After two years of working with Kaldi's Coffee in St. Louis, I've moved to Kansas and found myself at a new little shop that roasts it's own beans. At Kaldi's, I feel I was fairly well trained and taught the "correct" methods (if they exist) of approaching coffee.
This new shop is challenging everything I've learned, and forcing me to prove why the methods I was taught were correct (which, in turn, is helping me learn even more). I won't go into all the details of how differently the new shop does things (it would make this a very, very long post), but there are two aspects that I hoped y'all smart folk could help me with.
Issue 1: Two Espresso Blends
Basically every coffee shop I've ever been to has had two grinders and two blends for espresso - their decaf blend and their regular espresso blend.
This new shop has three - a blend for milk-based drink, a blend for straight espresso and americanos, and a decaf blend.
The owner claims that the straight espresso blend is "sweeter", while the blend for milk "has more punch to push through the milk" - which leads me to another issue, the shop puts only one shot in 12 oz drinks, and two shots for 16 and 20oz drinks (which, I assume, is why he feels he has to "punch through"... there's not enough espresso).
Has anyone ever heard of anything like this? I tend to believe that good espresso is good espresso, and doesn't need to be modified for the drink. I suspect that the milk espresso is cheaper. But maybe he's on to something?
Aaaaand Issue 2: The 'spro don't taste good!
Beyond that no matter what I do, neither blend tastes very good to me - both have that over-extracted astringent taste, even when I pull them super-ristretto. There is no sweetness in either. Both tend to be pretty thin, and the color of the crema is always a very light brown, pretty much blond from the start - none of the nice amber reddish brown I'm used to with Kaldi's espresso blend.
I have gathered a list of possible suspects to that problem:
-boiler temperature is not high enough (I don't know much about this one)
-pressure is not high enough (it frequently only hits 8 bars of pressure, not 9)
-the burr grinders are dull (He says they're old and it takes forever to grind enough for a shot, so I'm pretty sure of this one)
-we need to create a new espresso blend altogether.
Anyone have any suggestions I might be missing? It's difficult to have a new job at a shop and discover all these problems, and I'm trying to be very delicate in bringing them up as as not to piss him off. I want to gather as much information as possible before I say anything. Thanks!