So we bought our shop, no training or anything (we ain't gots the fundage). I've scoured the internets, learnt myself the "4 M's" of coffee preparation...I have cleaned our Astoria (CMA) 2-group thoroughly and we back flush it hourly, chemical back-flush every night with 2 seasoning pulls per group before we open...Since the machine has no discernible controls over the pressure & temp, the flow rate was our only control with the espresso machine. So the most control we have is over the grind. It took about 20 shots per grinder per head, but we got the right grind(s) for our blend to get a 23-25 second pull 1.5oz pull per 7 gram dose...We have two Mazzer grinders...We are also getting our beans (espresso blend and single origins) from a local source & never buy more than 5lbs at a time. We usually are out of the espresso within 10-12 days. The single origins we buy 2-3 lbs at a time, in 1 lb vacuum bags with the aeration hole. If anything that is blend or origin goes over 14 days, we set it aside for seasoning pulls...When beans get opened from their vacuum bags, those beans go into an air-tight container...

So I feel like I have a handle on making a quality coffee. At the very least, the local competition doesn't hold a candle...I have been making my own coffees & lattes at home way before we bought this joint and got my hands on a real espresso machine...I can bring milk to 165 in a microwave and froth it well enough to pour a heart...from a plastic friggin' cup...So having a real milk steaming apparatus has been fabulous...I still can't make fancy leaves, double hearts & other such yummy latte art goodness, but that looks to be a practiced art and I don't have a lot of practice time...

All that said, young lady walked in today and explained to my baby-momma (BM) that we are making our espresso drinks wrong. Young lady tells BM that she (young lady) works at starbux and that we should steam our milk first, then pull our espresso shot. Per starbux worker, espresso shots begin to bitter immediately and are overly bitter within 10 seconds. I've not come across this information before, and have never experienced this with the drinks I prepare for myself. My thought is, if we steam the milk first, we are going to loose a little bit of pressure for the shot. With that in mind, I pull the shot first and steam the milk after the shot is extracted, adding the milk to the shot...and dreaming of the day I can make pretties in the cup...

So who's correct, starbux lady or rookie coffee shop owner (me) and his loving BM?

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Our bean supplier offers free espresso training for any and all of our employees, they have both beginning and advanced training and it's amazing.
What do you mean by "send to the blender station or the kitchen depending on if it's scorched or not"?
In my experience, heated milk shouldn't be used for cold drinks and should never be reheated.

Denise Smith said:
Tell me more about this soap practice method... My crew needs to practice but can't afford the milk for it beyond a couple pitchers each (which I send to the blender station or the kitchen depending on if it was scorched.
What is the size of pitcher, how much cold water, does the type of dish soap matter?
Any other practice tips?

cultiva guy said:
. good way to practice steaming and pulling at the same time.. use a DROP of dish soap in cold water, and it will act like milk. it's fun.
Can you clarify what you mean here? I don't find this to be true. I find that if you steam milk and pull shots at the same time you get a higher quality drink. I've never worked anywhere that had a different coffee for non-dairy drinks.

Rocket said:
You can watch a shot collapse in a shot glass Creme and body fuse back into a regular cup of coffee. You have to order a espresso specific roast and blend. I sell two kinds of coffee, one for milk and one for no milk.

Brady said:
There was a discussion here a while ago about the infamous "10 second rule" that the starbies love to quote... it is BS. Meant to keep their associates from pulling lots of doubles and lining them up to get ready for a rush. If you have any doubts, split a double and enjoy half immediately, the other half a minute later.

Yes, letting the pitcher sit on the counter for 30 seconds will allow the bigger bubbles to float, making them easier to burst with a solid thump or two on the counter. Just make sure you swirl and fold that foam back into the milk once those bubbles are broken. The Astoria steamer is really powerful, and a bit of a challenge to get super-smooth milk with... you can do it though. Just make sure you stop bringing in air well before it gets warm, leaving yourself plenty of time in the whipping&smoothing phase.

Good luck.

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