Matt’s Coffee Journey: Part 3

Further Development As a Barista

In my previous entries I looked at how I got to the current level that I am at as a barista but in this one I would like to discuss where I feel I need to look to next to keep developing while also maybe discussing the day-to-day workings of working in a coffee shop. As discussed before in my previous blogs becoming a barista isn’t an overnight transition that one can make and takes time and hard work to make it happen. However, I feel that this process may never really be over and that the knowledge that a barista has around coffee and the skillset they possess is always evolving as more and more experience is gained and with that in mind I’m going to look at the areas I feel are important to look at in terms of developing knowledge around coffee which may assist people who enjoy making coffee at home just as much as someone working in a coffee shop.

Firstly, I’d like to talk about what goes into the day to day running of a place like GUJI. There is a lot more going on behind the scenes that people may not be aware of when they come to pick up their favourite coffee. Keeping in line with the theme of these blogs and considering the behind the scenes work that goes into taking someone from little to no experience to them being able to repeatedly produce excellent quality drinks is no mean feat. GUJI as a brand has given this opportunity to myself and a couple of others in the last couple of months since it has opened in Cork, taking relatively inexperienced but eager to learn individuals and giving us all the tools needed to train and elevate us to the standard required. The attention to detail in this regard and the level of output has helped develop us and maybe helped fast track our development as well.

The working day in GUJI starts early with the first one or two people who are opening. This can be anywhere from 30-60 mins before we start serving customers, depending on the day and the level of prep that needs to be carried out. The first thing that needs attending to and perhaps most importantly for the day is dialling in the coffee. It would be easy to think that a coffee grinder is a fit and forget device and that once it is set up correctly it would need no adjustment. However, if you want to get the best possible espresso then you have to constantly adjust it. Every morning will require a different setting compared to the previous evening so therefore a significant portion of the set up in the morning is devoted to this task. At GUJI we have 4 coffee beans available on the bar and each needs to be dialled in separately to get the best out of it. Each bean also has its own ideal recipe that we follow to make sure that the customers receive a drink that best matches what the flavours profiles for each individual coffee bean, these can be found on the coffee profile board that we have which outlines the flavour profile of each bean, as well as cupping score and the altitude it was grown at (MASL- Meters Above Sea Level). Once all the grinders and other machines are up and running there is normally some other prep items that need to be carried out. Oftentimes there are cakes that need to be boxed up especially on the weekend when we receive a fresh delivery of cakes and also our Proper Fancy Croissants which have gained a lot of attention recently. The chocolate ganache that we use for our Sexy Chocolates and Mocha’s also needs to be prepared and then some cups are portioned out for quick access when the orders start coming in. On a busy weekend day this normally has to be repeated a few times during the day as these items fly out the door. There are other small bits of housekeeping that need attending to make sure that everything runs as smoothly as possible once it starts to get busy.

On a weekend morning things might start of a little slower as a couple of early riser’s filter through as well as people out making use of the walking and cycling facilities along the marina and by 10am there is normally a steady stream of customers eagerly lining up for their favourite morning treat. On a busy morning we normally have a few people working to make sure that everything moves smoothly and that nobody is overwhelmed with too many jobs to carry out. Once we start to get busy there is normally one person on the till taking the orders, one person in charge of pulling the espresso shots, one in charge of milk, making sure to pour the best latte art for those “insta” worthy shots! Then there is normally one or two looking after the prep work and any other jobs that need to be done to either keep up with the orders coming through or to make everyone’s life a little easier for latter in the day. For the first couple of weeks working you probably spend a little more on this side of the morning routine but as you gain more experience and you begin to develop a bit more speed you become more comfortable dealing with being on the drinks on the weekend days. Putting the cakes into boxes or bags can take up a decent chunk of time when getting set up for the day and sometimes can eat into a few hours at the start of the day so it is definitely beneficial to have an extra person or two on hand that can do these jobs. In the first couple of weeks this sometimes had to be carried out on the fly by the person on the till in between orders so having someone extra on this job speeds up things considerably.

There is a lot of odd jobs that are constant throughout the day that can be carried out that makes your life on the machine a lot easier such as making up more chocolate portions for our “Sexy Chocolates” and mocha’s as well as preparing cups of ice for the iced drinks as they are needed or preparing cold brews for any customers that have ordered them. Turning around and picking up a cup of ice to prepare a drink is a lot easier than having to stop what you’re doing to go to the other end of the container! Cleaning out and then filling up our milk drums for the Uber milk is also another time saver as once it has been done there is always a milk drum sitting there waiting to be changed over as soon as the current one is empty, having this ready alongside having the Uber milk in the first place makes preparing drinks with whole milk a lot faster which helps contribute to the volume we can produce. When comparing how long it takes to make a drink such as a cappuccino or flat white its apparent that the Uber milk shaves off a substantial amount of time compared to manually steaming other forms of milk. There isn’t any one magic bullet that makes GUJI’s process any better but it is the amalgamation of a number of different processes that help streamline the whole operation meaning that more customers can be served and have a better product and experience offered to them. A lot of the day is just a constant cycle of preparing something and then moving onto the next thing and for certain things that may require repeating a number of times. Ideally by the time the evening starts setting in you can be sure of how much you might need to finish out the day and the prep work starts to slow down. But once the last customer is served you can’t just finish up and leave straight away. The container all the equipment requires a full and thorough clean and while on paper it always feels like it shouldn’t take too long it does require a good hour or more sometimes. This is crucial in making sure the machinery is kept in tip top condition so that the quality remains consistent and also means that everything is neat and tidy for the person opening the next morning. Once the checklist is complete the door is locked up for the night with everything ready to go again for the next day!

Overall, I can’t praise GUJI enough. Firstly, for giving me the opportunity in the first place and then giving me the training required to get me to the level I am at now. In this aspect it is a phenomenal place to work because the attention to detail is of the utmost importance and then we have amazing equipment at our disposal and the quality of the coffee is exceptional which just adds to the perks of the job.  We also have a top-class team that helps the day fly along because while we are focusing on making sure everything goes off smoothly there’s no reason you can’t have the laugh while doing so. My passion for coffee and everything around it has gone up a few notches since I’ve started and I’ve now started looking at other areas in which I can look at improving my knowledge around coffee. One item that I’ve picked up that has improved my tasting ability while also providing a welcome improvement in my home brewing is the Hario V60. This is a pour over dripper that allows water to drip through a filter and provides an incredibly smooth cup of coffee that really allows you to hone in on the tasting notes. This is a cost-effective method for home brewing and also helps tune your palate in to tasting coffee and looking out for its flavour notes.