Does it realy Matter if a Cappuccino or a Latte is 1/2 caf. ?

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If a customer orders their beverage half calf and it's your shops policy to pull half calf then yes it most assuredly matters. If a customer orders half calf and it's against your shops policy then it most assuredly matters to tell them you can't make a half calf because it's against shop policy, not just give them something they did not order.

Hell I had one person order a half calf straight shot a few days ago. I physically had to fight cringing, but I pulled it for him. I did not however serve it with my usual full straight shot service on little wooden platter with small glass sparkling water and Amaretto cookie. Hell no, only real straight shots get that. I could make that decision, I own the place.
Agreed.

And it's really not that difficult to make a shot "half-calf." Run your decaf grinder for 2-3 seconds, your regular for 2-3 seconds, dose both of them into the portafilter. This type of half-calf I will do, but I won't pull two different singles.

In six years I've never had anyone order a half-calf straight up. I don't think I would cringe, but I also know that I would talk them into one or the other, haha. Our decaf 'spro is actually pretty good. I usually drink just as many decaf shots a day as I do regular shots.

-bry

miKe mcKoffee aka Mike McGinness said:
If a customer orders their beverage half calf and it's your shops policy to pull half calf then yes it most assuredly matters. If a customer orders half calf and it's against your shops policy then it most assuredly matters to tell them you can't make a half calf because it's against shop policy, not just give them something they did not order.

Hell I had one person order a half calf straight shot a few days ago. I physically had to fight cringing, but I pulled it for him. I did not however serve it with my usual full straight shot service on little wooden platter with small glass sparkling water and Amaretto cookie. Hell no, only real straight shots get that. I could make that decision, I own the place.
Bryan, where are your decaf beans from? and which process?
This has always been a hot topic at our shop. I'm personally not a fan of pulling half-caff, but again, without the customer(s) how would you have a business? I try my best to assure the customer that the drink will be just the right amount of caffeine (and taste better) if they just do a regular shot, but some people won't budge on their thoughts of decaf. Our shop doesn't really have a certain policy, but everyone seems to gravitate towards not doing half-caff. I definitely agree with you Mike in not giving someone something they didn't order. However, caffeine is our friend!
If a cafe prepares decaf caps and will would not do a 50/50, I would not return and neither would my wife. I can not recall ever being refused a 50/50 by any cafe that did decaf. I often enjoy serving decaf caps to friends in my home who would not THINK of ordering one. I have never had a single person tell me they did not enjoy it afterwards when I told them. It is my belief that some of the greatest afficionados of fine espresso are those who strive to find the Godshot decaf for whatever reason, often because they can not handle the decaf, usually for acid reflux reasons.
If you can not pour a decaf cap that very nearly equals your regular caps, you should not be in business in my opinion or should at the very least find another roaster.
hmm, decaf is no where near quality S.O. doesn't really matter who roasts it.

I do agree that decaf is important, and if a customer wants half-caf then give it to them. But a decaf shot will never equal a S.O. shot. (unless they master growing coffee with little/no caffeine, they can do it but have yet to master the process)

Bob Warne said:
If a cafe prepares decaf caps and will would not do a 50/50, I would not return and neither would my wife. I can not recall ever being refused a 50/50 by any cafe that did decaf. I often enjoy serving decaf caps to friends in my home who would not THINK of ordering one. I have never had a single person tell me they did not enjoy it afterwards when I told them. It is my belief that some of the greatest afficionados of fine espresso are those who strive to find the Godshot decaf for whatever reason, often because they can not handle the decaf, usually for acid reflux reasons.
If you can not pour a decaf cap that very nearly equals your regular caps, you should not be in business in my opinion or should at the very least find another roaster.
How do your half-caf shots taste?

We have a very nice espresso and a decent decaf espresso. I've been playing with it a bit this morning and have yet to pull a half-caf shot that tasted acceptable - even though the regular and decaf shots are fine.

Think about it - you have an espresso and a decaf espresso, each containing different beans (duh) and probably having different roast dates. You ajust your grind and dose to get a great shot for the regular. Then you do the same with your decaf. Are the grind and dose the same for regular as they are for decaf? How even is the extraction with 2 different grind sizes? What happens if you get a little different distribution of decaf here? Even if you get a good extraction from both components, how do the flavors of the two coffees marry when combined?

We offer this currently, but after this morning I am strongly considering eliminating it (or at least trying hard to talk the customer out of it). My question is - if the decaf is great, what's the point? I suspect that the customer may feel that the flavor will be better with half-caf... but I don't think that's the case.
You have a good point re grinds, dryness of beans, hardness/softness etc. however, most espresso is a blend of different beans (duh). Tom at SM is constantly recommending different decaf beans to blend with regulars with good results. I would think any decent roaster would be capable these recommendations. I do not believe that most who drink 50/50 think the flavor is better. I think they really love coffee but can not handle the caffeine for some reason. A coffee shop is a specialty shop, no? This is just another variation on a milk based coffee drink and an excellent barista would vbe striving to please his customers by serving them the specialty drink they order.
I have no doubt that a great half-caf espresso blend is possible. I also have no doubt that a great decaf blend is possible. What I question is whether you can get a good extraction by dosing ground decaf into a portafilter, then topping with ground regular espresso.

Bob, what I'm suggesting is that the customer that can't handle caffeine would be better off just going decaf... it would be a tastier beverage. The conversation is at least worth having. We have no qualm about refusing to steam milk to 200 degrees, why is this conversation any different. (Not calling you out here, bry...)

Maybe my technique is lacking here. Has anyone here pulled a really good half-caf shot? If so, how did you do it?

(By the way... my use of "duh" in the above post was directed at myself for stating the obvious... in re-reading it occurs to me that might not have been clear.)
Brady said:
I have no doubt that a great half-caf espresso blend is possible. I also have no doubt that a great decaf blend is possible. What I question is whether you can get a good extraction by dosing ground decaf into a portafilter, then topping with ground regular espresso.

Bob, what I'm suggesting is that the customer that can't handle caffeine would be better off just going decaf... it would be a tastier beverage. The conversation is at least worth having. We have no qualm about refusing to steam milk to 200 degrees, why is this conversation any different. (Not calling you out here, bry...)

Maybe my technique is lacking here. Has anyone here pulled a really good half-caf shot? If so, how did you do it?

(By the way... my use of "duh" in the above post was directed at myself for stating the obvious... in re-reading it occurs to me that might not have been clear.)

Jesse, I roast our decaf in shop on a Behmor. It's whatever I have from Sweet Marias at the time. Right now it's the Donkey Blend, it'll probably switch to the decaf Sumatra soon.

One thing that I think matters a lot is paying attention to your decaf grinder. I think a lot of places will neglect the cleaning of the decaf and buy such cheap decaf grinders that they don't do a great job of representing the bean. The RPMs will be too high due to a small sized grinder with tiny burrs, the grounds end up reaching too high a temperature, too many things burn off and the decaf shot ends up lacking more flavor than it was already going to.

I have pretty good luck pulling half-caf shots, Brady. I don't really do anything different than what you described. I dose decaf first, roughly half full, then the other half with regular. All of our pulls are on naked PFs and generally I get good results. When I don't get good results it's usually obvious that I 'effed up somewhere. I'll get channeling or pitting or something that was a result of poor technique on my part. Try switching up which one gets dosed in first? I dunno, that probably doesn't make any difference...

-bry
Brady said:
I have no doubt that a great half-caf espresso blend is possible. I also have no doubt that a great decaf blend is possible. What I question is whether you can get a good extraction by dosing ground decaf into a portafilter, then topping with ground regular espresso.



I pour 50/50 caps for my wife daily, usually triples with a naked. Grind and fill half way w/decaf, tap a bit to level/distribute, fill with regualar a little past top, level/ditribute using NSEW method. Here's where it gets tricky with the triple basket. At this point I set my heavy S/S tamper in the portafilter but do not push. This effectively tamps the grinds just a tad, allowing me to grind in another 4 seconds of beans at which point I level/distribute agan with the NSEW technique and then tamp to 30 lbs.
I use the same technique for regular and full decaf triples. We roast almost all our own on a Behmor 1600 and drink predominantly SM Monkey or Liquid Amber regular and Donkey decaf. I have and do make 50/50 drinks with many other blends, including pre-roasted beans from Klatch, Kean's, and others I visit on occassion and find worth trying at home but that do not sell green bean blends.
I very seldom make single origin drinks but when I can find good quality Bolivian (hard to do) I do make them for a friend of mine who is from there. Guess it reminds her of home. I always blend them with something else for myself.
Hmmm... sounds like I need to improve my half-caf technique.

One question for both Bob and Bryan - do you find that you grind your decaf at approximately the same setting as your regular, or are you grinding a little finer for the decaf? I find ours tastes best if I grind it a little finer and updose just a bit vs the regular. Perhaps this particle size difference is why I find these half-caf shots to be so lacking? I'm going to play with this a bit.

As far as how our decaf espresso is on its own, I'd have to say that its decent but not as good as it could be. I struggle with keeping the decaf espresso inventory as fresh as the regular. It is difficult, as our decaf espresso demand is miniscule. We've tried all sorts of approaches, currently freezing it in half-pound increments. It took me quite a while to accept this approach, but it actually gives us far better results than we were getting other ways. I'd love to just be able to get it delivered a pound at a time, but that's not possible with our current arrangement. I'll try negotiating this again in a few months... but I digress. We grind our decaf in a Mini, FWIW... kept immaculately clean.

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