This week's 60 second coffee tip is something that I picked up on at an event during a class that involved trying lots of different ways that a barista can manipulate espresso, moving beyond traditional definitions that might not be best for some of the coffees that are now being served as espresso, and tasting the results. As you might imagine, such a class involves tasting lots of coffee.
Cuppers also taste lots of samples, and even if this is done one spoon full at a time, it's easy to end up having too much coffee during a day. To solve this problem, cuppers are trained to spit the coffee out after tasting it. A barista, however, has often not gotten this training in the context of espresso. I mainly run into this problem in a product development context. If I'm working on a new blend to serve as espresso and I'm getting results that are delicious but not quite what I want to serve, I can end up drinking so much coffee that by the time I'm finished I am wrecked for the day and need to go home and sleep that off. This can also come up if you're monitoring quality across multiple locations or even if you're dealing with a coffee that's a bit fussy on the espresso machine and need to work out new grind and extraction parameters to keep that tasting good. Fundamentally, it's the same problem that cuppers face and a barista can use the same solution. Spit the coffee out.
Similarly, I've seen places that serve a lot of manual pour over coffee where a bit of each pot of coffee is tasted before that's served. I think that's a great practice that recognizes that manual methods are less consistent than machine brewing and can be used both to keep employees familiar with the flavor of different coffee offerings and prevent a brew that doesn't taste good enough from reaching a customer. Machine brewed coffees should, of course, also be tasted, but since fewer pots of coffee are going to be prepared in contrast to a place that doesn't use batch brewing, the risk of excessive consumption is much lower. If you're serving coffee out of a 3 liter airpot, do you really need to taste that before serving every cup? Probably not, though periodic re-checking is still advised as those pots will keep the coffee hot longer than the coffee will taste its best and different coffees may have different acceptable holding times.
While spitting is a good idea, I know that I'm not so disciplined as to spit as often as I should. There are a couple more tips that can help in this situation. First, don't taste on an empty stomach. Second, after a large tasting session, try eating a banana or some ice cream (maybe combine the two and have a banana split).
By following this advice, you'll be able to taste more coffee and feel better while you work.
You may have noticed that in this episode I'm sometimes a bit out of focus. It's not so bad in a small video player or on a small screen, but if you were to watch this full screen on a large display, it would look pretty bad in some parts of the video. This is because I don't have any help in operating the camera and auto-focus doesn't always pick up on the right thing. In this case, it decided to focus on one of the cups on top of the espresso machine instead of on me for one of the shots. The camera was warning that I only had 1 minute of recording time left once I finished (I needed to buy a new hard drive after recording this episode to clear space to record the next episode) so even had I noticed this before going home, it's unclear whether I could have done anything about that other than trying again on a different day. Hopefully future episodes will be better in this regard.