Archives for posts with tag: skills

It seems that a lot of people think that an espresso machine used by barista, makes cappuccino or latte by just pressing a button. This is not the case.

Same goes with how the coffee is harvested then roasted. Green coffee doesn’t smell like coffee… The coffee “bean” is actually the seed of the coffee plant, the pit inside of the coffee fruit (cherries to be more precise).

Coffee ready for harvest

Coffee ready for harvest

Suddenly, more and more people are switching from tea to coffee. As if drinking an americano, filter or flat white would make you part of this “exclusive” coffee culture, blending with connoisseurs and geeks. Meanwhile, being “addicted” to a daily coffee only makes you a regular drinker.

There is sometimes a real paradox when a man/woman comes into a espresso bar and asks a lot of questions about the house coffee as well as the guest in the hopper and eventually about brewing methods…but ends up drinking an extra hot cappuccino. This could almost be seen as a waste of time  – as we all know coffee shops can be extremely busy – and customers in the queue can be very impatient…simply because they need that coffee hit.

Asking for a cappuccino and deciding to change the order for a latte (or vice versa) is never an issue as long as the barista hasn’t started to work with the milk. Yes indeed, the milk is what makes the difference between the various drinks. Pressing the button on the espresso machine will only dispense the espresso shot (which is the foundation of the beverage).

A few customers don’t actually seem to know what they are actually drinking. For them it is a coffee with milk. The milk texture will be different between cappuccino, latte, flat white. All ingredients are the same (ground coffee and milk)…it is just the final touch which will actually change the name of the drink.

There is also the question about “what happens with the used ground coffee in the knock box“? In general a local business collects daily what has been used in order to re-use it as fertilizer/compost. It can be done by an organic farm ( or just a person who has an allotment/garden. And as the saying goes “what comes around goes around“…this is the perfect cycle. It is in most cases available to take or collect otherwise it would be lost and binned. Recycling is the way forward for most things including coffee pucks.

Coffee puck - espresso

Coffee puck – espresso

Coffee puck - aeropress

Coffee puck – aeropress

Keeping such thing would be pointless. It has to be used rapidly or it would dry out.

Whether you go to an independent coffee shop in London, Bristol or in a more remote location such as North Devon where the recycling system is in place thanks to Coastal UK… it is working like clockwork. Rather important especially with the coastline not that far and the beautiful countryside to look after and preserve.

Running a coffee shop is more intricate that people think. Too often, potential customers becoming then regulars see the life of the business from their side of the counter. Generally it is a warm and cosy place to hang out and socialize. But the team behind the counter has to be consistent and working rapidly but efficiently is the key to keep everyone happy. But there is more to it.

Making sure the grinder and coffee machine are correctly set up, in order to respect a perfect extraction ratio or the brew could taste awful.

Cleaning the group heads daily is a must, to avoid any residue of ground coffee.

Group Head Espresso Machine

Group Head Espresso Machine

What happens behind the scene of a coffee shop is all about preparation, organization and planning ahead for tomorrow. Having enough of everything but never too much. Coffee beans, paper filters for Aeropress/V60 pour over and milk are the top three items to have in stock.

Being a barista is usually perceived as a “cool job“.

Barista at work

Barista at work

It is also demanding because it involves standing, serving, cleaning, brewing using various means according to what is ordered and of course there is a big part of customer service as well. It is not just about pressing a button; guiding and advising undecided individuals whether a flat white would be better than a cortado or a latte. It is can be fun, no doubt!

Nevertheless, it can also be a hard and long day. There is no way to hide or to have an easy day because each drink is unique and different. The situation is almost like a live show where there is no room for mistake…without altering the quality of the crafted hot drink(s) to have in or to take away.

A barista will make the drink you are after (as long as it is on the menu) – the espresso machine will just provide the espresso.

Wanting a coffee is understandable but it is also about being patient until it is your turn, as rushing the order won’t help. It is obvious that people are always short of time either because of a meeting or a train to catch, but this is not a reason to put the staff under pressure. It is about time management and respect.

Getting the drink right is pleasing; for the person making it and for the one enjoying it. It is worth waiting for quality.

Latte art on take away cup

Latte art on take away cup

No real surprise to say that British people love coffee, its culture and the entire scene which goes with it. Hipsters are part of the coffee world and it seems to be a good thing, bringing a real buzz to the industry.

DunneFrankowski were certainly the initial sparkle by giving that innovative feel and creativity to coffee consultancy and training. Some laughed about what they did… but look around you now. We can’t get enough of this coffee. There were cupping sessions and other fun thing such as the syphon latte video.

Office workers are escaping their work place during their lunch break for a well deserved dose (or two) of caffeine. It is as if working from behind a desk is becoming an unwanted job. But standing and serving coffee is the future… or it seems like it.

Not certain though that people know what it is like to brew coffee day-in day-out! It can be fun but tiring too, because it is essential to keep a consistent quality from the start to the end of the day. It is not just about pressing a button and turning a dial to perfectly steam and give this smooth texture to the milk. Everything matters when you are going to make a coffee from a filter to intricate flat white.

Forget the nine to five…it will be more of a 7am to a… 7pm – standing most of the time and getting your hands dirty with eventual blisters/burns too.

It is like working as a cook (or a chef – chef de partie…etc) there is nothing that glamorous about it. It can be physically draining and at the end of the service, you really deserve a rest, peace and quiet. Seen from the outside, everything food and drink related attracts. This is a normal reaction because when you are the guest/customer everything is brought to you and it is a great place to spend time and relax. When a head chef or a barista are off duty they don’t spend hours cooking or making coffee during their spare time… it is a job to which they are dedicated as they want to deliver top quality.

So, what makes a good coffee?

It is not about the cup shape/colour, the fashionable ceramic coasters, the look/ style of the barista, the interior design, the background music, the free magazines/newspapers, the comfy sofa or the unlimited wifi access!

It is more related to the passion, the skill and know-how of the person who is preparing the drinks as well as the quality of the ingredients (water, coffee, milk). This is the winning combination.

Too many people go to coffee shops because it is a “cool place” and being part of this community can feel comfortable and safe. However… these same individuals don’t exactly understand what it means to make a craft coffee. As soon as the barista starts to talk about brew ratio and extraction it is like talking a different language but it is the source of the recipe. It shouldn’t be that complicated to understand.

Craft coffee - pour over

Craft coffee – pour over

There is also this situation when a customer starts to deconstruct the actual beverage menu. When the order begins with “sorry to be a pain….” and ends with “…a flat white extra hot with one shot“!

No one would dare to change the way wine is served in a restaurant…or even the food presentation and portion.

Just imagine: “could this chilled white wine be served at room temperature and the 16 inch pizza reduced to 12“? But it seems acceptable in espresso bars. Meanwhile, changing the way a coffee is prepared is similar to breaking some basic rules. The original recipe is then amended to match a personal requirement. Is this not disrespectful?

The best way to appreciate a great cup of coffee is to visit (preferably) an independent business with great coffee beans and fresh milk. Also, each coffee can taste differently. Remember to ask about the house or guest espresso because one can be sweet and the other citrusy and bitter. And if you are advised to drink this cappuccino without sugar or chocolate sprinkle, don’t take it the wrong way…it is just to guide you in order to  get the best aroma. After all, you would certainly ask your waiter/waitress (when going for a god meal) which wine will suit perfectly your main course. The barista is doing his/her best to make sure that the crafted coffee will diffuse perfectly all the aroma on the taste buds.

Coffee time is almost like a celebration…and a ceremony. It is about mutual respect between buyer and seller making that particular moment a real experience.

coffee time

coffee time

A short video by Voortex Productions – the skills required to deliver craft coffee!