What is a Barista? – How to make great coffee at home

what-is-a-barista

“Barista” is Italian for bartender and has now become the recognised term worldwide for an expert coffee maker.

Not to be confused with someone that simply works in a coffee shop and presses the buttons on a machine, a Barista has a passion for coffee and truly understands the different components that make the difference between an average, good and great cup of coffee.

The best Barista’s in the world combine a very high level of skill which requires a range of different skill sets covering both the technical aspects of making the perfect coffee and a whole bunch of non-coffee related skills.

We will cover the technical aspects that any great Barista has to become proficient in and also the people and personality traits that are crucial if you want to become one of the best.

The devil is in the detail

This phrase is perfect for coffee because to the uninitiated a cup of coffee just looks like a cup of brownish liquid that you add milk and sugar to.

Nothing could be further from the truth because the smallest tweaks here and there during coffee preparation can make the difference between a coffee that tastes bitter or sour and one that provides a sensory experience with every sip.

Communication

Everyone has a different preference when it comes to coffee so you need to able to communicate effectively with people to understand exactly how they like to take their coffee and it’s not just whether they like an Americano, a Latte or a Cappuccino but perhaps they like a dry cappuccino or a wet cappuccino and do they like it with or without a sprinkling of cocoa powder?

Perform under pressure

You may have to serve up multiple drinks in a very short space of time so being able to consistently deliver every time when the pressure is on is a strong characteristic of a good Barista.

Knowledge

To really understand what a barista is you will need to first of all have a passion for coffee. If you don’t love the drink then you will never be able to produce it at a very high level.

You will need to learn about coffee beans, coffee grinding, coffee machines, coffee dose, extraction times, milk heating and frothing, latte art and more.

The above personal traits will help you to become a polished all round professional Barista but first and foremost you will need to have an in depth understanding of the technical skills required to produce a really great coffee.

Perhaps you just want to become an accomplished home barista and learn how to make the best possible coffee from the comfort of your own home.

Let’s explore some of the things that can help you to make a coffee that is better than anything you will ever be served up in a coffee shop.

The best coffee machine

If you are looking to produce coffee at the same standard you will find in one of the high street coffee chains then you need a good coffee machine. The good news is that it does not have to be the most expensive.

It is important that you choose carefully because you can easily pay hundreds of pounds more for a machine that will produce the same results as one that is a lot cheaper.

We have reviewed hundreds of different machines and have detailed reviews on the best espresso machines and the best cheap espresso machines. Choose wisely and you will be half way to becoming a barista without having to break the bank.

If you want to narrow it down to the best brands then you should look closely at Delonghi bean to cup machines and Sage pump espresso coffee machines.

Delonghi are the market leaders and in automatic (bean to cup) coffee machines and Sage are a little more specialist but they allow you to control everything you need that a professional barista would use.

The best coffee

If you use great coffee then you will be able to make coffee that is better than a coffee shop because they tend to use average quality made with very good coffee machines.

Go to Waitrose or M&S if you don’t have a specialist coffee shop near where you live and buy some dark roast whole coffee beans that have been roasted in the last 4 weeks.

Just this alone will make a huge difference to your overall coffee experience. Here are some of the most popular coffee beans for you to try.

The right coffee grind

Grinding your beans to the correct level of fineness will ensure that you can get the correct coffee extraction when your coffee machine pumps the water through the ground coffee.

For the best results you need to have a burr coffee bean grinder. Burr grinders allow you to grind your beans at just the right level of fineness to ensure you get your coffee extracted correctly.

The Sage smart grinder pro has 60 grind settings and you can choose the exact grind time to ensure you get the right dose.

The right coffee dose

A double espresso should contain between 18-20 grams of ground coffee. With a burr grinder you can adjust the settings until you get exactly that amount.

Coffee extraction

Once you have all of the above variables in place all that remains is to extract 60ml of coffee in 25-30 seconds to achieve a perfect double espresso.

A great way to check you are getting it right is to use a cheap espresso shot measuring glass

Milk heating and frothing

Once you have perfected an espresso then you can move on to all of the milk-based coffee drinks that are made from an espresso base. Learning how to make a cappuccino properly will take some practice as will learning how to froth milk.

Coffee has become an art form in recent years and there is even a world barista championship that attracted competitors from 54 different nations in 2019.

So if you want to become the next coffee world champion then you are now armed with everything you need to begin your journey!

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