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Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
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alsterling
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alsterling
Joined: 28 Dec 2005
Posts: 682
Location: Dana Point, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

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Posted Mon Jul 9, 2007, 7:34pm
Subject: Re: Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
 

Derek...

I've been on both sides of this issue. My background is both applied electro and hydro-mechanics, along with marketing and sales. My greatest difficulty in clarifying an issue is that I tend to see, and consider, both sides. I have a tough time being black and white.

Consequently, my engineering side says that yes, there exists robotics in today's inventory of technologies, that could replace the barista. My "soft side" says that espresso is an art, and without the hand of man, it would just be another synthetic beverage.

In my recent travels within the specialty coffee community, I've found more roasters who well understood how to extract the best from their coffees, than baristas who could roast. But from the few notable baristas I've seen, (and that hasn't been long), the basic espresso is just the beginning. And if we want to talk about specialty drinks, I can't think of a roaster I've met that practices much more than trying to hit the God Shot. Beyond that, they're all about roasting.

Given that we all probably agree on those points......(?).....or close to it......I'm forced to return to the real world. Most super automatic machines that I've seen, can't come close to making a great extraction; good maybe, but not great. I'm going to say that if a factory technician were present, there's a possibility that he could tweak the machine and get a well timed extraction with maximum flavor transfer. But ask me how many technicians I've seen who sit around a super-auto that's cranking out espresso? So far.....none.

At first, I was even giving in to the idea that "....surely, a food chemist or scientist could come up with a commercial espresso syrup, and just bypass this whole mess with the fancy espresso gear?" But alas, this is the real world. And I just don't see that happening anytime soon. If we want to postulate on what "could be.....", then why not just cut to COMPUTER.....as in Startrek? "Computer. I want an espresso, just like the espressos of the early 2000's on planet earth.............oh, and with extra crema and a warm chocolate-citrus tone."

Truth is, I'm back to believing that people want the romance of the barista, and the aroma that, up to this point, seems only to exist in traditional coffee house. (Please don't tell me that there's a super-automatic machine that can replace the guy behind the counter of my favorite deli.......who makes a great pastrami, corned beef and tongue on Jewish rye, with melted swiss and both sides with plenty of mustard!)

Best, Al

 
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Philosopher
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Joined: 13 Feb 2007
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Location: Australia
Expertise: I like coffee

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Posted Tue Jul 10, 2007, 1:23am
Subject: Re: Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
 

alsterling Said:

But from the few notable baristas I've seen, (and that hasn't been long), the basic espresso is just the beginning. And if we want to talk about specialty drinks, I can't think of a roaster I've met that practices much more than trying to hit the God Shot.

Truth is, I'm back to believing that people want the romance of the barista, and the aroma that, up to this point, seems only to exist in traditional coffee house. (Please don't tell me that there's a super-automatic machine that can replace the guy behind the counter of my favorite deli.......who makes a great pastrami, corned beef and tongue on Jewish rye, with melted swiss and both sides with plenty of mustard!)

Posted July 9, 2007 link

In the fine-dining industry, a Barista seems to serve multiple functions which straddle the traditional divide between kitchen and front-of-house.  No matter how famous, creative or accomplished the chef is - he is not the person you meet in your dining experience.  First class Baristi probably would like to market themselves as Sous Chef, Head Chef, Maitre'D, Waiter and Sommelier all rolled into one - and expect to be renumerated as such.  I guess the question is which of these functions do the customers really want (or expect), which ones can be delegated (or automated) and which ones they would be prepared to pay for.  Judging from another thread -  the very fact that the Baristi are not behind a kitchen door increases the chances of unhappy interactions with their customers.  Possibly one reason why the master chef stays in the kitchen and leaves the house staff to deal with problems with the patrons.
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corbomite
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Joined: 4 May 2009
Posts: 43
Location: illinois
Expertise: I love coffee

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Posted Thu Sep 17, 2009, 10:20am
Subject: Re: Is This the End of the Barista? by George Sabados
 

What a great article! Very logical.  A superautomatic replaced a semi-automatic in my own home. It makes life better for me at home. Nice to see how the same would make life better for the cafe owner and consumer.
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