Introduction to Coffee
We know the success of your business ultimately depends on the products you carry, and how you sell them. We are here to help you every step along the way.
Basic barista training to latte art classes are available at your shop or ours! Please call to arrange a private lesson.
Espresso is simply a straight “shot” of coffee extracted properly from a clean espresso machine. Espresso is not a type of bean or a specific roast; it refers to the method of coffee extraction. A shot should take 20-30 seconds to extract, and should be darker on the bottom with a silky layer of golden crema on the top. Many espresso blends have both light and dark beans in them and are formulated to get heavy crema, sweetness, or stoutness to be tasted through milk and flavorings. It is common in Europe to drink straight espresso with sugar and a bit of cream. In the US, espresso is mainly used in lattes and other milk based drinks.
The Basics of Good Espresso
Properly roasted and blended FRESH high quality coffee
Properly ground espresso beans (not too fine or coarse, not pre-ground)
Properly tamped ground espresso (30lbs of pressure – will produce a cookie)
Properly extracted espresso (20-30 seconds with a heavy crema layer)
Property timed shot (timed to finish when the milk is done frothing)
Imack Coffee is trying to change bad coffee from becoming the norm. There are two main grades of coffee – commodity coffee and specialty coffee. Commodity coffee is low grown robusta coffee that is cheaper and used by the big corporate coffee companies on the market such as Folgers. These coffees are roasted in huge batches, and shipped all over the world to sit and stale on grocery shelves. Specialty coffees by contrast, are high grown arabicas, are hand picked and most often organically grown. These are the coffees used at IMACK. The coffee you buy from us is fresh roasted weekly to bring out the best in each bean.
Espresso – a straight “shot” of coffee extracted properly from a clean espresso machine. A shot should take 20-30 seconds to extract, and should be darker on the bottom and have a nice silky layer of golden crema on the top.
The real beauty of pour over brewing is that it is a manual process. You control not just the beans, grind, and ratio, but you even get a say in where the water goes and when.
Some things to avoid:
Pouring the water in one spot (this over-extract a little of your grounds and under-extract the rest)
Pouring too quickly (this will force water through the grounds and not allow for full extraction, and it could result in a mess)
Not watching the timer or scale (remember how much water you need to add for your amount of coffee, and try to finish pouring that much around the three minute mark)
Regardless of which pour over setup you have (and there are plenty of options), the general process is the same for most brewers. Pour hot water over ground coffee beans. Sure, it's a little more complicated than that, but not by much. While you should follow the manufacturer's recommended process for your brewer, here is the basic method.
Grinding Espresso Beans
You need an espresso grinder to get espresso fine enough to pull a good shot. These machines need to be calibrated to the specific espresso you use. Once the machine is 'dialed in' you shouldn't need to adjust the grinder more than a click or two in the other direction. You know the espresso is at the proper grind when you are getting your finished shot between 20-30 seconds. If the shots are running faster than 20 seconds, the grind is too coarse and/or is not being tamped firmly enough. If the shots are lingering slower than 30 seconds, the grind is too fine and/or is being tamped too hard. Adjust the grinder accordingly, and try again. Espresso should never be pre-ground and left to sit in the grinder - it will get stale, flat, and bitter.
What does 30lbs of pressure mean? It means push hard. The portafilter should be filled above the inner line and tamped down with enough pressure to flatten it out to the line. After running a shot, the espresso should form a 'cookie' or 'puck' when dumped out. If the espresso seems wet and muddy, it's too fine and the water from the machine can't pass through correctly. Adjust the grind to a slightly coarser setting. IF the espresso is slightly dry and falls apart when dumped, the grind it too coarse, adjust it slightly and try again!
The proper pull or shot on the espresso machine should be between 20-30 seconds. When the extraction button is pressed, there should be a few second delay as the shot infuses, then a dark stream of delicious coffee will start, getting progressively lighter as the crema forms. The shots should be timed to finish just as the milk is finished frothing. You don't want a shot sitting and getting cold and flat! Ideally, as the milk reaches about 100 degrees, you should begin the pull.
Frothing & Steaming Milk
The most difficult skill to learn as a barista is the proper frothing and steaming of milk. The only way to do it right is to practice, practice, practice! Yes, you might 'waste' a gallon (or two) of milk, but it will be worth it in the long run to master this skill and be able to create exceptional espresso masterpieces! It's important to note, different types of milk steam differently. A question that we often get is "can milk be re-steamed?" The answer is yes, but only if you add more fresh milk and this can only be done 1 or 2 times. Every time you steam milk, you break down the proteins and it will scald at a lower temperature each time. Mark your steam pitchers with lines so you know how much milk to use for each size drink - this will prevent scalding, over steaming, and waste.
Steamed milk is a staple in most American espresso drinks. The milk should be brought to about 160 degrees and should be creamy and silky. ALWAYS USE A THERMOMETER! Until you are an expert, there is no shame in this! Start with a steaming pitcher, a thermometer, and correct portion of milk for the size cup you are using. Milk will expand when it's heated so make sure you leave a little room! Make sure the steaming wand is fully down in the milk, turn it on full, slightly tip your steaming pitcher, making sure you can always keep your eye on the thermometer. The milk should start swirling in the pitcher and as it heats up you will hear a growling sound as it approaches temperature. Turn off the steam wand at 140-145 degrees as the milk will continue to heat. If you get up to 180 degrees, your milk is scalding and you will need to throw it out. When finished, the milk should be very creamy with no noticeable air bubbles. You can lightly bang the pitcher on the counter to pop some of the smaller air bubbles before you pour the milk into your cup.
Frothing is essentially the same as steaming except as the milk approaches the final temperature, you will pull the steam wand towards the top of the milk in the pitcher to create froth or foam. Again, this is something that will take practice! The foam should not have large air bubbles and be stiff, it should be velvety and light. It's difficult to do but don't give up! This makes a huge difference in the taste of the drink and a good steam/foam will bring your customers back again and again!
If you've been in a coffee shop, you may think there are hundreds of espresso drinks to learn. But don't worry! There are actually only four main drinks, and the rest are variations of these.
Espresso - straight shots
Latte - flavoring, shots, large amount of steamed milk, little foam
Cappuccino - flavoring, shots, little steamed milk, lots of foam
Americano - shots of espresso in hot water
Learn these basics, and the rest will follow easily!
Your coffee should be kept in a cool, dry place and in an airtight container. Direct sun or heat will start to degrade the oils in the coffee. You can leave your coffee in the bag provided by your roaster. These bags have degassing valves on the front - this is to let the CO2 from the roasting process escape while keeping air out of the bag. You can use any other airtight container but leaving it in the bag is usually the best! Do not store your opened coffee in the freezer or on top of your espresso machine.
The finer you grind the coffee, the stronger it will be. As a rule of thumb, you should grind the coffee as fine as your machine will allow. The stronger the coffee the better, as long as there are no grounds in it and it isn't bitter. Each coffee brewer is slightly different and will take a different grind. Your roaster can help you with this! Here at IMACK, we're here to help set you up for success. If your brewer is overflowing, you either have too much coffee or the coffee is too finely ground. It is important to note that coffee starts to stale as soon as it's ground. This means you should wait until the last minute to grind it to ensure freshness.
Since coffee is mostly water, you need to start with fresh filtered water to get the best taste from your coffee. Most commercial machines have a filtration system built in to the water lines. Make sure to always keep your machines clean! Your roaster (hi, that's us) has special products that you can use for this! Once you get the right amount of coffee, the proper grind, and fresh filtered water, you're ready to brew! Modern commercial machines will keep your coffee fresh for hours, as will Airpots. IF you are using the old 'diner style' open glass carafes that sit on a heating element, your coffee will go stale quickly. Our advice? Invest $20 into a quality Airpot to extend the life of your brew! Keep in mind, that even in the Airpot, your coffee will begin to stale after about 4 hours. You can take 'stale' coffee and put it in the fridge to be used for iced coffee. In this case, your coffee will keep in the refrigerator for a few days and will actually improve over time - getting heavier and sweeter for a delicious iced coffee!
Easy 12 oz Drink Recipes
3 pumps of flavoring of your choice (we recommend Monin, Torani, and Davinci syrups)
1 shot of espresso
1 inch of foam
3 pumps of flavoring
1 shot of espresso
3 inches of foam
10 0z of hot water
1 shot of espresso
10 oz of brewed coffee
1 shot of espresso
2 pumps of caramel syrup
1 pump of vanilla syrup
1 shot of espresso
1 inch of foam
3 pumps of chocolate syrup
1 shot of espresso
1 inch of foam
3 pumps of white chocolate syrup
1 shot of espresso
1 inch of foam
Pour Over Method
Pour over coffee (unlike some other methods) continuously replenishes the liquid surrounding the coffee grounds with new, fresher water. This promotes a faster, more efficient brew. On the other hand, that fresh water also has a tendency to extract more from the surface layers of the grounds. It's sort of like frying cubed potatoes in a seriously hot pan. Compared to a cooler pan, your potatoes will cook faster, but there's also the risk that you'll overdo it, especially on the outsides. Pouring one stream of water, rather than a dozen or more little streams from a coffee-maker's shower head, results in a brewing environment that's a few degrees higher, just from reducing the surface temperature loss from those narrow water streams.
Grind + Weigh Coffee
For your average pour over, we recommend starting with a medium to medium-course grind, similar to a sea salt consistency. Since you're always looking for maximum flavor, you want to grind just before you brew, and the pour over setup is ideal for this! How much you grind depends on your needs and your preferred water to coffee ratio. In general, 16:1 is a good place to start, but a lighter roast may fare better with a little less coffee. IF you're brewing for a carafe, you can start with a liter of water for 60 grams of coffee. Adjust this down for smaller batches, like a single mug.
As with most brewing methods, you want your water for pour over to be hot, but not too hot. The sweet spot is typically between 195-205 degrees. A kettle with a thermometer will deliver the best results because it eliminates the guess work, but if you don't have one, wait around 30 seconds or so after you bring the water to a boil and you'll probably be close to this temperature. While you're heating up the water, place the dripper and the filter on top of the container that is going to catch all of your pour over goodness.
Add Coffee to Filter
When you pour your freshly ground coffee into the filter, make sure to get a nice, even bed. You can do this by tapping gently on the filter or leveling it with a spoon. Be gentle and make sure you're not compressing the grounds. This step is important because you want to get an even extraction, and a level bed helps ensure that the water hits all of the coffee. If you're brewing on top of a scale (which is a good idea for best results), you can now place your set up on the scale and zero it out. This will help you know the exact amount of water you're adding. Just remember how much coffee you have so you can get the ratio right!
It's finally time to start pouring! But don't just dump your kettle into the coffee. This will leave you with either an unsatisfactory coffee, or just a giant mess. First, you want to start your timer and 'bloom' the grounds. Begin at the center of your coffee and pour in a circular motion, spiraling your way out to the edge of the filter. Your goal her is to saturate the grounds, but slowly. If your coffee begins to flow out of the filter, you've added too much water for blooming!
Yes, we know it's tough. By now the water has hit your freshly ground coffee and has started to release all of those beautiful aromatics that make you perk up in the morning. You'll need to wait for 30-45 seconds to allow the grounds to truly bloom. This step ensures that the coffee is evenly saturated and gives it time to de-gas, releasing the carbon dioxide that could negatively effect your brew's taste. Watch closely! Your grounds will begin to expand from the release of these gasses and it will begin to resemble a blossoming flower (which is where the term 'bloom comes from!'
Slowly Pour Water
After that agonizing 30 seconds, you can go ahead an begin pouring! While techniques differ, the general advice is slow and steady. Using a circular motion, pour a small stream of water over all of the grounds. This process should take around three minutes and will likely happen in stages as you pour, let that water flow through the coffee, and then pour again. Slowly pouring allows all of that delicious flavor to be extracted. Don't worry, you'll be enjoying it soon! After your water has traveled through the grounds and the filter, you should be left with a bright, delicate brew, in your carafe or mug. Give it a swirl to redistribute all of the goodness, and serve!
You're now educated on all the basics so that you can make delicious, aromatic, and flavorful coffee... the right way! But you're not done yet, these skills will only come with practice, and we love to teach hands on! Give us a call to schedule your private lesson at your shop or ours! It's important to us to support you, and set you up for success!