Barista-uk has moved!

•April 23, 2011 • 1 Comment

I have now moved my blog to my own server and incorporated it in my own site . The new address is http://baristauk.co.uk/blog The website and blog is still under construction but please take a look and post a comment to let me know you have found me!

In the meantime I look forward to welcoming you to my new home!

Lee

Quick Personal Update

•April 19, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Hi all, and thank you for looking at my little blog post!

I haven’t been around for a while as life is very hectic. Today however I have a day to myself, so, Pink Floyd – The Wall LP is playing, the Union Hand Roasted Rwanda Bourbon is pouring and the PC is in “update forums mode”!

In September I started working for myself as a barista trainer and engineer. I had loads of work with a particular SW coffee chain so decided to work full time on the business and quit my job! DOH! Tough decision with the wedding around the corner (28 May) but made sense. After much “sorry but you need to be cheaper” I stopped doing work for them as they wanted more and more hours, and more staying away for less and less moeny. SO it was decided that I would put business on hold (well, not activly promote it anyway) until after the wedding. So, I’ve been working for a well known Pizza Delivery company!

You may have read that I used to be a radio presenter and that in November I lent my support to the campaign for local radio in North Devon. This meant as well as some technical stuff (web streaming/audio) that I’m back presenting again! We had a series of 28 day RSL’s (restricted service licences) and I presented various shows. For the latest RSL I have been doing the breakfast show! (6am-10am – Mon-Fri). as well as working full time for the pizza company! Knackered is the word!

I’ve been doing the odd “coffee” day and also met SWIFTY from Volkscafe at an expo locally held by Havana Coffee Co. I was hired to make espresso explain my processes to their customers (and potential customers). Daisy Rollo was there doing demo’s too! I was at one end of the Expo and Daisy Rollo was at the other!

So, it’s all been pretty hectic! Glenn has been kindly hosting my business email and holding page so again, my deepest thanks to you Glenn!  Check out his twitter: @getnoticed.   The plan (after the wedding) is to get the website up and running, possibly with a bit of e-commerce for spares?!

Thanks for reading and please feel free to Tweet by clicking on: @litwardle or email me!

Cheers

Lee

Coffee Forums UK reaches the 1000 members milestone!

•October 2, 2010 • Leave a Comment

From coffee drinker to Pro industry; Coffee Forums UK is for everyone...

In just over 2 years Coffee Forums UK has grown from an idea to a vibrant online coffee community and has reached the 1000 members milestone

In just over 2 years Coffee Forums UK has grown from an idea to a vibrant online coffee community.

Coffee Forums UK founder Glenn Watson said “The support and enthusiasm of our members has been incredible, with a high level of interaction and knowledge sharing helping coffee lovers from all walks of life enjoy a great cup of coffee at home”.

Recently Coffee Forums UK has welcomed onboard a small number of site advertisers, allowing the forum software to be upgraded and new member features such as blogs, polls, articles, a gallery and a wiki to be rolled out.

We would like to publicly thank all our members and site advertisers for taking time to read and post on Coffee Forums UK and giving us a truly global reach.

For more information or to become a member visit http://coffeeforums.co.uk
You can also follow us on Twitter @coffee_forums

Coffee Forums UK is an online coffee community, funded in its early stages by 5M Coffee Company Limited. For more information or to become a member visit http://coffeeforums.co.uk
You can also follow us on Twitter @coffee_forums

I’ve been a member & moderator at http://www.coffeeforums.co.uk for a good while now.  It’s members range from Industry Pro’s/baristas/roasters/engineers but also has home baristas, coffee lovers and enthusisats in equal measure. This makes for a truly friendly, helpful & vibrant community. Whether you can offer advice or want to gain some, Coffee Forums UK is the place to go.

What’s more, It’s free from elitism and the usual “ego’s” you find on most forums. There are no incidents of flaming or arguments, its members preferring to engage in healthy debate and friendly banter!

Because of the massive cross-section of members I find it a refreshing forum to be a part of. From the questions asked of its members you get a good sense for how the industry is progressing and shaping. This is especially important if you run a coffee related business. Who needs opinion polls and market research when you have a whole forum of opinion and discussion on www.coffeeforums.co.uk!

When you’ve finished reading this blog click the link and take a look!

Lee

Sainsburys Espresso Machine Explosion: Industry effect?

•September 14, 2010 • 8 Comments

If you haven’t heard this story yet click here first (new window).

Thankfully there were no fatalities or serious injuries sustained. Bloody lucky really judging by the mess of the boiler….. If you’re not sure how an espresso machine boiler works I’ll briefly explain. The boiler is1/2 to  3/4 full of water. This water is then heated with an element. Unlike many other “heating” systems an espresso machines element is controlled by a pressure switch not a thermostat. That is to say that the element heats the water until the water heats and generates steam. The steam is trapped inside the boiler and the water keeps being heated and the pressure raised and becomes a pressure vessel. The water will be over 130 degrees C in a pressurised state. (Just like your grandmothers pressure cooker!)  When the  machine reaches a certain pressure. (just above 1b) the element cuts out.  Once the pressure drops (I.e. the release of pressure via a steam wand, or the introduction of cold water from the auto fill system) the element is switched back in to bring the pressure back up.  What happens then if the pressure switch fails? Well either it will stop the element switching in or LEAVE it switched IN. In this case the element will heat the water and the pressure will continue to build until something gives. If the machine has been maintained then the safety pressure valve should operate and release the pressure. If not it will be the next weakest thing point. Probably a leaky gasket. The pressure will just make the hole bigger and it will go bang!

The one question that has echoed around the coffee forums and Twitter today is this: ” Why didn’t the pressure release valve operate?”

Good question! The reason for having your espresso machine serviced every year isn’t to make your espresso taste lovely or so your friendly neighbourhood coffee company can rip you off. It’s to keep the thing safe and in good working condition.  It checks pretty much every working part,  replaces any that are faulty and highlights any potentially faults. It renews all the important seals (of which there are many)and de scales the machine where appropriate. Safety mechanisms are tested; primarily the pressure safety/over pressure valve.   Not only will this ensure the machine is safe but it keeps the most important tool of your business running smoothly! The last thing you want is an important part like the pump/pumphead (a good example of failing part an engineer can spot really early on) to fail at 8am on a Saturday! Not only would it mean business downtime it will cost double to get an engineer out over the weekend/if at all!

Unfortunately it’s all to common for operators not to bother and avoid the cost.  They just keep on going until something lets them down.  Not only does this cost more in the long run but they are really putting themselves at risk!  In my time as an espresso machine engineer I’ve lost count of the times I’ve found a machine an a total state due to lack of regular servicing and on several occasions I’ve come up against a stuck fast pressure safety valve. It’s only a tensioned spring and a plastic seal and needs to be maintained.

Certified Pressure Safety Valve - My valve of choice!

If you are an owner of a coffee business then you may have heard of a Pressure Vessel certificate. To my knowledge (so I’m probably wrong here) it’s not illegal to operate a machine [within a business premises] without one. (although your insurance company may need one to issue cover***) However, it is law that your pressure vessel/namely your espresso machine receive a regular/yearly service and should be policed by your local EHO.  It’s a subject that as a machine engineer I have done much research into.  HSE guidelines are pretty vague at present. It’s pretty confusing as to who can actually issue a certificate in the first place. The guidelines say “A competent person” but then fails to elaborate on what passes for competent!$$$

You can bet that after this latest incident that local authorities will get pretty damn twitchy and the guidelines will have to be made clearer. I’m hoping that it will also make operators think about their own machines. For some reason operators see a service with suspicion. I’ve had it put to me that the service is there just to make money. Several customers have had a first service for years because the EHO happened to ask about their service record. One customer said that he avoids them because the last one he a repair it caused loads of problems a week later.  Well, yes possibly. If you haven’t had a service in years then there is of course any work might cause another problem. One good example is the pump head. A failing one will show up way before is dies completely, but will struggle on for an age & slowly get worse and the pressure getting lower. On a low use machine, a restaurant say, then it could even last a year or two. When your friendly engineer replaces this (usually because he wont pay for a service, just wants the problem fixed) all of a sudden you have the machine pumping 9bar and putting loads of stress on other parts. This is when old seals/gaskets start to fail. If this machine had recived a yearly service then the pump head fault would have been identified and replace WAY before it got too bad.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE  get your machine serviced every year, possibly even more under really heavy use.  You can bet your life that the EHO will come knocking very soon asking about your service record!

$$$ If you have any more info on this please feel free to comment and correct me and I’ll edit the post.  Are you a distributor, engineer or operator? Get in touch below and share your thoughts. What impact has this had on your business?

***One of my customers had this problem. The insurance company insisted that an HSE inspector (an EX naval steam engineer) inspect the boiler. Unfortunately for my customer the inspector insisted that the boiler be removed and stripped prior to inspection. This meant that I had to remove the machine to my workshop then MY WORK I WAS TO BE INSPECTED to ensure that I put it back together properly and installed the pressure safety valve correctly! That was a fun day!!!!


I’m in the market for a new job!

•September 9, 2010 • 1 Comment


Hi All,

I’m currently seeking a new position within the coffee industry.  I am a competent engineer as well as an accomplished barista trainer.  having trained such names as 2 Michelin starred Gidlieigh Park & Tanners Restaurant, Juice Moose Exeter & Plymouth, Boston Tea Party and many,  many more.  I’m also an authorised Union Hand Roasted Barista trainer!

I’ve worked in the industry for ten years and have an unhealthy passion for espresso and the coffee industry in general! I’m currently working for Boston Tea Party group (December to Date) as company head barista, as well as head barista in the Barnstaple store. Although a great company to work for I only train other stores 1 day per week. This means that I’m working the bar in our Barnstaple store as a barista I’m frustrated to say the least! Before that I spent 2 years with Havana Coffee company as an engineer and trainer. I left there in Sept 09 to move to Miko South West in a sales role.  After 3 months I decided that Miko were not the company for me (!!!) and I’ve been with Boston ever since.

I’m hoping to secure a training role or a combination training/engineering which works well.  I am of course able to work in a sales role but coffee is my passion not commission and targets!

If you would like to talk to me and learn more a CV please email: litwardle@hotmail.com or tel: 07734 309993/ 01271 377994

Many Thanks for looking!

Lee Wardle

Training, great coffee + Busy-ness!

•June 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Hi there!

Wow it’s been a busy few months since starting this blog! With a wedding to plan, the work schedule growing ever demanding and a cycling safety campaign to run the blog had taken a bit of a back seat!

As you may know I work for The Boston Tea Party in the Barnstaple store. Since February I’ve been out if the store a couple of times per month training up other “BTP” stores in the group. Thankfully it’s been going well and with the business opening new Sites I have officially become the Company coffee trainer. I’m still working out of the North Devon store but once per week I’ll be going around the chain identifying training needs and implementing a structured programme. With 8 stores it’s really important to keep raising the bar and keep standards high whilst of course keeping continuity between stores.

Living in North Devon with a distinct lack of good places to get coffee one tends to get a bit “coffee depressed”. It was with great happiness then that I enjoyed a truly superb coffee experience at Colona & Smalls in Bath. Whilst training in our Bath store a colleague and I went up to Colona & Smalls for a meeting. The service was quiet but attentive and the decor & furniture interesting but relaxing. I went for their guest espresso, Square miles “SPRING” blend. The espresso was outstanding! Lovely sweet chocolate &  dark cherry for me with a superb tangy acidity and a lovely finish. My colleague had an equally well made flat white.  It did make me a little sad though that we have nothing like that here. Obviously I’m not including our own Boston Tea Party here but anyone who is in this industry knows you can’t truly relax in your own place. You’re always watching what the staff are doing and “listening” to how your coffee is being made! I just really really really want to be able to grab a quick tasty & interesting espresso before work. One that has been made beautifully and lovingly…….. Ah well.

Where were we? Oh yes….busy busy busy! Planning our wedding, the car broke, trying to manage my “Give Cyclists Space” campaign and trying to get a ride in! I’m also a moderator at www.coffeeforums.co.uk, North Devon Freecycle, & Devon & Cornwall Amateur Radio Forum AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!

Oh yeah, I’m also going to start repairing domestic espresso machines in my “spare” time!

Speak soon!

P.S. I’m still after some guest bloggers to keep Barista UK busy so get in touch if you’d like to contribute! :)

A pressing issue

•March 21, 2010 • 2 Comments

This is more of a question than a thought, and something that I believe needs to be raised and debated.

Why are coffee machines shipped with ill fitting, plastic tampers that serve no useful purpose?

Coffee Tampers come in a multitude of sizes, shapes and materials, the most common* being 58mm or 53mm (depending on the basket size) and made of metal, with either a flat, c-flat or convex base (*other base types and diameters are available)

Tamping is (in my opinion) not an optional step in the process as it serves a purpose, so why do coffee machine manufacturers include a tool that is not fit for purpose?

The tampers supplied are generally 1 piece moulded plastic tampers, and are usually 3-5mm too small for the baskets.

Has the car industry ‘space-saver tyre’ mentality been adopted? (To be used for short periods until the tyre is replaced)

I understand the economics of including a plastic tamper over a metal one, but why not ‘improve’ the out of the box experience by ‘not’ including one at all?

So, should coffee machine manufacturers not include a tamper, and instead spend the money on a sticker or better information that outlines what size of tamper should be used with the basket supplied, and let the consumer buy their own tamper separately, which is what they will end up doing anyway?

 
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