Monday, 22 October 2012

Week beginning October 22nd - A day in the life of a barista

An insight into a day as a barista at Kaffeine

Writing about a day in the life of a barista at Kaffeine is really quite challenging because, luckily,  no two days are the same and anything can change in ways you cannot predict. But here is a very good overview.

I wake at 5:30 am to be at the shop just before 7. Opening at 7:30 am means you have to move fast as the opening barista is responsible for setting up the entire espresso area and dialing in both our house blend and decaf grinders.

Dialing in our Robur and Anfim grinders happens at 7:15 am. This is also when we log settings like grind time, dose, extraction time, brew ratio, brewing temperature and a few tasting notes for both the Red Brick and decaf.

By 9 am we have the full six staff on, 3 baristas and 3 floor staff, as from 8:30 until 10:30 is our busiest time for coffee. Kaffeine goes through about six or eight kilos before midday and it takes everything we have to make sure each coffee meets Kaffeine’s exacting standards in product, presentation and service.

The barista pulling shots has probably one of the most challenging positions during our peak time, as a new docket can appear every almost every ten seconds. They have to monitor extraction times, dose weights and espresso mass consistently to deliver delicious espresso shot after shot. Attention to detail is everything and if a shot is not up to scratch it gets discarded.

Whoever is steaming and pouring milk is the conductor of the coffee service and needs to be communicative, energetic and assertive to make sure all the coffees get to the right people. When seven or eight people are waiting for a take away coffee, communication with other baristas, and all the waiting customers, is essential. This position needs a lot of energy and you need to be constantly monitoring the shop floor, milk temperature and texture while having moment after moment with customers as you hand over cup after cup of coffee.

The barista on dishes and pouring is in by far the hardest and most physically demanding position during a busy service. They are responsible for waiting on tables, running coffees, doing load after load after load of dishes, keeping the butchers block stocked, pouring coffees, assisting service staff when they need it and chatting with customers while they are waiting on their take away coffee. Speed and efficiency is everything in this role and dishes, pouring coffees and clearing tables quickly becomes overwhelming if you do not multitask.

Kaffeine’s standard is that no customer should wait more than four minutes after point of order. It sounds like a good bit of time, but when you consider the average extraction time for each coffee is between 28 to 30 seconds and there might be 12 to 14 coffees in front of the one just ordered meeting this waiting time requires serious skill and efficiency.

The barista on shots needs to let the barista on milk know what is coming next and the barista steaming milk needs to tell the barista on dishes what they are pouring and where it is going. We do this while always scanning the floor and taking mental notes on who is at the till, what tables need to be cleared, who needs more water and who is waiting outside for take away coffee.

All three baristas need to talk and communicate during service, not only to each other but also people waiting for a take away. A very quick ‘hello, your coffee is coming up in just a second’ takes little time and little effort and really breaks down the barriers between our customers and baristas and might lead to being asked a question that can help someone understand why their Aeropress has not been tasting right or where the current components of the Red Brick come from.

By 1:30 lunch is well and truly underway and it is busy as ever on coffee. Between 12:00 and 6:00 we can go through another six to eight kilos of coffee and add another 300 to 350 drinks to the total. The baristas on shift are consistently cleaning as they go to ensure coffee grit does not end up in your cup or, even worse, on your tongue.

Even after lunch it still does not stop. By now I will have only drunk perhaps two or three espressos, but I will have tasted over a dozen as the grind is adjusted constantly through the day and we taste and check how the coffee is performing.

By 3:30 Fitzrovia is ready for an afternoon pick me up and this is another busy period that can see dockets stretch from end to end of the counter. It’s known as the 3:30 rush, we prepare for it every day, and if you have ever been in Kaffeine at this time you will know what we mean.

At 4:00 you might be lucky as it is time to say farewell to one of our baristas. This means go time for the two remaining baristas as they now have to make consistently brilliant coffee while doing dishes, waiting tables, serving customers, topping up and rotating stock, completing any required weekly maintenance, assisting customers with choosing the right coffee for home brewing, explaining the difference between a flat white and a latte or having a quick chat about how to make a better French Press while dropping off a double espresso and discussing how we make our cold brew cascara.

Another of the baristas says goodbye at 5:00, leaving one barista, one service staff and one manager to shut the shop and leave it exactly how they would like to find it. A barista’s workload does not slow down, it actually increases. There is so much to do to get the shop set and ready for another day and it takes everything you have after a busy service to get all the equipment cleaned and the shop ready by 7:00 after closing at 6:00.

So, up at 5:30, start work at 7, get smashed all day, have two breaks of 30 minutes and 10 minutes, close at 6, finish at 7, home by 8 and the great thing is it feels like it’s only been two or three hours, not twelve.

Working at Kaffeine is non-stop but it is also a lot of fun and this is why we do it. We do it because we love coffee, and we all have a passion for quality and service. Little things like asking if someone would like another coffee while they are sitting down or running a take away brew to someone standing outside does not sound like much, but they make a big difference. Making coffee at Kaffeine is a constant challenge, but we work with great people, great equipment and some of the nicest customers going around and when all these factors add up it makes life a lot easier, especially after a coffee.

And with that we say, please enjoy the menu this week. Lamingtons on again....!! Yes....

Traditional bircher muesli with rhubarb and raspberry compote 3.30
Granola muesli with pomegranate molasses and rhubarb and raspberry compote 3.30
Fruit salad (pineapple, mango, strawberries, grapes, passionfruit, peach) 3.50
(add 30 p for granola or yogurt)
Ciabatta roll with omelette, pancetta, rocket and tomato salsa 4.70
Ciabatta roll with courgette omelette, rocket and tomato salsa 4.70
Croissant with Italian roast ham, talleggio cheese, spinach & plum tomatoes 4.70
Croissant with gruyere cheese and plum tomatoes 3.90
Seven seed bakery bloomer toast with homemade preserves 1.70
Pumpkin seed toast 2.30
Banana bread 2.20

Porridge - Its back. Served with rhubarb and raspberry compote, chopped nuts, muscovado sugar, golden syrup or honey 3.00

Pastries by Seven Seed bakery
French butter croissants 1.70
Pain au chocolat 2.30
Almond croissants 2.70

Baked Treats
Cranberry and chestnuts sweet muffins 2.00
Eat your greens (courgette, herbs and cheese) savoury muffins 2.00
Damson friands 2.00
Super moist chocolate brownies 2.30
White chocolate blondies 2.30
Portuguese tarts 1.90
ANZAC cookies 1.70
Afgan biscuits 1.70

Soup - Tomato, pancetta and black beans

French retro baguettes 4.70
Tuna with rouille and rocket
Italian roast ham with gherkin, Dijon, red onion, gruyere and spinach

Foccacias with sea salt and rosemary crust 4.90
Roast chicken with chilli mayonnaise, tomato, brie and rocket
Bufala mozzarella with chimichurri sauce, tomatoes and spinach

Salads 4.90/5.90
Hot smoked salmon with kiwi, cucumber, rocket with rose-hip and kecap manis dressing
Brazil nuts with ewe's milk cheese, sorrel, pineapple and coriander
Cep with roasted potato and saute leeks

Tart 4.00 or 6.90 with salad
Crushed peas with pennywort and elderberry

1 comment:

  1. I just discovered your cafe through a friend. I think I'm coming to live there - expect me next weekend.

    Yours truly,
    An Aussie in need of an ANZAC Bikkie.