2014-04-19

Chill? Bleh

Athens lives to chill. Sparta lives for skill. A reaction to the former is the rationalism of Greek philosophers. A reaction to the latter is you get so bored with the less-skilled, you die out.

Bubble Analysis (LOL)

(I can't believe I just spent an hour writing about bubbles in coffee while doing my laundry. Regarding a forum post.)

Well, first you need to nail down what it is we're looking at. Big bubbles? Ok - at least we can agree on that. So what is a bubble, and what are bubbles doing in your milk? (And is that a 4.5oz Acme porcelain cup?)

A bubble (for the purpose of this discussion) is just a bag of gas. The gas is inside the bag, the bag itself is made of liquid. If the liquid is all of the same type - i.e. it's evenly distributed - then the particles (molecules) of liquid are all pulling on each other with equal force and the membrane of liquid is stable. But if the liquid becomes uneven because of temperature, mechanical, or chemical changes, then some parts of the bag are pulling at other parts of the bag in an uneven fashion, and the bag will break - i.e. the bubble will burst. Sometimes when you have lots of little bubbles, some of them will break just enough so that their contents will combine - two bubbles become one.

Your latte (they're all lattes - I don't care if you prefer to call them capps or flat whites or magics)... has at least two types of bubbles in it. There are bubbles from the espresso (a), and there are bubbles from the steamed milk (b).

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(a)
The bubbles from the espresso are there because roasted coffee has gasses trapped in it, mostly carbon dioxide from bits of the bean being burnt during roasting. These gasses are extracted from the bean by the espresso machine, and they end up in espresso. Between roasting and brewing, gases in the bean will slowly escape... so if the bean has been freshly roasted, it still has lots of gas in it, compared to the same bean a few weeks later.

(b)
The bubbles from the milk are there because some people like the texture of bubbly milk. Many people prefer the texture of milk that is steamed in such a way that the bubbles are so small that you cannot see individual bubbles - "micro-foam" is the slang for it. A lot of lattes are served like this. (Skipping the bit about how to get the bubbles into the milk. :))

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Back to your picture - it looks like there are regions of micro-foam, and then there are larger bubbles here and there. The larger bubbles seem to be evenly distributed in size... so it looks like they were all created in the same way at the same time. It also looks like the larger bubbles are mostly in the brown parts of your drink, not in the white parts. Well now we're getting somewhere... because the milk foam by itself seems to be holding up just fine. It's the espresso that's giving you big bubbles.

(c)
What makes the bubbles in some espresso more unstable, than the bubbles in espresso? It goes back to how fast the espresso is changing. Espresso "crema", or the bubbly bit, is largely composed of oils that float on top of water - order an espresso, and play with it for a few seconds, and you will be able to see this upfront. But what's in the water under the crema? All sorts of sugars, acids, salts, and more. Maybe you'll remember this from school... or maybe just from personal experience... but acids and oils just can't leave each other alone... they tend to react with each other, and turn into all sorts of other things. That sounds like a fight waiting to happen - in fact, highly acidic coffees will have less stable crema for this very reason. The degree of acidity in a coffee depends both on the green bean, and how the green bean was roasted.

So in conclusion...

(a) the freshness of roasted beans tends to give you more or less crema, but you can have a lot of very stable crema;

(b) the milk micro-foam is stable in your picture; if there were random sized bubbles in the milk, we might suspect an uneven frothing to be the cause; if there were evenly distributed large-bubbles of even-size in your milk, then we might suspect the chemical composition of your milk (try steaming a processed soy-milk - it often behaves like detergent); but these don't seem to be the cases today;

(3) it's probably the case that your coffee had a high "ratio of acids to oils" present it in after the roast stage; but that doesn't have to be a bad thing, unless you're addicted to stable crema.

At the end of the day, you should tell us - how did the coffee taste? :)

2014-04-17

Ease of Doing Business

On the ease of doing business.

1. Running a business should be like driving a car. You should have just enough freedom to do what you want, but the moment something doesn't work, there should be a commoditised technical service provider to handle it... compliance, branding, talent management, financial discipline, technology, etc.

2. Being an artist in food and beverage should be as easy as being a musician. The film and music industries have created infrastructure to standardise terms of engagement for agencies and self-managed artists. It is equally achievable in other subsets of entertainment.

#intpInTrafficJam

Friend requested clarification on 2. so I mused for longer.

Leaky abstraction.

Let's take the music industry to begin with. If you want to be a mainstream (i.e. professionally marketed) musician, there's a well defined career path that throws the world's top 1000+ artists into the multi-millionaire (USD) club. There's a specific set of gatekeepers, and you just need to impress them.

The next 99,000+ artists in music, roughly spend their time divided between mainstream and indie channels.

The next 900,000+ people who work as musicians kinda have a job-job. They're usually playing supporting roles, as musicians, for the folks about. But all the same, the formats of delivery, and the terms of engagement for folks are pretty clear. Wherever you go on earth, if you can hit a note, you can be a gigger. There are a specific set of formats for delivery, and a decently well understood "circuit" which will let you eke out a living as a professional performer.

The 9,000,000+ people after that who kinda sorta are musicians but don't make a professional living out if - probably doing gigs as a hobby, or playing non-performance (e.g. guitar tech, make-up, etc.) roles in the industry.

I'm probably off by a factor of 10 above.

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This economic distribution of talent is roughly paralleled in the film industry. You'll have to tweak the distribution by a factor, of ten or a hundred perhaps.

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On the other hand.

The potential marketing value in $/hour of the world's "top" 1000+ artists in the F&B industry is rather much less than their counterparts in either industry above. This is simply because you cannot use the Gutenberg distribution model for food and beverage yet... whereas in the last century or so... sufficient electrical and commercial machinery to deploy the Gutenberg distribution model to music and film has already been created.

The difference in the marketing machinery between these subsets of the entertainment industry, is responsible for the difference in levels of commercial sophistication between these subsets. F&B is simply a less centralised market, because the benefits of centralisation (clearinghouses, brokerages, contracts, etc.) are very limited, in comparison to how the film and music industries have it.

That's all I was observing.

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What I was saying, is that someone should work on an artist management framework to bring the F&B industry up to speed with the film and music industries. The value which I'm intuiting to be untapped, is the fact that owners of performance houses (read: F&B retailers, restaurants, pubs, etc.) would benefit from increased liquidity (read: lower cost of hiring) in the market of F&B artisans. Sure, it'd be harder to retain the few top artisans it took a decade to collect, but it'd be easier to obtain the presence of a hundred of their peers. There's surely an opportunity for innovation nearby. :)

Then again, I'm probably wrong on who really benefits from this. ;) Maybe it's just the artisans.




Well, it's coming eventually I suppose - food replicators are just a few generations of 3D printers away. But "hi-fidelity" food printers... well, that could take 70 years. But here's the rub - a startup should set out to do it in 10.

2014-04-13

A Cafe Fund

Frankly speaking (then again when am I not):

1. I'd never want to retire while running anything more complicated than a kopitiam. (Since I'd want to focus most of my energy on software development and mathematics.)

2. While I'm not retired, I probably won't bother owning individual cafes... it's just too easy. I'd prefer to be involved in the development, improvement, and trading of cafes: perhaps best understood as an active private equity fund / accelerator / incubator for cafe businesses.

The HR + exit strategy is to eventually transfer equity to (competent) staff, who otherwise wouldn't get to own their own business for decades, due to lack of educational and financial opportunities. The industry is simple enough that one can become bored with entrepreneurship... and go meta towards the development of entrepreneurs.

First Fortnight Post-coffeeshop

Switched jobs out of being a barita, to help manage a tech company.

March was mostly 20+ hours/week at the tech company, and 50+ hours/week at the coffeeshop, with an insane amount of commuting in between. I managed to camp in the living room of an aunt for a bit, so that helped.

Now two weeks into the new job, I've managed to find time to adjust eating patterns back to desk life... without exercise in the evenings, the first half of the next day is run on two tinned lattes, then 1-2 large meals before bed; with exercise at night, the morning meal is required. I've managed to find time to get my car fixed, watch a couple of movies, and start running and lifting weights again. Whee. I'll get around to housekeeping and fixing my roof, eventually, plus tidying up the transaction of my flat.

Tax Studies

Learning a bit about withholding tax imposed on Malaysian companies, for payments to non-resident persons (individual or corporate). Technical and management services are changed a withholding tax, among other things, but other services not so. Also Malaysian tax residents' individual incomes remitted into Malaysia are not taxed.

Android Security Peeve

Once a device is connected to a Google account, access to all that account's Google services requires no further password input - just like a browser log-in. But unlike a browser log-in, I can't just close my private browsing session to kill the Google session when I put my device on standby.

I'd prefer to have an option for per-service ACL.

"... figured out how to unify multiple Google mail and calender accounts on the standard Android apps.

Risk factor just got squared. Upped device masterkey security to max, and turns out there's a 16 character limit on the password.

Wtfbbq. #iCanHazPerServiceACLplz..."

(Not long after, the latest version of iOS includes these very flaws. I give up.)

Roasting Machines and Capacity

Here's a leaky abstraction.

What's full operating capacity for a coffee roasting machine, your might ask? An easy number to remember is 500. 500kgs or half a metric ton of output per month, per kg of the roasting machine's capacity. Did you just buy a X-kg capacity roaster? Make sure you're roasting 0.5X-tons of green coffee per month. The math is fairly simple. Go figure.

(On the same estimation model, if you ran the machine non-stop the factor should be just over 2200, so ~25% (500) is a pretty low assumption - but heck.)

A bright and balanced day. Silky body, great aftertaste... now to mop up digital errands. I'm talking about my schedule, not the coffee.