The art, science and passion of making great coffee

I brought Craig a coffee machine for Father’s Day last year. We love it, except neither of us are very good at making coffee. And we love good coffee.

I’m always buying organic or fair trade coffee and it has become one of my favourite items to shop for when visiting a new place.  One of my favourites was from Chaing Mai Thailand. But, had I known what I was doing I could have really enjoyed that bag of arabica beans a lot more.

It really is bad to buy good coffee and not know how to prepare it.

When the opportunity arose last month to attend a barista class with RedBalloon, I jumped on it. (RedBalloon experiences are a great option for Mother’s Day presents!)

I really wasn’t expecting it to be that great. Craig and I were blown away by how much we learned and how much we enjoyed it.

We arrived to our Barista Basics class at 9am on a Thursday morning. There were about 8 want to be baristas in total–our fellow students were way more serious than us. They were hoping to become real baristas.

learning how to make coffee (6)

Class, let’s begin.

Our teacher, John, was a definite coffee lover and expert. His passion shone through with all he taught us and the demonstration of each technique.

I soon learned that I was doing everything wrong when it came to making a good coffee. It wasn’t just the stupid machine, or the wrong milk after all.

According to John,

“Making coffee is part art, science and passion.”

I know I have the passion for drinking coffee and while I now know how to make them, I’m not sure the passion will be there to get the perfection required for amazing coffee.

coffee art (2)

That is passion, art and science right there– the perfect cup (made by John)

I’m certainly impressed with baristas (good ones) around the world now and how they can manage to get these three elements into a cup of frothy, black goodness to keep my spirits high and bouncing through the day.

If you intend to become a barista, then I highly recommend you do some formal training like this. As John told us, one customer can be worth $2,000- $3,000 a year, which is why you sometimes see cafes with lines snaking out the door. You know they have got the art, passion and science down pat.

Places like Gloria Jeans, on the other hand need a complete barista overhaul. It’s scandalous to consistently put out bad coffee.

I learned the many different things they could be doing wrong.

  • too hot or cold milk
  • incorrect ratio of coffee to water
  • incorrect tamping of coffee
  • flow through rate of water too fast or slow
  • stale coffee
  • badly frothed milk
  • sour milk
  • water passing through that is not 92 degrees
  • a machine that is not cleaned properly (yuck!)

Far too much for me to think about which is why I’ll stick to drinking coffee while I am blogging.

It has certainly helped improve my ability to make a coffee on our home machine, I actually get froth now with any type of milk (coffee with coconut milk is my latest addiction). And Craig does too, which means I no longer have to be the home barista.

coffee beans (1)

Pre-roasted beans

coffee beans (2)

roasted beans

how to froth milk for coffee

Must have the right temp for frothing

learning how to make coffee (1)

I’m ready to do this!

learning how to make coffee (8)

A little more frothing instruction is needed

learning how to make coffee

The work table

learning how to make coffee (2)

Learning how to make all types of coffee

coffee art (1)

Hey hey hey! How did I do? I’ve got the love right anyway

I do not order a coffee in a cafe now without standing and watching what the barista is doing. Kinda creepy I know, but I’m on a mission to catch out the good guys so I can keep returning.

The only part to the whole process that had me stumped was having to apply 18kgs of pressure when tamping the coffee. What is tamping? That is when you put the coffee into the filter and press down on it to compact it. We measured it using a scale and I could not get it consistently at 18kg. I think to be able to nail this every time (where you won’t be using scales) you would need at least a 100 practices so your body would get the right feel for what 18kg of pressure felt like.

tamping coffee

18kg of tamping

So very technical!

See why I appreciate good coffee makers now.

I now know why American coffee is sooo bad. They drink coffee more for the caffeine hit than the taste. In order to high quantities of caffeine in the coffee you have to roast the beans for a shorter time which results in bitter flavour, but that higher hit!

I walked away from the course with a nationally recognised barista certificate! But more importantly with a greater appreciation for coffee and a huge amount of interesting facts I discovered. The course was so informative and I can highly recommend it.

Disclaimer: I attended the barista course as a guest of RedBalloon,

Your Turn to Share Tips:

Do you know how to make a good coffee? Are you keen to learn now? Tell me your favorite way to drink your coffee and where is the best coffee you have ever had?

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  • Cait Huntder

    I recently started working in a coffee shop where the staff are passionate about making good coffee. I never thought I’d be so excited to work anywhere for minimum wage, but there’s something about coffee (the smell, the taste, everything) and learning the art is definitely exciting and inspiring!

    Do you have an espresso machine at home as well? Do you practice tamping with a scale at home, or are you less worried about getting it exact?


    • Caz Makepeace

      No I’m not too worried about getting it exact. I don’t think my espresso machine is quite up to producing the best cup anyway! At least I am frothing the milk well at home now so I am happy.


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