Ahotaku Learns How to Caw-fee, Day 1

cawfee.jpg

No, I wasn’t inspired by Gochiusa. I’ve been interested with coffee ever since I had my first latte back in high school, but it was only when I was in college I started to develop a taste for coffee. So, because I’m a NEET freelancer with a lot of free time, I decided to take barista lessons. Just to add to my skill repertoire.

Next thing you know, this blog’s gonna get a huge revamp and be called “Anime and Cawfee”.

The first day training and already I was bombarded with a lot of coffee mumbo-jumbo. Let me share some things I learned on  my first day:

From the fields to the roast

There are three steps of preparing coffee: harvest, post-harvest, and roasting. First, the coffee beans are harvested. That’s phase one. Phase two is a lot more complicated. The beans are processed, dried, and fermented. Each farmer has their own style of processing; usually the styles are indigenous to the regions where the coffee is cultivated.

There are two harvesting processes: dry and wet. Dry processing means that once harvested, the beans are pulped (separated from beans and flesh) and then left to dry under the sun or by machine. This process takes around 4 weeks and results in coffee that’s more light and fruity (I’ve yet to understand the different characteristics of coffee). Whereas in wet processing, beans are submerged in water and then dried. After that, beans are fermented.

Once coffee beans have been fermented, they can be roasted. There are three types of roasts when it comes to coffee: light, medium, and dark. A light roast means the beans are roasted slightly, resulting in light brown coffee beans. A light roast tastes significantly acidic. Light roasts are used to bring out the natural characteristics of the coffee.

There are different degrees of medium roasts, from medium-light to medium-dark. Medium roasts have balanced characteristics (body, acidity, and aroma). It is commonly used in making espressos. Medium-dark roasts have slightly more body.

Dark roasts are like dark chocolate. Extra dark chocolate. Dark roast beans are usually oily. It tastes bitter and burnt, with a heavy body, rich taste, and low acidity. Also has lower caffeine content. Sometimes used in espresso (depending on personal preference), but more commonly used in manual brewing.

Americans prefer lighter roasts, whereas Europeans prefer darker roasts.

Differences between Arabica and Robusta

Yeah I sounded like a total dipshit when I couldn’t even name the differences between Arabica and Robusta. But being a dipshit is part of the learning process.

  • Robusta is best cultivated at low altitudes, making it more popular in tropical areas with high rainfall; whereas Arabica grows better at higher elevations with less rainfall. As a result, Arabica yields less per hectare, making it more pricy.
  • Arabica beans are more oval than Robusta, which is almost round.
  • Arabica has less caffeine compared to Robusta, which makes Robusta more bitter. The difference is double, with Robusta having 2.7% and Arabica having 1.5%. Thus, Robusta is more resistant to pests and insects and easier to cultivate.
  • Because Robusta is easier to cultivate, it comprises of around 25% of total coffee production, while Arabica, being harder to cultivate, comprises less than 1% of total coffee. That’s why most of the instant coffee you find at supermarkets are made of a Robusta blend.
  • Related to the previous point, Arabica is fucking expensive, costing almost twice than Robusta.

Espresso: the basics

Making an espresso is the most basic (and perhaps most difficult) thing a new barista must master. The espresso is the base of almost all coffee drinks you find at Starbucks or coffee shops. In Day 1, I learned how to make espresso and ristretto.

Preparing an espresso is a lot of work.

First, the grind. Adjusting the grind is one of the most difficult activities of a barista. Every day, the grind must be adjusted because as coffee beans age, their taste kinda wears off and they become harder to prepare. Like, old coffee beans can be made into an espresso if they’re grinded finely, but the espresso will taste like shit. A good grind for an espresso is not as smooth as flour, but not as coarse as sand.

Then, levelling and tamping. Once grounded, the coffee is placed on the porta-filter and then leveled out and tamped (pressed) to make a “puck” or “cake”. A good puck is one that does not break when disposed. A good tamp is done twice, with around 12 kgs of force. Over-tamping can cause over-extraction, while under-tamping can cause under-extraction (discussed later). We usually use 7-9 grams for a single shot espresso, and 14-18 grams for a double shot.

Once tamped, the porta-filter is put under the shower head and we’re ready to fucking brew some of the good stuff. For a double espresso, the goal is to get around 20ml-25ml of coffee within 20-30 seconds. For a double ristretto (the base for a flat white), you need to extract 30ml in 25 seconds. A good extraction produces an espresso that is balanced (a bit sweet, sour, and bitter) and has a nice aftertaste with a golden crema with micro-bubbles  that don’t dissolve or disappear easily (that foam on top of an espresso).

There are two possible outcomes if an espresso is not perfectly brewed. The first is under-extraction, which means we get more than 25ml in 20 seconds. This is caused by a coarse grind or under-tamping or too fresh coffee beans. An under-extracted espresso has a pale crema that dissolves almost instantly and tastes very light. The second is over-extraction, which means we get less than 25ml in 20 seconds. This is caused by a having a too fine grind or over-tamping or old coffee beans. An over-extracted espresso is very bitter and leaves a disgusting bitter aftertaste, with a crema that’s almost brown in colour.

That’s all to an espresso. I was fucking shaking when I handled the porta-filter. And I burnt my fingers a couple of times.

Mega-milk

Next, I learned about milk, particularly about steaming and the differences between a cappucino and latte. Basically, a cappucino has more foam and less milk content, making it stronger caffeine-wise. A latte has less foam and more milk, which is better for people who like weaker coffee (like me).

Steaming the milk is fucking hard because it’s a delicate yet fast process. You need to position the steam wand in a way that it produces just enough foam, while at the same time, heating the milk to around 150 degrees Fahrenheit. If you over-heat the milk, it tastes like crap; under-heat it and you’ll end up with tasteless milk. At 150 degrees Fahrenheit, the milk tastes rather sweet because the lactose breaks down.

A good way to measure temperature is by holding the pitcher when steaming. Just when the pitcher becomes slightly hot to hold, stop steaming. This should get you at around 150 degrees. Or use a thermometer.

If you don’t want to waste milk, you can try with water and two drops of dish soap.

End of day 1

So that’s the end of Day 1 of my journey to learn how to caw-fee properly. In the future, I plan on continuing training at my uncle’s coffee shop. See you next time in a more anime-related post!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s