Monday, February 16, 2015

Pulling Shots at Bridgehead

.. and more than you ever needed to know about espresso!

I was super excited about this barista course at Bridgehead and signed up despite the concerns of  some of my friends and family members.  "I just worry that your skills won't be transferable" they said. I am glad I didn't let that deter me. It is true, I don't have the best, fanciest equipment and can't exactly replicate everything. But I have learned a lot and can apply some of my new knowledge and skills to my coffee making every day. I have already notice a big improvement in the flavour of my morning latte. My latte art is still a work in progress.

On the morning of the workshop there was a huge blizzard, of course- this has been the norm most days this winter. It seems to either be snowing with bad road conditions, or -40 with windchill. Not sure which is worse? Anyway, I arrived (a bit late) and was welcomed by the 3 instructors and the group.

Right away they asked me what I wanted to drink- yum!!

And there were delicious croissants

Now any day that starts with such a pretty latte and a croissant is bound to be excellent. It did not disappoint.

Our instructors (left to right in the photo below) Ian, Randy and Cliff were extremely nice, and at least one of them was a national champion in latte art. Who even knew that was a thing?

We learned and practiced how to grind, level, tamp, and pull a shot. Finally we did a bit of latte art.

Here are some of my takeaways:

On espresso

  • Coffee is only 1-2% coffee and 98-99% water, whereas espresso is about 10% coffee
  • Espresso beans are just coffee beans that are roasted in a certain way to use with the espresso process
  • Traditionally they are made with darker beans
  • Crema (the foam) on top of the espresso is an indication of how good the espresso is. A lot of crema= lots of gas = lots of oils= lots of texture= delicious coffee! 
  • Crema also indicates how fresh the shot is. It only lasts a couple of minutes after the shot is poured. 
  • The espresso is comprised of 3 parts: foam, dissolved solids (coffee) and the oil phase (lower section)
  • A large concentration of oils is what makes good espresso. It adds to the texture and reduces the perception of bitterness
  • Once coffee is ground, it emits gas at a much faster rate. That is why you should keep the beans  whole and only grind them right before you make the coffee. 
On equipment

  • With a good grinder and a decent/cheaper espresso maker, you can make world class espresso
  • With an amazing espresso maker but a bad grinder, you will never be able to make good espresso (harsh!)
  • If your espresso maker is pressurized, you do not need to tamp the coffee. To upgrade your machine you can -depressurize it, but you need to make sure you have a good grinder. << Mine is pressurized and I am leaving it like that until I get a decent grinder. 
  • a digital scale comes in handy to weigh the coffee 

On the process:
  • When not in use, keep the portafilter in the group-head- this keeps it warm
  • Make sure to wipe out the portafilter with a cloth before using
  • Weigh the ground coffee- it should weigh about 18g
  • Level and then tamp the coffee- rest the portahead on the edge of the counter and hold in one hand, use your other hand to tamp and make sure your other elbow is at 90 degrees. 
  • When holding the tamp, hold it with 2 fingers around the round part. Do not hold it by the handle
  • Make sure the coffee is equally distributed and tamped evenly. If it isn't tamped properly it will cause the water to not go through evenly and will result in coffee that is too bitter or too sour
  • Similarly,  if the coffee is ground too coarsely or too fine, it will go through too quickly or too slowly, and the espresso will be sour of bitter
  • To pull the shot run the espresso maker for about 25-30 seconds (this includes the time the machine is on but no espresso is coming out yet). Set a timer. << I realized I was doing mine for wayy too long! 
  • The pulled shot should weigh about 38g. Anything between 35-40g is pretty good.  

On latte art:
  • Works best with 2% or whole milk
  • Works best with steaming wand with 4 jets not just 1 ( mine just has one)
  • Use a metal pouring pitcher with a triangular spout
  • Steam milk until the pitcher is too hot to touch on the outside
  • Bang out the air bubbles and swirl around to incorporate
  • Start pouring from far so most of the milk settles below the crema and as you are getting to the foamier milk pour closer so the milk stays at the top
  • Small wrist movements
  • At the end pour from far again and pull through
  • Practice, practice practice! 

The instructor helped salvage mine into Finding Nemo..It was harder than it looks! 

I drank so many coffees that day. I was definitely wired by the end of it. 

They sent us home with a big bag of espresso beans so we could continue practicing at home! 

It was an excellent course and I highly recommend it if you are in Ottawa and they put it on again. I liked it so much, I signed up for the croissant course..recap on that one still to come!

If you have any questions or want to know more feel free to ask! I apologize for not always using the technical terms. I am very much a newbie in the espresso world. 

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