I think you are right to place some of the blame on us. I regularly buy substandard espresso drinks from a local establishment. I have suggested to the barista that he might want to grind a little finer when I noticed the pour was a little quick. However, I never complain to them about the abysmal job they do of steaming milk. Unfortunately, I never learned a good technique so I could make few constructive suggestions.
We probably should speak up more and stop giving business to places that don't pay attention to quality.
alanfrew Senior Member Joined: 19 Dec 2001 Posts: 647 Location: Melbourne Expertise: Professional
Posted Sun Jun 29, 2003, 4:37am Subject: Free = worthless
Hi Aaron, from local experience I can tell you that free advice is considered worthless by merchants. $100 per hour advice is listened to with great respect, which is why we have 2 barista training academies available in a city with a 3 million population. A sales pitch along the line of "I was in your place the other day, your espresso sucked big time, I can offer your employees a barista course at a reduced rate 'cause you're such a good customer" will get a far greater response.
espresso_jim Senior Member Joined: 13 Jun 2002 Posts: 325 Location: Austin, TX Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: Mini Vivaldi II Grinder: Mazzer Mini E Drip: Technivorm Moccamaster... Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Sun Jun 29, 2003, 8:10am Subject: Training and my responsibility
I appreciate your comments and think Alan hit the nail on the head.
For me, I simply stopped going to coffee houses when I got good home equipment and pulled better shots right off the bat than the shops could pour. Then I got better. I shudder when I think about drinking espresso away from home. Austin, TX has a lot of shops with poor quality espresso and lots of attitude. They lost my business. Do I have an obligation to help improve their product? I eagerly await your next column.
Posted Mon Jun 30, 2003, 7:58am Subject: How 'bout swinging south?
An excellent article! As a midwesterner, I've bought scores of crappy espresso drinks, often from really nice shops. How an owner could spend a mint on a beautiful establishment and turn around and serve improperly prepared drinks is a shame.
vinnie Senior Member Joined: 30 Jun 2003 Posts: 1 Expertise: Professional
Posted Mon Jun 30, 2003, 9:56am Subject: Aaron hits nail, misses thumb
Once again Mr. De Lazzer has hit the nail squarely on the head. Take notice cafe owners and step up. Training your employees will absolutely affect your bottom line - more customers, better tips and good espresso. What a combination.
I also agree about the training for "free". Although our standard sessions run 3-4 hours in length, if you charge $100 for the same program you will notice everyone paying just a bit more attention. Keep up the great work oh coffee missionary and keep the faith.
jester Moderator Joined: 19 Dec 2001 Posts: 33 Location: Vancouver Expertise: Professional
Posted Mon Jun 30, 2003, 1:40pm Subject: Random musings
Thanks for all the great feedback and encouragement. Alan I think that you're right on with the fact that free information and training doesn't ever seem to have the impact that very, very expensive training does. Looks like I'm going to have to raise my rates. :) I would love to see how the training institutes work where you are. Usually the pressure is on the roaster to provide the equipment, the coffee, the training, the hours of sympathetic counselling and free advice etc. Taking the training out of that realm and into the hands of an independent source would be VERY interesting. I'm thinking... "the Coffee Missionary Institute for Coffee Excellence."
I'm also sensitive to the difficulty there can be in approaching people. It is not easy and it is compounded by the gobs of attitude that you can run into. Just yesterday Mark and I talked to a barista who had NO training ever but enough attitude that it was giving me a rash. Whatever, I don't spend much time there. She was not the person to be talking to. Sometimes even the manager isn't the right person... The challenge is to say something in a way that is non-threatening. It is a challenge that I throw out to others but also put to myself. Good luck to all!
champignon Senior Member Joined: 2 Jun 2002 Posts: 119 Location: Ketchum Expertise: I live coffee
Espresso: La Cimbali Jr. DT/1 Rotary;... Grinder: 2 Cimbali Jr. Grinders; 1... Vac Pot: Hario Deco 3; Hario Deco 5;... Drip: Melita cone, used during... Roaster: 1lb Gas Fired Drum Sample...
Posted Tue Jul 1, 2003, 9:39pm Subject: Can't blame the customer who doesn't show up
Hey Aaron, Long Time no See!!
A huge percentage of us ultra discriminating espresso snob types, long ago resigned outselves to the fact that a randomly purchased espresso drink at a randomly chosen shop is more likely than not to be awful. Therefore, we prepare and drink our espresso drinks at home.
It is as if the only wine you could buy at a bar or a restaurant was undrinkable plonk. The same thing would happen; the most knowledgeable and critical consumers would simply opt out of the market, as has happened with establishments that serve coffee beverages.
As a result, you end up with a bunch of shops serving crap to customers who don't know or don't care about quality. The shop makes money, the customers are satisfied, and no one is unhappy.
The one thing I can do., before I go on a trip, is to try to find out if there are any good espresso serving establishments along my route, and if so, to try to patronize them. I did this a couple of times recently in your own city, at Artigiano's two locations. The marginal business these good establishments pick up from people like me is not great, but iti does put a few extra dollars of profit into the owner's pockets. This is all I can do as a consumer, unless I want to go about giving unwelcomed gratuitous advice to cafe owners who already think they are doing a great job :)
Speaking only for myself, I don't think it is my inalienable right to get a good coffee or espresso drink in any establishment; someone else owns the place and they can serve what they wish. I do however have the choice of whether I will patronize the place, and generally I choose not to. Why part with even a few bucks to be served lukewarm plonk in a paper cup? Most of the time I'd pay them not to have to drink it.
Unfortunately, there are just too small a number of people who think that coffee isn't some rancid brown stuff that gets put into hot milk to make the milk taste a bit more interesting., like A-1 Steak Sauce put on a Chicken Fried Steak (ugh!)
After reading this do you feel a bit like Sisyphus, pushing that boulder up the hill?
DeLazzers_disciple Senior Member Joined: 9 May 2003 Posts: 5 Location: Orange County,Ca Expertise: I live coffee
Posted Wed Jul 2, 2003, 1:47pm Subject: Worth It
Well Aaron, I just have to admit again you are stinkin awesome ;-) I love what you said about training and if it werent for you I wouldnt be a faithful barista. Im slowly but surely converting others! hahaha Cant wait to see you again in July and learn even more! Keep on sharing the "good news" lol
PS I have a pic to send you from the cafe that Terry says you would like
jester Moderator Joined: 19 Dec 2001 Posts: 33 Location: Vancouver Expertise: Professional
Posted Thu Jul 3, 2003, 10:31am Subject: Are you feelin' me now?
Hi Ken, thanks for the the comments. I appreciate the points you make. Do I feel like Sysiphus pushing the boulder up hill? Often for sure although most of the time I feel like a nervous 16 year old schoolgirl with a lisp trapped inside a 30 year old man's body... :)
Sure there is a place for the coffee snobs to do their thing at home to have a great uncompromised coffee experience and explore and enjoy all the facets coffee has to offer-BUT, the point in giving feedback and I think I flesh this out in the next half of the article, is that feedback is not "gratuitous advice." Way too threatening. Yes you may know something that would help the cafe improve what they do but unless invited to put on a demo, please don't. Just let'em know you did not enjoy the coffee they served.
I'm with you 100% that you should patronize those shops that do a great job and in doing so you are giving a not so subtle financial feedback to those you buy from (positive) and those you don't (negative). However don't you sometimes wish that you didn't have to search hither and yon for a nice shot of espresso? I know I do.
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