wheel Like the spokes of a wheel your coffee (and your life!) will have a bumpy ride if one or more of your spokes are out of line. If your financial world is strong and healthy, yet your family or physical world is out of line you will be unable to enjoy the money! If you have fresh, boutique roasted coffee, and yet your boiler temp is set too high – guess what? You’re going to have burned coffee! As a specialist barista and wholesale manager for over fifty cafes and now a corporate cafe mentor setting up cafes I saw many cafes that look like this bike! They may have groovy hipster baristas, and specialty coffee, BUT their grinder hadn’t been serviced for 2000 kilos! The bluntness of the burrs were causing uneven extraction and the result: bad coffee!  

When the wheel of your coffee is balanced your coffee and your cafe will be balanced.

Like the spokes on a bicycle your coffee must have all 8 straight spokes or you’re in for a bumpy ride! If one of the eight spokes is bent then you’re going to be peddling too hard for little reward.

1. Beans – Of course you need fresh roasted, high quality beans. How do you know if the beans you are brewing are high quality? Well, beans are graded! Anything over 86* points is considered specialty. Your roaster should be educating you as to what components are in your blend, why they are in there, what your blend is designed to achieve, and what the rating is for the specialty grade of each bean. You need to know how they are roasted and what the solubility is breach bean, and how you can best extract them. Your blend shouldn’t be changing this all the time; twice a year is suffice.

2. Recipe – It is time to move towards an objective approach to brewing espresso. It is no longer acceptable to play guesswork when serving coffee to your customers. You need a map of brew weight (yield in grams), brew time, and dose (in grams) to navigate around the only objective number in coffee: extraction yield. This is a percentage that falls between 18-24%. Coffee NEVER EVERY EVER tastes good outside of these percentages. 3. Equipment – I wont be naming brands, however you need quality, clean, and functioning equipment. If your shower screens are bent, you will immediately lose 30% of the quality of your coffee. If you’re burrs are blunt you will immediately lose 30% of the quality of your espresso and so on.

3. Workflow – is a critical spoke in your wheel of coffee. Who does what role and when? Who pulls the shots? At what time or level of busyness do you put on a second or third barista. Who’s in charge anyway? This needs to be nailed to the wall.

wheel2A basic methodology for workflow is:

  • 1 barista on shots – quality control. This person directs speed.
  • 1 barista on milk. This person directs flow.
  • 1 barista on floor (waiter) this person restocks.

When a busy period comes you can add 1 person to milk and perhaps the floor staff pour milk as well.

In my experience this spoke is the number 1 broken spoke and the number 1 cause of bad coffee.

4. Staff – Number 1 for staff are staff who want to be at work. This is a human resources issue and is a complex one. It involves the skills and availability of the staff member, and the rewards and respect given to the staff by the company. This is a combination of pay (remuneration), awards, recognition, development and community.

5. Suppliers – a key spoke in your wheel are good suppliers, with quality products and the right price. A Vitasoy will ruin a soy coffee. A Pura will ruin a milk latte. A bad coffee company will ruin your cafe. One of the most damaging spokes to your wheel as I have observed are unsatisfactory coffee suppliers who do not train and support cafes. If you have a coffee supplier you are not happy with: change.

6. Location – This is a key attribute. You need a good, accessible location where people are wanting good coffee.

7. Service – Your staff and the atmosphere around your cafe must be conducive to coffee excellence.

8. Complimentary products/service – This is around the issue competitive advantage. The reality is that even if your Wheel of Coffee is 100% and your food is 10% you will suffer on the coffee front.

*Technically it’s 80 but unofficially it’s 84 amongst many, same as CoE

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