The Dirty Secrets of a Paris Cafe Waiter

by night, our friend, “C” is a musician and composer. by day he works as a waiter in a cafe right in the center of paris serving coffee, drinks and light snacks. he revealed some interesting information related to the coffee being served in the cafe. he says he believes this is a standard “practice” in most cafes in france.

when you order a cup of coffee in france, it’s actually an american’s idea of an “espresso,” differentiating itself only by the process by which it’s made and it’s full-bodied, rich flavor. it is also denser and smaller in volume. the way it is brewed involves steam being forced through finely ground coffee beans at a very high pressure (versus brewing by drip method), and this steam pressure method always produces a foam on top of the coffee.

one dose of ground coffee should create one cup of coffee, but according to C, the general rule of the cafe is to try to sneak in more rounds of coffee using fewer doses. in other words, he’ll often make 2 cups of coffee using only one dose of ground coffee that is generally meant to make one cup. doh! he says it’s obvious to spot: the “watered down” version will never have foam on the top of the cup. if you know your coffee, you’ll be able to taste the difference too.

oftentimes, he says he’ll get an odd number of coffee orders but make it into an even number and have an extra cup sitting at the machine. then the next coffee order will get the lone (2nd pressed) order and he’ll heat it up using the milk steamer. even then, it doesn’t create a foam; it just warms it up.

his advice: order your coffee at the bar, near the coffee machines. not only is a coffee cheaper at the bar than at a table, a waiter will never serve the second pass version to someone who is watching him. [thanks, C!]

November 9th, 2005 by