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Basic barista guidelines (P1)

How to prepare coffee using a restaurant style espresso coffee machine

There are many differences between the coffee machine which is designed for low volume home use and the professional coffee machines typically used in restaurants by a trained barista. One of the primary reasons for this is in the machinery. Cheaper or machines bought at an appliance store sometimes struggle to extract the dissolvable solids, at best achieving two to four percent extraction whereas the professional automatic and the typical restaurant style espresso machines usually reach extraction levels of 8 or 9%. It is these extraction levels which determine the taste of your coffee, and hey, isn’t that what any beverage is about?

A barista is the Italian word for barman whose function includes the preparation and serving of drinks in general, including coffee. While this page is designed to help increase ones knowledge, it takes more than a few minutes of reading to become a barista - a good barista has spent many hours training and requires a lot of experience in order to reach the level required in a good coffee shop or restaurant.

A good barista is a pleasure to watch as he flits about behind his machine. His primary objective is to prepare a good coffee and to present this in the quickest and most efficient and organised manner possible without compromising on quality. Procuring superior quality coffee beans is indeed the first step of the process - this investment would however be a waste if one was unable to convert this into a good coffee product.

As far as automatic machines go, we recommend the Jura bean to cup machines which are designed for home, office and light professional use. The Jura Giga range of professional machines are in fact designed to extract at the highest level and are highly recommended for use in applications where a professional barista is not available.  

This beverage should be very dark in colour with a medium dark caramel micro-foam which is called crema. Immediately after a shot is pulled, the crema will generally be 50% or more of the shot. This will gradually dissolve to approximately 3-6 ml of satin like substance. It is often said that the amount of crema is determined by the quality and freshness of the coffee beans being used. This is indeed a good reflection but not entirely accurate as some poorer quality beans still produce a good crema. Merely as a guideline, one should be able to tilt the shot of espresso right to the lip of an espresso cup without the cream on the surface breaking.

The shot of espresso should have a pleasing aroma, be full bodied with a warm chocolaty or dark berry like taste. The mouth-feel or body should be full with a satin like finish. As it rolls around ones mouth, a taster should be able to pick up the different flavours and bittersweet oral sensations. Yes, bitter-sweet best describes good coffee – one should be able to pick up light acidity balanced with some dark chocolate or cocoa type sweetness, particularly when sucked through the somewhat sweeter layer of crema.

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How do large espresso coffee machines work?

Hot water from the thermostatically controlled boiler is forced at a pressure of nine bars from the group head, through compressed coffee in the porta-filter. This generally pushes down via water jets (not unlike a pressurised shower head). The top level of the coffee is generally 1-3mm from the ‘shower’ and the water pressure builds up in this gap before forcing its way through the tamped or hand compressed ground coffee.  In doing so, the soluble portion of the coffee dissolves into the water to form a strong coffee beverage known as a shot of espresso, this being usually 30-35ml.