Trouble Shooting For The Adaptable Barista

25 September 2017
Category: Tips

Questions we ask ourselves … if the coffee is not extracting as best as it should.

We watch the shot and think about what we see

What is the colour and viscosity of the pour? Did it take up to 4 seconds before it slowly started to drip out, then pour like honey off the back of a spoon? Is the crema thick, tiger striped dark caramel colour? Great! Happy to taste and serve that shot.

Or is the pour thinner with a creamy coloured crema? Do we need to adjust our tamp, to bring out the best possible extraction? Do we need to adjust the grind? Have we filled the basket enough? How long is the extraction taking? Is the pre-set volumetric length of the pour either a bit short or a bit too long with the white end of pour bitterness extracting? What does the coffee ‘biscuit’ or ‘puck’ tell us? Is it sloppy and wet, leaving messy espresso gunk in the basket? Or does it come out clean and neat like a biscuit that holds together? Does the basket only need a wipe over with a dry cloth before the next shot?

So many things tell us whether the shot should be great – or not – and that is without even tasting it!

MORE BARISTA STATION CONSIDERATIONS

Length of pour affects the flavour:

You should now what a great pour looks like and when to stop it so no nasty bitterness goes into the cup. Apart from the variables of grind size, coffee freshness, dosing, filling and tamping – it also depends on the size of your basket, just how long you can pour before the nasty white, thin pour begins.

What size basket are you using?:

A 10g single basket holds 2/3 the amount of coffee as a regular 14g double basket. So pouring a single basket shot will taste better – you should get a better tasting, longer extraction out of the single basket, compared to one of the shared single shots sharing the pour from a regular 14g double basket. A 14g double basket should ONLY be used for double shots for an 8oz or 12oz cup. An 18g basket produces 2 more flavoursome coffees than the old standard 14g basket. Deep baskets of 21-28g produce amazing espressos, of longer extraction. Makes sense really: the more coffee in the baskets, the more potential flavour to extract into the cups, over a longer time, allowing for longer, stronger shots. Deep baskets are used for either large mugs 16oz / extra shot 12oz or 2 x 8oz takeaway good strong coffees.

What size cups have you got? – Compare your china to the paper cup

Consider your basket sizes when pouring takeaway cup shots as the paper cups will generally hold more than the ‘equivalent’ china cup. Measure and compare e.g.. 200ml china cup vs. 280ml 8oz cup. Hmmm. That’s drowning the single shot in milk compared to the china cup coffee. Consider using larger baskets if you predominantly sell takeaway coffee.

Flush the group heads between shots:

Yes, just before every shot. John Zentveld believes this is the number one thing to do to improve the taste of your shot, and for a very good reason. This not only flushes out any leftover coffee granules from the last shot (which would create bitterness), but it also regulates the water temperature in the line, so the next extraction gets the proper expected water temperature (approx. 85 degrees) rather than steamy, overheated water  that sits in the line … which could come out ‘burning’ the next extraction.

Grind to order:

Best practice is to only grind what you need. Don’t fill the hopper unless you are using it within half an hour. Coffee dries out and the crema and the good oils go with it.

Clean and backflush more often:

Do not be afraid to backflush! Backflush with water anytime throughout your shift, especially after a busy period. Use the group head brush up and around the group head. Always backflush your machine daily. Please – use the espresso machine cleaner. It’s a food grade cleaner, made for the job. Just a third – half a teaspoon will do. Wait a few seconds after each water flush, to let the cleaner do it’s work back in the lines. ( ie give it time to find the coffee oils built up back there.) We recommend EVO) and then backflush with water 3-4 times afterwards to remove any excess residue from the cleaner. Good clean water lines = better tasting coffees and a better functioning espresso machine with less breakdowns and wear on the machine due to built up stale coffee oils. Soak the portafilters and baskets in a stainless steel jug daily with a small amount of the espresso machine cleaner and boiling water (ensuring the plastic handle does not come in contact with the cleaner.) Just rinse well after.

Storage of beans:

Always in a cool dark place. On the shelf is fine, but the hotter the cafe, the more the beans will sweat inside the bag. Our coffee is vacuum packed on the day of roasting into one way valve degassing bags – allowing the coffee gasses to come out without allowing any air to get in. Store the coffee in a cool room, fridge or freezer if possible. Yes Freezer is fine – best for long term storage. Allow the beans to come back to room temperature before grinding. IF you are ordering your coffee every week or 2, then storing in cool dark space is fine.

Opened bags:

eg. Decaf ground espresso – AIR IS EVIL! Squeeze out as much air as you can from the bag and seal tight with a rubber band when it’s not being used. Store in the fridge, cool room or freezer. It is best not to store it in a container as the air trapped in the container will slowly eat away at the ‘good oils’ of the coffee, drying it out and deteriorating it’s quality.

Age of beans:

Baristas get hung up about the age of their beans. Some like it 1 week old, other 3 weeks old. We roasters agree that beans improve  with a few days age after roasting, once the flavours have settled in. The crema is thicker and the extraction is more predictable. At Zentveld’s Roastery, we are always tasting fresh roasted beans, but we know they improve with a little age.  So we roast up our beans ready for next week deliveries. Ideally, cafes order weekly or fortnightly and serve within a month.

Age of beans or staling should not be an issue for our cafe customers or those that buy direct from our roastery and on line store.

Main tip with ageing beans: tamp harder and/or grind finer, to release the best crema and flavour, body and full espresso experience.