Five steps to a winning cup
How do you take your coffee to the next level? We asked a handful of leading coffee shop operators to reveal what makes their brews stand out and keeps customers coming back for more.
- TREAT COFFEE AS A FRESH PRODUCT
Freshness is key to flavour, so use freshly roasted coffee and grind to order – coffee ground for espresso can go stale in as little as 20 minutes. “In an ideal world, all beans would be the same size, shape, density and moisture content – this is far from the case with roasted coffee,” says Louise Cook, head of coffee at BEAR, which operates five outlets across the Midlands. “Consistently following intentional steps will have a big impact on reaching the final potential of the coffee,” she adds, citing accurate dosing using scales to 0.1g and a flat, even tamp.”
- IMPROVE YOUR EXTRACTION
As well as taking care over your coffee preparation, monitoring each extraction will help you identify any issues that impact flavour. Ryan Garrick, head of coffee at WatchHouse which has nine outlets in London, says: “Extraction should be started immediately upon engaging the portafilter into the grouphead of the machine.” It’s important to take care when attaching the portafilter, he says, as any knocks can disrupt the grounds, increasing the likelihood of extraction issues which will impact the coffee in the cup.
- KNOW YOUR MILKS
While latte art doesn’t make a cup of coffee taste better, it shows the barista has a level of skill. The word ‘milk’ now also applies to a variety of non-dairy liquids and each responds differently to steaming – anything above 70°C starts to scald and destroy its natural sweetness. “One of the worst things a barista wants to hear is, ‘can I have that extra hot?’ You don’t want to be burning milk,” says Scott Russell, owner and founder of Paddy & Scott’s Coffee, whose baristas use Teflon-coated jugs to gauge the temperature of the milk by touch. He recommends practising steaming various milks and using thermometers when training. “Non-dairy milks tend to heat up much quicker, so you’ll reach the required temperature quite quickly with less time to create micro-bubbles,” he adds.
- KEEP IT CLEAN
A tidy workstation is vital for workflow and keeping the coffee machine clean will avoid a build-up of unpleasant-tasting oils and particles from ground coffee. “It must be clean, presentable and efficient at all times,” says Peter Dore-Smith, director of Kaffeine, where baristas clean the coffee machine and grinder daily and perform machine maintenance every week. The team uses different coloured cloths for the milk wand, bench area and drip tray, as well as a paintbrush for discarding loose grinds. Dore-Smith adds: “We operate with the mindset that at any time we can invite a customer or a world barista champion behind the bar to see how we make coffee.”
- NURTURE KNOWLEDGE
Training and educating your team about the provenance of the ingredients will help them appreciate and bring out the flavour potential. They’ll also be more likely to communicate that knowledge and enthusiasm to customers. Grace Talbot, wholesale manager at Girls Who Grind Coffee, says: “I have seen baristas employ real passion and knowledge when given the opportunity to talk about the producers behind the coffees they are brewing to customers, who hadn’t appreciated the journey their coffee has been on.”