Monday, 1 April 2013

Barista 101

When seeing people make coffee at cafes like Starbucks, you think its just an easy job of making a hot drink. But is it really? Lets go through the equipment and it's usage.


A machine used to grind coffee beans into powder. The top of the machine is called a hopper which stores the coffee beans. The grind regulator under the hopper is not recommended to play with as a small ajustment to it will make the coffee powder too fine/course causing bad coffee. Once the coffee beans are grinded, the powder goes into the dispenser (doser/dosing chamber) which goes into a group handle during service. It is highly recommended to put the right amount of beans and grind the right amount required per order as grinded powder has a life of 15 minutes of quality. The beans and powder left in the grinder are exposed to oxygen and end up losing it's flavours. The beans MUST BE sealed tight and stored in a cool dry place or fridge. To check the beans' quality, check the expiry date, oily feel, fresh flavoury smell and appearance. At the end of service, the beans and grinds left in the grinder must be thrown away as it is already oxidised. The whole machine must be cleaned as the beans and powder leave behind oil and if not cleaned; becomes rancid and ruins future coffee being made causing the coffee's crema to look pale.

Espresso machine

A water boiler that presses boiling water through the coffee grinds from the group head to the group handle. There are keypads that enable features like single/double shots, two cup single/double shots, infinite mode or a water tap. The steam wand is attached on either ends of the machine which steams and froths the milk using the stainless steel milk jug. At the end of service, the blind filter can be used to trap the boiling water inside to clean any coffee residue and oils. A small amount of detergent can be used for improved cleaning but must be rinsed and new coffee shots must be tested to check any detergent taste present. The espresso machine must be left on so it is ready to use at a moment's notice and cups are placed on top of the machine to keep warm and prevent new coffee from being cold.



First turn on the grinder machine and place the group handle under the dosing chamber. Pull the dosing chamber's lever to allow the powder fall onto the group handle's portafilter and let it overflow a little bit. Place the group handle on top of the doing chamber and use the dosing chamber's lid to level the powder while all excess powder falls back into the chamber. Do this twice to ensure you have enough powder. Use a tamper to compress the powder and do this with your body weight with your hand under the elbow. Tamp evenly or under/over extraction will occur. By doing this, arm strength is not needed otherwise the arm will get tired and later won't be able to produce good coffees. Also remove any loose grinds off the group head's rim.

Extracting coffee 

Place the group handle under the group head. Most coffees run on single shot (30ml) while Long black runs on double shot. Place the approptiate cup underneath for the coffee you want to make. If the customer wants sugar, put the right amount of sugar into the cup first and as the coffee flows in, the sugar will dissolve. At the start of extraction, the first 7 seconds has no liquid coming out as the boiling water is trying to force it's way through (so don't panic!). After that, a caramel/black liquid will start flowing steadily. This overall process takes 25-30 seconds with making a single shot coffee and at the end, a crema (golden brown liquid) is produced. The thicker the crema; the better. The short and long blacks only require espresso and not milk. The short black requires a small demitasse cup / small shot glass of 30ml espresso while the long black uses a tulip coffee cup with half boiling water and 60ml of espresso. These two are the base drinks of coffee. After making the coffee, take the group handle out and dump the used powder into the dump tube. After, use the machine to clean portafilter fully before placing it back into the group head. If not cleaned, the oil and residue will become rancid and will ruin future coffee being made.

Easier said than done, errors can occur when making coffee. Under/over extraction can occur, so what are they? Under extraction can occur if the powder is too coarse which causes the boiling water to pass through quickly and not able to extract all the oil and flavours. This is seen when light liquid starts flowing out quickly below seven seconds. Over extraction occurs when the powder is too fine and water passes through too slowly causing liquid to drip slowly. Because the boiling water is left inside the portafilter for too long, burnt dark coffee is produced with a very bad taste.

Aerating milk

The milk used in coffee must be cold, fresh and not expired. The steam wand is used to heat up, areate and stretch the milk to double or triple it's volume. Remember to purge / turn on the steam wand to make sure there are no water or foreign substances go into the milk. For one cup of coffee, fill the clean stainless steel milkjug with 1/3 full of milk. Place the wand inside the milk at an angle, not straight down. By placing at an angle, the steam will hit the milk jug's curvy corner and reflect everywhere around the jug making a whirlpool or able to heat the entire milk. If the steam wand is too deep, a screeching sound occurs causing milk to be only heated and not aerated making it less foamy. In this case, lower the jug to make the steam wand come up closer to the surface. A sucking sound must be heard and as the milk rises, a steady bubble sound must be heard. If the steam wand is too close to the surface, it will cause the milk to make big bubbles, splatter and cause a mess. Turn off the steam wand when the stretched milk reaches the top of the jug. Every time after using the steam wand, always wipe it with a damp cloth to prevent any milk residue from sticking as the hot steam wand starts cooking the milk's calcium. After aerating the milk, use a spoon to scoop out the big and excess bubbles. With small bubbles remaining, bang the jug on the table or swirl the jug in a small circle to get rid of the small bubbles and have shiny glossy foam. To check if the milk is hot enough, use a temperature probe or if the jug is too hot to touch, then it is ready. The standard temperature is 65-70°C. If below, it is just a warm/temid drink but if above, will not only be too hot but also destroy some coffee flavours.

Pouring the milk depends on the coffee. Cappuccino and cafe mocha requires 1/3 milk and 1/3 foam so pour from the side of the milk jug. Pour quickly so both the milk and foam will come at the same time. The flat white and latte requires mostly milk and a little layer of foam so pour through the jug's sprout. In this way, the milk will mostly go through as it is heavier while the light foam will come in last.

Remember to pour quick otherwise more milk will be poured with less foam. Another way to pour milk for a cappuccino is to place the jug's spout close to the coffee by placing the cup on an angle (like pouring a beer). Pour the milk through the spout and eventually put the cup upright when pouring is done. Pull the jug higher for more milk as it falls faster in gravity than foam.

Other information

The cups for each coffee varies as every cafe/establishment is different. Normally, the flat white, cappuccino and cafe mocha are in a standard 150ml cup while the latte is on a latte/rocks glass. If a customer wants a large coffee, use a large coffee glass with double shot espresso.

Whan making the cafe mocha, first put chocolate powder and a little bit of boiling water on the cup to form a paste and after putting in a shot of coffee, stir it to prevent the chocolate from sticking from the bottom and to ensure the coffee and chocolate paste is fully mixed before putting in the milk. There is another method which is putting chocolate powder in the cup and mix with the espresso. Another method is to do a shot of espresso and top with chocolate milk.

A good iced coffee requires good flavour especially during a hot summer vacation. Fill a Hurricane glass with ice and trim milk and double shot espresso. Use a straw to stir and add whip cream on top. The reason is because trim milk allows the espresso expose more flavour and the double shot espresso is to guarantee a good coffee flavour otherwise you're left with a big glass of iced milk. Put chocolate powder and/or a couple of coffee beans on the whip cream as garnish.

Iced chocolate on a Hurracane glass has different methods. Put chocolate sauce around the glass and put ice in. Pour in milk while mixing water and chocolate power to make a paste. Pour the chocolate paste into the glass and use a straw to stir. Another method can be mixing a chocolate powder and milk in a milk jug and mixing it by heating with a steam wand. Be careful not to make it too hot and pour the warm chocolate milk into the glass. Another method can be putting chocolate powder and water first to make a paste. Then add milk and stir. No matter the method, Always finish with whip cream on top and chocolate powder and/or marshmellows on the cream as garnish.

For hot chocolate, you can mix chocolate powder and water to make a paste and pour aerated milk. This is done when people want to make patterns by pouring milk. Be careful not to put too much water or there will be a watery taste. Another method is to put chocolate powder in a jug full of milk, aerate it and pour into the cup.