Coffee for You, Sir? – A Coffee Appreciation and Home Barista Course by TransZ Coffee
With the advent of coffee culture and the proliferation of cafés such as the almighty Starbucks and the specialty coffeehouses tucked away in the backstreets of Singapore, coffee addicts and casual drinkers alike have much to rejoice about. The ebb and flow of the waves of coffee culture has led us to the fourth wavefront, which begets nascent independent roasters and slow bar cafes to satiate the local burgeoning interest in gourmet coffee. Thus, coffee is now not only just regarded as a simple caffeinated beverage for the bread and butter man, but also as an art form; an experience and a lifestyle to be appreciated through the various senses and to be shared with like-minded people.
The rapid propagation of coffee culture is also evident in the increasing prevalence of do-it-yourself solutions, what with the typical coffeemaker, the push-of-a-button capsule machines, and the teabag-inspired coffeebags from renowned coffee labels. However, criticism towards the flavour and the quality of the products of these methods has led some to adopt a more epicurean approach to making espresso at home or at the office; the home barista.
The home barista set-up consists of the grinder, which grinds the coffee beans to a powder, and the espresso machine itself, which consists of various parts and accessories. Such a set-up is preferred due to the control over the degree of extraction and milk-steaming, essential in all the latte masterpieces bestrewing the interwebs. This combo may seem bulky and anachronistic to some, especially when compared to a sleek and chic little designer coffeemaker on your countertop. However, if you relish a well-extracted cup of gourmet espresso done the authentic good ol’fashioned way, or if you intend to impress your guests with amazing latte art, then the home barista is the way to go. As the saying goes, “A machine is only as good as the sum of its (many)parts.”
If you want your friends to think you own an Italian café right in your kitchen, or if you want to amaze them with your knowledge like a coffee virtuoso, then the Coffee Appreciation and Home Barista course conducted by TransZ Coffee will be right up your alley. Established in 2006, TransZ Coffee is a Singapore-based coffee company offering one-stop coffee solutions, including the purveyance of quality coffee beans, coffee machines, and services such as machine maintenance and barista training. Recently, the good folks over at TransZ Coffee came up with this interactive and intimate home barista course to educate the total novice on what makes a good espresso, and more importantly, how to make one!
The 3-hour course begins with an introductory theory lesson on the process of making coffee. As this course was designed for absolute beginners in mind, we started with the basics; the different types of beans, the processing, the roasting, and the different roast stages(from raw beans to the dark French roast). Then, we utilized our various senses to identify a well-extracted cup of espresso by examining how it looks(the shade of its crema), its taste profile(the intensity of its flavour), and the factors affecting the extraction. Thirdly, we touched on the history of espresso machines and their automation, and the parts and tools of the home barista set-up. Even as the technical terms started to pile up, it was in no way confusing nor yawn-inducing as the interactive session provided lots of opportunities to clarify any doubts with the trainer. Of course, as a good machine can only do so little without a good barista, we finally proceeded to cover the theoretical aspects of espresso making before we get down to the hands-on action.
The practical session was a true eye-opener; never would I have thought of the intricacies involved in the process of making a cup of espresso. Every single minute detail of every single step makes the difference towards either ending up with a delicious well-extracted paragon, or a mediocre over-extracted blunder. From the fineness of the coffee powder in the grinding process, to the precise amount of force needed in the tamping(compressing) of the powder, down to observing the flow in extraction and temperature required for milk texturing, each factor is deliberated with much scrupulous attention to detail. Due to the low trainer-to-student ratio(maximum of 1:5), a newbie will no doubt be able to obtain much personal assistance from the trainer to produce a decent cup of espresso with the right amount of crema and milk foam.
As my helpful barista-turned-trainer, Mr Richard Cahyanto, told me as he was performing his latte masterpiece, rather than being a dead-end job, a professional barista is actually a specialist line which requires much effort and experience before mastery of the craft. However, you need not have barista ambitions to handle the home barista set-up with finesse. Bear in mind though that espresso, the focus of this course, is only one facet of coffee, as the world of coffee is vast and wide, populated by the likes of drips, siphons, pour overs, etc.
Lessons are usually conducted once a month at their office at Paya Ubi Industrial Park, churches, and community centres with a low 1:5 trainer-to-student ratio to ensure a personal interactive experience. The $200nett course fee includes all course materials, coffee beans, milk, and the use of the machines. Aspiring coffee geeks may visit their Facebook page or their website, both listed below, for more information. Interested individuals may also contact them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for sign up details.
Text by: Choy Jing Hui
Images by: Choy Jing Hui and TransZ Coffee
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