blog from the ceo & superbarista of phoenix coffee, home of the best baristas in cleveland, ohio

Monday, June 20, 2005

Time to put the red cape back on

Today I walked in to our Superior Avenue store with a prospective wholesale customer, Bill. Bill and I had gone over to the cafe because he wanted to try a bubble tea; he's interested in selling it at his cafe (which will be called New Earth Cafe and they will be located in the old Liquid Planet location on Detroit in Lakewood). I went behind the bar to make the bubble tea, made a stop at the espresso machine to check if the portafilters were empty. Empty portafilters are important in a self-respecting espresso bar. Why? Because full portafilters mean that the spent coffee grounds are baking into the screen and the brew basket of the portafilter, causing the oils to collect on the hot metal. This is not only a maintenance problem (the baked on oils clog up the holes in the screen and the portafilter gasket resulting in uneven extraction) but a taste problem. So whenever I go into the stores I check the espresso machine to make sure the puck from the last shots has been emptied into the knock box. My staff knows I check this. I bug them about it.

It is always nice to find empty portafilter baskets like I did this time. Clean, shiny metal. Good. I said to Tina R. and Kiley, "Nice and empty baskets, guys". To which Tina, the ever-so-witty replies "Well, Sarah, I saw you pull up..." implying of course that she only empties the portafilter baskets when I am around. Hmmm... :) I then proceed to make Bill a green tea honeydew bubble te, which he enjoyed, and then I felt inspired to experiment with another idea I had for a frozen mocha type iced drink. So I went back over to the espresso machine and began to pull a shot, since my brilliant idea (which turned out to not be so brilliant) involved adding a shot of espresso. As the shot poured, I could see that it was coming out too fast, I hadn't tamped hard enough or added enough coffee. In my haste to end the brewing, toss the shot, and of course empty the portafilter basket, lest one of my staff (gasp) discover that I too can err and leave the spent coffee in the basket, I removed the portafilter from the brew head too soon. The pressure in the brew head had not yet dissipated, and I had a mini-explosion. Coffee grounds and espresso were all over the drip tray. I started chuckling at my mess as I grabbed a rag to clean it up. Kiley saw my mess and said "Hmmm, Sarah, I guess it's time to put the red cape back on."

But it gets worse. I laughed and agreed that superbarista was not at the top of her game today and proceeded to pull another shot, that was acceptable. Anxious to get back to my original idea, about Phoenix's new fabulous frozen mocha (which it wasn't) I took the shot of espresso to the back counter (away from the espresso machine) and began formulating my concoction. Meanwhile, Kiley gets an order for an espresso drink and moves over to the machine and discovers a spent puck of coffee in the portafilter handle! With all his characteristic humor and sass, he says "Gee, I wonder who left this puck in the portafilter? Tina, was that you? Will? Lamont? Oh, Lamont isn't here... Gee, I wonder who it would have been? Anyone? It's sure a mystery to me who would have left this coffee in here, since everyone around here knows that is a definite No No..."

Even superbarista has her moments of weakness. Tomorrow will be a better day. It will.


Post a Comment

<< Home