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How to go from a Coffee Cowboy to Coffee Connoisseur: A barista reveals all the secrets

“Will we meet for a coffee?” is a text we send and receive multiple times a week. Grabbing a coffee with your friends has become almost like a pastime for many. Whether you are looking for some “me time”, or meeting an old school friend for a catch up, grabbing a coffee is the go-to activity.

There is such a wide variety of coffee available and an endless glossary of terms associated with the drink. It can feel overwhelming when ordering your first coffee or if somewhere is out of your usual order.

“Will I get a cappuccino? Or a latte? What if I don’t like it? What even is it?” We’ve all been there. If you're like me, then you ordered something randomly years ago, liked it and because you are a creature of habits have never ordered anything else. Even though I order a coffee nearly everyday, I couldn’t tell you the first thing about it.

Tara chatted to Richard Brett, a barista and self confessed “coffee snob”, who gave me all the info I needed to go from a coffee cowboy to coffee connoisseur…

Where does coffee come from?

Coffee can come from all over the world. Traditionally, coffee comes from South America and Africa, but coffee also grows in China. They’d be the most popular places where coffee is sourced.

Barista Richard Brett

What factors influence the taste of coffee?

The climate the coffee grows in definitely affects it. Different climates produce different varieties of beans, meaning if they are a red (word) bean or yellow. The small difference in that completely changes its profile. Processing methods also have a big effect. And then there is the difference between filter and espresso coffee. Filter is a lot lighter.

There are two standard processing methods which are if they are standard or washed. Essentially, if the coffee is processed inside of the cherry, the plant coffee grows in, it is natural.Or if it's processed outside of the cherry, it's washed; the beans are taken out, that will give a slightly, more clearer flavour.

How does an espresso machine work?

All espresso machines need a water source and a heat source to brew espresso. They also require a hardened, tamped-down “puck” of finely ground coffee beans and a reservoir to store the finished espresso or a nozzle through which the espresso can drip into a waiting cup.

In the most basic terms, an espresso machine works by using steam, pistons, or pumps to force hot water through the puck of coffee beans. The high pressure inside an espresso machine and the low water ratio to coffee give espresso its distinctive thick consistency. Higher-end and more expensive espresso machines may have additional features which can contribute to the overall flavour profile of the beverage.

You get a lot more flavour compared to the Aeropress. For example, if I did a small Aeropress at home with the amount of milk I would normally use for a latte, I would just taste milk but because of the pressure the espresso machine pushes out, it gives much more of a coffee flavour. Think of it like dilute and cranberry juice.

Is coffee good or bad for you?

Like most things that is body dependent. For some people caffeine will effect the mind a lot more than others. For me, caffeine does nothing really to wake me up or get me going. For others, its a need first thing in the morning to wake them up. Studies have proven that four cups of coffee can be quite good for you, which is good.

How would you make good coffee at home?

There are so many different methods. It depends, how much of a coffee nerd you are or how fast you want it. A lot of people just do instant coffee but there are better ways to make instant coffee than you think. For me, I always reach for my aeropress or else there is a V60, which is like a pour over method. And then there is the difference between filter and espresso coffee. Filter is a lot lighter.

What is one common misconception about coffee?

A lot of people think it's bitter, and there to give you energy and then you need a lot of syrup to make it taste better. Knowing what you're doing always helps. For example, getting the right measurements. Working in a coffee shop, we test four or five different recipes on the espresso shots to make sure it's of a high standard for the following day.

Weight has such a big impact on coffee people wouldn't realise. You will always have the same amount of water going through and as an example, 40 grams of water going through 18 grams of coffee is taking more flavour from those 18 grams than if you go through 19 grams. You're taking out more of the overall flavour.

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