Coffee Culture Baristas are nerds. There, I said it. We are nerds, and we love it. We know that coffee is a complicated and interesting beverage, and we all seek to get to know it better.
All of us on the bar have been trained to pull a good shot, and make quality lattes, cappuccinos, and other espresso-based drinks, but espresso extraction is an ever-developing art. Recently, we came together as a company to discuss espresso at length, and learn a few things!
We began from base definitions created by the Specialty Coffee Association of America(SCAA), a group that was “established in 1982 by a small group of coffee professionals seeking a common forum to discuss issues and set quality standards for the specialty coffee trade. The SCAA is now the world’s largest coffee trade association with nearly 3,000 company members. SCAA members can rightfully be credited for much of the growth and success the specialty coffee industry has experienced over the past twenty-five years” (http://www.scaa.org/?page=history).
From their definition, we are able to play and experiment. We believe that proper and healthy technique is important, but ultimately it is up to taste. Each coffee behaves differently in the espresso machine, and slight variation can alter a shot of espresso dramatically! If it tastes good, it is good.
One of the most interesting things we learned during our meeting was the “4M’s of espresso preparation”.
Think for a second…4 words that begin with M, that have to do with espresso preparation.
We couldn’t think of any either.
Thankfully we had a handout.
The words are Italian, which stands to reason.
1. Miscela = Mixture. Great espresso begins with a proper blend of beans selected with intention. When creating blends, it is important to know how the beans can and likely will, interact with eachother. A nutty, mellow Brazilian coffee may interact nicely with the sparkly citrus brightness of a Honduran coffee, or it could be disaster. Our Roaster, Garrett takes great care to ensure that our blends are balanced, interesting, and delicious.
2. Macinazione = Grinder. Every coffee shop has at least one grinder. There are several different kinds of grinders, and each will grind differently. We use Mazzer grinders. Each shop has different products from them. We are able to program some of them to ensure a proper dose (amount of coffee) each time. It’s important to use a grinder that will grind beans evenly and precisely. It’s surprising how much grind can affect your coffee.
3. Maccina = You guessed it, Machine. There are so many kinds of espresso machines. The Google image search results are staggering. Home machines, machines that use K-cups/coffee pods, fully automatic, fully manual, it’s overwhelming. We use La Marzocco. They are made near Florence, Italy, and function beautifully. With programmable features, we are able to set water temperature, and control how much water interacts with the espresso.
4. Mano = Hand. Literally, great espresso needs to be made by hand. To take it a step further, great espresso requires the hand of a skilled barista. We have recently altered our training program and schedule dramatically so that only the most skilled baristas make drinks for you, our customers. There are so many factors that affect espresso – from humidity, to water temperature, to the freshness of the coffee, that a skilled barista is necessary in order to create something that looks and tastes good. A skilled barista must do their best to manage all potential influence on the espresso. Their hands are perfume free, they use a scale for precise measurement, they taste espresso often. We are doing our very best to create baristas that are not only technically skilled, but are passionate about the craft and culture of coffee (see what I did there?).
We love coffee. We find it exciting to learn about the 4Ms, different products, flavor profiles. and any and all other nuances in the coffee world.
The 4Ms are just one interesting part of this espresso training. These are opportunities for us to come together as a company, and move onward into the world of Specialty coffee. We will continue our staff trainings focused on one part of the customer experience at a time, so that we can nurture our craft, and cultivate passion in ourselves and our customers.
Keep an eye out for a community coffee event, a gathering of coffee nerds from all of Corvallis!