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

Monday, June 06, 2005

What's better than espresso training? Brainwashing of course!

When I say that Phoenix Coffee offers "espresso training" to its customers, there is a mixed sentiment behind the statement. I feel primarily proud that we are able to offer this "training", based on years of experience and experimentation (what good is experience without experimentation?). But I also feel that training is not enough. Sure, I can show you the mechanics of making a good espresso. I can show you the myriad pitfalls... the crooked tamp, the cold portafilter, the grind-thats-too-coarse, the grind-thats-too-fine, and many more. But can I communicate to you in one "training session" the ethic that art of espresso making is an important and worthy endeavor? Because it is this ethic that will drive you to continue to ask questions, to experiment and to maintain good espresso practices for long after the "training session".

In most cases, instilling such an ethic would involve brainwashing. First the brain must be washed of all the previous impressions of espresso. Espresso is not simple. It is not easy. It is not automatic. And it is not trivial. Espresso is rewarding and complex and dynamic and challenging. Oh, and delicious, when it's brewed correctly. That's the rewarding part.

So I think that's how I'm going to start my next training session. I'm going to start with a good brainwashing session, of deconstructing espresso and then reconstructing it again, in concept, before we even get into the specifics. Just to create the appropriate mental "soil" in which the "seeds" of espresso wisdom (laying it on pretty thick here) can be sown.

Now I just need a coffee shop or restaurant owner to volunteer his or her staff for such a brainwashing, so I'll have some live subjects to experiment on! Such fun! If I don't get any volunteers, I'll have to use my own staff! Watch out Phoenix Baristas...


Blogger Jeff Hess said...

Shalom Sarah,

In the last two weeks I've had Phoenix baristas toss espressos they weren't willling to serve, and make a second.

How many coffee houses maintain that kind of standard? Not very many in my exprience.

Keep up the great service.


Jeff Hess

10:40 AM, June 07, 2005  
Blogger Sarah Wilson-Jones said...


Thanks so much for the comment! I am glad to know that we are paying attention to the shot quality... that's what is supposed to be going on!

superbarista :)

9:14 PM, June 07, 2005  
Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

have been checking out your blog for a little while now and finally had a chance to stop in at Phoenix (on Lee) yesterday. didn't have an espresso, but did have a good conversation with the two baristas and was impressed with their knowledge and their helpful attitude. picked up some organic FT beans (god, those smelled fabulous!) and sampled the speedball because it was described as a "liquid brownie"... i think the training that has gone into how to talk to the customers and pique their interest has totally paid off!

next time i'm in cleveland, i will be back there for more! great work! you folks rock!

6:25 AM, June 13, 2005  

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