Monday, May 19
Well its official .... were now a coffee "chain"!
after a whirlwind 5 weeks of pull everything apart we have the second branch opened and a full weeks trading under our belt.
if we can maintain the momentum we should have another hit on our hands. Regular customers have been incredible and have been supporting the new shop even after having bought drinks in the original Roasters.
i had promised myself i would document this one but once i get my teeth into the project in hand it kind of takes over and becomes and unstoppable mass, The idea of typing something which does not add immediate value to the project soon dissipates after a 15 hour day, trust me.
I do plan to document my exploits in greater detail but a few dear friends are requesting a few pics so here seemed as good a place as any to post them.
The machine fanatics will notice a massive beast of a four group perched on the counter... i wanted a cathedral of a machine to make a statement and i was not disappointed when it was lifted (with 4 big guys required) into its place.
Saturday, February 23
Firstly a massive thanks to all the (Too Much Coffee) gang for there support and well wishes leading up to the events and well wishes after . :-)
On the Winner ,
…. Well deserved and a fantastically humble ambassador for the
Having entered the competition for experience and fun really I have to be honest straight from the top here and say I am bitterly disappointed at not reaching the top 3 as my expectation grew along the way. With a second place on points going into the final even I started to think a podium place may be possible?
The judges got it spot on in my opinion and I think my disappointment stems not in being placed 5th as this I would have gladly settled for prior to this competition but I think from the performance in the final being probably the least strong of all my routines. This said we all have 15 minutes in which to do your thing as they say, so there you go.
As a event it’s amazing , backstage is hectic and I will attempt not to be critical as it far to easy to do that with anything but on the organisation side clear passages to the stage area would be helpful as we physically had espresso cups broken on the jostle trying to set up …… certainly raised my blood pressure which is something I could have done without!. Not a factor in the result and certainly not sour grapes, just something I will request for future events if asked.
I will be cautious and try not to butter up to the judges and SCAE to favour place for next year, but a MASSIVE thanks to all those guys ….. seriously if you want to talk passion for your coffee talk to some of these people. The hours they spend with one purpose in mind – to find the best candidate to represent the
Constantly open to criticism and the fact that the expanses paid for this time has virtually no chance of covering the actual costs of travel and accommodation in many cases I think a great debt of gratitude is owed, of course a few guys are attending for business related issues but overall I think We and the UKBC as an organisation, come off the better in this relationship and I for one thank all the organisers, judges and support staff for making the event possible.
Little is said of the compares Gary and John sometimes and a big thanks also for making the event professional but FUN, and finally for the lads at La Spazialle Colin, Ray and others who work like Trojans and endeavour to accommodate every request us baristi ask of them.
Final words are if you have never entered ……. Do so.
Its an experience in coffee not to be missed and just for 3 days of being surrounded by incredibly warm and generous people who share your passion it’s a must do thing! Enter now..
Friday, February 15
Incredibly excited to have just commited to expanding the little empire !. A Second location within the town to service the southern end of town.
Lots of work and planning to do but this is the first post of many documenting the start to fruition of the opening.
Previously it was a cafe Bar for the last seven years but the emphasis has been on the Bar and not the coffee..... ordineraly I would not normaly take on a project with history but the area crys out for real coffee.
here are a few pictures of the project at (day 1)
Tuesday, January 15
With a few of the principles in place and a location all ready to go there were a few obvious operational problems which had to be overcome. Firstly the ability to trade is of paramount importance as if I was to compete with shops for regular trade, I had to have the ability to be open every day as they were.
Loyal customers will only remain loyal while there routine remains unbroken. Weather was always going to be my nemesis so a quick “pop up” canopy was the solution with a small area for the customers to que under. Surprisingly some of my best days were with bad weather and in the first year I was only closed 4 days because of weather conditions and that was because of high winds not snow or rain. If someone was to ask factors which assisted in my small but favourable success it would have to be this…….. As a consumer myself , would I walk past a dozen coffee shops to than turn a corner and realise your favourite spot had not bothered to set up ?? maybe once , maybe twice, then would I bother again??
Ability to trade all sorted I now had to actually get into the bones of making Coffee? this its not rocket science as you need a few crucial elements.
- Power source to heat and extract.
- Electricity for grinder etc.
The water was simple, it had to be carried in tanks as did a spare one for waste ( black in colour with red lid to signify dirty water).
While on the subject this was one of the factors which steered me away from the piaggio idea, Most were 50cc engines and by the time you add water, beans, machines and a big mans wallet the idea just scared me. You can use one on a trailer I suppose but this for my thinking defeats the logic of one and the same result can be delivered with less cost just using a counter and a van.( they are cute thought)
Now regardless of what machine purchased , the water had to be transferred to that machine without pressure from a mains supply? Some machines had the ability to “suck” the water from the tank and some don’t, On my machines (Azkoyens) they did. The pump head is not designed to do this I assume but by chance it will handle this level of abuse. You can add additional devices such as 12v caravan pumps which can be integrated OR put onto the end of your inlet hose to boost but the honesty is I should have but to my shame bought one and did not fit it.
The IMPORTANT thing is to not let you pump head get dry!. The inlet hose to the tanks has to be moved and swapped and taken out to store at the end of the day and you want to keep that water inside the pump and the connecting hose, This is achieved by placing a simple non return valve to the end of you tube which normal screws into your mains water now substituted with a tank of water.(stocked at any plumbers merchant ).
Power /heat source
Machines heating elements are powered to the best of my knowledge by two sources. Either electricity or gas. I have never used gas but are sometimes the only way to operate if the circumstances dictate and many companies out there will explain. Electricity is still required as you need to power a grinder or electronic systems to operate the pumps etc .. you can extract espresso with lever machine BTW and would recommend visiting this site http://www.danny.mcnulty.btinternet.co.uk/espresso.html
If you are fortunate and selected your site wisely it may have an electricity supply already or able to utilise a source nearby. One of the factors to my location was exactly this as it cured so many problems. An alternate is to use “inverters“ which turn stored battery power into mains electricity, on inverts there my knowledge ends. This will probably power the grinder and possibly lights and are available on even eBay quite cheaply. For heating power a generator can be used and are sometimes the only alternative but some places will not allow because of smell and noise and this was the case at my location.
Machines selection is important and size of heating element comes into consideration with powering choices. My only factor was to have the machine wired to work from a 13 amp supply rather than 30amp. This should be done by a qualified person obviously. I bought all my machines from Ebay and the average cost being £600
The hardest part of the day was to set up the barrow and pack away at the end of the night. This took about 40 minutes and it all goes into and out of a large van. The wonderful thing was although I was static in essence I had the option of setting up anywhere if this spot had not worked out.
To enter into a new venture does require a little blind faith and luck and for those just about to start “I hear your pain “ but the thing that kept my sanity was at least I was having a go. The cost associated with a shop are scary indeed but doing it this way the set ups were low, most things were second hand from ebay and if it all went down the drain the worst case is that they went on sale again on ebay and I lost 20% possibly of original budget.
All said maybe its easier looking back having done ok than sitting nervously just about to start on the journey.
Good luck if you have a go.
Sunday, January 13
My journey into coffee began with a mobile operation so I have a historical fondness for such ventures and as I seem to receive requests for information fairly regular it seemed like an ideal topic for my newly formed Coffee Blog so here goes.
Having made the decision I wanted to get into coffee but lacking any real knowledge, experience or contacts it seemed the cheapest and most cost effective way of making the least amount of mistakes. While I was not exactly sure what to do, I did however know exactly what not to do and this was to serve bad coffee. That was a no brainer as this was the very reason I wanted to get involved……this was because I stood for 15 minutes the first day a Costas opened in my home town thinking my heart would not be broken. You can guess the outcome and rather than complain I decided at that very moment that someone had to do better than this …. The light came on and the rest is as they say is history. ( I love this day now)
Decision made and regardless of piaggio or trailer or truck or skateboard it seemed the first thing was to establish a relationship with a roaster to bridge the gap in my lack of skills. A dozen phone calls and 4 meetings, and 2 weeks later I had my roaster. Not the same as I have today but that another story!
With what I was going to serve in place the next step was to find location or multiple locations so at least I had a market place. I wanted to be mobile as the initial costs were low but concentrate efforts into sourcing a pitch or location which would be static to build regular customers, and also if I was planning to serve excellent coffee why the heck would I want to move around all the time was my thinking?. Finally if a decent business could be grown it could be used as a springboard to launch a coffee shop locally, and as and when the right location became available open a shop and hope some of the trade would migrate and capitalise on set up costs twice instead of once.
There are a myriad of companies, leasing agents and turnkey operation all wishing to help for a fee or percentage of your hard earned. While I am sure many successful people have taken advantage of such offers it was something that did not interest me. The main reason is some wanted a tie into specific suppliers of beans and products, which seemed a contradiction to my goals.
So the decision was what vehicle ? the piaggio 3 wheeler seemed to lack power from reports. The van conversion seemed too large and would be no good for shopping centres etc and a towed trailer might be ok but as I wanted to be static in a town centre did I actually need a vehicle other than for transport ??
Luckily for me our town centre had a kind of outdoor market facility which seemed to only be used during summer? A few meetings and I was given permission and a pitch. The pitch included a collapsible easy up tent and the part that made it real easy was my suggestion to use the preferred style of unit that all the other traders used… a Victorian Barrow !!!! a little bit of conversion , some stainless steel and we had our location and even better, cost next to nothing. Things were looking good.
The daily cost was quite high £44-00 but considering the retail shops around paid £60k a year on average for the same foot passengers It clarified my mind this was a good location.
The Next piece was the mechanics of setting up the business and a desire to understand exactly how to make coffee ……….
Part II to follow
Saturday, January 12
As soon as you decide to enter any competition, time itself seems to accelerate and the laws of physics no longer apply.
This most definitely applies to the UKBC as it seems only a few days ago we entered, and having now competed it’s a bit of a blur. In reality
For the uninitiated the experience is incredible and for the coffee lover it’s almost a must. Watching people pour drinks and get points sounds a little plain but the atmosphere can be electric and this is just the heats. I decided for my own reasons that if I entered this year that we would shut the shop for the day under the guise of staff training and allow all those who wished to attend the ability to do so.
The feedback from the team was that while they were expecting to enjoy the day, they were unprepared for how tense and exciting the whole experience would be.
Better than paint balling for a team building experience that’s for sure.
With the effort I put in I was expecting not to bring shame to my little empire and confidence has never been a downfall of mine but I was a little stunned to Win, and I did not have a clue especially as I had seen only glimpses of the other performances.
They announce the top 3 in reverse order and I was reliably informed that Duncan had also done well and scored into the top 6 …… he was beaming and happy , given he had not even seen a heat before I think he did amazing. On a daily basis in the shop he turns out quality stuff with pride and is the most motivated quality driven guy I have ever seen when it comes to coffee.
Winning the heat has been wonderful and what was once a desire just not to be embarrassed has now turned into a realisation that with hard work and lots of practise the actual title itself may even now be possible if the gods are willing and all that.
I still have not worked out if it’s a blessing or a curse to be honest ……….. Guess the motto of the story is if you poke your head above the parapet; don’t be surprised if you get shot at.
The event is incredible and for the warmth and spirit of coffee based kinship the venue is a must if you just enjoy coffee never mind visit websites about it. See you next yearJ.
(Pictures by Blog- Mentness)