September 2, 2010

It's not right, but it's ok, I'll drink the latte anyway

A good barista ought not throw one of his milk steaming brothers and sisters under the bus. We are a fratersorority of sorts, a collection of coffee jocks, united by our common craft.

Thus this is something of a difficult criticism to make, considering that the barista did not make my latte incorrectly. In fact, the waiter even went out of his way to make sure that it was she who prepared it. Clearly, he trusted her abilities.

He was right to do so, most likely. It was not her abilities that let her down. As far as I could tell, everything preceding the pour was perfect.

And, technically speaking, even the pour itself was right. The barista held back the foam, then placed a cap on top. That is exactly what many baristi routinely do, what many websites espouse as correct, and even what certain training manuals will instruct.

But hell if I don't think it's vastly inferior to what I'll call the integrated method.

In my opinion, a barista should stretch the milk only slightly, such that the whole of it is velvety, creamy and soft. Then the barista should pour the contents in to the espresso in a controlled, steady stream, as close to the side as possible. A latte prepared thusly ensures that every sip -- not just the first -- is filled with that decadent mixture of milk, foam and espresso.

The foam cap method, on the other hand, leaves the drinker with thin, whispy milk, after the cap has been consumed. It also makes the barista look bad, as if they couldn't steam the milk right to begin with. The sad thing is, most baristi can steam milk well enough to craft a great latte. They just hold themselves back, by holding the foam back.

No comments:

Post a Comment