Team building exercises at work are usually pretty cool as they are often doing things I’d not do on my own. What were 12 software engineers headed off to do on a Friday afternoon? Make coffee! We had an afternoon of fun set out for us at the Australian Coffee School.
I’ve never really been able to drink coffee unless it’s a white chocolate mocha or some incantation of ice cream. Neither the mocha or ice cream is coffee. At that point, it’s sugar. Today was filled with a new adventure learning about things I wasn’t all that familiar.
The afternoon started with an overview of coffee. I had no idea coffee beans go through a long production and roasting process. I didn’t know that coffee beans come from plants that have fruits on them like cherries. By the time we got the coffee it was all ready roasted and ready for grinding. The grinder was the first step in making good coffee. The coffee is then compressed before putting it into the espresso maker. Too much pressure and the coffee is too strong. Not enough pressure and your customer doesn’t get enough caffeine or flavor. With a stroke of good luck, I had my first espresso.
The barista had us make two espressos but pull one out after brewing was halfway finished.
She then had us try each drink to tell the difference. It was clear that the full espresso was much more bitter than the one that was half done. As the coffee brews it becomes more bitter. I didn’t know that. One of my favorite drinks of the day was the long black. It’s two shots of expresso added to water and sports a thick crema (as seem below) on top. A long black is slightly stronger than an Americano. Americanos have more water and the water is added to the coffee destroying the crema.
The next step of the training was working with milk. Steaming the milk was the hardest part of the day for me as it had a direct impact on the quality of the presentation and taste of the drink. It seemed simple enough but it took me 3-4 times to get the milk right as I was usually not getting enough foam in my milk. I did get the temperature right each time at 60C, but alas the milk didn’t have the right consistency. But, fourth time is a charm!
From left clockwise: Steamed milk, lattes with a bit of Dan art, a fun milk foam and powdered chocolate for kids, and drink I forgot the name of. It was an espresso with a drop of milk foam in it.
The Layered Latte
The layered latte was the grandaddy of the day. You took an almost full glass of steamed milk and add espresso in layers to make a gradient of coffee in the milk. The higher the barista pours the coffee into the milk, the deeper the layer in the milk. I needed two attempts on this one. The first one (first photo, right) was one big brown blob. The second one however, layered out well :). One of the other students got it right as well.
We had a lot of variability on our layered lattes, but we all had fun making them.
Hot Chocolates, Chais, and Mochas
As the day was winding down we started to get into the hot chocolates and mochas. These were the drinks I could really get the full flavor out of. Hot chocolate was two scoops of chocolate. A mocha only had one. To make a Chai tea we used a mix.
Mocha C-dot and Footprints hot chocolate
Closing out with cappuccinos
The cappuccino was the last drink of the day and everyone had art in full swing. The chocolate company logo was a bit heavy for the foam top.
The lower left was done by the instructor. We were all impressed.
I left with a certificate that I’d shown up. Coffee is hard work. It’s also a business that you are always cleaning. I wondered why the vacuum cleaner ran all day long in a Starbucks. Now I know. With the 30 drinks we made, there was quite a bit of mess. A busy coffee shop must always be cleaning. I got to taste each drink and while not a coffee convert, I can say I felt the caffeine well into the night.
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