I am still awaiting news on my Canadian visa, so my very hectic life continues over here for now! The PhD is soooooooo nearly complete, and Doctor Coffee’s Cafe is getting busier again after a very quiet summer. But as the threat of actually leaving it looms, I decided to train up some replacement voluntary baristas to give Jo a hand when she takes over the place.
To this end, the other day I held some Beginners’ Barista Classes. I posted the idea of facebook and got a lot of response very quickly, so much that I had to do two classes. It is not possible to fit more than four around my espresso machine! But people’s enthusiasm was very encouraging, and it seemed like everyone enjoyed it!
In my first class, I had Simon and Duncan, both of whom appreciate very strong coffee. I started off talking a bit about where coffee comes from, what an espresso actually is, what goes into the process of growing it and roasting it. I also talked about decaff coffee and the actual caffeine content of our drinks – and I think I surprised them a little. Much of the “strong” effects of espresso are psychological only, and come from the flavour and the heat rather than from the caffeine. Knowing this sort of stuff doesn’t really help you make better espresso, but I think it may help people appreciate what they are drinking a bit more. Also, I reckon you are more likely to remember how to do something, if you understand WHY you do it like that…
Anyway, apart from one pretty revolting under-extracted espresso, these two did extremely well. Simon took this photo for his Flickr set – thanks for letting me use it!
In the afternoon, I had four willing apprentices, Jane, Jim, Heather and Mark. This proved to be a bit of a squash! They made A LOT of practice espressos, tasting each others and their own – the most practical and memorable way of learning what makes a good one. If one was horrible, they had to be able to work out why it was horrible. I also had to try their efforts – I must’ve drunk around 30 odd shots throughout the day!
Actually going through the techniques step by step felt very odd to me. I didn’t realise how little I think about it nowadays. Four years of daily practice means that the actions are almost automatic; I judge everything by eye and trying to explain what I was doing and how I was doing it was quite hard to get my head around!
The second group learned very quickly too, but despite all that coffee, I was completely and utterly exhausted after talking non stop for about four hours!!! Still, lots of positive feedback from my trainees, requests for more practice with milk foaming, and I even convinced a non-espresso drinker that the pure stuff is actually pretty good! I really enjoyed the sessions too, indulging in my geekery and sharing my enthusiasms with a great bunch of people. There were calls for an intermediate class… watch this space!