So to kick off our little soiree on Monday the 11th June 2012 I'm going to discuss something oh so often overlooked by baristas...
i.e a clean workspace for us and staying presentable to customers.
First of all this is a skill that needs time to develop. It's hard in the middle of a slam time coffee run for busy hands to make sure the milk pitcher is espresso stain free.
But once each area at the station becomes mastered the benefits start to flow. Benefits like a health inspector swabbing your bench top for bacteria and finding what he should. Nothing.
Below is a pic from the 2012 UKBC Tech Score Sheet.. you can also download it here.
Part 1: Station Evaluation spells it all out. "Clean working area at start up/Clean cloths"
Separation of cloths for each area is paramount to a clean station. So it should look a little like this..
Part 2: Espresso EvaluationSo working from left to right the first area needing constant attention is the grinder. Coffee ground should be in the basket- hence the "Acceptable spill/waste when dosing/grinding" and "Consistent dosing/Tamping" component. If left unchecked grind particles wind up in every nook and cranny; bittering your espresso and decorating cake. Be vigilant about excess grind build-up and use brushes to sweep into the knock box. The first cloth is only for wiping out the basket and cleaning the outsides of your portafilter. Replace it often as it's loaded with the same grinds that cause judges to die prematurely from shock when not respected.
"Flushes the group head" is a necessary part of our job as it dislodges the old particles from the shower head and on some machines brings the group up to temperature. (For all those operating KVDW lever groups out there this is not necessary as a wipe will suffice). Tray Towel usage should be frequent and returned to the same place every time. Post flushing your group head you'll have a mix of splattered water and coffee grounds which you don't want on the base of someones cup which then gets all over their hands. This is why we do this.
The bench J cloth is for wiping the bench with the use of a sanitizer. Constant wipe downs and resetting of the customers side of the station will ensure a great presentation and the keeping down of potentially harmful bacteria.
Part 3: Cappuccino Evaluation.Most of the real work happens at the grinding and extraction stage. The glory hound latte artist will then expertly add hot air to milk and wow the pants of some hot model from the agency down the road. This is just the way of the barista.
However the steamer has a very big role in presentation to the customer in other ways than Freudian shape recognition in lattes.
The outside of the pitchers which a barista can't see is the first point of contact for a customers eyes while they wait for you to tap the milk jug and roll the prize winning milk into complete micro froth perfection. Probably all along thinking "err, is that clean? I know they're busy but the jug has stains from ten other coffees down the front". Let's keep it clean. Milk wastage and accuracy is the next big one as milk wastage costs money and is wasteful for the environment. So tip out your tiny milk wastage, rinse the jugs and wipe them down. It takes seconds and keeps you looking good.
Smearing milk froth from the steam wand onto the porta filters then back onto the steam wand results in espresso grinds in the next round of milk and milky porta filters. Cross contamination is a term used in kitchen management in regards to spoiled food coming from one source and infecting another i.e same chopping board for off fish then used for fresh chicken.
But this term is accurate for coffee station management too. Islington Environmental Health consider coffee and baked goods (excluding cream) to be low risk. But our environment is constantly changing by the sheer number of customers coming to us and engaging with all the surfaces, spoons, currency and hands. Those same hands wander across handles on the porta filter then onto the new cups for customers. So it's been said before but I'll re-iterate...
Always use handles on porcelain and never place fingers inside takeaway cups.
How often I see this at cafe's amazes me.
There's one part that's not on score sheets that's very important for the practical aspects of making coffee.
Your overall presentation
The top of the coffee machine whether it's indoors or out becomes dusty. Add to that the occasional espresso stained cup not washed properly with a dirty towel on display and it's quite the vision. Constantly checking and re-checking is the only way.
Your coffee machine came from some loving tech-type people who designed it down to its last bolt and finished her off with some snazzy features and sexy angles. To gradually watch her descend into a smear encrusted dusty clunker on show for everyone to see is just lazy. At all the Giddy Up's we set up- then stand back to see what we've created. Only by doing this can you see what the people see. Perspective at the start of shift helps avoid the dreaded question in the middle of a slam "Hey, where are the lids? And there's no spoons out here."