Being / San Francisco / Work

June 23, 2013: Grinding and Pouring

My walk to work each morning is great. It is downhill and effortless and just early enough (6:45 am) that I could (and kind of do) walk down the middle of the street. Stepping into the grocery store and calling it work still makes me laugh on occasion, but getting to make and serve coffee fits. I enjoy it as much as I hoped and remembered and my clientele and coworkers keep me entertained and on my toes. The regulars work in Silicon Valley, art galleries, or home, or have nothing better to do than fit coffee at the corner store into their routine. One guy wears Google Glass, but he won’t let me try them on and another just joined an app start up, so you can imagine his look of shock when I asked how they were monetizing it. Most importantly, I think I have only pissed off one person so far which is pretty good. (sorry I don’t know what a London Fog is and you had to explain it)

We serve Four Barrel espresso which may not mean much to you if you don’t live in San Francisco. The founder was co-owner of Ritual (also SF-y) and spawned off to open his own roastery and cafes. People, rather than pre-set machines, control their roasting process and they are very particular about their coffee bean sources. This last week I received training from them – almost 8 hours of training. And I loved it. We covered bean education, observed the roasting of a batch of beans, learned about making and tasting shots of espresso, and of course steaming and ‘arting’ latte milk. I asked too many questions about the beans which prompted us to grind and smell several blends and I tested way too much espresso, but how else was I going to know if it was bitter or sour.

Naturally, the next day I wanted to apply some of my learnings to me ‘home’ bar, which led to a disastrous breakdown of the espresso grinder. I tried to adjust the grind for finer espresso and ended up doing the complete opposite – creating a bean shooting machine. Whoever bought espresso from Canyon Market on Thursday, June 20, I apologize for whatever unpredictable (probably sour) espresso you received. I gained objective and subjective knowledge of espresso at Four Barrel which I needed and am beginning to put into practice. Creating the perfect shot is similar to a science experiment of locking in grinding, dosing, timing and output variables and adjusting one thing at a time. I can almost dose 21.5 grams of espresso every time – shoot for the starts and you just might land on a cloud. I also learned how to create latte art; however, I’m more concerned with serving a drink that isn’t sour or bitter rather than one with a heart or fern in the foam. But rest assured, I will turn that blob of foam into something fancy sooner than later. I am excited about ‘circling back around’ with employees on Four Barrel training and it will create a platform to put some additional standards and processes  in place to make things shine. Internal communications is one thing I learned a lot about in my former positions in online media and something that will carry on. It just happens to be about sanitation and hard boiled eggs rather than file size and CPMs. As I press into a new career path with the goal of opening my own coffee shop I am encouraged by my time at Four Barrel, which increased my expertise and created relationships within the industry.

Beyond the coffee bar, my month of subletting in Glen Park, where I work, is coming to an end and I am moving to downtown SF next week. I will no longer be able to trot downhill and will need to ride public transportation, but I look forward to walking through the city during early hours where I will experience a different energy – before the tourists wake up.


One thought on “June 23, 2013: Grinding and Pouring

  1. Patiomen know of such evolution in life. Good it is that the worst one can do is mistakenly offend with a cup of coffee. There is a brand called D’Arte that markets a product called “Meaning of Life”. Perhaps, this is why there are such lines at most coffee outlets. Once you get the hang of it, then you can market a product called “Paradise Found”. “And,” says the barista, “will that be a Paradise with or without flavor?”

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