Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Push-button baristas? What is the coffee world coming to?

If you’ve been to a Starbucks lately you may have noticed that the baristas have very little work to do compared to the old days. In short, the shots of espresso are pulled with the push of a button. Gone are the days when you could order your espresso or espresso based drink and have someone take the time to prepare the shot to exacting standards. These machines are meant to take the guesswork out of brewing an ideal shot of espresso. As recently as a few years ago baristas were expected to grind beans and tamp the grinds perfectly to pull the perfect shot. Anything less than perfect was to be discarded. Yes, this required attention to detail and at times many tries before the shot came out perfectly, but the end result was worth it. Those accommodating folks behind the bar at Starbucks are called “baristas”. A barista is supposed to be someone with some level of expertise in preparing coffee and espresso. With these newer machines on the scene, how can we still refer to these folks as baristas? There is no level of expertise involved with pushing a button. Anyone can do it! It infuriates me. These machines are appearing everywhere. My local Starbucks stores use them, the Dunkin Donuts (more on their branching into the world of espresso later), McDonald’s (see Dunkin Donuts reference) and others. Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I would like a little bit of effort put into my $3.52 12 oz latte. Is that too much to ask? To see a real barista in action visit your local Peet’s Coffee, quite possibly any other local coffee shop and of course the original Starbucks store at Pike Place in Seattle, Washington.

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