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Mediocre Coffee, It's Your Fault by Aaron De Lazzer
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jester
Moderator


Joined: 19 Dec 2001
Posts: 33
Location: Vancouver
Expertise: Professional

Posted Mon Jul 14, 2003, 10:07am
Subject: Tut tut
 

Dear RudigerVT

My passion is for coffee but I'm sure that all the BreadGeeks, ChocolateGeeks, WineGeeks etc. shudder at what passes as acceptable in the world.  I'm sure they even have a similar amount of apathy to us coffee folks and that if someone is serving me that then they don't get and that's that.
We need to start small...just a little feedback.  I wouldn't hesitate to send something back or complain in a restaurant why wouldn't I at my local cafe?
Sure no one likes to complain.  I don't want to be that person either but I continually get the sense out there that people feel I suggest matching wits with the owner/manager in a high noon showdown about who knows more about coffee.  The manager who works in a coffee shop, so like duh, he must be the expert or this total stranger who has a nicer setup in his kitchen and actually does know about coffee and more than that, cares about coffee.  I know you know more, you know you know more but you're not going to convince the guys on the other side of the counter of that.  To even try just gets really, really ugly.
Please don't put on a demonstration of your expertise it is way too threatening.

Tell someone that matters that your coffee wasn't great.  That's it!  Think of it as verbally filling out a "How are we doing today?" feedback form that you often see at Wendy's and the like.  It seems like such a simple, little, easy thing but no one ever does it and (I'm not alone here) so many of us on the wholesale side of things know it would help immensely.

Aaron
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DeLazzers_disciple
Senior Member
DeLazzers_disciple
Joined: 9 May 2003
Posts: 5
Location: Orange County,Ca
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Faema
Posted Mon Jul 14, 2003, 11:41am
Subject: Peewater coffee
 

Hey Aaron,
First of all, awesome article!! I jumped for joy when you mentioned drip coffee because its a big deal that is being neglected all around the States!
My family has always said the best cup of coffee is at home(or our cafe) because everywhere else has peewater(term we use for coffee that can be seen through right down to the bottom of the cup and tastes dirty) Or coffee that never is remade it just sits there all day! I mean..come on its dead already..dont serve me this bitter junk!
Not to mention around here there arent many great cafes, but way too many huts! Majority only serve americanos(and not great ones) so no one expects me, a traditional cafe, to have drip coffee! But let me tell you, when they have some of my coffee their eyes roll back in their head and not a drop is left! ( the credit goes to Terry)
Oh and yes feedback! That is so huge is my cafe! I request it and it is always given. Not to brag, but i dont believe i have gotten a negative comment yet ( and that credit goes to you and the Patanos hehe)
*side note* that comment you made about Depression Era amounts..GLORIOUS! Its soo true..i want to look at them sometimes and ask if they are trying to save money while i die from the terrible coffee haha
So again..you are right on! Keep em comin! Take care

Your Faithful Follower!
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MarkPrince
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Joined: 19 Dec 2001
Posts: 5,609
Location: Vancouver, BC
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: KvdW Speedster
Grinder: Compak K10 WBC
Vac Pot: A bit too many
Drip: Clive Coffee Drip Stand
Roaster: Hario Glass Retro Roaster
Posted Mon Jul 14, 2003, 7:04pm
Subject: Jumping in late
 

Sorry for coming into this two days late, but a comment to what onocoffee wrote:

"Readers should be encouraged to give additional information about why and what the concern is about.  Tell the manager explicitly what the problem is so that it can be identified and corrected."

I completely disagree with you. In fact, I think following what you say is detrimental to the goal of getting better coffee in cafes.

Here's why (and apologies if this has already been covered, I only read the first message):

Cafe owners, by and large, are automatically put on the defensive, and become a closed book if a customer comes in proclaiming to know more than they (the owner) does about good coffee.

I know this for a fact. It happenned to me more times than I can count.

Aaron's approach on the other hand will work. The customer doesn't come off as knowing more than the owner. The customer is simply vocalizing a complaint about the quality of the coffee, and expressing a hope and wish the cafe owner will do something to improve it. Walla - the cafe owner remains the "expert" to the customer's eye, and makes the phone call to get things done to save face. We all win.

As for how to approach it all (reading more of the comments, I got to Marshall's commentary)... you don't have to be the hardcore complainer geek in your circle of buds meeting at the cafe shop. The approach is very simple... stay, enjoy yourself and your company. When it comes time to leave, as you get up, with a smile on your face, go to the counter and say, hey, is a manager or owner working today? If they are, say to him, I just wanted to make a comment on the coffee. My friends and I really enjoy coming here for the atmosphere, the staff are friendly, etc etc, but the espresso / coffee / cappuccino quality? It's a bit down. It would make my experience here all that much better if... well, you know, if I was getting really amazing shots / drip / quality....

And then if he asks you specifically was wrong, just be general - well, the shot was a bit cold, bitter, or "I don't know, maybe a coffee expert might diagnose it?"
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jester
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Joined: 19 Dec 2001
Posts: 33
Location: Vancouver
Expertise: Professional

Posted Tue Jul 15, 2003, 12:38am
Subject: Just to clarify...
 

It might seem from a distance that there is something fishy about the always laudetory comments by a certain "DeLazzers disciple."  Let me assure you that this is not a member of my family, nor someone I keep on retainer for online support.  Nor is it I masquerading under a different identity.
Rather it is a certain passionate individual   out in Post Falls Idaho, representin'. :)

Just to clarify...

Aaron
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alanfrew
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alanfrew
Joined: 19 Dec 2001
Posts: 643
Location: Melbourne
Expertise: Professional

Posted Tue Jul 15, 2003, 3:36am
Subject: Put up or shut up.
 

Frankly, I find ALL American coffee, even that served from the presspots at SCAA conferences, as weak as piss. The only decent filter coffee I've had in the USA was at a boutique hotel in San Francisco, where most of the senior Brazilian delegation was staying. They had specifically asked for their own measures to be used for brewing, and it made a world of difference.

If "espresso culture" spreads throughout North America there will be a generation of consumers who mirror current Australian tastes for coffee with body and flavour, coffee you can't read your newspaper through, no matter how it's brewed. It's great that people like Aaron are willing to at least make the attempt to get the initial brewing parameters right. and "professionals" who think he's wrong should be writing their own Coffeegeek articles about turning sows ears into silk purses, or making the latest heap of charcoal stretch up to a third further than the next brand. It doesn't matter if they've been doing it successfully for 50 years...the customer from that generation is still buying canned coffee.

It's the next 5 years that the cafe owner has to worry about, as a sea change in taste sweeps across their traditional market. People who listen to the sort of advice Aaron gives will be riding the wave, a lot of "traditionalists" will get dumped.

Alan
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jester
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Joined: 19 Dec 2001
Posts: 33
Location: Vancouver
Expertise: Professional

Posted Tue Jul 15, 2003, 9:57am
Subject: tough love from Alan Frew
 

Alan I hope that you are correct that the "traditionalists" are indeed on then way out.  They still seem to be coming up like flowers after the rain.  More than that trying to undo some of the standards they have put in place is not easy especially when that pesky thing called money gets in the way.  People still think saving money (bad cup) makes money rather than spending money is the way to go (good cup) which REALLY makes money.  The really frightening part (as we know) is how little the difference in cost is for a great cup vs. a  cup "as weak as piss."

Aaron
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cheapdialogue
Senior Member
cheapdialogue
Joined: 25 Mar 2002
Posts: 156
Location: Bellingham, WA
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Marzocco Linea 3AV
Grinder: Espresso- Mazzer, Drip-Bunn
Vac Pot: I  can still dream...
Drip: Curtis APS
Roaster: Dreaming of a Probat
Posted Thu Jul 17, 2003, 12:06am
Subject: Interesting second article.
 

I went to what is reputed to be one of the finer places for espresso in Seattle and had a terrible experience. I hesitated on mentioning it to the manager since that person had literally snorted at me and then rolled his eyes when I made my order.
I sent an email detailing what had all happened (my drink and my partner's drink being spaced out by 5 minutes was another fine point).
I mentioned in the email that I was curious as to why those things may have happened, I asked for a response. That was about 2 weeks ago. I have yet to get any response.
I agree that when something is off, you need to mention it. The method may differ for everyone, but no change will occur if nothing is said.
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onocoffee
Senior Member
onocoffee
Joined: 5 Sep 2002
Posts: 733
Location: Towson, Maryland
Expertise: Just starting

Espresso: La Marzocco Linea 2AV, 3AV &...
Grinder: 4 Mazzer Major Autos, Compak...
Vac Pot: That crazy Bodum eSantos
Drip: Bunn CWT Twin, Bunn Water...
Roaster: Petroncini The Crumb
Posted Thu Jul 17, 2003, 8:06pm
Subject: More On Comments
 

While this discussion has us on opposite sides of the commentary fence, I am enjoying the feedback and discussion.

CoffeeKid-
I think the key problem in your statement is this: "...if a customer comes in proclaiming to know more than they (the owner) does about good coffee."   Without a doubt, CoffeeGeeks are a passionate bunch who "know" coffee or think they know coffee and this can lead to egotism and arrogance about Coffee.  Couple that with tasting poor coffee at the cafe and the knowledge that you can make the "best" coffee at home with your Livia and it's very easy to inadvertently transmit that arrogance in your comments to the cafe owner.   Whether we're CoffeeGeeks, WineGeeks or WhateverGeeks - if we're passionate and knowledgeable about that particular subject, we sometimes succomb to this human of errors.

But even you advocate giving more details, like the shot was cold, bitter, etc.  That's something helpful to the manager in fixing the problem.

But I do want to add that no amount of diplomacy or outright telling the owner/manager that his coffee sucked will matter if the owner/manager doesn't give a damn.  If he's one of those places putting out hundreds of cups of coffee a day, he might very well tell you to piss off and go to Seattle's Best if you don't like his coffee.  The only time that approaches like this will be effective is if you find a manger who cares about his product and is interested in doing his best to make their coffee The Best.

To give you a little background on myself, I happen to be an owner/manager of a small business whose core product line is frozen desserts.  We have been experimenting for the past couple of months with drip coffee and we are very interested in making the best coffee in town.  It is because of this commitment to quality that I stress to the readers to give more thorough feedback to the manager.  To the manager who cares, it's the best way to affect change.  On a daily basis, we receive mailing list cards and commentary cards with 10s written all over the surveys.  It's nice to see that customers appreciate our efforts but we want to hear more from the customers who think we are a 9 or below.  That's the only way we can really improve - by focusing on the problems that the customers perceive.

So, for us, just to come in and say that the coffee sucked does us absolutely no good and does you no good for the next time without you telling us why you think the coffee sucked.

Again, I encourage all of you to find managers who care about their product and be specific with them about your concerns.
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handcannon
Senior Member


Joined: 5 Jun 2003
Posts: 237
Location: Ames, IA
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: PIDed Zaffiro
Grinder: MCI, Innova, Zass, Capresso
Drip: Capresso Aroma Classic 461
Roaster: Modded FR & WBs
Posted Thu Jul 17, 2003, 8:53pm
Subject: Drip strength and the masses
 

Your comments on the grinds/water ratio are dead on.  I was at some airport a few weeks ago waiting for the local coffee spot to open, along with a few security types.  After acquiring some coffee after their opening, the lady behind the counter loudly apologized for mistakenly double loading their Bunn.  The universal response was that it was really good coffee.  She was rather surprised, and we were all very happy.
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Timo
Senior Member


Joined: 18 Jul 2003
Posts: 1
Location: Prince George
Expertise: Intermediate

Posted Fri Jul 18, 2003, 8:11am
Subject: 300+ Cold Calls
 

I agree with your passion, but I would like to suggest "Selling to VITO" as a way to hone your approach to sales.  Oh, and it makes cold calls into flat "NO" and flat "YES" - zero tease!

My thots!
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