Being a barista isn't just 'making a coffee'. There is far more to it than that. It's an art, a craft and a skill only mastered by a few. The truth is, baristas never stop learning, and I'm here to share some of my best tips to see you through each day as a barista.
Coffee can be served in many different ways. Iced, blended, of course hot. Pour over, espresso, cold brew. Frothy, wet or with latte art. You get the point. Having knowledge on all of these methods is essential to become a top barista.
Tip 1: Keeping your cups warm!Keeping your coffee cups on top of the espresso machine helps, however in the UK we love to ask for our drinks extra hot. Sure, just steam your milk really hot right? No... steaming your milk too hot will burn the fats and sugars, which will disrupt the delicious smooth flavours you look for in a perfect brew. Instead, before you begin preparing your coffee, fill your cup with boiling water and proceed to craft the coffee as you usually would. Allowing the cup to sit in boiling water for a minute will significantly decrease the chances of your coffee cooling too quickly and having your drinks return for a remake!
Tip 2: Grinding!Your grinder is arguably the most important piece of equipment in your setup. Understanding how your grinder works is absolutely essential for any barista. To put it simply, if your dose is too small or your grind is too coarse, this will result in under extraction, leaving your coffee with a sour taste in your mouth. If your dose is too big or your grind is too fine, you will be over extracting, leaving your coffee with a bitter taste in your mouth. Each coffee, each grinder, each machine etc will all require a slightly different recipe from the next. Generally speaking you should be using 16 - 20g of coffee grind, and this should take 25 - 30 seconds to extract. Have a play around and have some fun with it, create your own recipe!
Tip 3: Learn to microfoam!Milk can be tricky, steam wands can be scary, the milk is easy to burn, and difficult to find the right texture (if you don't know what you're looking for). When you begin steaming, you're looking for 'the chirp' in other words, you're adding air into the milk to create a foam or 'microfoam'. Keeping the tip of your steam wand slightly off centre in your jug to create a vortex, plunge your steam wand under the surface to prevent any more air getting in. The vortex will help eliminate any unwanted bubbles and bring your milk texture together, rather than splitting. Use the 'tap and swirl' technique if you have bubbles after you finish steaming, your milk should look like went paint. Silky smooth and shiny.
Tip 4: Clean as you go!This is the easiest tip I can give, and to some people the most 'obvious'. However this tip in continuously ignored as it's simply not 'fun'. Ensure you have a surface cloth and a milk cloth. After every single cup of coffee you make, purge the steam wand and wipe with your milk cloth. Also just wipe the surface every time, this stops any build up throughout the day, and saves you a big cleaning job on close down. This should be habit. This way customers will walk in and see a gleaming café.
Tip 5: Latte art!
I know this is the tip you've all been waiting for! How do you create all these crazy patterns? How do you keep it so symmetrical? How do you make it look so clean and crisp? Well..... To achieve all this refer back to tip 3. For perfect latte art, you need perfect milk. A thin layer of microfoam for texture.
Latte art takes hours upon hours of practice, so don't kick yourself if you don't get it first time (or even the first 100 times). As a barista I practiced my latte art on every single coffee until I worked out a consistent pour.
For beginners I would recommend starting with a heart. They look great, and they are probably the easiest latte art to achieve. Make sure your milk is silky and not separated. Aim for the centre of the cup whilst you hold it on a 45 degree angle. Bring the lip of the jug as close to the espresso as possible, and pour. It will take a while to get used to the 'feel' but take it slow, you'll get there.
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