Techniques for making large quantities of quality espresso drinks quickly

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
esotamoc

#1: Post by esotamoc »

I am working as a full time barista and i am always looking for ways to improve my coffee and my skills. The cafe where i work is quite busy- we do about 50-60 kilos per week. However the coffee supplier that we use is not the best so i have to make do with what we have. i want to make each cup as perfect as i can but this becomes difficult as the orders start piling up. can anyone who has experience please share tips on how to prepare espresso drinks quickly and as close to perfect as the time allows.Unfortunately the majority of the coffees i make tend to be large cappuccini and caffe latte so we need to be constantly steaming a lot of milk.

thanks for your ideas!

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Kaffee Bitte

#2: Post by Kaffee Bitte »

I am going to focus on how to increase your speed, since there are innumerable posts on this site about improving the shots themselves.

The single most important part of speed in a commercial setting comes down to the way the equipment is set up. The best setup is to have grinders set on one side of the machine (if there is only one steam wand it should be the opposite side), and the milk cooler and cups on the other side. This setup provides the best efficiency for two people working at the machine. One person will stand on the grinder side and focus mainly on pulling shot after shot after shot. The second person stands next to the cooler and steam wand and focuses on steaming milk, preparing cups and putting the finishing touches on drinks. The adding of flavors, when indicated, can be done by the steamer or can be performed by the puller. Two experienced people working the machine in this way can run it at near it's maximum capacity without interfering with the others tasks. The maximum capacity of the machine will depend on how many groups it has and it steaming power. 2-groups are usually capable of 50-100 drinks an hour, with 50 being the more truthful figure. A 3 group will be close to the 100 drink/hour mark and a 4 group will be near 150/hour. Steaming power of the machine is often the limiting factor, though most professional machines will have few problems running at or near capacity.

Here are some things I did to increase my output at work. It took me about a year to really start to come near the maximum capacity of the machine. In this time I was basically training my muscles to perform the required tasks repeatedly (muscle memory takes 3,000 or more repetitions to set in). If I had been more efficient at the start I would not have had to retrain myself to increase my speed, so I will continue from here with some tips that I later found to help me, that would have decreased my learning curve to start with. Just in friendly warning about the next bit, I am rather anal in how I aim to increase my efficiency, so take these suggestions only as far as you feel is sensible for you.

On the shot pullers tasks. To start with time yourself (during slower periods at work) from the end of one pour all the way to the beginning of the next pour. If you find that it is taking you longer than 30-40 seconds to clean the pf, dose, level and tamp then lock and pull, you should focus on the next few steps. If you are within 30 seconds the next suggestions may still help cut more time off, but don't expect as much time savings (probably a maximum of fifteen seconds total). The number one thing you can do here is practice, practice, practice. This alone will do a lot for you.

Otherwise the first thing to focus on is setting up your area. Next to the espresso machine and in front of the grinders draw an imaginary square. This square should contain everything that you need to setup shots, such as your tamper, a towel, the knockbox, extra portafilters etc. Set these objects in the square where they are most comfortable for you. Once you have them where you want them, train yourself to ALWAYS set them in the same spot. Given some practice at this you will automatically reach for the required item without having to look for it or even think about it. This will also set you up to allow fluid movements from each stage of preparing the espresso.

Next you should start timing yourself again. Now though you should focus on how long it takes you to perform each separate task. What you are aiming for here is to get rid of any bad habits you may have formed, that only slow you down. Are you doing things to show off or make yourself look good? (showing off can come later once you are fast and efficient) When you remove the portafilter to knock it out and clean it, are you doing so with the fewest movements possible? Are you doing these two tasks in a fluid movement using one hand on the portafilter and one hand armed with a towel? Sometimes it can help to have someone else watch you to help spot your bad habits, so if you can, make use of a co-worker.

The next area to focus on is dosing, leveling and tamping. How quickly can you perform these tasks? While performing them are you moving fluidly between them with no stopping? Most people will pause between leveling and tamping. If you are doing this try to practice leveling and reaching immediately for the tamper. At this point your imaginary square is your best friend, so practice, and practice. I have moved to using a light tamp as opposed to tamping down with inhuman force. This has several advantages. First off, you will have much more stamina due to the decreased energy required and secondly a light tamp is faster with less chance of severely damaging the puck.

Overall these tips should at least get you thinking about how you can increase your efficiency. In a shop selling large amounts of coffee the most efficient barista will make more money for the shops owner and usually their paycheck will show it. This isn't to say you should sacrifice quality, by all means still dump shots that pour substandard. An experienced barista can work quickly and still make a quality drink.

As far as the steamers tasks go, steam enough milk for the same number of drinks as there are groups. So for a two group machine steam enough for two drinks, three group- three drinks etc. This will keep your steaming timed to the shots that are ready and only the shots that are ready. In between steaming, ready cups for the next drinks with flavors added, then prepare the next round of milk. Another time saver in a rush is to refill two or three steaming pitchers so that you are ahead. It is a good idea to time how long it takes to steam set amounts of milk (2, 16 lattes, or a cappuccino and a latte etc). This will give you an idea of how much preparation will go into each drink and with some math tell you the maximum number of milk drinks you can make. If the steaming is cutting down on the total output of both people delegate set tasks to the puller, such as the puller sets up the cups and adds any flavors needed.

When starting my shift I always try to discuss what tasks each person will do so that there is no confusion during the next rush. A little bit of preplanning goes along way. It is also in your best interest to switch sides if you are feeling tired. Switching tasks can relieve strain on muscles that are fatigued. Also remember to COMMUNICATE with the person next to you. Tell them when you have such and such shots done or this amount of milk ready. Doing so will help to keep both people focused on the task at hand and not focused on how many customers are waiting impatiently for their drinks. A speedy barista who makes decent drinks will almost always make better tips than a slow one making near perfection every time.

Well hope this ramble helps. I would love to hear more about your experiences in your neck of the woods. It's always nice to talk shop.
Lynn G.
LMWDP # 110
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Marshall

#3: Post by Marshall »

Kaffee Bitte wrote:I am going to focus on how to increase your speed, since there are innumerable posts on this site about improving the shots themselves.
A great post and a welcome reminder of what a luxury it is to make a leisurely drink at home.
Marshall
Los Angeles

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Kaffee Bitte

#4: Post by Kaffee Bitte » replying to Marshall »

At home I am much more likely to take it easy, time permitting. Still I get the feeling that many on this forum really focus on minute details and stretch out the time between tasks more than needed. Even at home I don't have that option to the extent that others do, since I have a pavoni and am limited in the number of shots I can get out of her before overheating. At work I had to speed things up and find a way of making good coffee in a timely manner. I am no longer working in a coffee shop, since school was too intense this semester, and I decided to start a home based business to bring in funds. The shop I was working in was selling between 70-100 pounds a week, which is a huge amount of coffee for a town with a population of 45,000. The owners of the place sure had a knack for business placement because most shops in this town are lucky to be able to run through 30 pounds a week. There is nothing like knocking out three or four pounds of coffee during a busy hour to get your speed up. You learn or you deal with angry, uncaffeinated customers.
Lynn G.
LMWDP # 110
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jesawdy

#5: Post by jesawdy »

Wow... Lynn thanks for the detailed post! There is a lot of information in there.

Do you give preference to drink build order? For example, if you had three orders, say an espresso, a "Snickers" latte, and a cappuccino, would you build the drink that could stand sitting the longest and not affect "quality" first? ie, in this order... Snickers, cappuccino, espresso I presume.
Jeff Sawdy

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Marshall

#6: Post by Marshall »

Kaffee Bitte wrote:At home I am much more likely to take it easy, time permitting. Still I get the feeling that many on this forum really focus on minute details and stretch out the time between tasks more than needed.
Hmmm. You don't say.....
Marshall
Los Angeles

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Kaffee Bitte

#7: Post by Kaffee Bitte »

jesawdy wrote:Wow... Lynn thanks for the detailed post! There is a lot of information in there.

Do you give preference to drink build order? For example, if you had three orders, say an espresso, a "Snickers" latte, and a cappuccino, would you build the drink that could stand sitting the longest and not affect "quality" first? ie, in this order... Snickers, cappuccino, espresso I presume.
The question to me would be more which order was placed first. Up first, out first.
The Latte and cappuccino could be built at the same time with the same milk. Work the foam right and the cappuccino pours first, then put the finishing touches on the latte. (these are largely steamer tasks.) The shot puller would be working to build all three drinks from the get go. The first two shots that are done should go into the milk drinks, the third pull goes directly in the heated cup as a straight. An experienced puller should have them all done in about a minute or maybe just a bit over(two group machine), provided the steamer is skilled all three drinks should be finished about a minute and half after start. There are three drinks done and ready for the customers all at about the same time.

Most places unfortunately will never be focused enough (or pay the barrista enough to demand that focus), or really even be busy enough to require this sort of speed. The sort of shops you might be able to see this kind of preparation in tend to be business district shops with drive up windows. I have also been to a few shops in Seattle that were using a similar system.
Lynn G.
LMWDP # 110
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malachi

#8: Post by malachi »

1 - Dial in your set up (the most minor seeming adjustments can have huge impact).
2 - Get the drink right the first time (way more important that doing it fast).
2a - Don't try to go faster than you can go with quality and comfort (your output will actually decrease due to errors).
3 - Break the job down into discrete tasks ("grind", "flush", "wipe", whatever) and practice each one until you do it exactly the same every time.
4 - Never, ever think about the line. Just focus on the one drink you're doing at that moment. In the end, you will make all the drinks. How many are waiting... not important.
5 - Relax, have fun.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin