May 06, 2017

Do you do bigger drinks?

This is something that we get asked most days. When we first opened the shop, our largest coffee was served in a 6oz cup. Why? - well, we felt that 6oz offered the best balance of milk and coffee. Pretty simple eh?

Of course we can break that down a little bit further….we start by figuring out how to make the best espresso we can using the equipment and ingredients that we have. Basket size is an important part of this equation and will dictate to a large extent how much liquid espresso we’re going to end up with and how concentrated that liquid will be. It then becomes about finding the right amount of milk to balance that espresso and create the perfect milk drink. Now, whether you want to call that a cappuccino or a flat white is something that we won’t cover here, maybe it deserves a blog post all of its own - but for what it’s worth, we’re currently calling it a flat white.

Ok, so we’ve figured out how much espresso we have and how much milk we need to add to create our idea of the perfect milk drink. Next we need to choose the cup size that will contain this drink that we have created. In our case, those cups are just a fraction under 6oz.

So then comes that question again, ‘why can’t I have a bigger coffee?’. We try to explain why the drinks are the size that they are whilst trying to avoid sounding pompous or patronising. This works to a large degree for most people because as long as we can explain our reasoning, they’ll give us a go and they usually enjoy the drink we serve to them. But then other stuff comes up.

“I really need to keep my caffeine intake down, can I just have a single shot in my coffee”. We fumble around again… ‘er, well we’re kind of making double shots but actually we use these naked handles which mean that we cant really make a single shot……’ Again, there are reasons why we don't use spouted handles but let’s try to stay on track for now.

It’s hard at this point to explain to the customer why they cant have less coffee in their drink - they’re happy to pay the same price, they just want a weaker drink for health or other reasons. So, we started to use a syringe to remove half of the volume of coffee from each shot of espresso before adding milk and called the drink a ‘latte’ - more milk, less coffee, same cup. We’ve compromised. We feel that the balance of milk and espresso is no longer optimal but we accept that not everyone likes or wants what we think is is best - that’s okay because we want to give our guests what they want and so we’re happy to try our best to accommodate their preference.

Let’s digress just for a moment. Imagine if we were to say to people that they had to have a set amount of milk in their breakfast tea because we think this specific amount makes the tea taste best. They cant have any more or any less. Imagine the reactions. Of course, this doesn't happen generally - the tea is served with milk on the side and it’s down to the customer to add it according to their preference. They don't taste the tea as they're adding the milk, they just add milk until the liquid is their preferred shade of brown.

Getting back to coffee, we now have this slightly more complicated situation because we offer both a latte and a flat white but not everyone knows the difference. So, we get a customer asking for a latte and we ask them if they mean that they want a weaker drink (i.e. more milk, less espresso). Usually they're horrified and say no, they don't want a weaker coffee, just a coffee with milk - ‘a latte!’. Occasionally they’ll say ‘yes, a weaker drink is what I like’ . Often they’ll need us to offer more explanation.

So, we’ll have a conversation but even then they won’t be sure because in reality they want an espresso with some milk in it but they won’t (and why would they?) know what exact ratio of milk and espresso they are going to enjoy the most - any more than they can tell us how many millilitres of milk they like in their cup of tea. We usually deal with this by saying something along the lines of ‘let us make you a milk drink which we think tastes best, if it’s too strong for you we’ll make it again with more milk’ - and we serve a flat white in a 6oz cup.
No-one has yet said that they would prefer something weaker but if they did, we’d make them a latte, which in our shop is now made in an 8oz cup - the same amount of espresso but more milk. That's right, we decided to stop syringing out espresso from the cup - mainly because it’s a slightly ridiculous way of making a weaker drink compared to just adding more milk to the espresso in a slightly larger cup.

The important thing for us here is that we take the time to try to understand what the customer really wants and we do our best to give them that drink as well as agreeing with them what we are going to call that drink in future. We want all our customers to leave happy and knowing what to order next time. It can be a really satisfying process.

We have encountered one more issue though. A customer comes into the shop and says something along the lines of ‘I love your coffee and i get off the bus a stop earlier in the morning just so I can pass by your shop. I have to walk another 15 minutes to get to work and so I can only get one coffee each day so I really just want more!’. This customer really wants to buy two flat whites to keep them company for the rest of their journey or to get their day well and truly kick started. So, we introduced the ‘double’. It’s a takeout only drink which is served in a 12oz cup. It is essentially two flat whites in one cup, exactly the same balance of espresso and milk that they would get if they bought a flat white.

So this is where we are currently at. In the shop you can buy a flat white (6oz) or a latte (8oz). You can also buy both these drinks in takeout cups or you can get a 12oz drink that is essentially two flat whites in one cup. Things may change again in the future depending on what our customers tell us they want and it’s important for us to remain receptive and responsive in this respect. Hopefully, for now at least, we have something for everyone.

As always, we’re interested to hear your thoughts and ideas, so feel free to leave a comment below.



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