Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Starbucks is Closing (for 3 Hours)!

I have to go to work tonight. As you are most likely aware, and as I also know some of you are lamenting, ALL north American Starbucks locations will be closed this evening--GASP!!--from 5:30-8:30 for partner training. One partner told me that his grandma called him, all concerned, because she'd heard that Starbucks was closing...as in, for good! Here's a little post to dispell some accurate information.

I've had some customers poke fun, facetiously inquiring if their drinks will taste different or better tomorrow after we're taught again how to push the button that pulls the espresso. Here's what those of you who have ever had a Starbucks espresso drink that DIDN'T taste good know: there's more to the creation of an excellent espresso drink than "pushing a button."

The reason the stores are closing is so that all the partners can be educated at one time about the recent changes that have been made to the espresso bar and some new standards that corporate is handing down for making the drinks. Five thirty to 8:30pm is a logical time, since dinner falls in that time frame, and it is hoped that most normal Americans don't consider coffee or espresso a meal. Some stores will even reopen after the training period, although the one I work at won't.

Here's what's happening: the espresso machines have been recalibrated so that the shots pulled are 15-19 seconds in length, instead of 13-17 seconds. The result is a more intense, sweeter, more flavorful shot and harkens back to the day when the barista measured the grounds, hand tamped the espresso, and timed the shot's length in his/her head. (Bob remembers these days and is one of those people who would like to see Starbucks return to this type of shot pulling. Never gonna happen...)

Every espresso shot has but a 10 second optimum flavor shelf life. If you have ever had a bad tasting espresso drink, odds are the shot sat longer than 10 seconds before it was added to the other ingredients of your drink. < 10 seconds and mixed with milk=wonderful taste. > 10 seconds and mixed with milk=battery acid. I've had to taste the espresso after 10 seconds, and that's an accurate description. Also, if a shot takes less than 15-19 seconds or more than 19 seconds to pull, flavor is also impacted.

So, having a fully knowledgeable barista working behind the bar who is timing the shots hourly to make sure the espresso is correct really is worth going without your venti toffee nut latte, grande nonfat caramel macchiato, or quad short breve mocha for 3 short hours. I've heard of a few other things that are going to be instituted, so I'll share those tomorrow.


sandra said...

making a good espresso is a science, and I'm Italian, so I know what I'm talking about!!!
it's very rewarding for a customer knowing the this store is so careful about offering the best it can.
congratulation Starbuck!!!

L. said...

JENN!!!! First of all, let me commend you, not only for being an employee of the most stellar company in the whole universe, but for educating your readers about what is happening.

Next - can we all agree that Starbucks going "dark" for three hours, regardless of the end result or noble intent is a national tragedy?? I think we can..

Thirdly, I must gently disagree about your definition of a meal. As we all know, breakfast is the most important meal of day, which I define as a quad short breve no foam latte, thank you very much!! :) I'm happily not a normal American, which of course you already know. :)

Fourth, I LOVE the timing breakdown - I have had the battery acid experience, and I'm with Bob that the good old days were indeed fine, but it's good to know what causes that occasional sour latte. Although quite rare!

I love Starbucks, love the idea of the "back to the basics" approach, and thank you for sharing.


Alexandra said...

Having a good espresso is totally more than pushing a button - having lived in Italy for several years, I learned this! I was in Starbucks on Monday when I saw the sign about closure and I asked the gal and she told me why. I think it is GREAT that Starbucks takes the time to do this for their employees AND their customers - nobody seems to remember that they LOSE money being closed for three hours all over the country! Good for you for getting the facts out there Jenn! *STAMPIN HUGS* Alex

Brenda said...

How absolutely fascinating! I had no idea what a science it is to make the "perfect" cappucino, but I have wondered why at times mine hasn't tasted as good as some I've had previously. Thanks for sharing. Love your blog!