Thursday, June 8, 2023

Secrets From a Barista

There’s nothing like stopping by your favorite café on the way to work to pick up that oh so irreplaceable cup of coffee. You could make the argument that your day would not be the same without it, and your barista, they make it perfect every time. I’m sure one day you thought “If its so easy for me to order this is must be easy to make?”. So, you attempt a few tries at home and let me guess, they never turn out as good, do they?

Secrets From a Barista

Let’s go over why it never works, but before we start there let me share with you my experience. I’ve worked in the coffee biz for nearly seven years, both as a barista and as a store manager, and trust me, I have heard many peoples failed attempts to recreate their personal dreamy cup of coffee. It may seem like a simple task to do and trust me, it is but it all comes down to some tips and tricks.

There’s naturally going to be some drinks very difficult to accomplish. Most coffee shops provide most of their drink preparation through an espresso machine, which generally will cost upwards of thousands of dollars not only to purchase, but to maintain, they are Italian after all. Espresso machines need regular maintenance and are incredible sensitive to change, which in the end helps create the finessed product of espresso.

Don’t even get me started on steam wands… I’m sure you’ve seen them, the metal rod angled down coming out from the side of the espresso machine. That is what creates the silky milk foam that goes into cappuccinos, lattes and macchiatos. So, unless you’re fortunate enough to own one of these elaborate machines, we’ll be sticking to some simpler forms of preparation but no worries because we can still get similar results!

Let’s start with the coffee itself. There are still ways to get a strong, bold cup of coffee without it being in the form of espresso. So, let’s go over a couple of them.

Secrets From a Barista

French Press

Using a French press to make coffee is a common method you may be aware of. It works because like espresso it uses no paper filtration during preparation which means the oil of the beans stays intact, not being absorbed by the paper. So, what you end up with is a silkier deeper cup of coffee, and if you stick to a medium to dark roast the flavor profiles could end up nearly identical.

You want to use a coarse grind with this method because you will leave the grinds to sit in the hot water for 4-5 minutes and nothing more. Then you will plunge the lid down and “filter” the grinds to the bottom, now it’s ready to drink! I recommend Bodum for their French presses, they have durable materials, all glass cylinder (needed), and a reputable name in the coffee industry. Check it out below.

Bodum French Press –

Moka Pot

Moka pots are a reliable option that provides nearly the same flavor experience as espresso. Why it’s similar is because like espresso, the mocha pot uses pressure from the boiling water you’d put at the bottom of the pot to brew the coffee. As the water boils, pressure pushes water and steam up through the grinds that are sitting in a little metal filter with tiny holes above the water, similar to a portafilter (espresso brew basket) and then out through a funnel at the top, now it’s ready to be poured.

The reason why it’s not the same is because an espresso machine uses a much stronger force of pressure for its results, remember the thousands of dollars price tag. I recommend the Bialetti Express Moka Pot, they are incredibly durable, stand up to rust and Bialetti was the original moka pot company. This one, the Bialetti Express is still one of their best sellers.

Bialetti Express Moka Pot –

Okay, so what about the milk? How do I get it so frothy like my barista does? The reality is, there’s not a lot of steam frothers on the market for a reasonable price. How they get it so silky is the gradual temp increase along with the movement of the milk. It somewhat emulsifies as it heats up and spins in the milk frother. Which then makes it smooth, silky, and thicker. No problem though because you can do this at home!

Manual Milk Frother

So, here’s why I love this, it’s cheap, doesn’t require batteries, it’s microwave safe, dishwasher safe and provides enough frothed milk to make two full home style lattes. All you do is fill it with your milk choice, pop it in the microwave, heat it up quite a bit to your desired drink temp and get pushing! They’re designed to be very easy to maneuver; you should be able to get frothed milk in under a minute. This one is again, made my Bodum, and looks very similar to their French press but it is not the same! Do not try to make coffee in this because it will not turn out right, only milk.

Bodum Manual Milk Frother –

Shake, Shake, Shake

Oh, the tried and true method of shake it till you make it. This one is generally a coffee biz secret and really, it’s the most cost effective, reliable, just straight easy method you could do. Just shake your milk container. That’s it. Here’s the thing though, it doesn’t work the same with every kind of milk or carton you buy. This method definitely works best with full heavy cream in a paper carton.

Full cream has enough fats that when it gets shaken enough (roughly a minute of vigorous shaking), it solidifies and starts to get whipped. Same thing as if you were whipping heavy cream with an electric mixer. This thick cream/foam now acts as the foam to your coffee, when you pour right out of the container you should see a noticeable thick foam come out. This way is great too because you can do this cold. I actually recommend it that way but remember to stick to heavy cream!

Wow, I am coffee’d out!

As you can see, there’s lots of tricks to the trade in the coffee industry. You will unfortunately never get the exact product at home as you would at your local coffee shop, too much technology and money go into providing those quality of drinks, but you can get incredibly close to it. So, next time you’re craving your perfect coffee drink, maybe take a crack at making it yourself, it really is not that complicated, and it will taste oh so good!

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Morgen Sechler
Morgen Sechler
Morgen loves and appreciates food and the culture it naturally possesses. Cooking since she was a child, she naturally finds the kitchen to be a comfortable place. When she’s not cooking and obsessing about food, she enjoys finding new music, learning more about botany, painting and freelance writing about her passions in her free time.


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