Coffee doesn't ask silly questions — coffee understands, and envelops you in a life-affirming bear hug of alertness. But how much do we understand about those giving little beans? 200 Degrees' barista school is open on Colmore Row (it's under the store). And on the eve of its launch, we got a lesson from Connor Fox, Brum's barista-in-chief, with support (and a light, friendly ribbing) from Graham Hepburn, 200 Degrees' chief coffee-making master. Here's but a fraction of what we learnt.
THE AESTHETICS: LATTE ART
Like it or loathe it, "latte art" has become the rule rather than the exception, and with a goodly measure of patience, you can learn it here.
You'll need to hone your skillz though, the milky magic can't be conjured with poorly steamed milk — and ace micro-foaming guarantees a velvety texture.
"Stacks" are a barista's paintbrush. And to the more technical among you, they're sequential lines — straight or twisty — created by frothed milk.
Connor (left) can do 12. Graham (right) can do 16. If he's got his favourite jug.
'I Choose Birmingham' can almost definitely do one amorphous looking blob.
It's critical to mix a little milk with your coffee before attempting latte art.
Angling your cup and getting the lip of the pouring jug as close as possible to your coffee/milk combo are also key steps.
Latte art is easier to pull off with cooler milk, which could explain the decreasing temperature of cappuccinos over the years.
Latte art is easier to pull off if you wear a trendy hat. Oh okay, it's not.
THE OFFICE BREW: AEROPRESS
At £28, an AeroPress is a nifty bit of wallet-friendly coffee brewing kit that can improve your in-house coffee making skills by the power of 17.
The process of making an AeroPress is deeply ritualistic.
And we've been doing it wrong in our office for the last two years.
18 grams is the ideal weight of coffee for Aeropressing.
Wet the filter paper first — it will prevent ground beans seeping into your mug.
The less water used to saturate the coffee the better, encouraging extraction.
The ultimate hangover cure using an Aeropress employs Dr Pepper in lieu of water.
Replace the filter with an orange slice, and add cinnamon for a festive brew.
BARISTA-ING: THE BASICS
There are two main types of coffee — Arabica and Robusta. And though the former generally gets a better rep, it's all about matching bean to method.
Robusta is typically more caffeinated and suited to punchy drinks that will be pushed through a machine, like espresso. Arabica is generally produced in mellow, lower yields and lends itself to more delicate pour-over coffees.
Never let your coffee come into contact with metal receptacles during the brewing process — it will change the flavour of the coffee drastically, and badly.
Keep your coffee machine clean — dried up beany sludge finding its way into your cup does not a happy coffee quaffer make.
Birmingham's council pop (water) is soft, and the minimal mineral content can cause coffee to under extract, sometimes requiring a higher dosage of coffee.
THE FUTURE: YOUR NEXT GO TO POUR
In a year's time, you'll have traded in your flat white for filter coffee or a cortado.
A cortado is espresso coffee with a small amount of steamed milk.
In five years you'll be trading in your cortado for nitro.
Nitro is cold-brew coffee infused with nitrogen gas, released through a pressurised valve, creating a Guinness-esque pour.
With a more concentrated coffee-to-water ratio, nitro can hit you quickly.
As can drinking coffee before you even get to coffee school. We've been awake for three days straight.
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