So my friend just started at a new coffee shop in Milwaukee. Previously we have both been trained at Alterra and were puzzled when the trainer at the new shop said the way they make cappuccino's there is holding back the liquid milk and then scooping all the froth on top!?!?!?! We have always been taught you need to steam properly to get even foam and make sure your pour consistently layers the drink having 1/2 to 3/4 froth in the cappuccino.
I realize coffee shops do things differently but I have never heard of "proper" cappuccino's being made this way. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I just don't think they look or taste like they should when you just "plop" froth on top. Not only that, they did not fix their machine's steam wands, they simply don't use the side that is clogged.
Nothing turns me off more than to be asked "wet or dry?" when I order a capp in a coffee shop. I have never received a decent capp in any shop that has posed that question to me. The only thing that will get me out of a cafe quicker is to see the portafilters not attached to the grouphead. Or perhaps the sight of a super automatic. To me a capp is very close to equal parts espresso, milk, foam, perhaps a bit light on the foam.
I think it really comes down to your own position on the matter. Holding back the foam and then ladling it on top is a very common way of making a cappuccino all over the world. Some places prefer a "bouffant" style of foam.
Look around. Perhaps their way of making capps doesn't jive with your understanding. Maybe there's something to learn from their techniques. Then again, there's the question about the steam wands and that's a concern for any quality and craft-oriented barista.
You'll have to decide for yourself whether or not this new shop is the right fit for you.
I don't know if the question is one what is "proper", but more on what tastes better to you. I'm a big fa of customer service. This is very hard to balance with my idea of quality at times. Yet, to the customer quality is achieved in the over all experience. So, if they get what they want, poured in a way that they are comfortable and then it tastes better than they expected, you are going to have a repeat customer. If Alterra, who I believe is a fantastic company that knows good coffee and is doing great things, has built a culture in Milwaukee around caps made in this way I would certainly try it out and see if you can make them to a standard that tastes great to you. If you are not comfortable with that in your shop, know that a change is going to come with a lot of education for your customers. This is a very delicate balance. If I am a customer and know how I like something and you tell me your way is better, then even if it is there is going to be a bur in my saddle. You have stepped on my toes a bit.
The way that I would bring customers to a new beverage was this: First I would give them what they want how they want it, and try to do this with as much care and attention as possible. I would hope to be able to do this better than whoever had been doing it for them before me. Next I would continue this over and over as they hopefully have become a repeat customer. Last, after having established a trusting relationship with them as a customer, I would make their drink as they like it, then while they are enjoying it I would bring them a version of it to my stanards on the house. I would say, "I have tasted your version of this drink, and see why you like it. I would love to share with you my version. This is on me. If you don't like it, don't drink it. If you like it, keep it!" I have been turned down, but never had a customer quit coming to my shop. I have more often than not gotten my version ordered from then on.
In our shops in St. Louis we do not hld back the foam. At the USBC the competitor from Alterra did not hold back the foam and achieved 3rd place in the US. (Way to go Scott!) Just food for thought.
Thanks for all the comments so far. I never thought of the whole personal taste either. (How stupid of me) I was thinking more along the lines of how much I do not like it when froth is just placed on top and not layered on top of the drink.
I do appreciate the comments though. That's why I posted it, wanted to get a different point of view than my own and 99% of the time it helps me see it in a different way.
I use to work for Caribou Coffee and they had us do the spooning froth as well. Years later I was retrained at Carrboro Coffee and was showed the pouring technique. I ended up doing the pour method in a glass on my own and watched it form perfectly like a Guinness. For a dryer cappuccino I just make sure to froth more than steam.
The way it was introduced to me was to first understand the name. Cappuccino means pointed cowl...like the hoods on the robes cappuchin monks would wear. Not easy creating the pointed cowl from pouring, but much easier from scooping the froth on top.
I hear so many different verbal variations when ordering a cap depending upon where a customer frequents his business therefore I remain neutral, walk to my machine, confidant of my expertise and free pour-top off. When a customer orders a 20oz. cap I no longer energize opportunity to educate - I simply create a fabulous latte with complete confidence knowing cappuccino is the only word they know derived from their neighborhood 7-11 machine. Chow!
Jay hit the nail on the head. Whether I think or you think or anyone else but the owner and management of the shop thinks their way of making a cap' is correct or not is irrelevant. If you work somewhere, you do it their way.
Suppose you happened to love cap's made with stiff foam spooned on top. Suppose you worked for me and you refused to make cap's any other way even though you'd been instructed otherwise. Now suppose you no longer have a job... If you don't own it, it ain't your call, it ain't your butt on the line.
Which is not to say you might be able to get to know current management and get them to try a cap made another way for themselves. They may like it, they may not. Regardless it's their decision on what is served at their establishment.
But yeah, not bothering to fix a clogged steam wand (likely clogged valve from poor steam wand cleaning practices) seems to speak volumes about the owners mentality. Then again I'm not in their shoes and they may not have the expertise to fix it themselves and their finances may be stretched so thin they can't afford a service call. By the way, I know of a case where the place was quality focused with good training including proper steam wand wiping and purging after each steaming. But the steam valve kept getting clogged. Discreet observations finally narrowed down the lazy barista causing the service calls, no longer employed...
Luckily...the friend I was speaking of in the post got hired at Lakefront Alterra, so therefore will not have to work and dirty clogged steam wand shop anymore. However, I did not know the actual story behind the name....interesting none the less.
Are you enjoying Barista Exchange? Is it helping you promote your business and helping you network in this great industry? Donate today to keep it free to all members. Supporters can join the "Supporters Group" with a donation. Thanks!