WE introduced coffee right at the beginning of the adventure of opening the hotel, writes Airlie Arms co-owner Dilys Robertson.
We felt that with new drink [driving]laws and the culture around drinking we needed a day trade that was not reliant on alcohol.
So we ventured into almost being a coffee shop during the day, which does pub lunches and cakes, and if someone wanted a drink also the bar was open.
This concept was hard to get across at first but we needed something to pull coffee drinkers in and let them see us as a coffee destination.
To do this we wanted to serve the best coffee we could and hopefully after one taste of our coffee they wouldn’t be able to resist coming back.
We felt customers wanted consistency in coffee so that was our goal.
I called in my coffee friend and expert Marco Caira, also known in the coffee world as ‘Barista Buddy’. We’ve been friends for years so I asked his advice on what type of coffee machine to get and where to get the coffee; after a four-hour session of learning about coffee and how to make it correctly I realised there was a little more to it and so I went to work and found the essentials to maintain a good coffee behind the bar.
First we bought ‘Bridget’ – our two group, semi-automatic Gaggia coffee machine – along with a Mazzer grind on demand machine for our coffee beans. Bridget, along with the shot glasses to measure the coffee, gave us the exact same extraction of caffeine/coffee from every cup of coffee made.
The Mazzer was also very important as it gives the grind dose, which has to be accurate and precise to maintain the same strength and texture of coffee every time.
Setting up the machine and the grinder took a day, but it was worth it. Many things affect the grind of the coffee, such as heat, humidity and of course which coffee beans you use.
We started with an exclusive blend called Caffe Vergnano 1882. This was fantastic and was only made available with Barista Buddy’s help.
He took the five-bean blend from Caffe Vergnano and added his own twist, got them to roast it and he now sells his brand, which he and I believe to be the best coffee in the world! It’s called Mezz ‘O’ Cuane Roast.
Making the perfect coffee is very important to us; we have to train and retrain every team member.
It’s not just getting the coffee right, it’s down to the storage of the coffee beans, the grind, and quantity of the ground, the tapering evenly, the machine, maintenance of the machine, the procedure of the coffee making, the way it’s measured, and even poured into the cup. There are also strict cleaning and maintenance schedules on the machine to ensure we can create one of the best cups of coffee in the world, no matter how you like your coffee.