Coffee Quality

The essential component of any café operation is excellent quality coffee. The Barista (person who makes the coffee) is probably the most important component where the product can fail or succeed. Next is the quality and characteristics of the beans, followed by the quality and performance of the espresso machine and grinder.

If any of these elements are wrong the finished offering to the customer will be below standard. I talked about the Barista last month so now will talk about the machinery.

There are now many brands of espresso machine on the market, most if not all of the best coming from the home of espresso Italy. The range of machines available as exhibited at the  2 yearly Milan trade show is mind boggling, from large manufacturers to almost “ shed in the back garden “ operations. In my experience the established manufacturers make a much more credible product. It is not difficult to assemble a machine from readily available components, but it takes a deeper understanding or tradition for the machine to be successful to make beautiful coffee.

When I started in 1982 the first item I purchased for the café was an espresso machine. As a teenager I would travel into the city from the North Shore on a Friday night to hang out. There was an Italian restaurant, Pizzeria in Victoria St West which even at that time was well established. I got to know the owner Carmello who was a real pioneer in the industry, who used to regale me (as a very naive youth) with stories of life in Italy, travel as crew on the Italian cruise ships and final settlement in NZ.

I did not at this stage even drink coffee( my father always loved strong black coffee but it was never offered to me) however in Carmello’s shop pride of place on the bar facing the window looking out onto the street was a 1955 Un Cimbalino  2 group lever espresso machine. It always fascinated me as a cultural icon almost a work of art. Gleaming chrome, ribbed gold metal body, Smokey  blue glass cover ,fancy fine gold writing encased in Perspex ,making a bold claim of something like” infuse compression ale  du café a la gran crema (or something like).

So I travelled overseas after this blown away by anything and everything, and to cut a long story short arrived back in NZ with the conviction that we needed a café society and ready to start one. After living in the countryside at the beach for almost a year I arrived back in Auckland.

What is the most important component of the Café??  The machine! “ I wonder what  happened to that beautiful old machine “   A visit to the store, new owner(Italian)  new machine ,but yes he still had the old machine in the garage at home, and yes he would sell.

Of course when we finally got near opening, we found the machine was very tired, and no one had any knowledge to help fix it but we muddled through and the machine had pride of place and gave us much espresso credibility for many years to come.