A Moose came into the Barn
A Moose came into the Barn

Moose in a barn. Makes perfectly good sense. Smart foamer Perfect Moose in Berlin Specialty Coffeehouse THE BARN. Sounds equally logical… or does it? Does the pursuit of coffee authenticy conflict with automated coffee gear? At THE BARN, Best Independent European Coffee Shop 2018, they believe in the right mix.

“We take a lot of pride in sourcing, roasting and serving exclusively single origin coffees, hand-brewed, freshly roasted in Berlin. We have a handmade approach in everything we do. Meanwhile, we do have one of the busiest coffee shops in West Berlin to run. Balance is key. Keeping an open mind helps you find it.” __ founder and CEO Ralf Rüller

Convincing the barista

The Barn operates 1 specialty coffee roastery, 1 training lab and 6 coffeehouses, all located in Berlin. One of them is the iconic Café Kranzler. With its unique architecture and red-white striped canopy hovering above Berlin’s busy Kudamm boulevard, this coffeehouse is a true coffee landmark.

Behind the bar is Head Barista Jake Davis. When founder Ralf Rüller suggested using a steaming tool to serve their coffees faster on busy days, Jake was very sceptical. Would this compromise the quality approach that is deeply rooted in THE BARN´s philosophy? After long discussions it was clear that a steaming tool could be the perfect addition and would not take away the artisan job of the baristas but fulfil a necessary support function.

The rise of milk based espressos

Jake Davis, Head Barista at Café Kranzler: “Handbrewed coffees remain our main focus, but the last few years the demand for milk based espresso drinks and hot chocolates, rose exponentially. This puts quite a lot of pressure on the baristas, particularly during rush hour. Whilst holding their pitcher to steam the milk, their hands are literally tied to engage elsewhere. At rush hour, they can turn to Perfect Moose to steam in parallel to the baristas – so we can double up our speed in serving drinks. It doesn’t speed up the steaming process itself – otherwise it wouldn’t be the same quality as hand-steamed – but it does allow us to keep the workflow more fluent.

We take a lot of pride in what we do, so when we count on automation, microfoam quality needs to be at least as good. The Moose hasn’t failed us yet. __ Head Barista at THE BARN Jake Davis

The tale that automated tools would threaten baristas’ jobs or be considered a ‘weakness’ has proven to be a fallacy. The only, but most important condition though is that the final result in your cup equals handmade barista quality.

Managing handmade quality and seconds

The trend to embrace automation, provided it doesn’t impact product quality, is also confirmed by founder of The Barn, Ralf Rüller. “Our philosophy is handmade and crafted. As such, push-button machines are a clear No-Go. Our baristas are highly skilled and take great pride in their work. It is equally important to us to produce our drinks in front of our customers so they can be part of the creative process and connect to the coffees as much as we do.”

Constantly improving workflow

Ralf Rüller continues: “On the other hand, a coffee business cannot run solely on creativity and passion. We also need to look at economics and, most of all, the customer experience – which includes an expectation on speed. A good barista is constantly improving the workflow so that our customers won’t have to wait too long for their drinks. Every step in the process of producing for instance a Flat White is important – seconds count and add up. Especially at times of high traffic at our cafés. ”

Apart from a weekly boiler refresh for our Perfect Moose Jack, maintenance is near zero. Good for savings ánd happy baristas.

“Perfect Moose was an investment, but it has paid off and still does to this day.”

Always focus on the customer

One of The Barn’s strong points is its indisputable focus on the customer. “The third wave movement is spreading and catching up fast in our markets. Expectations are high. Competition is growing. If we want to stay ahead of the herd, we need to get everything right – from quality to experience to speed.

THE BARN was a pioneer for Specialty Coffee in Berlin and to date, is still a leader in terms of coffee quality. “We cannot lose our edge and in that sense we are constantly looking for improvements. We never advertise and are not into signage – so we fully rely on word-of-mouth recommendations. If we disappoint, we lose out.

When talking to customers, it is exactly this purity which keeps them coming back to THE BARN: “Life in the city is fast. We come to Café Kranzler to slow down while enjoying the view, great coffees and food. Waiting in an endless queue is not part of the slowing down process, that’s wasting time. We appreciate the quality and speed we’re being served with here. It gives us all the more time to relax before going back to our hectic every day lives. Why we always come back to The Barn? Flat whites and carrot cake!

Main takeaway in the end

Quality will always stand out. How to keep it viable in your business is the next step. When considering a coffeebar set-up, don’t get under each others feet and keep it practical. Just as you would consider the number of groups on your espressomachine, steaming your milk, be it dairy, plant- or mix-based, is an important step to be considered.

We’ll have that flat white and that piece of carrot cake now.
See you at The Barn.

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