Archive for March, 2008

What a difference a (rainy) day makes.

March 1, 2008

I spent the first half of yesterday locked in my daily love/hate wrestling match with our old Ducale at work, struggling to overcome its embarrassing, wildly inconsistent results, by exercising my usual techniques with the hope of achieving the best results that I can (I will at this point ignore all nagging, inward concerns regarding ‘bad workmen’ and ‘tools’).

Lunch had started unusually quietly for a Friday, but when the rush would normally be beginning to recede, we got increasingly busy well into late afternoon. As we were serving the oddly timed rush, I soon noticed that something marvellous was happening with the coffee – the espresso was oozing as thick and heavy as warm honey from our cantankerous old machine – hanging straight and even, with not a barber pole in sight! What was I doing differently? (not that I suffer too terribly from barber poles generally, I hasten to add!) Nothing that I could think of – just following my usual techniques as diligently as possible, with the grinder set on the best notch for the conditions.

The Plan is in something of a dreamily protected environment, nestled at the center of the old Morgan Arcade, and, although the arcade’s skylights and the cafe’s ample windows allow you an impression of the weather, it’s not always obvious exactly what it’s doing – and as I was busy concentrating on the rush, I didn’t put two and two together until later. As the rush died down (espresso still flowing lusciously), I took a moment to gather my whits and look around. The cafe windows were all steamed-up. Of course! A couple of people had mentioned that the weather was bad, which had been the reason for our unusually late rush. When I left work later, I found it raining quite heavily, with a wind that was near-enough blowing everyone over on the streets. So! It was the weather and the respective humidity in the cafe causing the coffee to issue so nicely. This is of course a factor I constantly try to be aware of – but the results were so striking on this occasion, that, combined with concentrating mainly on dealing with the busy period, I didn’t initially make the connection.

The point of this other than stating the obvious: that you need to always be aware of the weather factor, and that this can seemingly (and annoyingly!) affect espresso more than your whole repertoire of techniques? I not really sure, other than musing that perhaps someone should devise some sort of internal climate control system for espresso cafes and/or grinders that would simulate the beneficial effects of the weather, and minimise the negative ones …Preferably without fogging up your windows though!