If you want to be a master, you must master the foundations. Every great building is built on strong foundations and every subject in life is the same. If you don’t have a proper orientation to the material it will be difficult to progress in the real business of coffee.
We will start our learning journey with the beverage. A (black) cup of coffee is made from 2 ingredients, coffee and water. The barista is in charge of combining them into coffee flavoured water. But coffee is an acquired taste. The most amazing coffee you’ve ever had would probably not taste nice to a baby. We have to build up our appreciation for the beverage by “training” our palate. Then after a few (or many!) coffees we can start to differentiate between the good and the bad, ultimately realising that coffee can taste very different, and some are much better than others. So, the question is;
“How do we make ‘good’ coffee?”
Good and bad are of course totally subjective. For a vegan meat is bad but for a carnivore its good! So in order to really answer the question we need to know who’s asking. Good coffee is a personal preference, so the first step in making a good coffee is context of the subject (person) that’s drinking it. Some people like Lattes, others enjoy Espresso, some people like filter coffee and yet other people like Kopi and there’s nothing wrong with liking any kind of coffee. Coffee can and is enjoyed in many different forms.
Once we know the context and we’ve determined the customer preference the Barista must know how to make it the way they like. In order to do this the barista will need an understand what causes coffee to be different, and how that effects the sensory experience (taste of the coffee).
Coffee can taste totally different. In fact, there’s no such thing as two identical coffees! But with good skills we can brew two coffees that taste the same. There is a science and an art to coffee. We need science to be able to change or repeat each brew with absolute precision. But good coffee is subjective so there is an art to expressing the flavours of coffee uniquely for anyone and everyone.
There are two concrete principals that we will build all of our coffee knowledge on so it’s important you comprehend them thoroughly;
- Good coffee is subjective
- There is no such thing as two identical coffees
But theoretical understanding is useless if it’s not put into practice. So, in order to truly succeed as a Barista you must practice and master the following;
- Theory (cause)
- we need to know WHY coffee texture, taste, and aroma is different
- Brewing skill
- we need to be able to cause the coffee to taste differently and also cause it to taste the same
- A well-developed palate (effect)
- in order to truly understand the effects of coffee brewing we need to taste the coffee and be able to define characteristics in the cup
- Communication skill
- different people use different words to describe the same thing, so the ability to translate is crucially important to be an effective barista
That’s all for today folks, time for a cuppa’ coffee! Our favourite is Coventry blend, what’s yours?