perpetual grind


i can't believe it's been almost a month since i last posted. i can assure you its not because things have been dull and boring, that's for certain.

let me start with the biggest news of all - howard schultz has again taken control of our company. this news has made several partners and share holders ecstatic. in fact, when the news broke my store was abuzz with hopeful chatter of rising stocks and disappearing ovens.
so, has this rotation of power actually changed anything?
well, not yet.

BUT the company IS going to finally do something about the ovens!
well, not exactly to do with the ovens but their horrendous output of stink.
bux, in all it's infinite wisdom, has decided that customers and partners have a valid complaint! in fact, bux apparently wholeheartedly agrees that burnt cheese and pre-cooked eggs are no substitute for the olfactory heaven that is brewed coffee.
so, to combat the stench of the ovens, baristas will no longer be opening pre-packs of ground coffee to brew. oh no. we will now have to grind pounds upon pounds of beans for our daily brew.

pounds upon POUNDS!

now, a pre-packed case of ground coffee comes in units of 28. my store goes through at least two cases a day. that's 56 packs. 56.
a full batch of coffee that we grind weighs .56 pounds (wow, what a strange coincidence!)
so, let's do the math. 56 packs multiplied by .56 pounds equals 31.36 pounds.
did you read that?!?!?
we have to grind a minimum of thirty-one pounds of beans a day! not only will it take an insane amount of labor to grind these beans, we also have to portion each batch out!
guess how many extra hours bux has given us for this huge daily task?


somehow, some way, we are going to have to squeeze the extra labor from our milk-stained aprons.
now, for those of you who have been loyal bux customers for more than ten years, you might be saying to yourself: "what the hell is brat complaining about?!? i remember the baristas used to ALWAYS grind the coffee themselves!"
and i will respond with this: "but those baristas back in the day didn't have sandwiches (warmed or pre-packed), dozens of frappuccino combinations, extra machines to clean (more than one bar, the frappuccino dispenser, and two ovens), an insane amount of syrups, and friggen' shaken ice teas!!!!"

the modern bux barista has more duties, more customers, and less time to accomplish all their tasks. and now, our beloved siren has made sure that there will be no such thing as 'down time'. that there will be no pauses in the customer flow where we can catch up on prepping, cleaning and training.

and for those of you that think "well, i get lattes anyway so my drink won't be affected by this." - think again.

grinding 31 pounds of coffee means one less person on the bar to make your drink.
BUT that's not the only issue you'll encounter!
bux has ALSO decided that our espresso machines don't give off enough of an espresso aroma, so now all our machines will be retooled to pull longer shots. that's right - they are 'fixing' our espresso bars so that they too can combat the horrid stench from the ovens.
that means it will take longer to prepare your drinks. mind you, the whole reason we have these automatic bars is because the manual ones were "not efficient enough".
but bux is only 'fixing' one bar at a time, so if you order two tall lattes, one will taste significantly stronger than the other - meaning ordering your bar drinks is basically a crapshoot. it might be too strong, it might be too weak, but the one thing you can count on is that you'll be waiting longer for your caffeine fix.

all i can say is that these latest corporate "improvements" have made me very happy that my non-barista life has been so very productive and lucrative.

barista rant: if you're going to use 'fancy lingo' to order your drink, then know what the hell it is you're ordering!!! if you ask for a 'skinny vanilla latte' that's what you're going to get. we have posters all around the store explaining what a skinny vanilla latte is. so when we call it out, please don't take a sip and pretend to gag, claiming splenda makes you ill and you specifically did not order sugar-free vanilla. don't then ask for a skinny mocha to be made with regular mocha and percent milk. and don't argue with your barista when he tries to educate you!


Anonymous said...

I work in a bux in the UK, and we have to grind our own beans for the brew - it's really not that bad! If you apply a good method you can get through it quickly. That being said, my last shift at bux is this Sunday :D

KateT said...

Brat, I'm in Maine and have never seen these ovens that so torment you. Do you know anything about that? Are they slated to go nationwide eventually? In other words, should I steel myself for this horror arriving in my favorite bux?

Also, I love your rants. They're my favorite part of each post. I do want to speak up for the confused patron who is the subject of today's rant, though. This vocab change, the "skinny" thing, is hard for me to get on board with. Isn't skinny common parlance for nonfat (only) at most other coffee shops? Or did I just dream that up? I think it's brilliant of Starbucks to have a dietetic option so I and countless others don't have to stand there listing off the same dietetic variations over and over (nonfat, nowhip, sugarfree now rolls off my tongue) , but it seemed weird and confusing to me that they chose a word that I think already has another meaning in coffee lingo. Am I missing something?

Sam said...

"barista rant: if you're going to use 'fancy lingo' to order your drink, then know what the hell it is you're ordering!!!"

This is more of a Starbucks issue than a customer issue. It would be nice if Starbucks did not attempt to redefine traditional coffee terms. If you ask for a "regular" coffee in New York City outside of a Starbucks, you get a coffee with cream and sugar. Similarly, a "skinny" coffee drink generally means one made with skim milk--not one made with sugar substitute. The terms have been around longer than Starbucks; is it the customer's fault that they don't know Starbuck's twists?

Anonymous said...

Well brat I have to agree and disagree with you. On the longer shot pulls...that's RIDICULOUS!!! Personally I'm not a huge bux fan although I love your blog. Now the drinks may be even worse. But on the grinding your own coffee...I say kudos. About time Starbucks got back to being a coffeehouse and not a franchise.

Meghan said...

When I did a brief stint at a Starbucks after working at Caribou for several years, those little foil packets were such a relief! At Caribou, each batch is weighed and ground. I empathize with you; weighing out coffee does suck.

This is how we did it, maybe it will work for you: at night, the closers weigh out enough batches of unground beans for the morning shift, directly into the filters. Stack them in a drawer or cabinet, and you're good to go for the morning. Before it gets too busy in the morning, weigh out the coffee for the rest of the day. If there's no time, the nice thing about pre-weighing coffee is that it's a task that can be done over an entire shift: weigh out a couple batches, go help on the bar, weigh a few more, completing the task bit-by-bit.

Once you get used to it, weighing out coffee doesn't take very long -- at my peak, I could weigh out coffee at probably 5-8 sec/batch. And, once you have it weighed out into filters, the actual brewing of a batch takes only a few seconds longer than opening a foil packet and dumping it in a filter.

If you don't already, prepare to absolutely REEK of coffee for the rest of the day after each shift. It's true: grinding all the beans before brewing makes a major difference in the coffee aroma at your store. My leather jacket has a permanent coffee smell. I can't imagine that it will cover up the cheese and egg stink in your store, though...most likely it will just make a pungent, nauseating mix. You will get a nice, brown bean dust on everything, too.

Good luck!

Christine said...

When I worked at a Starbucks-like chain here in Alberta Canada, we had to weigh out all our beans...was wonderful. 7 types of coffee all day...grinding each and every one. BUT, you could only grind enough for four hours, (usually four period) and it was nuts. Here's wishing you loads and loads of luck dealing with all the crap..including the lovely ovens!

Rambling Mom said...

I'm not a high power coffee executive or anything so maybe I'm not "all that smart" but from my experience "covering up" a smell doesn't make it go away.

As an example -- taking a shower works better than tossing on way too much perfume.

I'm just sayin'

nicole said...

Hmm. I don't really like Starbucks coffee (gives me heartburn, blech), but the idea of fresh ground beans does sound more appealing than using foil packages. Although if the only reason corporate is making you guys grind them fresh is to cover up the smell from the ovens...well that is pretty freaking stupid.

I am thinking about applying at my local 'bux, it seems like an alright place to work company-wise. Plus I hear they pay pretty well and that they offer benefits to everyone, even their part timers. Are they worth it, and are they massively expensive?

You could email me privately (jadore.nicole@gmail.com) if you don't want to discuss that sort of thing on your blog.. :)

Anonymous said...

I love hearing updates from you, as I wonder what is becoming of my beloved bux. I was a 5-year store manager from the SE region who recently jumped ship for these very reasons - labor cuts, more tasks, bad cash practices and more tracking charts and graphs to keep the managers in the back room where they are needed the least. Not to mention the impending doom of the ovens - coming soon to the SE. It's good to hear Howie's back in the saddle though, and I hope he can turn things around as much as possible. I dearly miss the bux from 5 years ago.

I look forward to your posts, and cheers to our stock price rising from the ashes! (hopefully)

I 4 G 2pSFH -R A =)

Jzakibe said...

We have to grind ours in the morning. We did about 20 lbs of coffee a day. That's not too bad. It really is fairly easy.

Just grind the coffee at all once and weigh it out. And you may not actually have to use all 31 lbs of coffee. Try experimenting with different weights, especially in the afternoons and evenings. You may even be able to get away with using quarter batches of coffee.

About the rant: It irks me that the bux changed the lingo. Right after we trained all our customers that we don't call it "skinny" it's not our term.

wtfbarista said...

i doubt this new method will contribute to the coffee aroma so greatly that it would overpower cooked food smell. personally i don't think the cooked food smell is that bad, but then again I am behind the counter. i like how mgt tells us anything. i'm getting this news straight from this blog!

wtfbarista said...

i meant to rant about how management doesn't tell us anything. seriously, i had to learn the skinny lingo my first shift of 2008.

Terrell said...

I work at a store where we grind all of our coffee, and this is always designated for the person deployed to the front register/cafe. Honestly, it's not that much of a hassle. Then again, my store doesn't have an oven.

I've also never worked in a store that used pre-ground coffee packets, but I can imagine how one could get so used to that. If that's what I was used to, and my store decided to regress to weighing, grinding, and packaging all the beans, I suppose I'd be angry too.

Our sales are usually in the low 20k each week, if that's any indication of how busy we might or might not be. If you're working the front register/cafe, you have plenty of time to get it done.

I feel you on the longer shot thing. Last week, our technician seemed to be in the store everyday because we kept having problems with one of the machines. This can happen when a barista decides that the shots are taking a little too long to pull, and decides to recalibrate the machine to pull the shots a little faster.

MGK said...

Starbucks seems to be obsessed with people's "wait times". I mean, how much longer will it really be for your average patron? Personally, I would rather wait for my drink to be prepared exactly the way I like it rather than get it a minute made haphazardly.

Alice said...

Hey! Glad you are back. I was walking to get my coffee today and I was wondering when were you going to come and write again.

Keep us informed of the changes and anecdotes. I am in Mexico and here we don't have any egg sandwiches, so that's good.

SkippyMom said...

I am still your friend...;P...the first couple almost threw me off...giggle...wow...

Anyway....just two comments - well maybe three -

1. Grinding the coffee all at once isn't going to go towards what SB wants to achieve...so that won't work.

2. Actually grinding the coffee [to cover the smell] is a extremely stupid idea [and I agree with others on this] SB is only hiding the smell-which "bothers the speshul snowflakes", right? I like the analogies on this - Mine is - Grinding coffee to hide the nasty smell is like lighting a scented candle to hide the smell of a NON housetrained dog.

3. And speaking of the Speshuls -Aren't they the ones who complained to begin with - so now the added wait [if you get backed up grinding coffee] - is just going to piss 'em off more, right? jeesh...the thought process [of the Head SB] amazes me!

Okay, kept it to three. Y'know Brat, after this post I can actually see how it is that you have been gone for so long - I WOULD'VE been in the lockup - for personally throttling management.

Hugs to you [and still holding the next round of bail ;P]

Anonymous said...

Um... I've worked in coffee shops where not only in there one person working a usual ship, but that one person has to serve soup AND hot sandwiches AND grind coffee. I love reading your blog but your complaints aren't really valid.

While I think the reason for grinding the coffee (to make the smell different) is a really stupid idea, I think you need to stop complaining.

Ken said...

When did bux start making coffee? In my experience in the last few years they have started a specialty based on candy drinks with some caffeine added to them, as evidenced by the odd look when I ask for a regular coffee. Unlike the earlier poster, here regular coffee means just that...NOT decaf...and if I want cream or sugar, I will ask for it.
Also, to the people who feel compelled to order a skinny half calf double decaf...why? Just say what you want, everyone thinks you are an idiot, not the cool hipster as you would like to think. The ones who say it saves time are the same morons who will spend five hours programming their ipod.
I rarely do bux, as I find their coffee bitter, but have never minded the wait due to baristas making their drinks. I do however get annoyed with people who stand in line and then at the front act like they have never been in a bux before.

pilgrimchick said...

The new plans for Starbucks sound as brilliant as those awful orange-based syrup drinks from last summer (who wants orange and coffee together?! Coffee isn't chocolate, no matter what way you slice it). Yet another way the corporate world pays less and demands more from workers. Not that I'm shocked.

Terrell said...

pilgrimchick: the orange syrup is being discontinued. almond as well. i happen to think orange goes well in the passion tea lemonade. not a big fan of it in the espresso, though.

Tracy said...

Seriously there's an ISSUE with grinding beans? I worked at a similar chain cafe, though not bux, and was the cafe manager. We only ever had one person per shift. That's one person for dishes, set up, break down, taking orders, working the bar, and cleaning the cafe area (inside and outside). It took next to no time to grind the beans for a pot of coffee. Our espresso beans were NEVER pre-ground. We would grind them about 2 shots at a time. We were a pretty busy cafe too, typically we would go through about 15 pounds a day (a lot for our tiny city).

miraluu911 said...

post more often brat! when were training we tell our newbies if they get stressed to come to the backroom and read your blog. its famous in our little local shop! its funny how no matter if its bux or a 2 location company how its all the same drama we baristas live with

Gardenwife said...

Great to see you post, Brat!

I've gotta chime in, too. Coffee should be ground fresh, right before it's brewed. That's how it tastes the best! At Caribou, they weigh out coffee twice a day: once in the evening for the morning crew and once in the morning for the afternoon crew. There, a full batch is .53 oz and the whole beans are weighed into filters, which are put in a drawer, stacked and ready to be ground. The coffee is ground by a big, heavy-duty grinder right before it's brewed. The coffee's great!

If done right, those many pounds of beans can be ground efficiently. Your customers will be getting much more than just an olfactory boost -- they'll have better coffee from Bux. Isn't the point of a coffee shop?

Anonymous said...

Brat...love your blog!

I have to respond to the person who said your complaints aren't valid. Yes, you may have worked in ANOTHER coffee shop, and Yes you may have had to be there alone, and Yes you may have had to make soup and sandwiches too....BUT seriously you have never worked at BUX. It's a totally different ballgame. People expect their drinks as quick as the golden arches.

Brat hang in there.
PS I did hear that the espresso recalibration is supposed to make the espresso taste more like the old manual bars made it. Yummy.

Meghan said...

I was going to reply to that "anonymous" post too, but the commenter above made a better point than I would have. SO true. People have learned to expect fast service in chains. I've noticed that you're much more likely to see a customer bitch out employees in a chain store than in an independent place -- people like to think that with chain stores, they know the rules and know when the employees aren't following them (or like to believe so), and that includes lightning-speed drink times at Starbucks. That's my theory, anyway. Anyone here work at an independent place and not agree?

wraithyn said...

Brat -
I've worked at a bunch of buxes, and actually most of them still grind their beans from bullets every day. When I last left my first (and most beloved) store, we were getting packets for bold coffee only, and still grinding mild and decaf. My current bux does all three every day.

Now, my current bux does a lot less actual straight coffee sales - we're in a mall, so we get slammed with fraps and the new stupid "skinny" drinks. So we don't have to grind anywhere near 30 lbs. But my old bux definitely still does a lot of straight coffee sales (don't worry, Ken, you're not the only one!), and it's doable. COW is one of our midday tasks, but I'm sure your store will be able to find a good time to do it. As others have said above, it's a decent task for a register partner to work on in between customers if you really can't spare the extra partner. If there's a slow time of day, your reg. partner can get a few batches done between customers.

Then again -- COW smells great to me, but I can't really smell it unless I'm the one grinding it. Sorry Schultzy, I think you failed this scheme as well.

Ms Bart said...

From today (January 31) Boston Globe:
Besides reporting the dip in traffic, Starbucks said it would stop selling hot breakfast sandwiches, which add about $35,000 to a typical store's annual revenue. Chairman and Chief Executive Howard Schultz acknowledged the company may take a hit in the near-term due to the loss of that revenue.

I don't care for the smell, but I do love a warmed croissant once a month. Good luck!

Manuel said...

one day I'm gonna go into a bux in belfast.......one day.......

Anonymous said...

Just read today that the hot sandwiches are going bye-bye, so yay for you! No more ovens!

Lorenzo said...

Barista Brat, you are my savior! LOL. i love your posts & i was just referred to your blog by a coworker yesterday.. i had been meaning to start a sbux rant blog ever since i started working for the company a year or so ago.. but im glad someone like you have been telling people the dirty stuff that goes on at your local coffee dealer ;)


Boston said...

So the sandwiches are going, but not until September. Almond and orange syrups are being discontinued, and it looks like a honey syrup is being introduced.

I've heard that they want to go back to manual machines, and the longer pull time is to tide things over while they test the manual machines in slower suburban stores.

Besides the sandwiches going, that is the best news I've heard-- it will require more skill to prepare drinks, but it signifies Howard Schultz absolutely havign the right idea-- bring Starbucks back to quality coffee shop and stop trying to compete with the likes of Dunkin Donuts and McDonalds, they represent a different market.

I only wish we could scrap the sandwiches sooner.

Gabe said...

I always heard that Starchucks always over-roasted, to try and compensate for shorter pull times. If the shot pull times are going to be longer, hopefully they'll be back to normal (25~30 seconds). I don't even both to go to Starchucks anymore. Nothing against the staff, just that I can make awesome cappuccinos & espressos at home with my grinder/espresso machine setup.

Tanya said...

I really hate when Corporate comes up with "great new ideas". What looks good on paper isn't practical a lot of the time.

We used to have Bus Tubs at Bob Evans. We would pick up a plate, drop it off in the tub under the counter. Fill up a cup of coffee.

Now, its go to the dish washer, scrape the plate, wash your hands (cause its hard to scrape it and not get gravy-ied), then fill up the cup of coffee.

Its supposed to be better for our customers how?

SoftSilverTain said...

Newly-promoted ASM here...

But, but, but, hurrah! We're getting rid of the breakfast sandwiches by the end of the year! They will be gone! And I won't smell like grease when I get home from work! Yay!

Anonymous said...

Here we go again...

Brandon Weber said...

I used to manage a long, long time ago... I opened store # forty-something (and that was a long time ago!). We did grind the beans. It was fine. I think the answer might be to get rid of all the other crap (sandwiches, etc.), but continue to focus on the things that make coffee good... that's what people came to bux for to begin with. no?

FYI: I just posted a blog about the mistakes Howard is already making as CEO:

00goddess said...

The espresso machines are being retooled because the shots they pull are too short. It's not about the smell (because let's face it, espresso machines themselves don't make much "coffee aroma"; they are kind of stinky, actually) it's about the new focus on espresso.

I was a partner back in the bad old grounds-grinding days. I left work every day stinking of oily stale coffee grounds. It wasn't nice.

Whomever up there said that 25-30 seconds is the "regular" time for an espresso shot- that sounds like a grossly long shot to me. Yech.

Anonymous said...

ummm.. grinding coffee takes about 7 seconds, dont whine about it when you get insurance benefits and paid a ton more than most coffee shops (the one i work at offers us NOTHING of the such)

and as far as customers "not knowing" what theyre ordering? itd be nice if sbux didnt invent shit and then when someone comes to me and orders a machiato and i give them espresso with foam (and not a caramel vanilla latte, which is what starbucks gives you when you order a caramel machiato) and they tell me i made their drink wrong, its more frustrating. skinny does not mean sugar free, it means skim milk. sugar free means sugar free. if they wanted skim and sugar free, itd be a "nothing" vanilla latte.
if sbux didnt make shit up, no one would have any problems

jen said...

ah yes. you might appreciate the post i wrote in honor of a recent visit to my local SBs..


takeupyourbedandwalk said...

Yeah, I have to admit that changing the lingo is a pain. I actually had a Starbucks employee tell me "back in the day" that a skinny latte did in fact mean skim milk only, just like everywhere else. So that's on the corporation for mesing with the patrons (who then mess with the baristas).

"if they wanted skim and sugar free, itd be a "nothing" vanilla latte."
And if it's *decaf*, skim, sugar free, I've heard it called a "pointless" vanilla latte, which always cracked me up.

Mike said...

I like it. Check me out a sirens ramble

mellowlee said...

Oh MAN :O( Well I hope things will get better, but it doesn't look promising does it? Hang in there buddy girl!

liz said...

BB - I'm a new hire at a Bux in Richmond, Virginia.
I love your blog. With only two weeks experience I can relate to some of your blogs/rantings etc. I truly enjoy what you're writing. Please, keep it up! :)

Anonymous said...

Is it just me...

or is the honey the most vile tasting syrup yet?

the topping being a premium honey is actually ok...

Anyone else tried it and agree?

Anonymous said...

i agree with the honey thing. it tastes like cardbord. g

and brat, i hear you on the ovens. freakin take them away, don't try to cover up the smell! at least the damn sandwiches will be gone in september. wohoo!!

as for the shot thing: my bux just got "re-done" as far as the espresso machines go. the day after this guy spent almost all day fixing the two front bars, they both, at the same time, stopped wroking. it seems that the new chip they put in to make the shots "sweeter" actually blew up, and took the engine that runs the grinder with it. i'm not sure what the hell was wrong with the other one, but it too needed major work.
plus, the shots taste bitter now.
i feel bad for the cusotmers

and sorry, but suck it up about grinding your own COW. we have almost never used pre-packs, it's not that hard.

Anonymous said...

Hey brat!

Where are you? It's been a month since your last post! Is everything ok?

Kiz said...

Now it's been over a month since you last updated! ...Is everything ok? Or just plain busy? KF

Dominique said...

You are not interesting enough for this...

Anonymous said...

waaaaa -
You get paid by the hour so what difference does it make if you have to grind the coffee yourself - if you weren't doing that, you'd be doing something else.

You make coffee. If Stargbucks can't sell an "experience" they are doomed, because like it or not, making coffee is not rocket science.

Meghan said...


"You get paid by the hour so what difference does it make if you have to grind the coffee yourself - if you weren't doing that, you'd be doing something else."

Translation: "What does it matter how long anything takes?"

Actually, it matters a LOT. Customers want things NOW NOW NOW -- and if things are slower than they demand/expect, they get pissed. Customer at Brat's stores are used to the current coffee-brewing pace, and adding an extra step to the process will slow things down until the employees get used to it. The point is not how much more work has to be done (yes, it's true, they'd be doing something else if they weren't grinding coffee), but how much longer things will take -- because customers notice if things get slower. 1 minute of extra wait time feels like 10 minutes to a customer in a hurry. One time I had a lady walk out without any coffee at all because she'd rather have no coffee than wait one more minute for it to finish brewing.

Alice said...


We miss you terribly. I wanted to share that today there was no breakfast food other than fruit in every store in MExico City, I can just imagine breakfast screams of regular morning visitors when they find out about today's shortage in supply.

Hope you'll be back soon.

Ya Looblue said...

hope you update soon Brat! I'm all layed up from leg surgery and I've made it through the archives. Entertain me!! (just kidding. but seriously. you're awesome. can't wait to read new stuff.)

Anonymous said...

Hi, Brat! I'm curious to hear what you thought of Starbucks' recent company-wide closure for training that got so much press. Did you go? Was it worth it? The press treated it like the earth stood still for 3 hours, but an insider's view would be more fun.

Anonymous said...

Brat, have you fallen off the edge of the earth? Updates, please!

Johnny Yen said...

Okay BB, you're officially missed and I'm offically worried.

And on top of that, I'm dying to know your take on the recent changes-- Schultz returning to the helm, eliminating the dreaded ovens, the closing of a bunch of Bucks and of course the big shutdown for retraining recently.

Anonymous said...

bb we love ya, no stories no problem,
just let us know you are still with us. starting to worry about you.
i peek in everyday to see if you wrote something.

Anonymous said...

"barista rant: if you're going to use 'fancy lingo' to order your drink, then know what the hell it is you're ordering!!! if you ask for a 'skinny vanilla latte' that's what you're going to get. we have posters all around the store explaining what a skinny vanilla latte is. so when we call it out, please don't take a sip and pretend to gag, claiming splenda makes you ill and you specifically did not order sugar-free vanilla. don't then ask for a skinny mocha to be made with regular mocha and percent milk. and don't argue with your barista when he tries to educate you!"

No, sorry. If you must rant, rant at Starbucks for choosing a word that means one thing and redefining it as something else. Maybe your location has "posters" about this, but mine certainly doesn't. There is nothing, anywhere in the store to indicate that "skinny" now means "contains Splenda." Everywhere else it means "fat free milk", not "sugar free". It's like if you offered a "veggie burger" and then served up something containing beef, and blamed the customers because they "should have known that."