It has been a long while since I have posted something here, there are many reasons for that, but the main is, that after all those years I have worked with coffee, I feel like I am starting from the bottom again. The only difference between now and when I was sixteen, is that now, I know where we make mistakes. I would like to talk about them…
Moving to Goteborg wasn’t easy, coffee wise. I mean, coffee here is amazing, water from the tap tastes incredibly good, and You don’t have to look for all your favorite ,,Scandinavian roasts”, because they are everywhere! It took me a while to adjust to the style of “baristering”. I can bet big money, that most of you, after 10 minutes next to DaMatteos’ espresso bar, will start asking million questions, and possibly, find million “issues”, and so did I. Problem is, all those issues, weren’t actually mistakes, they were my personal misunderstandings, and my leaning forward comfort and technology.
Many of you will find it strangely dumb what I am about to say, but from thousands of baristas I know, I think, maybe about 20 % could pass my new challenge. Ok, let’s get to the point…
Think of the equipment that you use for brewing espresso. For those coffee shops, close to my heart, it usually will be: espresso machine, coffee grinder, two scales (one for dosing, another one for measuring yield), refractometer, and “VST Coffee Tools” app. Some say, that is technology, and so did I, but let’s break espresso brewing down, into parts.
- Dosing coffee precisely, using scale.
- Inserting porta filter into group head and starting espresso shot to flow into the cup which is placed on another scale.
- 20 seconds on Facebook notifications.
- Stopping the shot at the exact time with the exact yield we want.
- Taking a sample and measuring TDS.
- Maybe taking a sip, maybe not.
- Putting all data into application, that calculates extraction level for us.
- Making judgement based on everything we did so far.
- Taking a picture of our achievement and posting on Instagram.
“Specialty coffee is about craft. It takes real passion and skill to create beverage that tastes so good and gives you such an amazing experience”. I’m sorry, it is not craft anymore…
We don’t know how to taste anymore, we don’t know how to smell things. We attend cupping and lie to each other about our tasting sensations, we sell product we don’t even understand. You might say, with all the scientific approach, technology and super equipment, now is the time when we understand coffee completely. I’m sorry but not, and it is sad.
The purpose of this article is not to complain about anything, I want you all, to experience what I have experienced during last two months.
I would like to adjust the “how to be a good barista” articles. What we can find now on many blogs, websites, videos, would be similar, barista smiles, barista is quick and efficient, and barista is consistent. Barista listens to cool music, eats healthy, and in most cases has tattoo/beard. All those things are important, but…
Barista has to have those features:
Let’s break it down again.
Barista has to respect, and I am really sorry to say that, usually baristas feel like they are the stars, top of the chain, well, we are, or are we? We are the people who make the product out of the whole process. Do we respect that? I mean, you don’t have to pray your roasters name and put the picture of the farm on the wall. I am talking about different respect. Do we spend enough time with every coffee we get? Don’t we judge coffees to fast? Are you 100 % sure that, all coffees you have at your café now, are treated with respect? Did you take absolutely all possible actions to make this coffee tastes as well as possible? Because pickers did, and producers too, and you know those cool farmers that appear on bags of coffee, they must deliver absolute top quality, because if not, no one will buy their coffee and their life is depended on it. You know roasters right? Good, because they must deliver absolute top quality, and you know what, they do. But then, we have us, judges. We feel like we don’t need to do much, because we know how to make coffee, so if something is going wrong, it is processing, roasting or any other part of the whole chain. No, barista must to spend time on coffee, use different recipes, and find out what’s best for each coffee. When we do, roasters will be more open to talk to us and listen to our feedback.
There was a story from last year, I had the same coffee from two different roasters. One of them was exquisite, so good, I couldn’t believe, when I passed the cup to one of the coffee industry biggest names, he stood up and couldn’t believe either. I ran out of this coffee quickly, obviously, I became an expert in this particular coffee, I knew exactly what I need to do to get everything that’s inside this bean, out to the cup. Then, another great roster sends the same coffee. Tastes so much worse, I was really unhappy, my big name friend told me to call them and tell them, and you know what? I didn’t, you know why? Because I knew there was more to do. I finally found the way how to make this coffee taste good, and believe me, no technology gives such a satisfaction. Because you know, I brewed coffee, up to 1.35 TDS on 60 grams a liter, and should taste good right? Well, maybe not, so I tried different extractions, still not much of a change. You know what helped? I dosed coffee, and then put my scale away, gave my refractometer back to training center and turned off the timer. I used my instincts, feeling of achieving great cup of coffee this way is more important to me than any technology will ever be.
I have a challenge for you, use your scales only to check if grinders give you proper dose, use it every time you notice grinder goes a bit funny. Don’t measure the yield, of course do, when you dial in, but then, put the scale away. Watch espresso, taste it, prove to yourself that you really are the craft man of coffee.
I have few question to you all, so if you could answer in comments or wherever, I would love to see your answers. It is not to make any surveys or science work, I want you to contemplate for a while.
- How would you make an espresso 3 years ago?
- How would you make an espresso now?
- What would you do when your scale breaks down in the middle of extraction?
- From 1 to 10, how much influence technology has got on your work?
- What is the first thing that barista should know?
- How does the good coffee taste like?
Thank you in advance for the answers.
There are some interviews on the way, so expect a lot from coffeepav, again.