I'm sure that many of us have experienced time travel when visiting espresso bars. You order a drink and the barista pulls 2 clicks to dose, tamps using the plastic nose, taps on the side of the portafilter handle between tamps - techniques that have been discredited or fallen out of favor in recent years. Fundamental barista technique has changed pretty dramatically in the past decade, and many training programs haven't kept pace.
If you've been on the bar for a while, what changes have you made to your technique?
If you're a new barista, what do you see old-school baristas do that doesn't match the way you were taught?
What do you think have been major technique or equipment developments in the past 5+ years.
Yeah, removing the tap was a big one for me too.
Other more (and less) recent things that come to mind include:
Training with a bottomless portafilter.
Freepouring milk instead of scooping/spooning.
Weighing shots when dialing in.
It might be fun to add "myths that we no longer believe" and "things that we didn't care about before but do now" too. How about "bad habits that we've picked up"?
I'm still thinking about this, and will post more as they occur to me.
Sometimes I wonder if some of this "Time Travel" is due to the aging of the average Baristi into their 30's + when they begin to become concerned with ideas of practical value vs. the ideology of circumstance they had been seduced by in their 20's. The industry always seems to swing between extremes, e.g. "single cup" vs. "large batch", "single origin" vs. "blends", "light" vs. "dark", "Duane Sorenson" vs. "Todd Carmichael", etc...
Actually I take it all as a good thing because people are showing that they care about what they are doing and that they are willing to make adjustments in how they do things to adjust to their more complex understanding of the ideals of Coffee, realities of business, and the personal nature of preference. The coffee industry is so interesting because it combines so many elements of physics, sociology, psychology, and economics in one interaction; The making of a Cup of Coffee or Shot of Espresso. I love that. The fact that the techniques might oscillate a bit over time is an interesting example of the success of scientific thinking and the inefficiency of human communication. And for those who are just now entering into the industry in their late teen's everything old will be new again and in 15 years they will discover that things were not as clear cut as they though and that ideas they had dismissed out of hand actually had some thought behind them. I also really like that coffee is so susceptible to both theory AND observation and that those people involved are happy to hop feet first into either or both those pools. Let's a drink a toast to the return of Robusta!!
I also dropped the tamp tap from the process. Pretty interesting to realize how my technique has changed as I have been behind the bar for around 8 years and never really reflected on how it has changed. As I have become more involved in the "coffee world" I have definitely adopted methods from those I interact with and learn from which I believe has made changes for the better. It has definitely been an evolution of fine tuning and thus generating a greater understanding of what I do, and more importantly, why I love it so much. It is an ever changing scene that constantly forces baristi to challenge themselves and each other to create the best possible cup. I foresee many more technique changes as I continue to build my understanding of coffee preparation and working along side some of the best and most enthusiastic baristi in the Raleigh area.
Losing the polish is a big one!
Remember when blonding was a thing?
Losing the polish is a big one!
Remember when blonding was a thing?
The first espresso drinks I made were at a French Bakery and Bistro and the owners were the epitome of the old school Euro espresso and milk prep. Most memorable technique from that shop was that they wanted us to texture (I didn't even know that word then) our milk for cappuccinos so thick that you could rest the foam spoon (the shovel one) on top of the milk and it wouldn't move. That one's out.
I don't polish any more, no more tapping. What I learned from those Schomery techniques was good in the long run in that it taught me to be really meticulous about my leveling and dosing. I do wonder sometimes how the financial aspect factors in- "why tap?" isn't just about potential channeling as it is also about the life of my tools. If it doesn't make my extractions noticeably better and consistent I am more inclined to nix it.
My favorite thing that I've adapted through the years is a way more body conscious technique that makes so much more sense for my height and stature. Angling my body sideways, using my core for strength, standing with my weight balanced better over my feet. The physical tricks have probably saved my career so that I even have energy to keep refining the rest.
@VF: The polish is fun, and a nice bit of flair for sure, but it doesn't really do anything that I can find. Plus, many young baristi either polish 8-9 times with multi-tamps between, or they polish with downward pressure, which at worst can dislodge the puck from the portafilter wall and ensure a channel or two.
In a slower bar situation, it's probably not hurting anyone to polish, and if they like to do it, I won't ask someone to stop - but once things get cranking, and you're making drinks solid for hours, saving 4 seconds by not polishing each puck really adds up.
I do a quick no-force polishing spin (I think it's about 180 degrees) at the end of my 2nd tamp. It adds 1 second to the process. It's definitely just a carryover move, not one that I necessarily believe in anymore. Kinda fun though.
I suppose that continuing to do this makes about as much sense as the barrel-roll I sometimes still give the loaded (or even empty) portafilter before locking in. That move was originally meant to make sure that the puck was properly stuck to the basket, but if I'm being really honest I really started doing it because I thought it looked cool. I only continue to do it because it's fun and so much a part of my routine that it would be difficult to remove. It's silly though - just watching the shot is a far more effective QC step and way easier to clean up when it goes wrong.
Funny stuff, those habits.
I think the polishing looks great to with spectator, but to get carried away with it is more of a waste a good barista's arm.
Has anyone come up with good techniques to save you from long-term damage to your arms and back? i know those changes come with time!
Good shoes and springy floor mats help with the back aspect.
Proper tamping form and operating height help with your arms. Force vector straight down to the tamper from your elbow so that the wrist is just compressed. Most work surfaces are too tall, so shorter baristas that can't change their space should develop an angled approach to help with this. Minimum forces too - no excessive tamping force. New machine ergonomics help as well.
Here's a question that might be one that you get often.
Is it a good idea to grind espresso finer so you don't have to tamp as hard? Once i started getting worn on the 30 pounds of pressure thing i started making my grind just a little finer. i haven't really noticed a difference in my espresso. Is this a big nono?