UCC Australia’s Babin Gurung explains how to prepare your café for summer.
Getting your café ready for the warmer months ahead can mean a variety of aesthetic and operational changes.
It could mean refreshing your café décor and menu, but it can also mean being aware the impact heat and changing weather conditions have on your coffee quality. Let’s look at some easy preparation steps to get your café summer-proofed.
A seasonal food menu is the best way to utilise local produce and not always rely on far-away sources.
This gives you a cost advantage and provides you a chance to replace fewer selling items with more popular ones. For your regular customers, it’s a great excuse to visit your café and try that special meal you created using seasonal fruit and vegetables. Consider incorporating seasonal produce such as mangos, blueberries, cherries, melons, strawberries, plums, sweet corn, tomatoes, zucchinis, cucumber, and lettuce.
As eating and drinking habits change, it is important to update your coffee menu to match the season. In many markets, sales for iced coffee doubles over summer, so having a carefully planned summer drinks menu can help bring more business into your café. Although freshly brewed coffee is desirable, leftover shots can be saved and chilled in the fridge to be utilised for iced coffee drinks. Here are some popular iced coffee drinks to add to your summer menu:
- Iced latte: A standard recipe for iced latte consists of ice, milk, and espresso coffee. The proportion can be changed to match the desired flavour but it’s generally one-third cup of ice, milk almost to the top of the cup, and finished with espresso shots. Iced lattes work with any type of milk including non-dairy and extra flavourings and toppings including chocolate syrup, vanilla, chai, whipped cream etcetera, can be added at small extra charge. This is a great option for milk coffee drinkers looking for a refreshing caffeine alternative.
- Iced long black: Iced long black is made similarly to iced latte except it uses cold water instead of milk. Sometimes it is served with a slice of lemon or even with a dash of milk/ cream.
- Cold brew: Preparation of cold brew varies in different cafés, but the general idea is to have a light, smooth and refreshing cold coffee. Cold drip is a device that brews coffee using ambient water poured over a bed of coffee over 10 to 12 hours to extract more delicate flavour notes and retain some acidity. If you don’t have a cold drip brewer, you can use immersion brewing method where coffee is immersed in cold water and allowed to steep in the fridge for 10 to 12 hours before filtering the solid coffee grounds. This adds bit more body and texture to the drink. Both methods require time and special equipment, so, many cafés opt for hot filter batch brew which is chilled down using ice or refrigeration. Although cold brew is best enjoyed black, milk and flavourings can be added based on your customer’s preference. Cold brew can be prepared in large batches reducing labour time and cost. Given, average pricing for small cold coffee is $6-$7 compared to hot coffee which sits around $4, they are more lucrative to have on the menu.
- Nitro: One of the best ways to enjoy cold brew is by adding nitrogen using special equipment which adds a rich texture to the drink. Unlike carbonation which makes drinks light and fizzy, nitrogen adds a heavier and smoother finish to a drink. It can also give you a perception of creamy and sometimes toffee or caramel flavour making it a very enjoyable experience. Investment of equipment is required but once you’re setup, the operation is easy. Once again, large volumes can be served quickly.
- Espresso tonic: This drink is becoming increasingly popular and combines the strong flavours from espresso and tonic to give you a complex yet refreshing drink. Preparation for espresso tonic is simple. Use freshly brewed espresso poured over iced tonic water and serve with a slice of lemon. The acidity from the espresso pairs well with the bitterness of tonic water making it a bright summer drink. You can find more detailed recipes in the December 2021 edition of BeanScene by Liam Lever-Ford.
Effects of heat on coffee is very prominent and needs to be managed for consistent quality. This is not only for brewing but also while storing coffee. This is especially important if your café has open sides with direct sunlight hitting the café area. Here are few things to consider to minimise the effects of heat on coffee quality:
- Bean storage: When storing coffee, ensure the bags are kept away from heat and sunlight because heat causes coffee to lose its volatile aroma and flavour. Similarly, coffee beans left in the hopper for too long at the mercy of changing weather will also impact coffee quality and consistency. Therefore, only add coffee to last for two hours and keep the remaining bag tightly sealed in an airtight container, once again, in a cool dark place. Storing coffee in the fridge is not recommended as it’s not only impractical, but you also get wide difference in brew temperature and the dry circulating air inside the fridge will alter the flavour and consistency of coffee.
- Grinder: The grinder can heat up significantly through use, especially on a hot day. It is therefore important to keep the air intake fan clear of dust for better air circulation. Basic maintenance of removing air filters, dusting them clear, and ensuring nothing is blocking the fans are few ways of regulating temperature of your grinder. Many modern grinders have heat regulating unit in-built to keep grinding temperature consistent. This can be managed if outside temperature goes significantly higher during summer.
- Regular calibration: You may have noticed how shots pour faster as the day gets warmer. This is due to a number of factors, but the main one is the rise in outside temperature. (Refer to BeanScene article How temperature effects coffee machine performance by Dr Monika Fekete to learn more on this topic.) Basically, hotter grind temperature reduces finer grinds and lowers viscosity of coffee both leading to faster extraction time. So, more frequent grinder calibration is needed to mitigate this issue and ensure shots are consistent.
- Milk: Leaving milk on the countertop when not in use is not only unsafe from a food safety perspective, but it can also hinder milk texturing. Remember, chilled milk takes air better and adds extra heating time, allowing you more control. The same principle applies to alternative milks, thus it’s beneficial to keep milk refrigerated when not in use, regardless of the weather outside.
Let’s not forget how crucial customer experience is when it comes to managing a café. One of the considerations you need to make over summer is the seating area. Where possible, it’s good to have outdoor seating for the customers to enjoy the weather. Orders for takeaway food and drinks tend to go up during summer so organising your kitchen and café for efficient takeaway service is key. Having a separate pay/pick-up station, self-serve station, adding bollards to manage foot traffic are some of the ways to ease service flow. To manage high volume of iced drinks, an ice bucket can be kept in the café, which will save trips to the ice machine for every order.
Seasons signify change and that is exactly what we must do in our ways of thinking and practice to better ourselves. Combining the above tactics will not only ensure you have smooth operation and consistent coffee, but your customers will get the best experience of the season.
This article appears in the December 2022 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.