Welcome to The Drink Station's Online Barista Training – a specialty coffee training methodology and management platform that will give you a comprehensive, foundational understanding of coffee and espresso preparation.
Upon completion of this barista training module series, you will possess a confident understanding of:
- espresso beverage preparation
- coffee brewing
- the associated tools and equipment
- managing day-to-day operations
- coffee and espresso terminology
- coffee and espresso training
The Barista Workstation
The espresso tamper is an important tool used to evenly compress the espresso grounds into the portafilter. A barista uses a hand tamper to provide a level and polished surface within the portafilter, preparing the espresso for even extraction.
The proper and efficient use of bar towels really helps separate a professional barista from other baristas. We recommend a “four-towel” workstation which includes the following:
1. A towel for the countertop, located below the espresso machine, out of the view of the customer. This towel is for wiping counters and occasional spills.
2. A towel for wiping out the portafilter between espresso extractions to remove any excess grounds or oils. This towel can often be a dark color to maximize use and longevity, given it is in contact with coffee grounds more than other towels.
3. A dedicated steam wand towel for wiping milk residue from the steam wand after every use. It is important to keep this towel away from all coffee grounds. It is positioned on the drip tray or on top of the machine on a saucer.
4. A towel committed to wiping the drip tray of the espresso machine. This will keep the bottom of the smallwares clean and dry.
The knock box is where we “knock out” the spent espresso grounds from the portafilter. This should ergonomically be within arms reach of the barista and can sit on the counter or can be a “chute” that goes through the counter into a trash can. We have even seen dedicated pull out drawers and other custom knock box arrangements that fit well within a specific business. In a busy bar you will create an abundance of spent grounds, and we recommend having a knock box that serves your volume and makes sense with your bar flow.
An espresso machine is the equipment that is designed to brew espresso by forcing pressurized water through coffee grounds in the portafilter in order to brew espresso. The espresso machine is the heart of the coffee bar, and is designed for producing espresso and steaming and heating milk, which is the foundation of every espresso menu.
Cleaning Brushes & Tools
A few different brushes are essential to the barista’s cleanliness. As we will learn later on, cleanliness is essential to the overall consistency and quality of your espresso menu.
Counter brush/Combo Brush – A larger brush will be helpful for cleaning espresso and coffee grounds off of the countertops and out of tight places. It is great to have a dry brush to sweep up dry coffee grounds. Some brushes also include a grinder brush, used for smaller areas which is shown here.
Group head brush – A group head brush is a small, hard plastic brush used to clean around the circumference of the grouphead during our backflushing procedure. It may also have a small measuring spoon end to use for dosing your espresso machine cleaner.
Blind Portafilter Basket – This is a basket that fits into your portafilter, that assists in “backflushing” the grouphead by blocking the flow of water when engaged.
Short Screwdriver – The short screwdriver is used for loosening the dispersion screen screw on as well as popping out the portafilter baskets.
Steam wand brush – A steam wand brush looks similar to a pipe cleaner, and is used when the steam wand tip is removed, to clean the inside of the steam wand.
In our industry, there are two primary types of espresso grinders: those with a doser, and doserless. In this lesson, we will familiarize ourselves with the primary components of each. Espresso grinders are dedicated for espresso and are not used to prepare any other coffee in the coffee shop. It is truly the espresso grinder and machine that define the espresso brewing method, not the level of roast or type of coffee.
Hopper – The hopper is a clear plastic holder that sits atop the grinder and stores fresh, whole bean espresso during the working hours at a coffee shop.
Bean Release Gate – The bean release gate allows the hopper to be removed while it’s full of coffee. During bar hours, the hopper should be kept full, and the bean release allows the barista to remove the hopper by stopping the flow of espresso beans. Look here if your grinder is on and nothing is happening.
Grinding Burrs – The beans then fall through the adjustment collar, into the grinding burrs. Grinding burrs are the series of blades either as discs or conical burr sets that evenly grind the espresso to our desired consistency.
Dosing Chamber – Once the coffee passes through the burrs, the ground coffee lands in the dosing chamber. Doserless grinders will dispense coffee directly into the portafilter. It is our technique and methodology that ground coffee is not stored in the dosing chamber, and we grind just enough for each order.
Dosing Lever – The dispensing handle on the side of the dosing chamber rotates the inside of the chamber and allows the coffee to drop into the portafilter.
On/Off Switch – Each make and model of grinder has it’s own configuration of on/off, typically a knob or switch near the bottom of the grinder. Some switches have a timer, but many simply engage the motor which spins the burrs, thus feeding coffee through and grinding the beans.
Adjustment Collar – Grind adjustment is controlled by a knob or a large collar called the adjustment collar. Turning the adjustment collar changes the distance between the grinding burrs which affects the size of coffee grounds that can pass through them. Nearly all grinders will allow you to adjust fine or coarse with arrows and words explaining which direction is which. The grinder burrs must be replaced regularly to retain sharpness, this schedule will be based upon volume.
Introduction to the Espresso Grinder
Importance of the Grinder
The grinder is often referred to as the barista’s most important tool
It is essentially the first piece of equipment used in espresso preparation, and you only have one chance to grind whole bean espresso. A great barista is in tune with their grinder and understands how to make small fine adjustments to ensure consistency throughout the day as variables change around them. It is imperative to fully understand the workings of the espresso grinder from the inside out and to not be afraid to make confident adjustments when necessary.
Introduction to the Espresso Machine
There are three major types of commercial espresso machines, and there are many variables within each type that make them unique. For these lessons, we will operate each espresso machine as a semi-automatic, thus turning on and off the water flow manually.
Types Of Machines
Manual espresso machines are operated by a lever which controls the flow of water through manual pressure through the portafilter. These are often piston driven instead of having an electric pump.
Semi-automatic espresso machines are controlled by a simple on and off button or switch, which engages the pump and water to flow through the grouphead. The barista is responsible for turning off the flow of water at the end of the extraction.
Automatic espresso machines, while similar to a semi automatic machine, can be identified by the various programmable buttons that calibrate the amount of water that is dispersed through the espresso grounds, thus shutting off automatically.
Super automatic espresso machines come in a few variations. Some have built-in milk dispensers while others require baristas to pour and portion as well as steam milk when ordered. Regardless, a super auto machine will grind and extract espresso internally with the push of a button.
The Heart of Your Retail Operation
Getting down to it, the espresso machine is the centerpiece of many cafes, the true heart of the operation. This lesson will cover the basic elements associated with the operation of a commercial espresso machine
The Group Head
The group head is where the portafilters rest inside the machine. The group head is made up of several components, and each component plays a critical role in beverage quality.
Dispersion Screen, Filter Screen or Group Screen
Dispersion screens, filter screens, and group screens help water flow evenly across the total surface of the coffee. The screen also helps prevent coffee from backflowing into the group head.
The Group Head Screw
The group head screw holds the dispersion screen in the group head. In some examples the screw also disperses water.
The Group Gasket
The group gasket is the black rubber like seal around the outside of the dispersion screen.
The portafilter, short for portable filter, is the handle for the coffee brewing basket and what holds the basket in place. The portafilter should always remain in the grouphead to retain heat and be gently locked into place. The portafilter will come with several options including; spouts (single, double) or bottomless, as well as different baskets; single, double, triple or blind.
Brewing Button (Actuator)
Every espresso machine has a brewing button or lever to activate the water flow to the grouphead.
A manometer is a gauge that reads pressure in the boiler(s). A dual manometer has two needles on the same gauge face and reads pressure for two locations.
The steam wand is the component of the espresso machine that is used to heat and texture milk. The steam wand is normally located on the end or the espresso machine and usually on both sides.
The steam is controlled by a knob or a lever.
The drip tray is located below the group heads, the drip tray catches rinse water and excess espresso. The drip tray is connected to the drain, however, no milk should be dumped in the drip tray.
Many modern espresso machines include a display. The display may also serve as a pressure gauge. The time of day, espresso shot timers, temperature and other information such as menus and settings might also be available from the screen
Espresso machines often feature a 3 way on and off switch. Position one is off. Position two is used to fill the boiler, or used by a technician during diagnostics. Position three is the full on position. In some cases espresso machines have two separate switches.
About Coffee Freshness and Storage
Did you know coffee is a fruit? Carefully storing fresh coffee can enhance its flavor and extend its life. Typically, fresh roasted coffee is at its freshest 2-14 days after it has been roasted. It is ideal to store whole bean coffee in an airtight, food-safe container or bag that is kept in a cool dark place. After 10-14 days, coffee will begin to get stale and flavors and aromatics will dissipate, leaving you with a bland, stale coffee the further off roast it is. Encourage customers to buy less coffee more often to ensure freshness.