The Ultimate Barista Guide Part One

Wed 7th August 2019
News, Hints & Tips

The following is a training guide from Liquidline intended specifically for baristas working with commercial equipment in the workplace environment. Great tasting espresso is a difficult art to master. They hope to help you develop the skills to allow you to make the best coffee as a barista.

This manual is divided into nine sections and intended to be read in order from the journey of coffee into the processing, preparation and serving of coffee beverages. Coffee preparation is a craft, and one to be enjoyed. They hope you find this guide helpful.

Why Train Baristas?

If you are in a workplace driven by coffee culture, then you must be committed to preparing and serving coffee drinks that taste great. A traditional barista will understand how to operate an espresso machine and the steps required to preparing great tasting coffee drinks. When it comes to serving your customers, professionalism is key to the success of your business. If you have highly skilled and professionally trained baristas on your team, you are sure to be in for a busy period, especially during the morning coffee run!

Training up your staff at barista level guarantees positive feedback from your customers, an increase in sales and profits, and a huge tick for friendly customer service. It will also encourage your customers to go for that second cup, if their first cup of coffee tastes that good. Baristas are the face of the coffee shop, or restaurant. They are paramount to the success of your coffee-driven business.

Want to learn more on Barista Training? View their Blog Post on the topic.

Understanding Coffee & Your Chosen Blend

The majority of coffee on the market is blended in some way or another. Coffee blends are made up of coffee beans originating from more than one place, such as at varying altitudes, regions, and countries. Think of a coffee blend like a recipe; where you combine different flavours to strike an overall balance, while producing the complexity of flavour, adhering to customer demand and offering a bespoke brewing method in the workplace.

Coffee Origins/ The Two Types Of Coffee

I)  Robusta

Robusta coffee is a species of coffee which originates from central and western Africa, and is grown also in Brazil and Southeast Asia. It was introduced in the late 19th century by French colonists. In recent years, Vietnam has surpassed Brazil, India and Indonesia to become the world’s single largest exporter, with robusta producing one-third of the world’s coffee today. Robusta contains twice as much caffeine as arabica and is the stronger of the two coffee types, often used in instant coffee and espresso blends to form the “crema”.

II)  Arabica

Coffee arabica is a species of coffee originally from the mountains of yemen in the arabian peninsula and the southwestern highlands of ethiopia. It is also known as the “coffee shrub of arabia” or “mountain coffee” and is believed to be the first species of coffee to be cultivated and grown in southwest arabica for over 1,000 years.


A coffee blend can be the mixture of beans from different countries. A complex blend, for example, could be a mixture of beans from eight different countries. The percentage of each single origin in the blend is critical information and will determine the different taste profiles of the coffee. For example, a coffee that is 50% Colombian and 50% Indonesian will taste far different to a blend that is 70% Columbian and 30% Indonesian.

Single origin coffee beans are coffee beans that have been produced in varying micro-climates and conditions, often have distinctive flavour profiles and come from traceable farms across the globe, including in columbia.

Blending coffee is all part of the coffee making process. It is done for a multitude of reasons, such as being able to meet certain price points, or meeting specific quantity requirements. It is also done to meet complex flavour preferences and needs of the customer and appeal to markets expectations of offering bespoke coffee services. Many coffee shops may choose to create their own in-house coffee blend, that embraces the characteristics of a traditional espresso, and also embodies the principles of speciality coffee with varying flavour profiles.

How To Choose Components For Coffee Blends

If you are thinking about creating your own unique coffee blend, then here are some components we recommend for a distinctive, signature blend.

1.  A Sweet Base Note

Coffee that takes on browning flavours, including brazilian, mexican or peruvian coffee beans.

2. Mid-Palate Satisfaction

The moment you encounter during your first sip of coffee. To avoid any unpleasant experiences, add flavour notes of green apple, or peach and steer towards costa rica, colombia and guatemala coffee beans.

3. High Notes

Create a light blend of coffee, with citric acidity and floral notes. This can be crafted using kenyan or ethiopian coffee beans.


The degree of roast relates to how long coffee beans have been roasting for. This process can often be determined by the colour of the bean. For example, a light roast will be a light shade of brown, a medium roast will be a rich, chocolate brown colour and a dark or full roast will be a very dark brown. There are other roast types, including an italian roast, which will be black in colour, and a french roast, that is black and oily.

A. Light Roast

This refers to the colour of the coffee beans when removed from the roaster. Light roasted beans are light shades of brown in colour, produce low levels of bitterness and sweet to taste. They are likely to be reminiscent of fruits, teas and chocolate to taste and are highly aromatic when ground and used. They offer delicately nuanced flavours and are often found in arabica coffees.

B. Medium Roast

Medium roast coffee resembles a slightly darker shade of brown and deliver flavours consistent with notes of roasted nuts, vanilla and butter. Ideal when served with milk or brewed for emphasis based on well-rounded flavours. Highly aromatic when ground and one of the more popular roasts in the industry, due to the balancing of flavours and reduction in intense acidity.

C. Dark Roast

A dark roasted coffee bean is often used to create notable flavours of dark bitter chocolate, liquorice and spicy notes of black better or clove. Dark roasts are usually very bitter in comparison to medium or light roasts and have a hallmark aroma. They tend t o be smokey if roasted for long periods of time.

Packaging And Distribution

Transportation is an important part of the coffee supply chain, representing an enormous global network, from small cafes to giant box stores around the world. A reliable and least cost supply chain depends on fair and honest relationships.

Coffee is involved in a very rigorous packaging and distribution process.  Premium coffee bean brands are often packaged in sealed foil packaging designed to prevent oxidation which can turn coffee stale. The ground or whole beans are bagged before the packet is flooded with nitrogen, removing any oxygen before sealing. When

Keeping the ground or whole bean coffee fresh is a serious factor for a successful manufacturing business. The most usual package options are bulk coffee and single serve. Bulk coffee is usually found in cans or foil type bags ranging in different weight options. Single serve is ground coffee sealed in small filter paper, for example, in coffee pods which makes one cup of coffee at a time.

Understanding Your Coffee Grinder

Coffee flavour comes from the oils in roasted beans which need to be released evenly for better-tasting coffee, hence the process of grinding coffee. Using a coffee grinder allows you to alter the consistency of your grinds and is the tool that produces small volumes of even-sized particles of coffee.

What Is Espresso?

Espresso is a italian-inspired beverage, made quickly by forcing extremely hot water and steam through coffee that has been pre-ground. The taste of espresso has evolved to become strong and intense and is designed to be experienced by all coffee lovers.

The Grinder

The grinder is the most important piece of equipment in an espresso bar. A quality grinder must produce the proper particle sizes to provide adequate flow resistance, cause minimal heating of the grounds during grinding and limit the production of fines or insoluble protein molecules, that can form compact layers that clogs holes in the bottom of the filter basket.

There are two types of grinders: stepless and stepped adjustment grinders. Stepped grinders help lock the settings into place after the adjustment is made. You will turn the bean hopper or an adjustment knob to adjust your grind setting. As you turn it you will feel a “click” as the setting is locked into place. With stepless adjustment grinders you will have an infinite number of settings to choose from to adjust your grind to.

To extract espresso properly it is important to use an espresso grinder and to grind per order. Conical burr grinders are desirable because they have longer cutting edges and can rotate at lower speeds which increases the surface area of each particle and the amount of flavour that can be extracted from the coffee. There are several factors that will influence your grind, such as humidity or moisture in the air and the direction on your grinder, depends on either making your grind finer or making it coarser. It is best practice to make minor adjustments to your grind each time until you are satisfied you have got it right.

In order to increase the coarseness of your coffee, the disk located under the hopper must be adjusted and rotated clockwise. To decrease the coarseness, turn it anticlockwise. The adjustment should be performed with the motor on and without any coffee between the grinding blades. If your coffee is coming out of the espresso machine too quickly, it is too coarse. If it is coming out too slowly it means the coffee is too fine. Grind small amounts of coffee to determine the optimal degree of fineness and coarseness.

The Hopper

The hopper is a funnel-shaped plastic chamber. The hopper is the container that holds the coffee beans that are to be ground. Commercial coffee grinders used in espresso bars will hold a few pounds of coffee beans at any time. The hopper sits on top of the coffee grinder and has to be removed to clean the grinding mechanism, grinding discs and spout.

The base of the hopper fits into the collar so that gravity will allow the beans in the hopper to fall into the grinding mechanism. The base of the hopper will have a gate that closes the hopper so that no beans will flow. It is important to shut the gate before taking the hopper off the grinder which you might do when adjusting the collar. If you forget to close the gate when you remove the hopper you will spill the beans. After closing at the end of each working day, remove the hopper, store the unused beans in an airtight container and clean the hopper with soap and water. Leave the hopper off the coffee grinder to dry overnight.

The Grinding Plates

The grinding plates or “burrs” of burr grinders are flat in some models and conical in others. One plate remains stationary while the other spins around during the grinding process. These plates help grind the coffee beans into uniform size particles, avoiding clogging problems and giving you the flexibility to grind beans to the coarseness or fineness that suits your needs.

Adjusting the grind is very important to the quality of the espresso extraction. In professional barista competitions, each competitor is given 15 minutes to adjust the grinder and calibrate the espresso shot to grind before pulling the espresso shots.

Non-dosing grinders will grind coffee beans directly into a ground coffee container or your coffee receptacle such as a portafilter. Whereas dosing grinders are designed to collect the ground coffee into the ground coffee container, cut into six equally shaped sections. The ground coffee exits through the grinding burrs through the chute and drops into these sections, which rotate. The rotation is controlled by means of a handle.

Dosing Ground Coffee

Dose is the weight of dry ground coffee that you use to make an espresso and can be anywhere from 18-21g. It is really important that you dose the correct amount of coffee in your basket. Ensure you deliver a full dose in your basket with each full click of the lever. To make a double espresso, you will need a dose of 18g of coffee grounds to fill 2 oz cup that will take 25-30 seconds to make.

You can be flexible with the dosing of your coffee, so long as you are consistent. Weigh out your coffee pre and post grinding to ensure you have the desired dose. A larger dose will allow you to increase the intensity of the coffee flavour in milk-based drinks to make it rich and flavoursome. For non milk-based drinks, you can choose a smaller dose as you will not be competing against milk for flavour dominance.

Your dose should never touch the shower screen of the portafilter as it will become an over-extracted coffee and there is too much room between the grinds. Changing your dose will affect flow rate, extraction temperature and extraction yield. Keeping it the same will make adjusting variables much easier to handle.

Understanding Your Espresso Machine

A quality espresso machine should be able to produce consistent temperature and pressure profiles during every shot, even under high use. Making espresso requires pushing heated water, under pressure through finely-ground coffee. There are three ways of creating this pressure, and hence, three types of espresso machines.

The Three Types Of Machine

1. Manual Espresso Machine

This type of machine requires the person using it to carry out all the various procedures involved in making coffee manually. You will need to both add water and coffee grinds to the machine, as well as controlling the frother when making cappuccinos and lattes. They give you full control over the entire brewing process including dosing, tamping, pulling the manual lever to pressure the water through the coffee and the timing of each of these operations.

2. Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine

The semi-automatic version of the espresso machine requires you to turn the machine on using the switch. Once you have made your shot of espresso, you will need to turn the machine back off again. You will still be required to ensure the water reservoir is filled and there is sufficient coffee beans within the grinder. To use a semi-automatic machine, load the portafilter in the group handle with ground coffee, tamp the coffee in and lock the group handle into the grouphead. Put an espresso cup under the portafilter and push the switch on the front panel of your espresso machine to start the espresso extraction. When the cup is full, push the switch to stop the flow.

3. Automatic Espresso Machine

This machine will produce great espresso coffee without having to participate in the process. These machines comes with a fully integrated water system and a coffee grinder. All you need to do is push a button and the machine will take over. During each process, once the beans have been ground and used they will be ejected and placed in an internal bin which can be taken out and have the contents removed. The super-automatic machine has multiple buttons, one per drink size. You can use one button for espresso, another for doppios, a third for ristrettos and a fourth for americanos. Once you have programmed your machine, all you need to do is load the portafilter with ground coffee and press the button for the drink you want.

The Correct Working Machine

Espresso machines have multiple group heads so the extraction temperatures can be set differently for each group. This is often used for custom blends of coffee that are extracted at slightly higher or lower temperatures. Here is a list of things to do when preparing your espresso shot.

  1.  Warm the cup before using it and rinse with hot water.
  2. Check your portafilter handle to ensure it is clean and dry. Old coffee residue will affect the taste of the espresso.
  3. Dose your ground coffee into your portafilter and pay attention to the grind size to make sure you don’t over- or under- extract your shot.
  4. Tap the portafilter handle gently on the tamp mat to distribute the coffee evenly.
  5. Next, take your tamper and press it down onto the ground coffee by using sufficient pressure to help retain its shape.
  6. Using the tamper, polish the surface of the ground coffee ensuring the surface is smooth and flat.
  7. Clean any excess dry coffee off the top, ears and spouts of the portafilter.
  8. Rinse the grouphead before inserting the portafilter to remove old coffee particles.
  9. Insert the portafilter handle into the grouphead and start brewing the espresso.
  10. Once the machine stops at 25 seconds, either automatically or manually, remove the cup from the machine tray and serve.

The Operating Parts

1. Group Or Grouphead

This is where you insert the portafilter when preparing to extract espresso. It showers pressurised hot water through the diffusion plate over the bed of freshly ground and tamped espresso.

2. Portafilter

The portafilter is the device you grind coffee into and then place in the group to brew coffee.

3. Portafilter Basket

The filter screen located in the portafilter that comes in both single and double sizes.

4. Group Gasket

A large rubber o-ring that seals the portafilter to the group and is inserted into a groove machined into the group. Usually if the portafilter is leaking, this is the part you need to replace.

5. Group Screen

The group screen is a dispersion screen located in the group and should be replaced every three months or so.

6. Steam Wand 

Part of the machine you steam milk with also known as a steam pipe. It is activated by the steam valve and steam valve knob or lever.

7. Steam Tip

Located on the end of the steam wand and is the part that disperses the steam from the wand into a splayed pattern allowing you to steam milk.

8. Hot Water Tap

The part of the machine where you dispense hot water.

9. Group Dosing Keypad

These are often found on automatic and super automatic espresso machines and are buttons that you press to activate the group head on the machine. They show various dispense times and quantities as well as programming and continuous flow.

10. Group Dispense Switch

A simple on/off switch located over the top of the group it actuates.

11. Power Switch

The power switch on most espresso machines is located on the backsplash of the machine and is indicated by numbers 1-0-2.

12. Pressure Gauge

Located on the front of the machine and has two needles indicating both boiler pressure and pump operating pressure. This monitors the health of your machine and parameters of your coffee brewing temperatures.

13. Sight Glass

Most machines have a sight glass located at the front of the machine to indicate the boilers water level and marked with maximum and minimum markings.

14. Top Of Machine

The vented top of the espresso machine designed to keep ceramic cups or glasses warm before serving.

15. Drain Grate Or Trough

Used with drip pan and drain. Where the liquid drains.

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