One of the nicer perks of working at Iglu is the unlimited use of the office espresso machine. Caffeine powers busy eskimos through their workday. The only problem is few of said eskimos (and by few, I mean none) knew how to really use the Breville Barista Express to make a proper latte or cappuccino. To fix this problem we recently invited some expert baristas from Hillkoff House of Coffee and Tea to give a crash course in coffee at the Iglu Maehia office.
The barista training had 4 main parts:
- General coffee knowledge
- Introduction to the Breville espresso machine
- GDTE (Grind, Dose, Tamp, Extraction)
- Hot and cold menu practice
General coffee knowledge
Our friendly English speaking Hillkoff barista gave a very informative slideshow presentation on all things coffee. We learned all about where coffee comes from, how it is processed, the different types of roasts and when each should be used. For example, a light or medium roast is good for hot espresso drinks, but a dark roast is better for iced drinks. Since Thais prefer iced coffee with intense flavor, the Thai black roast used by many coffee shops consists of beans that are roasted until they’re nearly burnt.
Introduction to the Breville Barista Express
One of the main goals of the barista training course was to learn how to get the best use out of the specific espresso machine housed at the Iglu offices. We learned the proper way to use the machine to keep it clean and running smoothly. Sadly, in the year and a half since it was purchased the machine had not been cleaned in the right way, but now we got it sorted out.
We also learned how to calibrate the machine so that the single-shot (1 oz) and double-shot (2 oz) settings can give the proper amount for a good strong latte.
The 4 key points to making a perfect espresso drink can be summed up with the letters GDTE (Grind, Dose, Tamp, Extraction).
The perfect grind shouldn’t be too fine or too coarse. If it’s too fine, then the coffee will pack together like clay soil and prevent the water from running through. Too coarse and water will run through too quickly leading to weak flavor. Once you find the right grind to your liking, you should get used to the way it feels between your fingers. Over time you may notice that the grind is changing due to the grinder wearing down. Then you need to adjust the setting accordingly.
To get perfect espresso you need to use a perfect amount of ground beans. In particular, failing to fill the handle all the way will leave empty space. The extra space will back up with water as the machine runs, the pressure will be off, and the resulting espresso will be no good.
Tamping is the act of pressing the grounds down tightly. This also needs to be done to the optimal level (usually gauged on the Tamp) and applying the right amount of force to compact the grind. Getting this combination right is vital for the perfect brew or it too will throw off the pressure of the espresso machine.
Proper extraction of water should not drip slowly nor should it be overly runny. Rather the espresso should dribble down in a steady flow like when pouring honey. As soon as the extracted coffee begins to lighten in color it’s time to stop. You can tell from the appearance of the crema floating on top of the espresso shot if you’ve done all the steps correctly. It should look a little like the head on a freshly poured pint of Guinness.
Hot and cold coffee menu
By far the favorite part of the barista training course was the hands-on practice making hot and cold coffee drinks. Eskimos each got to take turns following the GDTE steps to first get a perfect espresso shot from the Breville and then turn it into a masterpiece beverage. We learned how to foam the milk the right way and how to use the different consistencies of foam for lattes and cappuccinos. We were shown how to pour the foam to make heart-shaped latte art and how to create a cappuccino flower with a stir stick. Our kind barista teachers ran through the entire standard coffee shop menu:
- Espresso shot
- Iced Americano
- Thai style iced coffee
- Iced Latte
- Iced cappuccino
- Iced mocha