Barista goes cup-to-cup with best coffee makers in world
May 10, 2006 (WLS) -- Brewing up the perfect cup of coffee is a daily grind for many people, but it's not that tough. The pros at Intelligentsia Coffee take everything from the beans to the brew very seriously. One of their employees is gearing up for a unique competition.
Employees at Intelligentsia go through a pretty rigorous training regimen, which has paid off for one of them who is now in the midst of Olympic-style training. He is preparing to go up against the biggest, baddest baristas in the world. But before he flies off to Europe for the competition, he shared some brewing advice for all of us novices.
Matthew Riddle isn't your average mega-coffee chain barista. He is, in fact, the best barista in the country, according to a recent competition held by the Specialty Coffee Association of America. Trained by the pros at Intelligentsia Coffee - which recently opened a third location in the city - he served 12 drinks in 15 minutes to a panel of four judges. He says there's more to pulling an espresso than meets the eye.
"There's a lot of factors you have to take into account. You have to make sure your grind is set properly," said Riddle. "How hard you're packing the coffee down, and you really pay attention to how your shots are coming out."
Every Intelligentsia employee goes through the same training regimen. For just an espresso, you've got to first set your grind...then tap down to make the grounds even...applying 30 pounds of pressure packs the beans in just right. Once it's placed into a machine, filtered water is pushed through, creating the perfect espresso. That's also the base for a number of drinks, such as cappuccinos - which have steamed milk - iced coffees and even specialty creations like this large, skim, iced mocha. Riddle says even if you don't have a fancy coffeemaker at home, there are some ways to improve your morning cup:
The international championship is going to be help in Switzerland next week. Riddle is busy working on his grinding, tapping, pulling and pouring skills in earnest. He says there can be few mistakes in those precious 15 minutes.
"You have to serve all four judges at the same time. So you have to kind of choreograph all your moves so that each drink is the best it can possibly be at every point."
Intelligentsia is also involved in a program they call "direct trade" where they deal directly with the coffee growers, ensuring a higher price for the farmer, and a better bean for the consumer.
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