Confessions of a non-coffee addict and Barista Tips to Brew The Perfect Cup of Coffee
Want to learn barista tips to prepare the perfect cup of coffee? I’m spilling the beans (pun intended) and the lessons learned from the experts at Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort. The impact of the Barista Bootcamp experience is surprising to me years later.
First, let me share with you a little secret. I was not a coffee drinker. The coffee craze was utterly lost on me. The need for coffee was a foreign language. If you’re a coffee drinker, you understand the addiction I refer to. If you’re not, you may find my experience amusing, and possibly inspiring.
Confessions of a Non-Coffee Addict.
On National Coffee Day (September 29), I couldn’t help but reminisce about my coffee drinking evolution. Looking back, I’m surprised at how far my taste buds have come.
My dislike for coffee often shocked my co-workers in the hotel and restaurant industry. Sleep deprivation and a “dark to dark” schedule was the norm and coffee ran thru everyone’s veins. Except mine. How I survived on no caffeine? I have no idea. (I didn’t drink tea or soda either.)
Coffee always tasted bitter. Burnt in some cases. Two flavors you don’t ever want associated with your coffee. When in situations where it was not polite to turn down a cup, it would be loaded with milk and sugar. The tan pale color was a giveaway there was more milk than coffee in my cup.
As part of my Go Epicurista mission to “Make Someday Happen”, I am determined to say YES to new experiences. That included tasting new flavors, trying new things, and exploring new places. And yes, that even included coffee.
When I was offered the chance to visit with Jose Estorino from Javatino, a local Orlando coffee roaster, and be part of a cupping event. I said yes. (I had no idea what cupping was!) It involved tasting a variety of coffees with no milk or sugar. Whoa! That was like jumping into the deep end of the pool for a non-coffee drinker! I realized that using good quality coffee and knowing where it came from made a difference. I even hosted a coffee tasting event at home for family and friends and we had a blast.
When a friend invited me to a Coffee Crawl Bike Tour, I signed up! That was one of the most hilarious days of my life. Click over and read all about it. It’s ok to laugh at my expense.
When I received a media invite to attend the Barista Bootcamp in Four Seasons Resort Orlando, I said yes again! I figured if I ever needed a fallback career as a barista, learning from the best was a good move. Talk about a revealing experience. No, I don’t think I could get hired after my one lesson. But, I did learn how to make coffee the proper way. In the process I also became a fan of Caffe Umbria and my non-coffee drinking days were over.
Coffee Lessons From Barista Bootcamp
Guess what I discovered at Four Seasons Orlando Barista Bootcamp?
I’ve been drinking bad coffee.
Not all coffee tastes bitter. Not all coffee needs loads of sugar and milk to make it palatable.
The hands-on class gave coffee loving guests of this AAA Five Diamond Resort the opportunity to craft cappuccinos and latte art, discover the nuances of single-drip, espresso and cold brew, and assemble festive Boozy Floats, perfect for the holidays.
I picked up tips and tricks to create an extraordinary cup of coffee from coffee connoisseur Allison Burkard, manager and resident coffee expert at Lickety Split, the coffee bar and gelateria at the resort. (The gelato is to die for but I will tell you more on another post!)
My barista muscles got a bit of a workout. This is definitely a skill that can’t be mastered in one afternoon, although it was not by lack of trying on my part and an incredible amount of patience and stamina from our instructor.
There’s no wrong way to drink coffee.
“Coffee is a very personal experience. There’s no right or wrong way to drink your coffee. If you want 10 packets of sugar in your single-drip or if you want a single origin Colombian, that’s the right cup for you.” says Burkard.
However, crafting an extraordinary cup of coffee does require the right combination of coffee blend, proper grind, brewing method, machine, water and the barista’s hand.
Coffee Culture is big!
Similar to wine, coffee culture is very big. Learning about it is equally interesting and involved. There’s a lot of coffee snobs. I have seen many, especially in my hometown of Portland Oregon where coffee is a way of life. But not at Lickety Split. As Burkard says, they don’t judge how you drink your coffee. They will just make sure you have a perfect brew to start with.
Caffe Umbria and Lickety Split
Lickety Split is not your standard hotel coffee shop. “Everything is hand-made in house with passion and creativity” says Burkard. She not only followed an extensive training process when the resort first opened, she was also part of the research to select the coffee to be served. People are serious about their coffee and the Four Seasons team is serious about pleasing their guests. This AAA Five Diamond property, the only in Central Florida, serves up a perfect cup in every one of their restaurants.
Burkard says “after extensive research we found Caffe Umbria, a small roaster from Seattle Washington that hand-roasts their beans and puts as much pride and love in their product as we do into ours.”
Emanuele Bizzari, third generation coffee roaster, grandson of Ornello Bizzari from Perugia, Italy, started Caffe Umbria to honor his family’s tradition. He selects beans for every blend and Burkard witnessed the process. Her impression: “He’s a true artist who blends coffee with passion and love.”
Lickety Split features six blends with different flavor notes and profiles and uses four different brew methods – espresso, drip coffee, pour over, and cold brew. It is a customized experience each time. Since the Barista Bootcamp in December of 2015, I have enjoyed many beautiful lattes. Sneaking away to enjoy a cup in the luxury resort is often a treat.
I have also enjoyed Caffe Umbria at home. Their ‘Gusto Crema’ classic Italian espresso produces a creamy and rich brew with a slightly sweet finish. I learned from interacting with them on social media that what I grew up knowing as a “greca” percolator in Dominican Republic is actually called a Bialetti or Moka pot. It’s one of the favored methods to brew coffee at home.
Brewing The Perfect Cup of Coffee
Grinding coffee requires proper calibration. Too fine grounds and the water takes longer to go through, resulting in bitter coffee. Too coarse of a grind, the water runs through quickly and doesn’t extract the flavor, resulting in watery coffee. Humidity affects the grind as well so the grinder is adjusted through the day.
Using the tamp you want to create an even surface. Apply 30 pounds of pressure, tap on the side to loosen any grinds and then swirl it to finish. The tamp should sit evenly. If you press too hard water will not go through it properly.
Did you know a latte pitcher has a pointed pourer, and cappuccino has a rounded spout?
When foaming milk, aeration creates a vortex. Cappuccinos and lattes are made similar but aeration is different. More body and foam for cappuccino, another for lattes. With lattes you have more art, cappuccino you don’t. Whole milk is preferred as the more fat the easier it is to steam.
When using the steaming wand, the tip goes right underneath the milk. When you hear the swoosh sound is good. Hear it too long and that’s not great. About 3-4 seconds for a latte, 5-6 for a cappuccino.
Your milk should be smooth, with no bubbles and body like a can of wet paint. Scooping foam out of the pitcher is not the proper way of doing it. The foam should be incorporated into the milk. Tap the milk pitcher on the counter to help the foam fully incorporate into the milk before pouring.
Serve within a minute, the first sip is important once milk separates the flavors change.
The Popularity of Cold Brew
Cold brew has become quite popular in the past few years. It is a slow drip process using cold water that takes over 8 hours to brew. This creates a low acidic, smooth and concentrated brew.
At Lickety Split, they use a Japanese style Kioto brewer, created by the Japanese in 1940s. The tower has ice and cold water at top. Two drops of water per second saturate the coarse coffee grinds and filters at the bottom.
It’s now common to see cold brew ready made in grocery stores and in coffee shops. I enjoy it in boozy gelato floats at home like the one I had at Lickety Split.
Barista Tips: How to Brew The Perfect Cup of Coffee?
* These tips were first published in my article in Four Seasons Taste Magazine.
Follow these barista tips to create your perfect cup of coffee:
1. Use high quality beans. Coffee, like wine, shows flavor and aroma complexities associated with terroir. Whether it’s Costa Rica’s bright fruity acidity, Guatemala’s spicy and chocolaty notes, or Kenya’s bold black currant flavors, explore and find a distinctive well-balanced blend.
2. Store coffee beans in an air-tight container, at room temperature. (I learned storing in the refrigerator or freezer affects the natural oils in the beans.)
3. Grind beans immediately before use for the freshest taste. A sea salt / sand texture, not powdery, is best for espresso. A coarser grind is best for coffee press and cold brew.
4. Use bottled spring water or filtered clean water, not tap water. Lickety Split uses triple filtered water.
5. Use proper ratio of water to coffee. Too much coffee results in an over-extracted and bitter cup, too much water, and it’s weak. As a rule, two tablespoons per 6 oz. water is recommended.
6. Optimum brewing water temperature to extract desired flavors is 200°F.
7. When preparing espresso beverages, brew espresso shot first, then heat and foam milk to avoid milk separation.
8. Use cold whole milk for richest foam and texture.
9. Aerate milk until 100°F to create small bubbles. Stop heating milk at 150-160°F, when the metal pitcher is warm to the touch. Give container a good tap on the counter, then swirl to blend foam with milk. The milk should look like wet paint.
10. Skim milk has less fat content and does not foam in the same manner. Reduce the aeration period or it will foam like soap suds.
11. Serve espresso beverages within one minute for a perfect creamy first sip.
12. To avoid bitter and burnt flavors, never reheat coffee or leave on a burner.
13. Clean equipment after use to eliminate the coffee oil residues, which impart a rancid flavor.
14. Have fun and experiment with different blends and brewing methods.
Happy National Coffee Day. Enjoy brewing and coffee drinking my friends!
Disclosure: I was an invited media guest of the Four Seasons Resort Orlando. No other compensation was received. I was under no obligation to write this post and all opinions are my own. As always, I only share with you experiences worth celebrating and products I love to inspire you to go #MakeSomedayHappen one delicious bite, sip and trip at a time. To learn more about my guidelines, read my disclosure policy. Cheers!