The Third Grinder (or The Case for Single Origin and Guest Espresso)

June 29, 2008 · Filed Under Uncategorized · Comment 

My SO (not Single Origin) and I dropped into our local gem of a shop: Sugar Brown’s Coffee to grab a cup, play some cards, enjoy the live music and atmosphere, and to just have a good time.

Being past students of mine, they are always excited to tell me of news going on. There is much to tell about their journey, but this is not about their shop, so much as of their latest step forward.

They acquired a third espresso grinder.

Most shops are content with a Decaf grinder and a Non-Decaf grinder for their espresso bar. That’s all you really need, they say, and they are right. You don’t need more than that to run a successful retail store.

Let’s back up a bit, and remember why we got into this whole coffee business to begin with.

It’s About The Coffee

I can’t speak for everyone, but there are many people who started into the coffee business because they love coffee. Sure, there is profit to be made, and yes, we love our customers. But before those factors were a reality, the coffee was there, and we learned to love it.

If, as retailers, our roll is to represent the coffee in such a way as to “let it speak for itself”, and if our love for coffee included the excitement of the exploration of flavors and new taste experiences, shouldn’t we offer these experiences to our customers?

Enter the case for the Third Grinder.

Having a third espresso grinder opens up possibilities for short-run single origin espresso offerings, and room for a limited time guest espresso from one of your favorite roasters.

Keeping things like these on a regular schedule can give your regular customers something to look forward to. Just like in the blog world, regular scheduled updates does more for harboring visits than anything else. (that, and high quality content.. or high quality products, in this case)

Is it expensive? It can be. But so is your espresso machine, and so are your other two grinders. Would you say you get your money’s worth out of your decaf grinder? I bet most would answer “no” or “barely” if they were to crunch the numbers of average decaf sales matched to the purchase price of their decaf grinder when it was new. So why do it? It’s a service to your customers.

The third grinder is a service to not only your customers, but to the coffee itself, and those who grow it. It increases awareness of the diversity and journey of coffee into your customers’ cups. This increased awareness focuses demand, which, in turn, helps to promote the quality driven people in this fine industry, from baristas, to roasters, to green coffee buyers, to processing mill workers, to those who grow and harvest the coffee. The end result is a higher standard across the board.

All this from buying a third grinder? Not exactly, but it is another way to help work towards these goals.

I understand that there are folks out there who consider single origin espresso to be a non-worthwhile endeavor. While I disagree, this is a discussion for another post.

Kudos to Sugar Brown’s Coffee for another step in the right direction. Kudos to others who have done the same. And Kudos to those of you who now have plans to implement such a program into your retail plan.

What are your Tamper preferences?

May 21, 2008 · Filed Under Uncategorized · 2 Comments 

realize this is a subjective of a topic as any, but I’d like to see some discussion.

There used to be only one option. Flat base. Most of them were one-piece aluminum or stainless steel, and were not entirely ergonomic, but weren’t all that uncomfortable either. Rarely did they ever fit the basket like a glove.

Now days, we have several options to choose from. There are a wide variety of manufacturers of quality tampers, each with their own ideas.

There is massive range of styles of tamper handles. From skulls to giant sticks. From ergonomic form, to rubber handles. But really, the only part that has any impact on the espresso is the business end. The piston, or base.

(click for larger version)
There are plenty of opinions and ideas about why each is better or worse than the others.

The original style was the flat base. Then came the convex base, now known as “euro curve”.

Then along came the milder “american curve” to serve as a bridge between “flat” and “convex” bases.

Well, Reg Barber decided that this just wasn’t good enough, and designed what he calls the C-Flat base. The ultimate hybrid design. Curved edges, and a flat center.

I have personally done a lot of experimentation with the different tamper styles, and the results are about what one would expect if they felt they had a good intuitive understanding of espresso preparation.

There are also ideas floating around about how the tamper base should be paired with the shape of the shower screen on your espresso machine. For example, if the shower screen is flat, you should get a flat tamper. If the shower screen is curved, you should try to match that curvature with your tamper. A more aggressively curved shower screen needs a euro-curve tamper, a flat shower screen needs a flat tamper, and so on.

There are other ideas going around about how the tamper should be based on whether or not your filterbasket is tapered or straight-walled. The degree of curvature should, in theory, be determined by the degree of inward tapering found in the filterbasket. There is a theory that states that the supposed benefits of a convex tamper base are only applicable if the filterbasket has an inward taper. Unfortunately, the theory doesn’t go into many details, but I think it’s pretty self-explanatory.

I tend to prefer an American Curve base, for all filter basket applications, personally, althought I used a flat base in competition, and I tend to vary between them from time to time, just for taste or observational purposes.

But this blogger is curious. What is your preference? Whare the reasons you think your preferred base is beneficial?

Leave comments below, and let’s get this discussion rolling.

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