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

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Three New Baristas

Last night, we conducted an abbreviated training session for three new baristas at our Roastery. Bonnie, Halle and Lyndsey will be starting work for Phoenix this week. Usually, this initial training session takes 8 hours, but I tried to squeeze it into three hours in order to work around Halle and Lyndsey's school schedules. Halle is a high school student at St. Peter Chanel in Bedford, and will be working at our new South Euclid store (more details to come on that) and Lyndsey is a substitute art teacher for South Euclid Lyndhurst. Bonnie also comes to us from the South Euclid store, she cleans houses during the day, and also really enjoys coffee and people.

I had so much fun with these three ladies; I was pouring on the information and they were absorbing it. Thankfully, all three of them have coffee experience, so I think it wasn't quite as overwhelming as it would have been otherwise.

One of the most interesting things that happened during the training session was actually an errant shot that Halle pulled. I think Halle is going to make for a stellar barista, so hopefully she won't get hung up on me focusing on this "mistake"... it was a good learning experience.

We had pulled several shots that were just soo good, so the grind was adjusted correctly, the machine was working well, the crema was incredibly thick, all was right with the world. Then Halle's next shot came out all brown and thin looking and grind particles were pouring out of the spouts and there was no crema. We were perplexed. For a second, I thought something might be wrong with the machine. Then when we looked at the spent grounds in the portafilter, it became immediately clear what was going on. There had been an air pocket in the basket, creating a channel where all the water was flowing through that point of least resistance, eliminating the oil emulsification and the crema chemistry. So with the next shot, I had Halle do more "chasing" of the coffee around the top of the filter basket before tamping, in order to minimize the chances of the coffee channeling again. And sure enough, her next shot was perfect.

This just goes to show that every single step in manual espresso preparation is important. All the more reason why baristas have to work methodically and rhythmically in order to perfect each step and get a great shot every time, or as close to every time as possible!