I’ve been playing recently with structuring an espresso training. One of the topics of particular interest to me is wastage. If you’re like me, you’ve been trained in a way that regarded wastage and mess as just part of making coffee. Piles of wasted ground coffee was normal, to a degree. So, how to train someone not to waste? Scott Lucey once made the comment on James Hoffman’s blog, that it was harder to get more senior baristas to waste less than it was to get a new barista to not waste at all.
The difficulty in training a barista not to waste, for me, is simply not wanting to seem overly strict about it. I’m here because I enjoy coffee and I enjoy making it. So, if for some reason it’s not enjoyable, i’ve lost my way somewhere.
I think an appreciation to reduce waste (and hopefully not waste!) comes from two things. First, it’s more professional. I don’t see my work as something filling the gap between the things I really want to do, or simply paying the bills ’till I get a “real” job; coffee is where I want to be. So, if it’s my “profession” or “craft” I should aim to be the best I can be at it. And, being clean and not/reducing waste is better than the alternatives. A good barista doesn’t waste because they know exactly what they are trying to achieve and exactly what they need to achieve it. Waste, in this context, would indicate a lack of knowledge.
Second, I gained a lot more respect for reducing waste after learning about the efforts made on the farm. Each tree is carefully cultivated, each cherry is picked individually, the dud ones thrown out. Every two beans in the grinders hopper reflects the moment a coffee picker carefully selected that cherry from a tree. Therefore, for me, if I don’t take the same careful approach to the product I have been given, I feel a little disrespectful. So, if a barista is not showing the same care in reducing wastage, my resolution wouldn’t be to hound them to keep their area clean. Instead, the situation may reflect a lack of understanding and appreciation for the product they’ve been given. So my solution would be to go back to the start: cultivation, processing, roasting; in the hope that the barista may increase their level of understanding and respect for the product.
I know that for me, a better understanding and a higher level of respect for the product i’m working with has encouraged me to get better; if only to do justice to those who have produced it.