Words Kate Underwood, Images Brydie Thompson
Making barista-style, espresso coffee at home can be a combination of intimidating, empowering and unavoidably messy. But one thing is for sure, the more you know, the better you’ll brew.
Chances are, either you, or someone you know, has an espresso machine sitting proudly on the kitchen bench. Whether you’re a dab hand at whipping up a cafe-worthy brew, or you could do with a little more direction, the team at Excelso Coffee in Tauranga are serving up private, one-on-one home barista courses, that cover all the tricks you need to help pour flat whites like a pro.
Roasting since the 1990s, Excelso have observed the exponential growth in the espresso coffee culture, most recently seeing it infiltrate into the home kitchen. To help meet the demands of this new cohort of committed caffeine drinkers, they’ve created a personalised training opportunity, delivered by an experienced barista trainer, that caters to both an individual’s skill level and their own machine or grinder. Attendees are asked to bring their equipment to the class, to ensure they learn the correct processes and techniques best suited to their own tools. With the option of a one-hour ($80) or two-hour ($160) session, you can go solo or even bring your partner in crime for no extra charge.
We spoke to the enthusiastic Excelso staff to compile a few of the fundamental pointers covered in each class to get you started on improving your barista game at home.
Starting with the beans
To produce great coffee, you want to use fresh roasted beans. Luckily, we’re in the right place for these. Ideally, you’ll want to grind them yourself just before making your espresso, so a grinder is essential! So too is understanding how the grind of your beans can impact the end result.
There really is so much to learn and the only way to do it is hands on, from learning to tamp evenly, to applying the right amount of pressure on the coffee grinds which is essential to extracting a precise espresso shot.
I’d never thought of it before, but making an espresso is like cooking, by using a recipe you’ll have a better chance of producing a more consistent, clean and balanced brew. The Excelso baristas recommended a recipe of 19 grams of ground coffee, a run time of 30 seconds, and a shot that produces a total of 30ml of liquid or ‘extracted’ coffee for their legendary Stag blend.
You can even use electronic scales to carefully measure the dose or amount of coffee grinds to create that fine balance between acidity, sugars and bitterness, and the aim is to draw out all three equally.
Mastering the milk: Stretch, smooth and heat
Steaming the milk is a multi-faceted technique that creates micro foam, texture and controls temperature. Learning to master the perfect milk and pour is both an art and a science. With practice and patience you can work towards creating extravagant latte art.
Cleaning the tools
Making espresso coffee can be a messy business, and the cleaning processes for each machine will vary hugely, depending on the brand, quality and frequency of use. As a basic rule, at home machines should be thoroughly cleaned once a fortnight, but the baristas can take you through tips specific for your model. Roasted coffee beans are full of volatile oils that can go rancid overtime. These can build up residue within the machine, tainting the flavour of the final brew. Maintaining cleanliness helps increase your chances of a fresher, more delicious tasting coffee.
Remember that becoming a proficient barista takes time, so don’t be disheartened if you aren’t immediately slinging perfect shots. If you are interested in a class, or just need some general brew advice, seek out the knowledgeable Excelso staff who are always on hand to help you level up your coffee prowess!