On the Other Side of the Bar
I’ve spent many years consuming a variety of coffee from the excellent coffee shops Northern Ireland has to offer and consider myself a coffee lover. An oat flat white is my go-to drink, but occasionally, I enjoy a good batch brew or some espresso if I’m feeling especially tired.
My standard experience in a coffee shop would be getting a coffee to go, or maybe finding a cosy spot to open up my laptop and do some work; however, I was always curious to know more about how my drink was being made. What made my flat white special? What was the difference between each drink on the menu? A cursory search online answered some of my questions, but I still wanted to know more about the processes involved in making a great cup of coffee. I had a desire to be able to make great coffees like all the baristas who have made my drinks through the years, and luckily now I can.
In March this year, I got a job at a coffee shop while I was studying. I finally started to learn how to make coffee and all the variables that have to be considered. Previously, when I was just a customer, I saw coffee as a mix of espresso and steamed milk, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The careful consideration and passion that goes into creating each drink to ensure it tastes and looks perfect is more than I had imagined.
There’s the espresso which can make or break a drink. I don’t think most people realise how much thought goes into making a good espresso. You have to consider which beans you’re using. Where did they come from? How are they processed? What ratio of coffee to water do you use? There were so many factors I never would have considered until I started working in coffee.
Once you have a good espresso, it’s time for the milk, if that’s what turns you on. Different drinks demand different amounts of milk and foam. The process of steaming the milk and infusing it with the espresso to achieve that perfectly silky texture with the exact/ correct amount of foam is no joke. Truth be told, it’s quite difficult! The last step is latte art, and practice really does make perfect. There are so many designs to choose from and the simplest to begin with are hearts and tulips. So when someone hands you a flat white with a heart design, they either like you or they’re a new barista and can’t do anything else yet.
I’ve only been working in coffee for a short period, but in that time I’ve learnt so much about the different processes of making great drinks. Now that I have a taste for coffee making and not just drinking, I’m eager and excited to learn as much as I possibly can in the future, one flat white at a time.