The best baristas in the world….

Now, this may seem like a bit of a turn around on my previous posts on home espresso but I think serious home baristas are, on average, the best in the world.  No – they may not do well if you put them on a bar at 8 in the morning, but they are an incredibly precise and careful bunch.

First of all their benchmarks are much higher.  Because the drink is solely for their pleasure there is more craft in every shot.  There isn’t half a pound of coffee to be sacrificed in dialing in the grinder.  Wastage isn’t an option because that bag of coffee and if that rosetta isn’t right then you don’t get to dump it and try it again.

The reason I am thinking about this is going from a bar environment with a friend to his home environment.  The shots were better at home, but harder won.  Made me realise that when I brew espresso at home I still have many more luxuries than most.

Looking forward to a commercial bar tomorrow to tear through some coffee and milk playing and perfecting little techniques.

(thanks for the hospitality!)

9 Comments The best baristas in the world….

  1. Jason Haeger

    You know, I can seriously relate to this post.

    I began as a home barista, and transitioned to a working barista.

    I am still a home-barista, but much less often since I’m around coffee MUCH more than I was as a solely HB.

    And yes, there is a lot more time available. There is the option of taking the time to tweak equipment, or experiment… with each and ever pull.

    The challenge at home is much MUCH different than the challenge at work. At work, the challenge is striving for consistently high quality products being presented to the customer.

    At home, the challenge is much different. The challenge is satisfying curiosity, or making the most out of the pleasure received by the barista, from the drink made by the barista. There is a direct link for what you do to what you taste.. each and every time.

    I don’t taste my customer’s drinks, so I often rely on their feedback to make sure everything is as it should be. “Is it bitter?” “no” “good”. “Does everything taste alright?” “yeah, it’s wonderful” “Great, I’m glad you like it”. “How does it taste?” “It’s not sweet enough” “I apologize, would you like me to remake it?”

    At home, it’s all instant feedback from the self. It’s an entirely different environment.

  2. Chris

    Crickey you’re up early Jim! So they’ve got wireless at the hotel or are you already hanging out at a Caffe you sneeky bugger!

    Yeah apoligies for the under parr home shot last night, don’t know what was up with my distribution, guess i was nercous with you watching!I pulled a nice shot of the Canario this morning though for a cappa

    Can’t sit around here any longer so gonna make my way down to P**to soon, see ya in a bit.

  3. jim

    The shots really weren’t under par – though you are clearly as guilty as me when it comes to tearing your own coffee to pieces!

    Again – if you had served them in a commercial environment a customer would have been delighted, it was a great shot – sweet, toasty nut and honey.

    Nice capp!

  4. Luca

    Gotta say that I agree.

    One of the best coffees that I ever had at the last cafe that I worked for was made by one of our regular HBs. At that cafe, we opened on Saturday morning and closed up around midday, at which point the home crowd would come in. On this particular day, we had been under the hammer and decided to cook some b’fast for everyone, so Greg offered to make us coffee. It was a very pleasant surprise to finish cooking and immediately be handed an incredibly rich and sweet double ristretto … especially considering that that particular machine was a bit of a fire-breather!

    I started making espresso at home a few years ago, long after I was doing it commercially. The comparison between the Silvia at home and the Synesso at work or the Linea or BFC machine at my local roastery is just absurd. The machine has so many deficiencies that have to be compensated for that using it doesn’t even begin to resemble working on a commercial machine. And it is ruthlessly unforgiving. Greg’s Gaggias are very similar; it doesn’t surprise me one iota that he’s a great barista! The home dudes with e61 hxs and mazzers at least go through essentially the same routine. And some of those ‘prosumer’ machines are surprisingly good!

    Anyhoo, I’m off to bed,


  5. bz

    nice of you, james.

    i’ll agree on the precise and careful part. i have a fellow home junkie who used to take so long to distribute you could floss your teeth while you waited. whether home junkies are, on average, the best, i wouldn’t dare to say. the prospect of a “put up or shut up” challenge sometime in the future prompts me not to overreach.

    essentially, as tacy and others have said, there are MORE challenges to working with an e61 or other home machine — more factors to be managed that demand so much of the barista. i relish this. same deal with my grinder. every time i use the doserlesss marvel of a friend, i realize just how much better distribution you get without all that doser-created clumping. but then i think, “pros do it every day with a doser. so can i.”

    it’s almost masochism at times. :)

  6. Chris

    Nice to know i can do sometyhing right (pull a decent shot that is :-)) as my Latte art plain sucks whenever Jim is around (guess i just can’t deal with the nerves when a world class barista watches me work) then as soon as he leaves, badam i’m back on form again. Seriously though i’ve been thinking a lot about the home barista side of things recently and I think what really makes home barista’s so good is that they have to control so many more factors in the brewing process to compensate for their equipment (something which is supposed to be the sign of a great barista!) My E61 (La Valentina) machine is capable of fantastic shots but getting them requires far more attention than working with the commercial La Spaziale I use at work, however it is capable of just as much as the commercial machine or more.

  7. wheretherearewolves

    Hey jim,

    I think your thoughts on the home baristas as some of the best in the world is akin to saying that your mom’s home cooking is better than any 3 star michelin chef can manage, and thats true for the most part. I love my mom’s cooking. Being a barista is much more than making coffee though. The best baristas in the world have an attitude that is mysterious, intense, amusing, theatrical, sexy, the list goes on. And I’m sorry Jim you in your morning pj’s tinkering around with your organic Tanzanian Peaberry and single gruppe aren’t any of those. A great barista makes amazing mind bending drinks as well as entertaining a line that snakes 30 feet long.

    I love your site and check it out every week. Congrats.


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