…in the last ten years.
Barista training has come along way since 1999. Back then few people appreciated the skills behind making great coffee and there were only a couple of people offering training in the country. It was back then that Paul Meikle-Janney founded Coffee Community.
Thirteen years on Coffee Community have brought barista training into the technological age by launching the first App specifically designed for the for the iPad and iPhone.
“I can remember the first trade show we went to as barista trainers. We were looked upon as a novelty but within a few years to win any big coffee contract you had to offer some sort of training support and many coffee distributors were looking to take on their own trainers”, comments Paul.
In the early years most of Paul’s training was to cafés that had just bought their first espresso machine. He reminisces on how many people were reluctant to be trained even when it came free with their machine, “You would turn up at a new café that had a person’s life savings invested in it and they would turn down the opportunity to be trained even though they had no knowledge of coffee at all. It’s no coincidence that many of these cafés had closed within their first six months”
Training back then drew on the Italian traditions: 7 grams of coffee, usually a dark roast Arabica and Robusta blend, extracted between 20-30 seconds, to a final drink of 30ml. Trying to get people to these basic standards was often a challenge. Many operators target was speed rather than quality, and ignorance on how to calibrate their grinder, led to under extracted coffee being the norm. There was a deep unease at serving such a small drink also, which led to most espressos served being twice the volume they should be and hence dragging out all the bitterness from the beans. With such a poor espresso it was probably better to opt for a milky drink to cover up the mistakes but there was no sanctuary here with dry bubbly foam and overheated milk often the finishing flourish.
We often underestimate how far we have come as today baristas talk of how best to roast their single estate beans, fine tuning the extraction by playing with the dose (sometimes up to 20 grams for a single espresso, as the Antipodean influence on our barista traditions creeps in), temperature, pressure etc.
Barista Training has become a science more than an art.
London now boasts some of the best cafes in the world, with the likes of The Espresso Room, Prufrock and Monmouth, and outside of London the trend continues with cafes such as Laynes in Leeds, North Tea Power in Manchester, Bold Street in Liverpool and Artisan in Glasgow, to name just a few.
But does this niche of high-end cafes hide the fact that poor quality coffee is still common on our high street? When was the last time you had a great coffee in a hotel, a pub, or after a great meal in a restaurant. Taking restaurants as an example, many Michelin starred establishments will champions the providence of all the ingredients they cook with but when it comes to their coffee the same attention is not given.
It seems the need to get people to adhere to even basic standards is as important today as it was years ago.
When Coffee Community developed their app, “Coffee: beans, barista and latte art”, they were well aware that the basic standards of barista skills were very much still required, but that others wanted more advanced skills and information to cut their teeth on.
The information in the app was drawn from their years of experience that includes their involvement writing qualification for the likes of City & Guilds and the SCAE, as well as years of involvement in the Barista Championships.
“The creation of the app came about by chance really. We were putting together a training booklet for our courses with one of the best graphics companies in the country and as they completed a section they sent it over for me to check. Being on the road a lot this meant that I often saw the graphics for the first time on my phone and they looked so good the idea of the app was born.” commented Paul.
The strength of the graphics can certainly be seen in the app: beautifully laid out, clear to follow and a host of wonderful photos from beans on the farm through to great latte art.
The advantage of IPads and IPhones’ means that great graphics can be enhanced with videos and the app has footage of all the basic skills such as setting your grinder through to skills in pouring a number of latte art patterns. And if you are still unsure you can scroll through the step-by-step “blackboards” of information or double tap the screen to go through points picture by picture.
The larger screen of the IPad particularly showcases the range of videos, graphics and photos and the Deluxe version of the app was specifically laid out to take advantage of this (stick to the standard version if you are just a IPhone user).
The App instructs you on more than just using your espresso machine though. It starts with information on the beans themselves; varieties and processing methods and a touch screen map of the world informing you of general flavor profiles of many of the producing countries.
So do baristas want to learn their skills through new technology? Well the evidence would say they do. You only have to look at the number of coffee blogs on line, and the hours of YouTube footage on barista skills to show that.
The standard version of “Coffee: beans, barista and latte art” costs only £1.99 (In the UK. Costs may vary in different countries in line with Apple’s policy), and can be viewed by following the link below.
The Deluxe version is optimized for the IPad and costs £4.99: