By: Coffee CircleCC BY 2.0

A couple of days ago, I walked into an outlet of a well known chain of Irish sandwich shops and ordered my lunch. As I am wont to do after my lunch, I ordered a single espresso to go.
The lady behind the counter promptly setup the coffee machine and soon enough it started to whirr and grind. After a few seconds it started to pour.

I find coffee machines fascinating – I think it is part of the culture of coffee.  This was a beautiful red Gaggia – the best machines always seem to be Italian.

Anyway, as my coffee is pouring, I notice that the liquid is coming out of a twin spout attached to the brass filter – quite similar to the picture. Except, one spout is emptying into my take-away cup and the other spout is simply draining into the waste.  I called the lady’s attention to this and she says ‘Ah yeah, but you only paid for a single’.

Well, I was gobsmacked to say the least. So I asked again and the exchange was no less astounding. Not only was this waste acceptable, it was justifiable.

Me: “So for every single espresso you sell, you pour a single espresso’s worth down the drain? Is that correct?”

Barista: “Yes, but you get a great espresso”

Me: “Erm, how so? It is the same coffee, except the stuff you are wasting is coming out of the other spout”

Barista: “Yes but the double has too much water, we let the single really get the good coffee taste, it’s better”

I have never in all the years I have been drinking coffee seen this. But first off let’s clear something up.

There is no way the coffee that was in my cup was any different from the coffee being wasted.

So a couple of possibilities might be happening – or both at the same time:

  • Every purchaser of a single espresso is paying for a double espresso, but only getting a single (at €2.60 – that might be right!)
  • The coffee beans are dirt cheap and so the business can afford to throw it away – might be the case in conjunction with the earlier point. That said, its coffee must just be grossly overpriced.

I know that restaurants and bars make their most profit from cups of coffee. The costs are miniscule compared to the prices they get away with charging for them. Nonetheless the level of waste is still not justified in my books.

Ultimately the way I see it is that this espresso was cheap at half the price but actually will cost the business €10/day in my lost custom, as I shan’t ever go to this sandwich shop again.



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