Six things I learnt in the first week at Grouch and Co:
One. The old adage is true, the more you know, the more you know you don’t know shit.
Having worked in the coffee industry for the better part of a decade, I would previously stood behind my knowledge. After this week? Nope. Within the space of a four day week some of the creme de la creme of Perth coffee royalty have visited, keen to see the setup of the new kid on the block, offer wisdom, advice or criticism and partly just check out the latest competition. Andy, the head barista slash manager has taught me more about the complexities of coffee in a week than I have learnt in the last 5 years, exploring the varied ways pre infusion, pressure profiling and weight in versus weight out dramatically alter the flavours evident in espresso shots.
Two. The only thing better than one custom built Slayer, is two.
Working on the beautiful, wooden detailed Slayers is a serious joy. The amount of play available on these machines beggars belief, completely scraping my previously held notions that shots of espresso should roughly revolve around 30 mls in 30 seconds. Being able to change the pre infusion time, the flow rates of said pre infusion and the pressures coming out of the group heads leads to an amazing amount of flexibility, with some of the most flavourful shots pulled running for over a minute, something that prior to this week I would have thought would have me pulling faces and spluttering in disgust at the blackened burnt mess that was in my cup. The Slayers (such a joy using that as a plural) are an eye opening machine to work on, and the joy of experimenting (and just plain mucking around) with them is sure to create many more unique coffee experiences to come.
Three. The science of coffee is just as beautiful as the art.
Measuring the exact input and output of coffee is something I have never experienced before, using sight and timing being a far cry from measuring and altering pressure outputs, flow rates and weights of produce. Using these things to completely alter the flavour of a coffee bean, from something delicious to a shot that defies logical conventions of flavour has been an eye opening and more over fun education so far.
Four. It’s not just coffee wank.
I have been very skeptical over my barista-ing career about people who claim to experience notes of elderberries and hints of kaffir lime with undertones of orange peel soaked in brandy. Andy, however, has at the same time simplified and complexified my understanding of coffee flavours. With the myriad of ways we’ve been playing with coffee shots at Grouch this past week, a refined and knowledgable palate has guided my inexperienced and embarrassingly amateur one through toffee and butterscotch to the sharpness of red berries and pleasant acidities. And it makes sense, my tongue and brain are making connections about flavours whereas once upon a time, there might have been sweet mellow mouth with a sharp finish, there is now adjectives that aren’t just pretention and wank.
Five. Smashing out a busy weekend morning on a machine can be relaxing.
Never before would I have referred to a morning spent chained to a coffee machine with a line out the door as relaxing, but after having my brain stuffed full of new facts and my senses tested, teased and moulded this past week, pumping out a high volume of coffee in a busy cafe is almost cathartic. Almost.
Six. A four day week is a beautiful thing.
- The Apprentice (Matt)