By Chase Lemos of Nuova Ricambi USA
Today, many people are concerned with consistency of the product they sell. This requires the use of measuring tools so that the parameters of a cup of coffee can be measured and understood. These tools include a thermometer - which is used to accurately gauge the temperature of a drink and a gram scale - which is used to measure the coffee ground in the portafilter as well as the coffee brewed out of the group head. Since many baristas will want to use these tools, it may behoove an espresso technician to stock some or all of these tools.
Thermometers are adjustable and require a tool or a pair of pliers to adjust. In order to adjust the temperature first fill a cup with ice and top it off with water. Wait three to five minutes for the ice to melt and cool the water. Stick the thermometer in the ice water and wait however long it takes for your thermometer to get a stable reading. Your thermometer should read 0° C or 32° F. If the thermometer does not, grip the square back of the thermometer with your tool and rotate the face until the thermometer in the ice water reads as it should. If you adjust your thermometer and find that it still isn’t reading reliably, you may need to sell your customer a replacement.
A gram scale is used throughout the espresso brewing process. This scale needs to be accurate within 0.1g and should have some degree of water resistance. The measuring surface of the scale needs to be large enough to hold a portafilter across it and the max weight needs to be large enough to weigh a portafilter with the coffee in it. The scale also needs to be able to display weight in real time with no lag. The barista will first dose their coffee and put the portafilter on the scale to ensure their coffee is exactly as many grams as their recipe calls for (14-21g is standard for a double). The barista will then add or take away from the coffee to achieve the correct weight and proceed to tamp the coffee. Then, the barista will lock the portafilter and set the machine to brew the shot. In the first second or two while the machine either pre-infuses or simply begins pushing water through the puck, the barista will move the scale under the spout, and put a shot glass on top of it, zeroing the scale with the shot glass on top. Then the barista will extract as much coffee by weight as their recipe calls for and turn off the machine once their perfect number is achieved.
The shot glass is another measuring device that is often overlooked. Used to catch the espresso after extraction, the shot glass can provide a quick and easy to determination of the proper volume of extraction if the barista isn’t using a scale. Glasses marked with one- and two-ounce lines will allow the barista to quickly decide when the shot is finished. Since they are made of glass, these tools will break frequently. If you have a stock of shot glasses in your van, you can sell cafes you visit new shot glasses to replace the ones broken by hapless baristas!
Clean up after the shot also requires tools that technicians should have on hand to sell when they visit cafes. Many cafes use knock boxes that stand onto of the counter independent of the counter or machine. These knock boxes wear out but do not need a full replacement frequently, instead, they require a new rubber bar once the metal or plastic begins to show through the rubber sleeve. This rubber protects the rim of the basket when the puck is knocked out and will need to be replaced on a regular basis. If a cafe is knocking grounds directly into a garbage can, this type of sit-on-top knock box can make their life easier. If a cafe has a counter mounted knock box, they will still end up wearing out the knockbars, though generally over a longer period than they would with a sit on top style.
Many cafes will use one bar towel for everything. Wipe the steam wand, check. Wipe the counter, check. Wipe out the shot glass, check. This continues. One towel isn’t enough to do a good job cleaning up after an espresso shop. There are towels out there made of microfiber that are color coded to do specific tasks. The towel used for wiping out the portafilter is normally brown to hide the coffee oils it is used to clean and the one for the steam wand is normally blue to better hide the milk discoloration. These towels are only used for their intended tasks keeping them cleaner than the one bar towel system and preventing any type of cross-contamination. They are also yet another item you can keep in your van when you see that a cafe is running a one towel system. These towels will have to be washed, and so you should sell them more than one towel set at a time so that they can wash one or two and have one set to use. These towels are a fairly new entrant to the market but are likely to make a big difference as cafes learn that there is a better way to clean than a single bar towel passed around.
There are so many items that baristas need but may not have good access to, the ones listed above only scratch the surface of tools coffee technicians can help sell as they travel around visiting with cafes and working on their equipment. Most technicians are trusted partners in cafes because they are the one who comes to save the day when the brewer goes ka-put or the espresso machine starts making that noise. As such, a good recommendation can push the relationship with your client to the next level building brand loyalty and helping you to move a little more product in the meantime. It is a true win-win.