Sub Header

"We celebrate Life! We love good food. Drink too much. We cook with fire. We travel and live like there is no tomorrow."

Search This Site

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Not One More Lousy Coffee, Please!

The End

When is a customer justified in refusing to pay for lousy coffee? It depends on how you define "bad" coffee, doesn't it? It also depends if you accept and drink it. 

We agree that the bill for a consumed coffee must be settled. However, we are firm in our opinion that a lousy coffee can, and should be sent back until it is right. Accepting a lousy coffee hurts an industry.

See more Two Cowboys Coffee Content: Here.


Coffee shops charge you before they serve you. Herein lies your opportunity. It gives you the chance to demand an acceptable beverage, or you get your money back. A shot of espresso can set you back as little as $1.50 and as much as $4.50. The same goes for a milk espresso drink like a cappuccino, flat-white, macchiato or latte. It too can come in as high as $3.50, and up to $6.50 at some "distinguished" establishments. If you bend over for a Starbucks, prepare to hurt even more.

We once showed a coffee shop owner that we've spent upwards of $780/month with him and that it didn't even include the beans for the coffee we make at home. The Cowboys spend more on coffee in a month than we spend on beer. That is very concerning (and a topic for another time)!

The point is that drinking coffee is expensive. Why then do we tolerate it when we are served an inferior beverage? We won't accept half a sandwich, a stale doughnut, or being served an overly salty muffin. We won't go back to a restaurant for a rubbery overdone steak and cold fries. Yet, establishments serve inferior espresso-based coffee drinks as a central feature or sideshow, and they get away with it. Even worse, some are offended when you call them out on it. 

People somehow accept the role of the espresso dice and console themselves with their fate when they are handed dark muck in a cup. "Maybe the Barista is having a bad day. Tomorrow it may be better. We'll try again later. It is the best you can get around here..." 

No more!

A (Dis)Service

It is time to call it, and we intend to do just that.

Yes, we know that we are at risk of becoming very unpopular with some of the business owners on our travels. However, as we've mentioned before, we pay for our coffee. If we are paying for it, like every other customer, we have the right to have an opinion. Even more so, because of what we do as the Two Cowboys, we have the intention to share our view with anyone that cares to read, watch and listen. 

This is a generous service to coffee lovers and the coffee serving establishment. We are gladly stepping up to provide transparency and clarity. As fellow baristas, prior coffee shop owners, dedicated coffee drinkers, and world-travellers, we intend to help coffee servers realize where they have room for improvement, and we hope to make the world a better place because of it.


Good Coffee

The World Speciality Coffee Association (SCA) sets the standards for coffee. Standards can be great tools for the coffee industry as they are trusted reference instruments established by knowledgeable subject-matter experts. It is a quantifiable and qualifiable measure, based upon scientific testing, which set values and/or ranges of values for coffee.

The standards are the foundation of what is used in international barista competitions hosted by World Coffee Events at their very popular World Barista Championships. These competitions focus on promoting excellence in coffee, advancing the barista profession, and engaging worldwide audiences with a love for better coffee. Judges from around the world evaluate each performance on the taste of beverages served, cleanliness, creativity, technical skill, and overall presentation.

Now, let's be realistic. Buying a beverage at your local coffee shop should not be a world championship judging event! That is why we've lowered our standards to support our love of specialty coffees and helping fellow entrepreneurs that bravely venture to serve it to loyal patrons every day.

As far as we are concerned, there are mainly three important criteria that should be met for a Two Cowboys coffee to be an acceptable coffee (and not to be handed back for a redo). It should be well prepared, taste good, and be served in a customer friendly manner.

  1. Well Prepared: There is a whole raft of technical aspects that guide a well-prepared beverage. Bean quality and freshness, grinder setting, tamping, flushing, dosing, extraction time, and other elements all work together to produce a good coffee. Chief in these for us is the cleanliness of the preparation. Secondly, is the consistency of the beverages that are turned out. Can we trust not to get sick from a septic steam wand and expect the same consistently good coffee no matter who the barista is on any given day?
  2. Taste Good: First of all, the coffee should be made correctly. The barista should know the difference between a simple cappuccino, a flat-white, latte and a macchiato. If they are cross-eyed when we use words such as espresso, doppio or ristretto then they should not be on the machine. The coffee shot should have a nice dark rich crema and be well balanced between sweet, acidic and bitter. The milk should be rich and silky and the volume appropriately adjusted for the type of drink. Both should come together in balance and harmony. For heaven's sake, it should be served at the right temperature!
  3. Customer Service: Here is where many coffee serving establishments go to die. The barista's treatment of his or her patrons is as integral to the specialty coffee experience as is the beverage. If every establishment makes a reasonably good coffee, then the barista's energy and positivity differentiate mediocrity from excellence. Baristas, like barmen and barbers, have a very personal job. We've walked away from good coffee in the past because of a jackass barista, and we took our $780/month with us.
We give all three of the above criteria an equal weighting. Call it the Two Cowboys - Three Stars Coffee Rating. Unfortunately, one miss can sink a coffee ship.


We realize that the specialty coffee business is a hard endeavour.

From an outsider's perspective, the margins may look promising. However, with roughly $1 of profit in a cup of coffee a shop needs to push out at least 15 an hour just to cover minimum wage in most western countries. Coffee is expensive and a good espresso machine, more so.  Baristas don't earn much either. Even if they make a good coffee, most baristas earn minimum wage, or slightly more.

Our goal is not to give these businesses and dedicated folks a hard time. Instead, by shining a light on them, we hope to celebrate their successes and drive more patrons their way. We've already lost our butchers, bakers, dairies and our fresh produce grocers from our small towns. They've been replaced by large grocery chains. Our coffee is fast going the same route with a Starbucks and a Tim Hortons opening on every available downtown corner. Every second establishment now purports to be serving specialty coffee. Most of them serve lousy coffee. That is why it is even more critical to outdo the coffee making robots.

Let's not be distracted by accepting lousy coffee. It hurts the few remaining dedicated espresso hole-in-the-walls that are doing a decent job. Support those instead, like we do!

Coffee Cowboy!

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too.



Fiagro's Whittaker's Mocha

Koffie en Beskuit

Morning Routine


Heart Attack

Cowboy Love!

No comments: