The Starbucks Experiment

Friday, October 07, 2005

Quality Checks

At every Starbucks across the land, every barista has to, at some point during her shift, create the four most popular espresso drinks, weigh them, and check their temperature. these are called quality checks.

i won't bore you with the exact figures (also i don't remember them offhand), but a latte is supposed to weigh in the "70s" meaning 0.70 lbs. to 0.80. a mocha is similar but should be a little lighter than a latte, because it has less milk and more whip cream. a caramel macchiato should be in the 60s, and a cappuccino should be in the 50s. all these drinks should be at least 140 degrees, but cappuccinos and caramel macchiatos shouldn't be too hot, not more than 150 say.

lattes are the most foolproof, although I am not the only barista who sometimes makes them too light. that's because we like steaming the milk, so it turns out a bit foamier and lighter than it strictly should be. mocha's are often too cold; you have to steam the milk extra hot to offset the coldness of the mocha syrup and whip cream. the problem with caramel macchiato's and cappuccinos is always the weight. caramel macchiatos need a delicate balance of milk to foam (the foam forms a platform on top of which the espresso and caramel is poured--i have been told that macchiato means "stain," so the espresso is always poured after the milk, to stain the foam). the problem of course with a cappuccino is foaming the milk correctly. if barista's get into their quality checks, they can make a cappuccino half a dozen times before the get it right. one wrong pass of the steam wand or a slight hitch in your pour creates a cappuccino that is too light or too heavy.

every good barista has their own technique and is fiercely proud of their foam. we challenge each other to foam duels and mercilessly make fun of each other's efforts. this is serious stuff. baristas develop followings based on the quality of their foam. occasionally this results in extra cash if the customer offers a private tip (which technically we're not allowed to accept). Leah is a regular customer at our store who has learned to time her visits around Yirga's lunch break, so that she no longer makes the mistake of coming in when Yirga isn't there. but Leah asks me to make her cappuccino on Sunday's, when Yirga has off, as i rank a close second. Yirga has the most consistently great foam. anyone can make amazing foam once in a while, but only Yirga churns it out every morning. the best foam, that's painstakingly steamed, settled, and spooned into the cup for a dry cappuccino, has the consistency of whipped yogurt. delicious.


Post a Comment

<< Home