that the coffee is weak, the coffee is too strong, the coffee is bitter (the universal descriptor for something being off with the coffee).  But until I go and see what is up for myself I'm ready for anything.

Thanks again for taking the time to comment...by the way Mark trademarked my van, in my original story it was just a regular van.  :)

Aaron
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penang1970
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penang1970
Joined: 28 Apr 2003
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Location: Fairfield, CT
Expertise: I love coffee

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Posted Sun Jul 13, 2003, 11:22am
Subject: Correct amount for Drip Coffee
 

Arron:

So what is the correct amount of coffee for drip? How do you adjust the grind to get the best extraction?

Espresso seems to have a tight definition of 7 gms to 1.0-1.5 oz of water taking 25 seconds (adjust grind to get the timing right). But I haven't seen anything so precise for drip coffee.

Cheers!
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MarshallF
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Posted Sun Jul 13, 2003, 12:35pm
Subject: Shamed into sending an e-mail
 

O.K. Aaron. You shamed me into following up my complaint to the waitress with a long e-mail to Lawry's website. I'm not optimistic. They've been packing them in 7 days a week for 50 years and now have 4 locations in the U.S. and 2 in Indonesia. My drop in the bucket...
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EvilDan
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EvilDan
Joined: 6 Jul 2003
Posts: 134
Location: Sydney
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Doesn't matter.
Grinder: Good equipment won't
Vac Pot: make up for
Drip: poor skills.
Posted Sun Jul 13, 2003, 5:40pm
Subject: Barista training in Australia
 

You might be interested in this. The Australian government's National Training Authority has released a new nationally-accedited training package which involves barista training.

You can see the details at Click Here (www.ntis.gov.au)

It's spelt out in competency-based training terminology, but as more and more australian cafe staff complete theese Certificate II in Hospitality courses, or simply gain statements of attainment in the coffee section, quality will continue to improve. These courses are run and assessed in an identical way australia-wide meaning if you have a nationally accredited course under your belt, it's recognised - so cafe owners are starting to require it.
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EvilDan
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EvilDan
Joined: 6 Jul 2003
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Location: Sydney
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Doesn't matter.
Grinder: Good equipment won't
Vac Pot: make up for
Drip: poor skills.
Posted Sun Jul 13, 2003, 5:43pm
Subject: PS
 

This is the competency unit for the actual making of coffee Click Here (www.ntis.gov.au)
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onocoffee
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onocoffee
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Posted Sun Jul 13, 2003, 11:24pm
Subject: A Response
 

Aaron-
To answer your query: No, I am not a coffee tech.  I am rather new to the business and operate a small business that serves drip coffee as part of our product line.  I will state up front that coffee is not our core business but we are very interested in providing as best a cup of coffee as we can.  I am not a "CoffeeGeek" and have learned quite a bit about coffee reading the discussions on this forum.  

I did not interpret your article as one to train service techs - I interpreted it as one demanding that CoffeeGeeks speak up at whatever establishment they visit regarding the poor quality of their drip coffee in the hopes of "raising the bar" across the industry.

I do believe that a CoffeeGeek will be regarded as more than a "dismissable anomaly" by giving concrete points to examine and correct - provided that the manager/owner actually gives a darn about the product they are serving.  It's one thing for a customer to come in and say that their cup of coffee sucked and that the operator should do better next time and it's a completely different matter if the customer can give serious reasons why he/she thinks the coffee sucked.  Poor grind, poor extraction, whatever - something that the operator can look into for correction.

While I can appreciate the fact that the average CG may not be able to accurately describe a coffee problem beyond the "it tastes kinda bitter" descriptor, I find it difficult to believe that many of these same operators would really believe there was a problem when one CG would give a broad description of problem and the operator is still selling the 200 cups a day without complaints.

Don't get me wrong about this.  I am all in favor of bringing up problematic coffee to the manager/owner, but I think it the only way it can have a serious impact on coffee quality is by giving adequate feedback on what the problem is rather than some vague descriptive about a problem that an operator could easily dismiss as an anomaly.

And thanks for taking the time to address my original remarks.
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RudigerVT
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RudigerVT
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Posted Mon Jul 14, 2003, 9:42am
Subject: Complaining's no fun
 

This is about espresso, but I think it analogizes pretty well to drip, about which I know less and care less.

I've not had a good shot of espresso outside my own kitchen for about three years, mostly because my standards for "good" have changed. Examples.

-- I've watched a micro-roastery owner demonstrate perfect technique in the grind/tamp/pull, only to discover that she was using beans at least 3 weeks past their roast date.

-- I've watched disinterested staff talk on a cordless phone while pulling the lever on an old-school machine, only to eek out sludge (again, old beans, for a start).
--I've received a smudgy, cold cup filled with god-knows-what at a highly-reputed cooking-school restaurant (New England Culinary Institute, if you must know). And the list goes on and on.

I've made two conclusions on this point (and this is after having grown up in a food-service industry family -- both parents, everything from equipment to distribution to operations: the gamut).

  1. There is money to be made in selling a lot of a dependable product of known quality. Figure out how to do that (which is really to say, figure out how low you can get the quality) and you may prosper.

So if, with coffee, wine, cheese, bread, anything, my standards are higher than what's demanded by the business plan of a given establishment, then I might get lucky, but I'll probably be disappointed (see below).

  1. Informing any such establishement that there is a discrepancy between their business plan and my standards is beside the point: they have decided to make money by appealing to a larger percentage of the (more easily satisfied) market. Now, if I am handed something that seems to be a true abberation (and these places' business plans are never hard to divine), then I might ask for a do-over. But that's seldom the case.

Below.
It's no fun to complain! And I don't like showing off (outside my own kitchen). If I'm out with friends, and order coffee, I don't WANT to turn the event into a demonstration of my expertise. And if the conversation is otherwise so dreary that it would liven things up, then I've got bigger problems, namely, boring friends.
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jester
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Joined: 19 Dec 2001
Posts: 33
Location: Vancouver
Expertise: Professional

Posted Mon Jul 14, 2003, 9:49am
Subject: Me again...
 

Ok, first off the portions for drip coffee I suggest you start at is 50-60g per L assuming you've got the grind dialed in.  Should make you a nice handsome cup of coffee.

Good work Marshall, I'm feeling the groundswell already...what did Gandhi say?  "Be the change you want to see in the world."  Something like that anyway.  You are soooo there.  :)

EvilDan the folks in Australia are really getting it all together, wow.  Thanks for the links.  Can you say that the certification has made for noticeably better coffee on the street?  An amazing and admirable start nonetheless.

Onocoffee, thanks for the clarification and further development of your points...I get what you're saying it's still a tough sell for me.  You might be ahead of your time.  :)

Aaron
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