Prufrocker: The Blog

Prufrock Efficiency Structures 2, or 4 Capps in Less Than 3

During editing of Prufrock Efficiency Structures 2: The Film, it became more and more compelling to start including bits of the planned Efficiency Structure 3 which was all about technology. And then during the shoot, in walks Mr Lego (a beacon of modernity) into the final frame. And the whole film story board was blown... Read more »

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During editing of Prufrock Efficiency Structures 2: The Film, it became more and more compelling to start including bits of the planned Efficiency Structure 3 which was all about technology. And then during the shoot, in walks Mr Lego (a beacon of modernity) into the final frame. And the whole film story board was blown apart. It was supposed to be a study about how to make four Capps in less than 3 minutes but it became a 4th Wave manifesto.

Mr Lego walks past the recently closed down Mecca Bingo (a symbol of the Hackney of leather shops and sewing machines) on Hackney Road and talks of his hopes that the old empire might be rebuilt.

But we don’t appear to want bingo round here anymore. And friends, this misty metaphor I’m building up represents the conventional steam wands and old fashioned hand operated milk bottles of yesteryear ;D

All this is gone. It’s been replaced by this….FullSizeRender (6)

And this…FullSizeRender (7)


Pleasingly, both of these things show amazing potential. We have managed to impress Peter from Kaffeine. Impressing this most organised and workflow dissecting dual coffee shop owner in London is no easy feat. We have brought back a closer alignment between the workflow speeds for shots making and milk steaming/pouring that was really missing.

Here’s a few things bringing us closer to the conjectural 4th wave. Victoria Arduino developed the rather amazing auto-steam temperature switch and we have taken on a new prototype for this concept for testing a few weeks back. So I’m here to tell you that it works a treat. It is accurate within +-1 deg C for the same size portions. Try and heat a tiny piccolo sized quantity with such a switch and it invariably gets about 4deg above target temp owing to the reduced thermal mass of the smaller quantity I can only guess. But the tech is still usable probe-free too so we do tiny portions manually and the point we’re making here is that a workflow like ours with two baristas on the machine most of the time can avoid becoming three baristas to manage staff costs. Or rather than positioning the third barista on the milk pouring like you see in places like Taylor St that really do massive volume on several machines, each staffed by three baristas, we can run at the same speed with two staff and reassign the third barista up the other end of the cafe to help the lovely peeps still queuing and give the barista a communication role during busy times instead of a technician role.

Then there’s Mulmar’s Milk Mate system; a touch screen milk dosing system that operates a remarkably tuneable pump with intervals programmable down to one 100th of a second. It’s also compatible with Pergals which save so much space in waste disposal and the time saving here instead of rumbling through the fridge for the latest milk bottle date is amazing. Three trips to the fridge each day instead of 40! They even do a three pronged attachment if you want to save on the pergal frindge but would prefer three bottles running at a time.

So now that this can be paired up with a dosing system, we are looking at a 25% saving in drink prep. With this sort of efficiency coming together with an improvement in quality (total temp calibration between staff) and a complete cut in milk waste, I’m starting to look around for who is going to give me a medal. But with reticence, I admit, I didn’t invent pre-portioning milk machines. They’ve been around for a long time. We’re just the ones surprising the guys at Mulmar and Simonelli wanting a machine to dose and steam milk instead of a human in the speciality market. Isn’t speciality about craft? The human element. Well lots of people when we ask them what speciality coffee is about mention lines of communication, transparency and these are open at Prufrock with a very relaxed looking barista pressing a touch screen and not burning their fingertips, and they’re looking more hungry for conversation that I recall. Less fatigued. Less bored.

Gwilym said to me the other day as we were discussing the conjectural fourth wave; he thinks there is no fourth wave right now. He said ‘I have a feeling the use of technology instead of focusing on technique will become the 4th wave. We will then use extra time /energy to concentrate on the customer experience and using coffee as an ingredient (with integrity) to make interesting tasty stuff other than a flat white/ black filter.’

Our new GM, Matthew Robley-Seimonsma: (the recently crowned UK Roasting champion people!) Takes his lead from G and B with the direction he thinks Prufrock should head with his ideas about workflow. If you summed up his mission statement for Prufrock, he just wants us to be really smart. And friends, it ain’t smart burning your fingers 500 times a day or throwing away milk or indeed paying people to stand still for over 2 hours a day locked to a conventional steam wand when they could be interacting. Even relaxing. And less stressed. So I am personally pleased to report that this innovation seems smart to me.



Machine vs Woman

Here’s some stats to back up what we’re doing. In the tradition of Mr Kaminsky with his Man vs Machine study on volumetrics with La Marzocco. Prodigiously talented Heidi Beeton, Prufrock Lead Barista goes head to head with the Milk Mate system and fittingly for the silver medalist in the Auto-Steam Challenge comes in second place here.

Milk Mate vs Heidi Beeton
1. 288 vs 268g

2. 289 vs 275g
3. 286 vs 268g
4. 283 vs 282g
5. 282 vs 270g

Advice for non-automated workflows

In the film, with a non-automated workflow you can see me dose the milk while steaming for the first pair of drinks. This constitutes a 5% improvement in efficiency on two drinks and if this is standard practice in a cafe workflow, this figure doubles as you’re always looking ahead: Work while you steam, yeah? This predosing and placing saucers and spoons out, is a must bit of multitasking for any senior barista and a cheaper alternative to entering into the auto-dosing game. Not doing this is like sticking to breast-stroke because you don’t like putting your head underwater. That’s a helpful analogy here actually. Freestyle is fast but…you can’t actually see where you’re going. Automation is the barista equivalent of sticking to breaststroke but doing the kind of swimming some people seem to be able to do that effortlessly coast past me in the next lane. They must be wearing flippers!.


Workflow changes at Prufrock

To get the best out of the the Milkmate and Simonelli auto-steam prototype it is necessary to put the dosing right at the start of a workflow so that the milk pumping time is not static. It does still take a few seconds to dose out your milk. (200ml in 4.6seconds) The point is that it turns itself off. So at the beginning of this process, Kaori just needs to press the button then move on to make her shots. It’s second nature for a quality barista to commence milk steaming whilst the shots are brewing so this correction in workflow is easily integrated.


Next point is that it is really not at all necessary to have your milk spinning around in whirl pool to produce better foam quality. So carefully positioning the pitcher after aeration is not particularly necessary. We have observed no noticeable change in foam quality from the wand position. It is simply a matter of the level of aeration. But there is a great advantage in performing this process before the milk passes body temp so the sooner you get the aeration phase finished and get the pitcher out of your hands the better the milk foam and the more efficient the workflow.