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Ahhh, Espresso

June 11, 2009

So, I now have near-perfect espresso available in my kitchen pretty much at whim.

I’ve long been a de-facto coffee geek, and recruited a number of my friends to share my passion for good coffee (most notable among them being Rachel, who has worked in cafes as near as long as I have, and beat me to the punch with home espresso, both getting a home machine first, and getting a better machine in the long run.)  But I’m on my way to getting my own back.

I talked Mother into buying a Gaggia “Espresso Pure” – effectively a low-end model from one of the top companies in domestic espresso (Achille Gaggia being the inventor of the modern espresso machine, before his “steamless coffee maker” the crema so prized by espresso conesseurs didn’t exist).  We did good things with it, but as good as it was, the coffee tended towards thin, with decent but weak and short-lived crema.  I’ve been figuring much of the blame sat at the machine, simply the limitations of a small boiler and a small machine: simply unable to match the precise tempterature and high pressure (9 bars, please) of a industrial machine.

But, just the other day I found myself at the Coffee Geek Yard Sale in vancouver here, and picked up a proper milled aluminum tamp and Baratza Virtuoso grinder – for $65.  As in, a $300+ grinder for less than 1/3 of it’s intended price, simply because it needed minor service and was missing it’s cap.

The difference that using a proper tamp made was astounding, I initially made little change, but as I got more confident with tamping pressure (my Krups can’t take tamped espresso, or the resistance of the espresso is greater than the seal around the portafilter and I just get hot water spraying everywhere) the product improved dramatically; and the end difference the tamp made was startling.

Off sick today, (Congested, can’t talk for shit.  I can still do stuff, but working a phone while talking like a cartoon character and losing my voice just wasn’t working for me.)  I repaired the grinder and put it through it’s paces, and on it’s “0” and “1” grind settings, the two finest, I get nice light & fluffy espresso.   that I can run through the Gaggia for absolutely brilliant espresso – deep, fluffy crema, the ideal caramel colour.  The espresso, while slightly on the bitter for my taste, was thick and syrupy in consistancy and with far more of the nuanced flavours than the thinner brew we were producing earlier.

All in all, I’m now making something close to what I’d serve at a cafe, and better than some I’ve had elsewhere.  I’m pretty excited to see what I can put out with further practice and tweaking.

Dear Counterstaff

May 30, 2009

You’re not entitled to tips, please stop thinking so.

It doesn’t really get much simpler than that, but as ever I’ll elaborate regardless.

I feel compelled to point out in advance that I’ve worked service.  I know what it’s like, and understand the ins and outs.  Been there.  Done it, had fun and made great money.  I even have the t-shirts.

It’s bollocks to feel entitled to anything more than the wage one has accepted for the job.  Speaking directly to the service folks: you accepted the job knowing it had low proportional pay (in Canada, at minimum wage, in the US, below it) wagering that you could pull in more because of tips.  Most people aren’t servers out of passion, it’s out of a need for the money, and an understanding that tips can be more lucrative than any wage, especially in a swanky restaurant.  I know servers that pull in $300/night, for instance.  These same people, making far more than in any other job of the same skill level, complain bitterly when someone stiffs them on a tip.

The thing is – you aren’t entitled to gifts.  No one is.  It’s a server’s job to earn tips, and part of the package is that some people will stiff a server on tips, no matter how hardworking or charming the server was.  It’s part of the gamble made when accepting a job as a server.

As for being understanding, or “everyone has bad days” and other such BS – grow the fuck up.  Everyone has shitty days, and they are expected to keep it together and not let it effect their work.  You too, servers.  Your job is to be charming, if your pissy mood affects your ability to do your job, it’ll affect your bottom line, too.  Suck it up.

I tip anywhere up to 30%, roughly 10 – 15 on average, but I expect the server to bust balls just as hard as I did to earn it.  I’ve no sympathy or compassion for a server being shitty on an ugly night, or worse still, shitty on a normal night – I don’t care how rough it is, either tough through it or find a different job.  A server being decent on an awful night, though, they’re at least trying to tough through.  I tip them extra-well.

Niagra Falls

May 30, 2009

Is definately not in BC.  Sorry, but no.  Our call center in South New England just transferred a very confused woman to me because she was “in my area.”  Except she’s hanging out in Niagra falls.

Y’know, ’cause according to the States, all of Canada is within 100K of all the rest of it.

Heh, Names.

May 23, 2009

Today I recieved a call from a Miss Whalley.

Who shamfully admitted that she’d not been given any sort of family name, but had instead been named after the place in Surrey.

It amused me both that that was the actual progeny of her name, and that she told people.

On Greetings

May 15, 2009

It always amuses how people greet me when I’m answering the phone at work.  The range and variety is almost as amusing as the lack thereof. 

My absolute favourites are definitely when someone opens with “Hey, how’re you?” … and then launches into the cause of their call without actually pausing for a response.  I inevitably find myself torn between Just Doing My Job and cutting in to answer the question they asked regardless of their persuit of the actual content of the call…  After all, they did ask.

Twitter

May 13, 2009

…isn’t something I really get.  I’m more loquatious than 160 charachters, and tend to ramble.

I suspect the rambling is actually 2/3 the amusement, in fairness, ’cause the actual stories are only occationally that entertaining.

Back on track, though, I did find this, which is among the most amusing twitter accounts I’ve ever seen.  That and a few other celebrity twitterers make the case, really, ’cause even bloggers that’d be interesting in pageform aren’t that amusing in concentrated snippets.

Mexico – Daytime

May 10, 2009

So, uh, Internet … I neglected to mention going to Mexico at the end of Hols.

Sorry…

I went with Mother, my Godmother, Dorara, and her family. Her husband, Rilan, had set up the entire trip, and their two girls, Mererewana and Jurupari came along, as well as Mererewana’s husband, Ngurvilu.

Most of the trip was Jurupari and I partying, occationally with Ngurvilu joining us. Mererewana had recently discovered she was pregnant with “Blueberry” and was starting to feel the effects of the pregnancy, so not only could she not come drinking with us, but she was also easily tired and unable to last long into the night.

We stayed at the Grand Riviera resort, about 20 minutes from Playa del Carmen, or an hour or so from Cancun. It’s a shockingly large resort, with two “sub resorts” contained. We took advantage of every inch of the place, the only spots I missed were the Saltwater Pool and

The days were great, Jurupari and I went to Playa del Carmen twice to go shopping and see the sights, as well as going on a day trip to Coba with her and Mother. We hiked all over the Maya city of Coba, as well as getting to climb the temple-pyramid “Nohoch Mul” to the top. 142 of the freaking hugest steps you’ve ever faced. For such a diminuitive people, they sure liked tall stairs. It was ridiculously hot, and we were all pretty damned sweat-soaked by the end of it, but it was totally worth it, even if I didn’t manage to convince Mother to climb the pyramid with Jurupari and I. We also swam in a cenote – oddly perfect temperature water; evenly cool from top layer down, but a challenge to swim in ’cause of the lack of salt: you’re not at all buoyant, and it’s cold & deep enough that they’re pretty worried you’ll cramp up and sink. They asked us all to wear life jackets, but I jumped in briefly to test it out sans-jacket to see what they were talking about. We were fed some tradidional Maya food at a local place there and generally experienced the culture adequitely. It was a great time.

Playa del Carmen was a fun town, moreso once we got off the main tourist drag. I got myself a hammock, as well as a box of cigars and a few other things like that.  I did save buying Tequila until I was at the airport for our flight home, because I wanted it in my carryon rather than my checked baggage.  Oddly, that decision didn’t cost me nearly as much as I expected it to.

Tele-hilarious.

May 10, 2009

I’m back on the phones, folks. Yet again, I’m the last grasping hand reaching out to distressed motorists across BC.

I started today in style, getting stuck explaining to one old woman that I couldn’t sign her up for Honda Roadside. “I don’t work for them, m’am, I can’t sign you up for a service we don’t offer…” Was replied to with “But you can just do it through the computer.”  When I began to try and explain that we don’t have access to someone else’s computer system I got a plaintive wail of “But the commmpuuuuter!”

Old people + technology = hilarious.

Cancellation?

May 6, 2009

Back at the road assist company, I have a hard time suppressing the urge to thank customers whenever a geriatric member calls in to cancel their memberships because they’re too old to drive.

After all, I’m very much grateful they’re no longer subjecting us to their driving, for all that it seems a shame to be told/find out/decide that one is too old to drive; the rest of the world is very grateful that such folk are no longer on the road.  After all, there’s ten times as many who’ve just not realized yet, still on the roads and even one less is a marvelous thing.

Flight Home

April 30, 2009

I’ve now encountered the only thing more irritating than an irate infant on a flight.

This.

Seriously, who the hell brings one along  with them?  The horrid little creature spent the entire flight making godawful high-pitched yipping and yapping and whining noises, while the owner tried ineffectually to keep it quiet and under control.