So I'm working the evening shift by myself lately, and I have to say it's a totally different ballgame. Getting through a line of 10 people with no cashier is definitely a challenge, and I have been guilty of falling victim to freakouts. But, I was starting to get a little bored with just working the bar, and I thrive on new challenges. So much of it is mental, at some point you just stop the panic and get to people as fast as you can, which is pretty f'ing fast. Plus, I don't have to share any of my tips, and people are generous when they see you sweatin' it by yourself ;)

Of course there is the continuing challenge of working with the Astoria heat exchanger automatic. Ugh. We've been trying to solve the problem of the top of the puck hitting the diffusion screen, so we scored a triple-shot basket. (ps, when we got it, there was a triple spout on the bottom. Wtf? How would one even use that??) After an hour of pulling shots with reject coffee that we were going to throw out anyway, we got the grind fine enough that we could use the same amount of coffee as in the double basket, but tamp it low enough that there's a nickel of space between the top of the puck and the screen. I pulled the best shot that's ever been pulled off that f'ed up machine -- 24 second extraction with sweet lookin' crema. Oh yeah.

My latte art is getting pretty sweet -- I decided to stop trying to be fancy and focus just on hearts. Once I have those down, I'll start on my rosettas etc. I think it's harder to get really great art in to-go cups, which is all I have to work with, but I'll do my best. Maybe if I get really good in to-go cups, porcelain will be no problem!

My evening customers are sweeeet! There's one girl who always orders the same drink, and says that I make it the best. I got a great heart on it one night, and she told me she was having a terrible day and that my art really made her night. Hell yes! Such an awesome feeling. Coffee is so much better than the animal shelter!

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Comment by Mark on March 13, 2009 at 8:59am
Nice read Sarah, where do you work in the Bay Area?
Comment by Chris on October 8, 2008 at 7:07pm
I have the Astoria Argenta SAE 2 Raised Group at my house, and I use the 'Synesso' styled 18g baskets almost exclusively. I've used the LM styled baskets successfully, too, but the 18g are my faves. I still get donut-esque extractions from the thing, but they tend to close pretty quickly. I'm able to up-dose to about 19.5g with 'em, and get great crema, and great extractions, with only the occasional donut sink-shot.
Comment by Carrie on October 8, 2008 at 2:48pm
It's been years since I have ALL alone at the coffee shop but I have had a line of ten customers with no help on the bar. Usually what I do when the panic starts to set in is stop for just a second, close my eyes and think of a song. I know it is corny but it works for me. I just start humming my song in my head and everything else just flows.

We have a triple basket at the shop but I haven't tried it yet. Kinda looks like some weird sea creature or something!
Comment by Jason Haeger on October 7, 2008 at 10:03pm
I know the feeling, though it's been awhile.

It got to the point to where my art in to-go cups was vastly superior to my art in ceramic, by sheer virtue of the fact that the ratio of to-go orders to ceramic orders was so out of balance.

These days, I feel most comfortable with a 5.5oz. cappuccino cup. Again, virtue of the frequency thing.

Every drink is a chance to practice. I'm not a fan of the triple basket craze, but that's for another discussion.

I miss retail sometimes.

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