Our Valued Sponsor
OpinionsConsumer ReviewsGuides and How TosCoffeeGeek ReviewsResourcesForums
Articles: CoffeeGeek Columnist Feedback
Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
Cafe Espresso Machines
Video reviews, nationwide installation, leasing options... Nuova Simonelli, Rancilio, La Marzocco.
www.seattlecoffeegear.com
 
Not Logged in: Log In to Postlog in
New Topics updated topics   New Posts new posts   Unanswered Posts new unanswered  
Search Discussion Board search   Discussion Board FAQ faq   Signup sign up  
Discussions > Articles > Columnist... > Is This the End...  
view previous topic | view next topic | view all topics
showing page 2 of 8 first page | last page previous page | next page
Author Messages
Dasein
Senior Member


Joined: 19 Jun 2002
Posts: 492
Location: Vancouver
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Synesso 3 grp
Grinder: Mazzer Robur E, Kony E,...
Vac Pot: Yama & Hario etc...
Drip: Clover 1s, Press Pots, Hario...
Roaster: Probat L12, Probatino,...
Posted Thu Dec 28, 2006, 7:14pm
Subject: Re: Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
 

RapidCoffee Said:

...*$ has already replaced their baristi with (inferior) superautos. This move seems to have gone smoothly and successfully. What if they had replaced them with these super-superautos instead?

Posted December 28, 2006 link

And thus created a quality vacuum in the market that today's savvy independent can capture a leverage to his/her advantage.  Differentiation --- That's where the 3rd wave coffee scene is in North American.  The Aussie market of which the author speaks is relatively homogeneous (and he's speaking about the middle of that market).  Different markets and market paradigms entirely.  Makes for a rather underwhelming article.
back to top
 View Profile Visit website Link to this post
RBFunk
Senior Member


Joined: 22 Jun 2005
Posts: 19
Location: NJ
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Rancillio
Grinder: Bunn & fetco
Drip: Fetco
Roaster: Ambex YM10
Posted Thu Dec 28, 2006, 8:13pm
Subject: Re: Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
 

George is my new hero because he has pulled together some of the thoughts running around in my head and put them all in one place.
The only part of the article that I don't fully agree with is the comments about raising prices. Now I don't disagree with George's survey but my position is that I can control my prices without worrying about my competition too much. Some of this was the result of quite a bit of research and some is luck. We are planing a price realignment for 2007 due to changes in bean prices but we aren't allowing anyone to force us to react.

The reality of the barista position is that the local economy is the driving factor. I would love to be able to say "Well you came in third in the barista competition. I'll give you a try out but I can only pay you $700.00 a week."  A small clean apartment around here is $1000.00 and up, without utilities.  I would also love to give everyone a perfect espresso for a dollar but it's not going to happen. Instead we have a bunch of high school and college students at 8 to 10 dollars an hour.  We do train them not to just shove a pitcher under the steam wand and push the button.  A few have graduated to the manual wand.

In the end, the coffee business is a balancing act between costs and quality.  We are trying to put out the best product we can while making enough money to stay open.
Bob

 
www.moondoggiecoffee.com
back to top
 View Profile Visit website Link to this post
alsterling
Senior Member
alsterling
Joined: 28 Dec 2005
Posts: 682
Location: Dana Point, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Spaziale S1 (Had Expo)
Grinder: Macap M4 & Gaggia MDF
Vac Pot: Not yet...
Drip: Capresso MT-500 & Melitta...
Roaster: Hottop Digital
Posted Thu Dec 28, 2006, 8:16pm
Subject: Re: Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
 

Dasein Said:

And thus created a quality vacuum in the market that today's savvy independent can capture a leverage to his/her advantage.  Differentiation --- That's where the 3rd wave coffee scene is in North American.  The Aussie market of which the author speaks is relatively homogeneous (and he's speaking about the middle of that market).  Different markets and market paradigms entirely.

And you finished by saying......... Makes for a rather underwhelming article.

Posted December 28, 2006 link

Robert, in this case, the article does one thing very well...... it directs us to consider the possible. I would fully agree with the thoughtful comments of "lethalblonde" regarding the awakening of both baristas and the  specialty coffee industry in general. There's nothing small about increasing one's peripheral vision, and if nothing else, maybe this article does its part?

To be more specific about the super-auto comments I alluded to earlier, I spoke with Guy Pasquini, who distributes the La Cimbali super autos. His concern, although he spoke well of the high end commercial super autos, was that they did require very, very regular maintenance. I believe he said every couple days.....talking about readjustments. As with so many devices of the 20th century, we all can see the transition from electro-mechanical and analog to higher levels of solid state and more efficient servo-type mechanisms.

I firmly believe that there will always be exceptions, but quantitatively, I do think that for major retailers and chains, super-auto brewing will be an integral part of the overall business. Having a semi-auto machine and a barista will, as was mentioned with other examples, always be an attraction for a segment of the entire market. I suppose the question we should be asking is what type of coffee retailer would we want to be in the near or far future of specialty coffee? If your motivation comes from "turning the tables" in your establishment and "increasing the rate of open/close" on the cash registers.......then I'd think optimizing labor costs and increasing and making more efficient sales product would be a goal that would include the super-auto.

Best, Al in SoCal

 
Member No.12047 - SCAA
http://www.baristaexchange.com/profile/AlSterling
Warning: Close cover before striking
"Space Available Here for Something Really Prolific"
back to top
 View Profile Visit website Link to this post
alsterling
Senior Member
alsterling
Joined: 28 Dec 2005
Posts: 682
Location: Dana Point, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Spaziale S1 (Had Expo)
Grinder: Macap M4 & Gaggia MDF
Vac Pot: Not yet...
Drip: Capresso MT-500 & Melitta...
Roaster: Hottop Digital
Posted Thu Dec 28, 2006, 8:35pm
Subject: Re: Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
 

RBFunk Said:

George is my new hero because he has pulled together some of the thoughts running around in my head and put them all in one place.......The reality of the barista position is that the local economy is the driving factor. I would love to be able to say "Well you came in third in the barista competition. I'll give you a try out but I can only pay you $700.00 a week."  A small clean apartment around here is $1000.00 and up, without utilities.  I would also love to give everyone a perfect espresso for a dollar but it's not going to happen. Instead we have a bunch of high school and college students at 8 to 10 dollars an hour.  We do train them not to just shove a pitcher under the steam wand and push the button.  A few have graduated to the manual wand.........In the end, the coffee business is a balancing act between costs and quality.  We are trying to put out the best product we can while making enough money to stay open.          Bob

Posted December 28, 2006 link

Bob, you added some very salient thoughts indeed. I was also thinking about the reality of the over 95% of espresso cafes in the US NOW. You're right on and very realistic, in my opinion, when admitting to the realities of today's available labor force. Can an owner build a viable small business (specialty coffee) around nothing but highly qualified, trained and well paid baristas? Well, maybe, but I haven't seen it in this country, with the obvious exceptions of those few "Third Wave" operations that Robert sites. And he's right. These "Third Wave" operators are filling a need. The point I'm trying to make is that the market segment is smaller at this time, and for many, not a viable market to go after; it requires more marketing saavy and a more focused business plan than the conventional shop.

I know I've pimped my videos of Brasilian Espresso Cafes in Sao Paulo quite abit lately, but truthfully, it's worth discussing whether US based specialty coffee retailers can run high grossing AND high net profit shops like these foreign shops, in the face of much higher US labor costs? I want to argue that it can be done, simply because I've visited Stumptown and Vivace. I've seen well run shops....not without some issues, but certainly shops run with "coffee excellence" as part of the overall mission.

Look at these videos, if you haven't seen them already, and keep in mind that qualified labor is relatively inexpensive in Brasil, and that at both these high-end espresso cafes, the barista staff includes both national and internationally recognized baristas:

Espresso Cafes of Brasil: Suplicy, Jardins District, Sao Paulo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJtnsBeFBUs


Espresso Cafes of Brasil: Santo Grao, Jardins District, Sao Paulo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aN9-O8eV6Wk

Again, George S., minimum, awakens a discussion that I deem worthy of our attention and consideration.

 
Member No.12047 - SCAA
http://www.baristaexchange.com/profile/AlSterling
Warning: Close cover before striking
"Space Available Here for Something Really Prolific"
back to top
 View Profile Visit website Link to this post
mrgnomer
Senior Member
mrgnomer
Joined: 16 Oct 2005
Posts: 2,286
Location: NA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Vetrano, Silvia, Olympia...
Grinder: Zass., Macap M4 stepless,...
Vac Pot: Yama, Bodum E Santos
Drip: French Press, ibrik, Moka...
Roaster: Hottop programmable, IRoast2
Posted Thu Dec 28, 2006, 10:16pm
Subject: Re: Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
 

I'm a home espresso enthusiast and rarely go out for espresso nor am I tempted so a capable superautomatic vs. a trained barista isn't much of an issue.  I've had espresso at cafes with really good equipment but stale beans, really dirty grinders and bad skills and the espresso was horrible.  If superautomatics that can compete with skilled baristas come along I'd probably order espresso more.

I do work as a skilled tradesman in a finishing sector.  The work can be done by hand or machine.  I work by hand and I can tell you I can do things machines can't.

Machines are good for long, clear, straight runs.  They're faster, more accurate and consistent than the hand.  I can do what a machine does but it takes much longer even though final finish is the same.

A machine, however, is not flexible.  It's only better under certain conditions.  Around door frames, up over pipes, for patching or on irregular sections of wall the machine is too bulky to be of any use.  My hand for special conditions is faster and more accurate.  Machines as well are much more expensive than hand tools and require adjusting, cleaning, prep time, clean up time and are prone to breaking down.  If they break down and you're no good with hand tools you're stuck until you get your machine fixed.

As a finisher that specializes and works exclusively by hand I'm threatened by machine tools and in certain situations machine tools replace me.  Over all, though, my skill makes me quicker to adjust, flexible and my finish is the same and more often better than any machine tool's.  I would think that super-super automatics would be the same: require more care, servicing, adjustment and be limited to what they're specifically designed to do and lack the flexibility to adjust quickly to changing demands.  There's things a skilled barista would probably be able to do that a super-super automatic either out right couldn't or would do only with difficulty.
back to top
 View Profile Contact via AOL Instant Messenger Link to this post
Dasein
Senior Member


Joined: 19 Jun 2002
Posts: 492
Location: Vancouver
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Synesso 3 grp
Grinder: Mazzer Robur E, Kony E,...
Vac Pot: Yama & Hario etc...
Drip: Clover 1s, Press Pots, Hario...
Roaster: Probat L12, Probatino,...
Posted Thu Dec 28, 2006, 10:22pm
Subject: Re: Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
 

alsterling Said:

...I firmly believe that there will always be exceptions, but quantitatively, I do think that for major retailers and chains, super-auto brewing will be an integral part of the overall business. Having a semi-auto machine and a barista will, as was mentioned with other examples, always be an attraction for a segment of the entire market. I suppose the question we should be asking is what type of coffee retailer would we want to be in the near or far future of specialty coffee? If your motivation comes from "turning the tables" in your establishment and "increasing the rate of open/close" on the cash registers.......then I'd think optimizing labor costs and increasing and making more efficient sales product would be a goal that would include the super-auto.

Posted December 28, 2006 link

... but if you say I desire to craft and serve the world's best coffee while creating one of the world's best cafe experiences.... a super-auto will never be in your future.  I guess I fall on the "geek" side of this.  The author is speaking of a middle (albeit a middle where the median quality score is rising) mass market -- not a high-end specialty niche market.

He is also talking about a market where barista is considered a semi-skilled laborer (where in the US, the barista is generally not considered skilled by any definition except those working on the extreme quality end (aka 3rd wave)).

So the article underwhelms in that it says --  hey no-skilled North American baristas.  Your coffee is about to get "better" because you are getting new machines where your lack of skills will make little to no difference in the end product..    And speaking to the Aussie baristas he is saying Hey semi-skilled, adult, thought you could surf and make coffee forever baristas -- guess what?  You will be going back to school pretty soon to learn a trade because we can replace you with 14 year old jr. high school girls and a fancy new machine .

It's a mass market cycle seen time and time again.... but the niche?    It's there and it growing.... and I'm all about the quality focused niche.
back to top
 View Profile Visit website Link to this post
alsterling
Senior Member
alsterling
Joined: 28 Dec 2005
Posts: 682
Location: Dana Point, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Spaziale S1 (Had Expo)
Grinder: Macap M4 & Gaggia MDF
Vac Pot: Not yet...
Drip: Capresso MT-500 & Melitta...
Roaster: Hottop Digital
Posted Fri Dec 29, 2006, 10:14am
Subject: Re: Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
 

Dasein Said:

..........It's a mass market cycle seen time and time again.... but the niche?    It's there and it growing.... and I'm all about the quality focused niche.

Posted December 28, 2006 link

And it's in that point that I say, yes, that's our choice. In my business seminars I often talk about the understandable rise of small business to large business, to cumbersome non-responsive business, to the entry of the small craftsman.....and it all starts over again. With specialty coffee the example is so easily drawn, what with Starbucks as the key player, and their inevitable, indirect creation of the "Third Wave."

With machine vs man, I fall on both sides of the aisle. I'm obsessive with my coffee at home, and appreciate a quality barista if and when I enter a coffee shop. I also enjoy anything hand crafted, and can completely relate to "mrgnomer's" very personal and relavent story. It's the most direct analogy....and if you look at the "screw it together yourself shelving" systems from American Classic (Home Depot) or Do-Able, you'll see that many millions of Americans have opted for flat-sheet, pressboard, painted white, ready to screw together cabinets, cupboards and more! All those units start in an engineering department and then get "put to press" in a very automated factory. Any dummy knows that what he's buying will have no style, only straight, simple function. But like espresso from the hands of a pro-barista vs a cappuccino from a super-auto, we all should know the difference.

Having a long background in electro-mechanical technologies, and still being a "geek ham operator" from my teens, it's hard for me "not to ponder" the ongoing development of the generic human robot. I've always said that all tools created by the human are attempts to replicate ourselves; but to replicate ourselves as a tireless slave! Emotionally we will always have a slight cold feeling whenever we see robots doing our will. Even if you're thinking about how wonderful it would be to have a "Life-like, tireless, never-needs-to go to-the shopping mall Pamela Anderson Robot Slave"....................... I dare you to say that you'd take that over the real thing! Somewhere in our brain there's a sensor that says "Fake, fake, not real, danger Will Robinson, danger." (........wait a minute......did one of you guys say you'd take the robot??!)

Best, Al

 
Member No.12047 - SCAA
http://www.baristaexchange.com/profile/AlSterling
Warning: Close cover before striking
"Space Available Here for Something Really Prolific"
back to top
 View Profile Visit website Link to this post
wogaut
Senior Member
wogaut
Joined: 21 Sep 2004
Posts: 585
Location: Milwaukee
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: LM GS/3 MP
Grinder: Elektra Nino
Roaster: Hottop+PID
Posted Sun Dec 31, 2006, 9:52am
Subject: Re: Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
 

If this should be the end of the barista, then it's primarily the end of the undertrained, underskilled barista (which might still be about 90%, so yes most of them).
People start talking about all their fear for loosing their job, but all this whining won't improve the situation, but making better coffee and responding better to customer's wishes will.
Gosh, most of the espresso I get in coffeeshops (except a few selected, which I'm not blessed to live anywhere near by) is absolute below my standards! Yes, a super-auto will maybe do a better job there.
What can baristas and coffee-shop owners do about it? Think longterm, increase quality.
George's article reflects what many professionals think and do: coffee is just another commodity to be exploited big-time, without spending to much time thinking about quality. Short-term, training baristi and yourself. the owner, is less cost effective than just making crappy coffee; customer's still come for their caffeine fix, they just loose the geeks and conniseurs, but they are a nuisance anyways, as they'll always demand more. However longterm, that will lead exactly to that question, can't superauto's do that job making average coffee? And cheaper? And then some will sell the coffee cheaper, other's will need to follow, and profitability will just be where it was with skilled baristi, just with crappier coffee.

Someone made that comparison about the fate of analog cameras to digital ones. That comparison is flawed, as it forgets to mention that owning a top-notch digital camera doesn't make you a great photographer, there are still different skill levels. But super-autos are more like point-and-shoot cameras (digital or not), allowing the unskilled user produce average shots.

Baristi and coffee shop owners had it coming for years, by kicking coffee with their feet and serving crap to customers, educating them to be ok with it (afer all, coffee is an acquired taste). Reading George's articles, I could literally see $$$ in his eyes and brain cells, and that's wrong with the picture. I do not believe that super-autos will replace a well-trained passionate barista, just all the other 90% making anything from ok to undrinkable espresso. But I do think that espresso machines will get better, smarter, be more powerful tools in hands of skilled baristi. And yes, there will be better super-super autos for the underskilled ingorants calling themselves professionals.

Wolfgang
back to top
 View Profile Link to this post
MarkPrince
Moderator


Joined: 19 Dec 2001
Posts: 5,609
Location: Vancouver, BC
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: KvdW Speedster
Grinder: Compak K10 WBC
Vac Pot: A bit too many
Drip: Clive Coffee Drip Stand
Roaster: Hario Glass Retro Roaster
Posted Sun Dec 31, 2006, 2:03pm
Subject: Re: Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
 

I think it's important to distinguish between today's current generation of consumer, prosumer, and office super autos, and the kinds that George is taking about in the article - professional, high volume super automatics.

I've worked on most of the major home and office super autos, including the latest models, like the Z5 and Z6 from Jura Capresso, the S9 series, and even the new ones from Krups. Also all the Saeco super autos.

None of them can come close to touching what a decently skilled home or professional barista can produce. And they can't do it because of built in inherent flaws like

- too long a brew path from group to front of machine
- too much ground coffee left inside the machine between brewings
- ridiculously small (in some cases, 42, 43mm) piston designs that make pucks too thick for good extraction
- not enough grinder adjustments
- not enough temperature controls
- these machines often force you to use a pump-driven preinfusion which can damage shot quality
- milk frothed with the auto-systems is often "dead" because of how mm of milk at a time is flash heated from 40F to 150F.

In terms of home, office, "prosumer" super autos, we're a long, long way from having one in the home that can beat a competent home or pro barista.

BUT... in terms of professional cafe super autos - there's a lot of chaff and crap out there... lots of digital for digital's sake, bells and whistles that don't do a thing for coffee or milk quality.... but there's also a few machines tackling the true artisan problems inherent with current and past generation super autos. There's new milk frothing systems that are intelligent enough to heat all the milk used for a beverage in one batch, stopping the introduction of air (and froth) at 95F, then steaming up to precise temps like 145, 150F, and creating foamy, microfoam sweet milk textures - automatically.

There's commercial super autos that have 53mm piston sizes - still not idea (58mm is ideal, imo), but a heck of a lot better for extraction than a 43mm piston size with a cake that can stand 2cm, 3cm tall.

And there's commercial super autos that leave less than 0.5g of ground coffee in the machine between brewings.

Once machines tackle all these inherent problems and really start brewing based on high end standards from start to finish, is it the end of the Barista? I don't necessarily think so - it will bring on the advent of the "geek" barista - someone who delves into a super auto's myriad of precise controls and dials up a "formula" for producing the best shot a particular blend will offer. Hands off on the actual brewing process, but intimately hands on in the programming stage of the machine - and every blend is different, and every blend itself is different month to month, week to week, day to day - and a wired in barista will know how to get the best out of that blend, even if it comes from programming, instead of hands on treatment.

I was talking with Arthur Wynne yesterday about machine tech, and our conversation steered towards something that's a pet topic of mine - the "any coffee, any grinder, any machine" creed and how many primadonna baristas are just stuck on their machine, their grind, their coffee - and once you put them in a different environment, sometimes they choke. We agreed that even if a true "super" super auto comes onto the scene that does everything to WBC standards, you're still going to need a barista who understands the process involved in making great espresso - that includes troubleshooting. There's no machine tech on the planet that can be a substitute for knowing what tastes good and what doesn't. But if you have a machine that lets you micro adjust things like temperature, grind, brewing volume, preinfusion, tamp, dose, etc etc etc - even if by touchpad, then a true artisan barista can still shine on these machines, whereas the rest will just press a button.

Mark

 
CoffeeGeek Senior Editor
www.twitter.com/coffeegeek www.flickr.com/coffeegeek, www.instagram.com/coffeegeek (you get the picture)
back to top
 View Profile Visit website Link to this post
ProLost
Senior Member


Joined: 31 Dec 2006
Posts: 14
Location: San Francisco
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Expobar Brewtus II
Grinder: Mazzer Mini, KA Pro Line
Drip: Milita pourover
Posted Sun Dec 31, 2006, 4:30pm
Subject: Re: Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
 

I don't know if this is a hopeful sign or not, but I just came from a Peet's in the East Bay that had a whole counter set up to do cup-at-a-time pourover brewing. Pick your (over-roasted) beans, and the dude will drip you up a fresh cup to order (although by the looks of the used grounds, he's not stirring).

Only a few months ago I went into that same Peets trying to buy a Milita pourover basket, and no one there had the slightest clue of why one would want such a thing. Now they sell them at all their stores, although this pourover counter is only at the one in Emeryville.

If a major chain is making (or experimenting with) this kind of change (presumably addressing the success of local micro-roaster Blue Bottle, who serve pourover at a few kiosks in the Bay Area), maybe there's hope?

-Stu

PS: Did I miss the part where Sabados mentions which super-auto he's talking about? Seems like an important bit of info.
back to top
 View Profile Visit website Link to this post
showing page 2 of 8 first page | last page previous page | next page
view previous topic | view next topic | view all topics
Discussions > Articles > Columnist... > Is This the End...  
New Topics updated topics   New Posts new posts   Unanswered Posts new unanswered     Search Discussion Board search   Discussion Board FAQ faq   Signup sign up  
Not Logged in: Log In to Postlog in
Discussions Quick Jump:
Symbols: New Posts= New Posts since your last visit      No New Posts= No New Posts since last visit     Go to most recent post= Newest post
Forum Rules:
No profanity, illegal acts or personal attacks will be tolerated in these discussion boards.
No commercial posting of any nature will be tolerated; only private sales by private individuals, in the "Buy and Sell" forum.
No SEO style postings will be tolerated. SEO related posts will result in immediate ban from CoffeeGeek.
No cross posting allowed - do not post your topic to more than one forum, nor repost a topic to the same forum.
Who Can Read The Forum? Anyone can read posts in these discussion boards.
Who Can Post New Topics? Any registered CoffeeGeek member can post new topics.
Who Can Post Replies? Any registered CoffeeGeek member can post replies.
Can Photos be posted? Anyone can post photos in their new topics or replies.
Who can change or delete posts? Any CoffeeGeek member can edit their own posts. Only moderators can delete posts.
Probationary Period: If you are a new signup for CoffeeGeek, you cannot promote, endorse, criticise or otherwise post an unsolicited endorsement for any company, product or service in your first five postings.
Learn @seattlecoffeegear
Learn all about coffee, watch videos, read how-to articles.
www.seattlecoffeegear.com
Home | Opinions | Consumer Reviews | Guides & How Tos | CoffeeGeek Reviews | Resources | Forums | Contact Us
CoffeeGeek.com, CoffeeGeek, and Coffee Geek, along with all associated content & images are copyright ©2000-2014 by Mark Prince, all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated. Content, code, and images may not be reused without permission. Usage of this website signifies agreement with our Terms and Conditions. (0.336664199829)
Privacy Policy | Copyright Info | Terms and Conditions | CoffeeGeek Advertisers | RSS | Find us on Google+