By Rebecca Wooden
The Climpson & Sons hardy barista team takes on all weathers to make coffee outside through the seasons at our bar in Old Spitalfields Market and our cart on Broadway Market. While working outside can be an absolute dream in the summer months, obviously there’s an extra challenge that comes into play when the weather hits a cold snap. With overnight temperatures predicted to drop to a truly shocking -12°C this week it’s time to layer up and keep our precious coffee making working in the cooler climate.
Here’s a few survival tips from our experience of 22 years making coffee outside. Battling the British winter, all for the love of espresso. This is for anyone that makes coffee in the wild through the winter months. Fellow market traders and aspiring coffee cart entrepreneurs, we’re looking at you.
1. Arrive early
When the temperature hits arctic degrees your espresso machine will take much longer than usual to heat through, especially if you keep it in an outside storage or garage overnight. This means you’re going to want to allow extra time to set up your equipment and still be open at your regular time. When you arrive at your location make sure the very first thing you do is power up your espresso machine. You can then use the extended-time it takes to heat up to prepare everything else you need for service. Keep an eye on your machine temperature and only start dialling in your espresso when it’s fully reached brewing temperature.
2. Heat your handles
This applies to any morning set up but is particularly important when working outside. Run hot water continuously through your group heads and handles for at least 2 minutes before dialling in. This means the resting temperature of your handles will better match the temperature of the machine and create a more consistent shot. These handles are best kept in the machine to keep their temperature stable. Avoid leaving handles on the scales or bench as they’ll cool down very, very quickly.
If you’re working using water in jerry cans you’ll need to make sure you have enough filtered water with you to fully flush through your machine. This might mean bringing significantly more water than you might use in the summer months.
3. Adjust your grinder when needed
Even after running hot water through your handles it’s likely that the temperature is still going to change throughout your service, depending on how busy or quiet you might be. This means you’ll want to be super vigilant with your grinder, knowing you might need to make regular, small adjustments through your service to keep the espresso on point.
4. Keep your technology warm
You’ll most likely be using a phone or tablet to take payments throughout the day. According to Apple, “using an iOS or iPadOS device in very cold conditions outside its operating range may temporarily shorten battery life and could cause your device to turn off. Battery life will return to normal when you bring your device back to higher ambient temperatures.”
This means you’ll probably need to keep any devices as warm as possible by avoiding placing them on metal surfaces or even tucking them up in a cloth or towel when not in use. You’ll also need to keep devices plugged in and charging through your service, knowing the battery could drop significantly quicker than usual.
5. Keep yourself warmMultiple layers of thermals are a barista's best friend. We’re big fans of the Uniqlo Heattech range for an effective base layer. We’re talking thermals beneath jeans, turtle necks, hoodies, lightweight puffer jackets, two pairs of socks (at least) and a sturdy pair of chunky soled boots.
Two hands wrapped around a milk jug also provides a satisfying hand warmer.
6. Prepare to be busyIn good news, a cold day is actually great news in the business of making coffee. Who wouldn’t want a hot cup of coffee on a seriously cold day? This means you might be even busier than usual and can sometimes see more non-coffee drinkers choosing to order teas or hot chocolates just to keep warm.
You’ll find us serving hot coffee, come rain or come shine, seven days a week from our bar in historic Old Spitalfields Market and every Saturday on Broadway Market.