The perfect bartender or bar-man hardly exist. Or better few people may honestly define themselves so. A professional bartender must look after many different things together, from the customer satisfaction to the hygiene of the parlour, from the stock to the cashier’s desk, from careing the equipment to pouring drinks and, last but not least, to the Espresso. Big passion is paramount in order to make a good “Espresso”, which is the top “expression” of the coffee in the cup. It means attention to every little thing and big care of the equipment. Once the grinding is set-up, we need to observe how and how long does the machine take in brewing the coffee, otherwise our Espresso will be worse than a coffee substitute.
A fast percolation produces an UNDER-EXTRACTED coffee, with rather poor taste and aroma, scarce body and a light foam scattered with small bubbles. Conversely a “never-ending” unsteady percolation produces an OVER-EXTRACTED
coffee, consequently bitter, with a dark foam and certainly a white spot where the last “burned” coffee dropped. In all cases the coffee cake, its pressing, the grinder and the coffee machine tuning should be checked and revised. This always includes the cleaning operations of the equipment.
In order to avoid supporting the local competitors, or having only customer who are in need of a loo, it is convenient to follow all the tricks of the case and make the most out of teachings, experiences and errors that may occur. This fund of knowledge has to be transferred in a set of rules that, once learned, have to be steadily put into practice. We feel sometimes job-tired or worse have the feeling that our customer does hardly deserve our big care. At this time the most demanding, fussy and “Gourmet” customer would turn-up to your bar to drink your bad-feelings coffee, and leave your shop not to come back any more. At any occurring occasion his workmates, friends and relatives will be informed about the bad experience, because people tend to disclose pleasant things and bad things in relationship of one to ten respectively.
Existing hospitality schools, specialisation courses on top of several books and magazines teach the art of the “Espresso”, but through our job-experience we pointed out a few things.
A look to the roasted coffee may give us some important clues about the standard of the supplies. Very small, broken or worm-eaten beans mean un-consistent selection and consequently low excellence. The colour may evidence the right degree of roasting, being the so-called “tonaca di frate” (monk’s frock) the best for the “Espresso”. A constant quality of the roasted coffee is what we expect from a careful supplier.
When percolation is not satisfactory (fast or slow), the problem lies mainly in the grinding process. Realising that a workmate has changed the set-up without cognition, that the grinding-stones are worn-out, that the humidity degree has changed overnight is quite easy. By pressing an handful of coffee and re-opening the fist, the out-coming form should appear hand-shaped but slightly cracked. If too hard or conversely inconsistent, grinding is probably not a regular one. But this is only a rough test. It is our coffee machine in action that shows us the finesse of grinding, by brewing about 25 ml of fluid in 25 seconds of time, the shape of the pouring coffee being similar to a mouse’s tail. We give for granted that the portion of powder (about 7 grams) and the coffee cake was pressed all-right..
We sometimes forget or just miss cleaning the upper rim of the coffee filter
before putting it in the group of the machine. This is the cause of bad sealing between the filter and the gum, that will worn-out quickly. In this way the cup of coffee may show drops of water mixed with powder. How disgusting drinking a coffee in a dirty cup!
You can be delighted from being served with an excellent creamy and aromatic Espresso and, by touching the cup and taking it to your lips, realise (shockingly) that the cup is burning-hot! Waiting for its temperature to drop, the foam vanishes (best foams collapse in 3 minutes) as well as the aroma. What a pity! It is so easy to test the “fever” of cups, and keep it below 45°.
The quantity of ground coffee in the filter must be as perfect as possible. You cannot succeed by a portion and a half (or less than half?) if the set-up is wrong or the dispenser is nearly empty. The out-coming Espresso will be different from the others, or every single Espresso will be his own. What will the unlucky customer think? A good set-up of the dispenser, a regular control of the coffee cake by a small electric scale will make our Espresso be always at its best.
Some of our customer are asking us for an American coffee, that is a coffee in a bigger cup than Espresso’s, usually prepared by filtering. By using a professional Espresso machine, the worst thing to do is filling the cup with the coffee brewed by the machine’s group. After 25 ml of coffee, to a maximum of 35 ml if the Espresso is “lungo”, the fluid coming out after is not of the same quality, making the drink much less “drinkable”. Better is making a good Espresso, also double if the customer agrees, and fill it up with hot water.