Hi there-

I'm a new barista going through my first week training. I have some coffee knowledge, and some espresso experience from long ago, but I'm far from an expert.

I'm having problems organizing my time during rush times.

We have a double handle machine. If a customer orders 3 16oz double lattes, what do you do? Do you steam milk first? In what size pitcher(s)? Do you make two at the same time and then a third? How long should it all take?

Do you ever put the milk pitcher down and multitask? I was told to always hold it but my new employer puts it down and does other things while it texturizes.

When you pull a shot, do you dump the portafilter puck right away or do you let it sit in the machine until you have to pull your next shot?

All of our larger drinks have the option of being triple shot drinks.  How do you pull a triple shot? Single then double? Double then single? Two doubles and a wasted fourth? We have a single handle, but is it efficient to estimate a change in grind, pull, and change the grinder back?

Thanks!

Ohh- and do you stir your iced lattes?  In what order do you make them? (Ice milk espresso vs milk espresso ice).

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You have a number of questions here and I really respect you for asking them. You obviously understand the importance of being organized; you just haven't yet found the best approach.

One thing that I'd suggest is to picture your work station in your mind when you go to bed at night, and seriously think through each step. No fooling, but you'll be able to solve many of your organizational problems this way.

As to holding or abandoning the milk pitcher: If your boss leaves the pitcher on the espresso machine and then walks off to ring things into the cash register, I'd fire him. OK, you can't, but you get my point: That's wrong, even if you have an automatic steamer wand that shuts off by its self. You must hold the pitcher in order to control the type of milk you are getting. Making a light cappuccino and making a heavy flat white are done in a similar fashion; similar but different. Abandoning the milk pitcher results in....well, crap, most of the time.

My question for you now is how many pumps does your machine have? Two pumps? In that case you can run both heads at once. One pump? No. If you have one pump, like most machines have, then you go first to one portafilter and then to the other. Don't turn on a second head while one is already running. Once you get into the swing of it you'll quickly find out that it doesn't slow you down at all. Not at all. With two pumps you can have two people using the machine at the same time, but I personally find that annoying...others don't have a problem with it.

If you are new, and still learing your own style, please focus as much as you can on quality and consistancy. Speed will come. It will.

Milk pitchers? Well, you should pick the right one for the job: 320, 480, or 600 ml depending on the drink size. Fine, but I'm happy with carrying two 600 (that's 20 American ounces) pitchers to work. One I use for hot drinks and one for soy and cold drinks. I'd rather have them sized to fit my drinks but the 600 ml. pitcher by Rattleware is easy to use and it's easy to see the 12, 16 and 20 points. (speaking in American for you)

As for three shot drinks: Well, I personally give the customer 4 shots but run them a touch shorter...and I get great feedback on my work. I'll let you and your boss figure out what's best for your store.

Each day I take my own tools to work: Portafilter with double basket; 58mm Reg Barber C-Ripple Tamper; two 600 ml. milk pitchers; 4 ounce dosing cup (for checking the machine); Zig Zag brush for the head seals; stainless steel stir stick; thermometer (yes I have one); tamping board; plus a couple of hand tools for making adjustments to things.

When I arrive at work I set up my work station so that everything is exactly where I want it. Small changes to the position of the grinder or syrup pumps makes a great difference in comfort and speed. The more you work the more you'll get a feel for the way you like things. My favourite co-worker is about 30 cm shorter than I am. Obviously we like things to be set up differently.
Hi, I am definitely not the most experienced barista, but since no one else wants to comment, here is what my answer:

Last things first: Iced lattes - ice, milk, shot. Then I put the lid on and swirl it until the color is consistent. I don't know that it is better, it just happens to be most convenient.

Putting the pitcher down: Sometimes I do, but you can't get proper texture if you do (at least I can't.) You sacrifice control over the microfoam and it is easier to scald the milk if you try to do too many things at once.

My order: Start grinder (I try to be fairly good with my dosing so grounds don't sit there between drinks.)
Set out cups and put in any flavorings (chocolate, vanilla etc) if you happen to do those kinds of things.
I portion the milk so I have no more than 20 oz of milk in any pitcher, this way I can start the milk and the shot at the same time and they come out within a few seconds of each other.

If I have a lot of drinks and my portions of milk get off, I always steam the milk first, it can stand to sit there a lot longer than a shot of espresso that needs to be used with a few seconds.

Also, I'm not sure if this was part of your question, but don't leave the dosed shot in the group head for any period of time before you start the extraction, it cooks a little and you end up with a really bad shot, usually pouring in about 5 seconds.

I can't address the triple shot question, we do things a little differently. We have straight nozzles on all our portafilters and just do 2oz shots, double - 4 oz. etc.

I hope this is helpful, or at least if I am way off base some more experienced baristas will charge in to correct me. Good luck.
Great advice so far in the other responses. To add, one of the quickest things I learned is that no matter your speed and experience, attitude makes a big difference during a slam. When I first started, slams scared the **** out of me - I'd see the people lining up, the orders coming in faster, and I'd become a bigger clutz than usual trying to speed up to match the rush. A big mistake made worse by the fact that in our shop, which is tiny, we work alone throughout most of the shift, and so I had no one to fall back on for help.

Then I had the good fortune to watch a much more experienced co-worker deal with a slam. He was faster than I was, but he also had a year and half of experience to pull on. The biggest difference, however, was his attitude toward the job and towards the customers. He talked, joked, made eye contact, and verbally acknowledged people just walking in. He kept up a non-stop dialogue with the customers over the upbeat music of his choice, all the while putting out drinks at a steady pace. And when a customer got too impatient and left in a huff, he shrugged it off with such good grace that sometimes his regulars got incensed on his behalf. It was amazing to watch.

Keeping up that kind of energy is hard, and takes experience, which will come over time. Fraser Jamieson is right, speed will come with time as well. But remember to keep a cool head, and be friendly and open with the customers, even if you're freaking out :) This will go a long way in how people react to you. And customers waiting in line liked to be acknowledged as well, even if it's just a "Good morning, I'll be with you in just a minute!" Above all: Smile.
As far as Iced drinks go... It should always be ICE LAST! Personally I dash a bit of cold milk into the cup, brew the espresso into the cup (always), pour cold milk, put ice on top, stir, serve.

When making a 16oz iced latte we use 1.9 oz Black Cat Espresso, ~ 11 oz of cold milk, and ~3 oz of ice. Note our ice is a natural sharded style. Not cubed or crushed. It looks cool in the glass and doesn't impart as much water into the drink.

When we use a flavor it goes in the beginning with the dab of milk and espresso and is stirred vigorously for 10-13 seconds before the milk is poured in.

Our iced mochas are legendary.
I have no problems setting down a pitcher.
I'll go on record saying that.

It totally depends on how much milk you are steaming and how quick your tip is. I can get fantastic (read as the same) texture from a pitcher I have set down as one that I haven't set down. Especially if it's 14ish ounces of milk for a 16oz latte. Hell yeah I'm gunna set that pitcher on the drip tray.

It also comes down to practicing it. How many pitchers of milk have baristas wasted in their career practicing latte art? How much faster did learning latte art make you? On the other hand, you can set the pitcher on the drip tray when you don't actually have to walk away and do something else and observe how the milk moves in the pitcher with the steam wand at different angles, the pitcher in different spots, the valve opened or closed so much. Practice it before you write it off.

I'm willing to bet that if I made 2 12oz lattes, one that I held the pitcher for and one that I didn't and put them up to a blind taste test that there wouldn't be a soul that could tell the difference, and if there was someone, especially if there were a lot of people, then I would never set down a pitcher again. However, I highly doubt I'd come across a palate that knew the difference.

Texture the milk for that first 5 seconds or so, set it down in a position that you still have incorporation and then come back to it before it's done. If you work for a week on bar and you are even the least bit observant you should be able to start getting a feel for how long it takes to steam milk for a specific drink. Come back before it's done and incorporate whatever bubbles haven't been swirled in while you were away and you're good to go.

There are a lot of bandwagon jumpers in this industry, and somewhere along the way I think someone said, "YOU CAN'T EVER SET DOWN THE PITCHER!!!" and ever since that's what people have preached.

Now, if I'm steaming for a 6oz beverage there is no way I'm setting down that pitcher, it doesn't make sense, I'll save no time, but for a 16oz latte in the middle of a rush? Hell yeah.

I'm also one of those baristas that doesn't buy into the "a shot can only sit for a couple seconds before it's total crap." 30 seconds? Yeah I'm gunna waste it (I'm also going to figure out why in the hell my shots just sat for 30 seconds...). But ten seconds? Not a chance. If shots faded that fast after brewing then we would have figured out a way to brew them straight into our mouths by now. Don't know about you all, but I let my straight shots sit for 10-15 seconds or so before I consume them.

For me it came down to experimentation. I realized I couldn't tell the difference between a capp that had shots sit for 20 seconds and a capp that had shots sit for 4 seconds. Now I could tell the difference between a capp that had shots sit for 45 seconds and a capp that had shots sit for 4 seconds, but even then it's not the biggest difference in the world. I don't have the most developed palate in the world, so I'm sure a lot of people would notice a bigger difference than I, but still, I think a lot of the "shot sitting" camp are people that have heard it from people high up and therefore believe it without testing it on their own palate.

Don't mean to get too preachy, but please don't totally write something off before fully exploring it.

-bry
I totally hear you Bryan, but for a person just starting out I think it's best to take one step at a time. To me, this is too big a step to take after only one week behind the bar. That's where I'm coming from.
I did form my soapbox off of a situation the other day where I customer asked me to repull his shots because he, "Didn't like his shot to just sit around and go all stale."

I started the shots, poured my cold milk into the pitcher and opened the valve when he "ever so kindly" opened his mouth. I'm willing to bet the shots would have set for sub-10 seconds. He then proceeded to tell me everything that I obviously had no clue about, which was anything and everything coffee related that every Ftarsucks barista had ever told him.

The shots were going into a 16oz white chocolate, caramel mocha, with skim. To which he later added splenda.
::facepalm::

Sorry, I knew I was getting preachy. I still like you :)

And yeah, I did kind of forget that whole one week thing in my rant, but I still stand behind practicing the pitcher setting thing. It can save loads of time, even if it's just preparing the saucer and spoon.

-bry
Like I said, I totally hear you on this and I don't have to ever meet you to know that you make excellent drinks. That goes for lots of people on here and the same goes for them: I don't care if YOU put the milk pitcher down when working; I'm wanting new people to really get the feel for how the milk acts when being processed.

It's because you know what you're doing that you can say to your self "that should be OK for 15 seconds while I do this other thing..." and sure enough you're right.

When a person is new and they are asked first for a light fluffy sweet cappuccino followed by a heavy almost unexpanded flat white, that's when leaving the pitcher on the machine won't cut it.

And again, I'm not talking about you or anyone else on here who backs you up, because the very fact that we're all on here says that we're interested. No. The people I was talking about are the ones I'm used to seeing every day who don't have a freeking clue about milk, espresso, or anything related. But they own cafes, set examples and make the rules.

Again we talked here about expresso getting old. HU? That truly must be from Charbuck's or somewhere. The stuff should be able to sit until it's at room temperature and still taste good. How on earth can it go bad in 10 seconds?
During a rush I try to make things as streamlined as I possibly can.

If I have 5 or more drinks I will set up my cups and pitchers along the counter. I will pour my milk into the pitchers(unsteamed) and will add any "additionals" that the drink calls for like chocolate or a flavoring. If I have a decaf. drink I will switch on the grinder and have it running as I dose and tamp the other espressos. (The decaf grinder is much more slow than the others at our store) I will have each of the group-heads pulling simultaneously to make sure the drinks are made as efficiently as possible.
We also have a 32oz. pitcher available at our location that I use on the occasion of an extremely busy rush. Knocking out two milks at a time is always a good bet when you are pressed for time. However, I do prefer quality so I try to keep my usage of that pitcher to a minimum.
Using a larger pitcher shouldn't decrease the quality of your milk at all.

-bry

Shellie Adams said:
During a rush I try to make things as streamlined as I possibly can.

If I have 5 or more drinks I will set up my cups and pitchers along the counter. I will pour my milk into the pitchers(unsteamed) and will add any "additionals" that the drink calls for like chocolate or a flavoring. If I have a decaf. drink I will switch on the grinder and have it running as I dose and tamp the other espressos. (The decaf grinder is much more slow than the others at our store) I will have each of the group-heads pulling simultaneously to make sure the drinks are made as efficiently as possible.
We also have a 32oz. pitcher available at our location that I use on the occasion of an extremely busy rush. Knocking out two milks at a time is always a good bet when you are pressed for time. However, I do prefer quality so I try to keep my usage of that pitcher to a minimum.
I agree with you Bryan, but I find that because I have far less experience with the large pitcher it does decrease the quality (or consistency) of my milk. It's more difficult to gauge how much I should be stretching it. For some or most I'm sure this would not be an issue but my lack of experience comes into play sometimes. :)
oh, how I do love these customers... they make our days so lovely.

Bryan Wray said:
I started the shots, poured my cold milk into the pitcher and opened the valve when he "ever so kindly" opened his mouth. I'm willing to bet the shots would have set for sub-10 seconds. He then proceeded to tell me everything that I obviously had no clue about, which was anything and everything coffee related that every Ftarsucks barista had ever told him.

The shots were going into a 16oz white chocolate, caramel mocha, with skim. To which he later added splenda.
::facepalm::

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