Barista School

Naked portafilter (by Abstract Gourmet)

Just a quicky post. Dtm and I headed down to the W.A Barista Academy for a bit of schooling just the other day. We were taken through a 3 hour session with the lovely Jen on coffee techniques, grinding, dosing, tamping, pulling shots, texturing milk, a little latte art, and general machine maintenance. All in all a great course and an excellent way to get a solid grasp of the basics of preparing espresso.

Dtm pouring a latte (by Abstract Gourmet)   Dtm's cup

There was 4 of us all up in the course and with 2 x 2 group La Marzocco Lineas to play with, everyone had ample access to the machines, and a lot of time to spend practicing shots over and over until they were coming out right. Jen covered tamping techniques, using correct pressure, adjusting the grind to suit conditions of beans, and also gave us some tips on how to maintain a consistent routine (something I never seem to do) so that your shots are all made the same way, with the only variable factor being the grind.
The course was excellent, Jen is a great teacher, and the amount of people just was right so that everyone got a lot of time to just pump the shots out.

It makes me really regret ever paying to do a course called Prepare and Serve Espresso Coffee at the Perth School of Hospitality and Tourism. The course was a joke. There was about 20 or so people in the class and one dodgy coffee machine and grinder. We all had about 5 minutes in total to use the machine and we were being taught by someone who had never worked in a cafe in her life, and who’s recommendation on where to find good coffee in Perth was to go to Dome (enough said). The sad thing was, some people in the course were hoping it would teach them the skills they’d need to get work in the industry. If you happen to find this post and you’re look for barista training… DO NOT TAKE THAT COURSE !

Testament to the quality of the courses at the WA Barista Academy is that Dtm was pulling awesome shots in no time at all (although he is a skill home barista), and after little to no instruction at all managed to whip out a fine first example of a rosetta (below). How sweet is that ?

We also managed to find time to put the naked portafilter on (the top photo), and make some shots with that. It’s basically a really good way of locating weaknesses in your dosing and tamping routine, because you can see the coffee coming out of the basket as it extracts, and you can tell if it’s coming out of one side and not the other etc. A great tool for making sure you have got the technique down.

Dtm's rosetta

We’ll also be going back soon for a more in depth latte art course, for all those fancy flowers, hearts, and patterns people seem to love so much. Look forward to seeing some more cool photos, and if you’re in need of some training, get in touch with WABA, they will sort you out.

W.A Barista Academy
Phone: (08) 9328 7675
Fax: (08) 9328 6805

WA Latte Art Competition

The Pour

Last Sunday I headed down to the WA Barista Academy to have a chat with Ben and a few of the more discerning baristas and latte artists in Perth about the upcoming WA Latte Art Competition. Once again an AASCA sponsored event, and part of the lead up to the Australian and World Latte Art Competitions to be held later on this year.

The format of the competition is basically as such: You need to make 3 types of 2 identical drinks. One is a latte (flat white / monk head / foamless cappucino), the other is an espresso macchiato (piccolo latte), and the final is a drink of your own creation. Then points are allocated to the taste of the drinks, the quality of the designs, and the similarity between both patterns (so you can prove it wasn’t a fluke the first time), and a bunch of other factors.

Macchiato Art

So it was a good day, and I got to meet a few more of the cool people that make up the Perth coffee scene, like Clare from the newly opened “Tiger, Tiger” in the city, Corey from Core (soon to be Epic Espresso), Megan from Core, Jeremy (WA Barista Champion), and Dom of “My Favourite Perth Cafes” and “How to Poach an Egg” comments fame on this very website.

After the formal procedings we got into “Barista Jam” mode, and I made a mockery of the Mazzer Robur by adjusting it three times in the wrong direction…before realising what the hell I was doing and finally getting some decent shots after about 20 minutes. Then attempted many poor excuses for latte art that Ben assures me could be good enough to use in the competition, which according to him I have a good chance of performing well in, when you take into account nerves of competitors and the like… but I will need to start churning out something a hell of a lot better than my recent efforts for me to want to take the step and compete.

I’m more of a big fish in a little pond kind of guy…


W.A Barista Competition


So over Easter I was forunate (or unfortunate depending on your point of view) enough to be asked to help out with the running of the Western Australian Barista Competition. It was held at the Western Australian Barista Academy, and co-ordinated by my good mate Ben.

I was a runner for the day, which meant i was running (or ambling…with a bit of a sashay every now and then) around after the competitors, helping them get their competition spaces set up with cups/trays/saucers/cultery, and anything else they wanted to use.

The format of the competition is pretty simple. The baristas had to make 4 espressos, 4 capucinnos, and 4 signature drinks.

The signature drink is basically an espresso based drink of the competitors own creation, and believe me when i say there are a lot of creative people out there.

Each competitor gets 15 minutes to prepare their workspace, then 15 minutes to make their drinks and serve them, then 15 minutes to clean up.

They are judged by a panel of 4 sensory judges, who are testing for flavour, body, acidity, mouthfeel of the coffee, and 2 technical judges who are watching them pull the shots, use the grinder, and doing a few shot timings etc, to see how quick its coming out.

This is (essentially) the first time a competition of this nature and composition has been run in WA. In the past other company’s have run their own flavour of competition, but none of them have been AASCA (AustralAsian Specialty Coffee Association) approved. AASCA abides by all the WBC (World Barista Championship) rules and regulations, and also requires a completely independant group of judges.

So there were probably about 15 or so competitors over the course of the day. Lots of nerves, lots of good coffee, lots of amazing signature drinks, an occasional spillage, and a lot of encouragement from the crowd.

All in all it was a great day, and it panned out like so:

1st Place: Jeremy Hulsdunk, Muffin Break
2nd Place: Nolan Hirte, Lemon Espresso
3rd Place: Vanessa Moore, Core Espresso
4th Place: Tim Grey-Smith, X-Wray

Must say 1st place was very much a dark horse. If you’re not familiar with Muffin Break, they are basically a muffin shop, that sells…umm, muffins… and stuff. Pastries, sandwiches, things like that. They are not exactly known for their coffee, so for a guy who works there to win the state heats of the Australia Barista Competition is pretty friggin good. I watched Jeremy’s performance though, and must say he knows his stuff. I believe his family owns the Muffin Break store that he works in, which probably explains why his barista skills are not being put to use in a more well known cafe, but if anything it proves that you can get a decent coffee wherever you go… it all depends on the barista :)

Congrats to Nolan and Vanessa too, Nolan gave what i thought was easily the performance of the day… throwing in a few behind the back bar tender moves with a sweet Kiwi dub soundtrack (Kora i believe).

So a great day all up, met some lovely people, chatted and hob knobbed with all sorts of WA coffee & food personalities, and saw some excellent skills on display.

I’ll hopefully get some more photos off Ben to post up.

Espresso lessons.

Knowing people is a good thing.

Having recently popped in to see Ben at the Barista Academy I got to borrow his La Marzocco naked portafilter. Unfortunately it didn’t fit my Silvia, but the LM double basket does fit into my Silvia portafilter. So I’ve been pulling a few practice shots with the LM basket instead. It’s a little deeper than the standard Rancilio double basket, and the walls are straighter, and the holes in the bottom go right out to the edge of the basket, as opposed to the Silvia which has a little gap around the edge where there is no extraction.

Baskets side by side

Having said all that you’d think i’d be getting better shots with the LM basket, but so far that hasn’t been the case. I assume it must be because of my dosing/tamping method and the amount of coffee I’m putting in each shot, because each shot I’ve pulled with the LM basket has been soggy on top (a sign of under dosing), and a lot faster than normal.

I think the additional holes in the LM basket, as well as the increased size, all add up to there being less resistance in the puck, which means fast/under extracted shots.

So to test this I kept the grind at exactly the same level and repeated my procedure with my standard Rancilio double basket, and immediately got a much nicer, properly extracted shot.

The lesson in all of this. Better equipment does not add up to better espresso if you don’t know how to use it properly :)
I’ll keep playing with the LM basket and try adjusting my technique to see if I can compensate for the differences i’m seeing.
It could also have a lot to do with the beans I’m using, which are a couple of weeks old now… Not having a roaster is causing me much pain.

Also, here’s a couple of latte art shots I’ve taken in the last couple of days. Still not getting them how I’d like despite getting Ben to show me… More practice required :)

Take away art

Lost it on the dismount

WA Barista Academy

Just been hanging out with Ben of the newly formed Western Australian Barista Academy. Soon to be holding the WA state heats of the Australian Barista Championships.

Here’s a nice shot taken a few short minutes ago on my phone. Trying to put them roughly in sequence to show a bit of the technique Ben uses to dose, tamp and pull shots…

Mazzer Robur


Hands of a master Part 2


Hands of a master Part I


LaMarzocco Linea

The Linea

Espresso shot LaMarzocco Linea

The shot (not the best one we pulled)

Was a Rosetta

The latte art… just after Ben had almost knocked the cup over :)