sometimes, a crusade has to be free

June 1, 2007 – 3:07 pm

file it under “profound and meaningful differences between an amateur barista and a pro”: the thing we’ve had to practice, leading up to tonight’s 150-person bash, is using a hopper. yes, on the grinder.

know how people talk about the changing weight of beans in the hopper changing how the particles are ground, or those beans, say, “chok[ing] off convection“? never a problem for us. because we tend to dispense just enough coffee into the mouth of the mazzer for a single shot. an extra tamper seals the opening, keeps the pressure on the burrs much more constant. it’s easy, after awhile, to even know many beans to pour in depending on the dose. downdose? avoid covering the center burr bolt all the way. updosing? make sure you can’t see it. etc. it’s ghetto and makeshift and might risk shortening the burr life via popcorning, but it keeps coffee from sitting and growing stale in the grinder. wasted beanage is minimal. ground particles are more consistent. the big, ugly hopper is nowhere to be seen. every step in the shot pull is precise and repeatable. even for parties, it’s not an overly time consuming routine.

this parley, however, is a different story. we’re hooking up 10-gallon water jugs for the water source and drain. we’ve got dozens of rented porcelain cups stacked and ready. there will be but one (maybe two) beverage options — the traditional capp. a macchiato. the idea is to pull shots. good shots. consistent shots. all night. because, honestly, this blog has taken on the absurd task of serving dozens of people with a single, three-year-old heat-exchanger machine of decidedly less-than-robust steam output. at top speed, we’re talking eight or ten capps in 15 minutes. shucks, heather perry does that while swiping a credit card.

but this, we’re determined, will be nothing like the four-coffee, two-machine confusion at last fall’s ordination brouhaha. there were four different grinders — some with dosers, some not — four different doses and brew temp requirements for each coffee. the less popular choices sat for 45 minutes before someone ordered a drink, and the grind had to be readjusted. we tried to keep post-it notes on each machine, but, well. it was hit or miss. wild and crazy. less than we had hoped. now we’ve got simplicity. and, as long as we can nail the knack of turning off the grinder, watching the hopper level, conserving coffee between shots, adjusting on the fly, we should have consistency.

and yes, i agreed to waive any fee — if they’d rent porcelain and use the beans i wanted. and yes, it’s happening the night octane coffee bar kicks off atlanta’s weekend of revelry. we’re hoping it’s worth it.