Yesterday Amir and I spent the day with Youri, who owns Absolute Coffee, being trained in the art of espresso coffee. I am not sure that we made the best students because we wanted to know everything about the industry, not just how to make great coffee. Youri has managed coffee shops in the past so he is a fountain of knowledge.
We spent at least an hour playing with the grinder, trying out different fine and course grinds. It’s amazing the difference the grind makes. Make it too fine and the machine can’t force the coffee through it; make it to course and the water runs through it too quickly and you don’t get the flavour. So the grind is really important.
The next step was to learn how to steam and foam the milk using the steam wand on the espresso machine. In order to create a latte or cappuccino you need to be able to both steam and foam. The steam is done by putting the wand into the milk just below the surface. To foam the milk you need to put the wand so its just on the surface of the milk. The whole process also heats the milk.
Creating the latte art is tricky business and requires a lot of manual dexterity. The milk needs to be poured from height to start with and then up close towards the end; this creates the white art on the top of the coffee. To create the different shapes you need to alter where you pour the milk into the coffee, it’s really difficult. Anyway, with some practice both Amir and I had something that looked a little like a heart shape.
Our plan is that all employees will be able to create espresso art and that every latte will come with a piece of art. I think this will make us pretty unique, very few of the high street chains train their staff to be able to do it and even fewer actually do it.