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What makes a great coffee? Part 4

As we near the end of of our series of articles about what makes a great coffee here are the 3 key ingredients to the formula so far:

  1. Ambiance – a lovely one to enjoy and relax in
  2. Coffee beans – fresh, well-sourced and to meet the customer taste profile
  3. The grinder – the grinder machine settings

In this article we will discuss the person who is preparing the coffee for the customer, known as the barista. Barista means bartender in Italian and the name typically describes the person who makes hot beverages like espresso, or cold beverages, and works behind the coffee counter. In the most part a barista serves espresso-based coffee drinks such as a cappuccino.

In our view the barista is the most important person in the coffee shop aside from the customer they are preparing the coffee for. Ultimately the customer will decide whether the coffee meets or indeed exceeds their expectations in terms of appearance, aroma, taste and then feeling. If the coffee is not prepared following an exact and consistent process, the barista will be doing both the customer and therefore the coffee shop a disfavour.

It all starts when the barista switches the coffee machine on in the morning. Any good coffee shop will only be using the best possible espresso machine and will be cleaning the machine frequently, at least a deep clean once a week that involves cleaning out the internal system. Take a look at the wand, that is the little pipe that expels hot steam, is it clean? It is a crime to have a wand that has milk residue on it. The wand should always be wiped after each use with a cloth and have the milk inside expressed.

 

Tamper
Ground coffee being tampered into the grouphead.

The barista must make sure the correct dosage for the grouphead is prepared by getting the right dose volume from the grinder. Then the coffee dose must be tampered to ensure it is compressed just right. Then the grouphead must be cleaned around the seal to ensure a good contact in the machine. Today there are automatic and semi-automatic coffee machines but a good barista will work with both. Clean cups must be ready and prepared, checked and checked again by the barista.

Once the coffee shot is in the coffee cup the barista must work quickly to add if making a cappuccino, the milk. Before doing so the milk in this instance must be correctly frothed to ensure just the right consistency and sweetness of the milk. We won’t reveal any secrets here though getting that right is all important. As is the choice of the milk the barista chooses to use. Latte art is nice and gimmicky but not to the expense of spending more time and the coffee getting cold!

Presentation at this stage is key before the barista carefully passes it to the waitress or waiter for prompt service.

The coffee machine should be cleaned as well as the prep area in ready for the next coffee order.

And so the coffee making process goes on in the pursuit to making a great coffee.

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