Saturday, January 15, 2005

Loving levers

Pulling good shots. Really that's what this is all about. Yes training is so important and who doesn't want the coffee to taste good? Happy Customers. We like Happy Customers. But none of that matters if the shots aren't coming out right. If all the elements aren't just so, it's tongue-out and two thumbs down time.

It's frustrating.

That's why when we got into our groove on Saturday and really were humming along, everything seemed to glow. Ok, we made a big old mess and the cold weather diminished our steaming capabilities, but when the portafilter fit into the head with that satisfying clunk, wow. That's just magic.

I used to hate our Astoria. It's a two group lever action that has the tiniest of boilers but when it hits, boy does it hit. It took time, but I have learned to love the nuances of that machine. All the while I have cursed the sheer slowness of the process and how frugal you had to be with water and heat. But now, and this is especially the case with the San Marco in the roaster, I think lever machines have a purity to them that can't be matched no matter how many logic controllers you attach.

And the shots taste so good.

I think that's why this whole Hayes Valley experience has been so frustrating. We have all this nice gear and our own space, but the shots just won't hit. Every once in a while, yea, but for the most part consistency has been a challenge.

I remember when a barista friend of ours came down from the wonderful Hines Public Market to see us and try out our set-up. He pulled a shot from the Astoria, or at least tried, and then backed away with his hands up "I can't do this."

Oldman told us a story of working at a place in Berkeley some time ago that had a six-group lever machine with the register at one end and the grinder at the other. He said that job was all about running. I wonder where that machine is?

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3:57 AM  

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