Sunday, 23 September 2012

The illy experience :: coffee appreciation

On Saturday, I got a PM from Melissa Escarraga via FB asking me if I were interested in joining her for a coffee making class on Sunday morning between ten till noon. I thought to myself, "I'm not much of a coffee lover, I do like my cuppa." Well, it does sound peculiar. Why would I want to go to a coffee making class? I thought all you had to do was dump in all the necessary ingredients, add boiling water and voila! there's your cuppa! Reluctantly, I said yes, thinking that I would be enjoying Mel's brew so I thought, "yeah, why not?". Just tag along and have free coffee instead. 

illy coffee cup
And so, this morning, I got up early, got myself ready, went to St. Mary's and as soon as I was done with the communion, I took the prayer book and bible, put it back at the counter and dash to the car and left for Phileo Damansara. Met up with Mel and went up to the 9th floor. As soon as we got there, I did not take notice of the detailed surroundings as I went there half-heartedly but I knew somehow, it was going to be somewhat interesting, this peculiar subject - the art of coffee making. As soon as we were all settled at our respective seats (there were 4 of us, Mel and I and a couple of lovebirds), Irene started off with the introduction. It didn't take long enough for them to grab my attention. Suddenly the subject of coffee got interesting. It was evident when I rummaged through my handbag and got my pen and paper and immediately write away. We were introduced to various types of coffee in the world and the highlight of the first lecture was the difference between the top two coffees consumed in the world - Arabica vs. Robusta (click to read about the interesting facts of these two types of coffee beans; exactly the same facts told during our lecture). We were told that the Italians take their coffees seriously that if their favourite barista goes on leave, they wouldn't want the other barista to make them a cuppa. They are just simply attached to their barista.  Another interesting fact given was that 10gm of coffee killed a man before. So yes, coffee CAN KILL. Don't try this, ok? 

Once Irene was done, Francesco, an Italian world champion Barista took over and continued on with the types of coffee, a brief theory on how to create good coffee with detailed information of the right gauge of pressure (9bars/PSi), right milk froth temperature (65 deg Celcius), 2 second rule (let go once it's hot - at 65 deg C), the right amount of milk, the best milk - fresh milk - no other milk, hygiene, and how mood can affect the outcome of your coffee making. Next, Mr Enrico takes the class on a practical journey. He started off with making us espresso shots. We had three different shots - the first one was done the right way, the next: underdone, the last: overdone. The best one tasted somewhat bitter but had a sour aftertaste. Enrico told us that is how a good espresso should taste like. The other two were either really black plain and bitter coffee or oily black one - just like the P. Ramlee story, Nujum Pak Belalang whereby P. Ramlee's character in that story, instructed his son Belalang to prepare coffee out of the burnt debris bottom of the wok. I'm sure you can imagine the taste; a bit oily (oil from the coffee powder - too much powder) and really bitter. Yuck!!! 

After the much unpopular espresso (just not popular with us in the class), we moved onto the cappuccino, which coincidentally happens to be my usual order at any premium coffee joint (Starbucks, Coffee Beans, San Francisco, just to name a few) most of the time. This one was really interesting. This is where the art of coffee making really stands out. Not enough milk, you won't get enough to create the cappuccino taste, too much milk, it'll turn into cafe latte. Too hot, froth is separated from the milk. Not warm enough, the taste is a bit out. Right temperature is 65 deg C at 9 bars and a release of coffee within 25s. We were taught how to press the extracted coffee powder (which we twisted the lever twice to dispense about 2 spoons [flat, not mountainous] of coffee powder) in that thing-a-ma-jiggy (coffee press I guess), stamp lightly to initially flatten it out in the coffee press, then knock the side to let the powder settle. Next, press the stamper by adding pressure from your shoulder down to your hand and the stamp. Once it is settled, clear the sides of the coffee press, just before you fix it to its designated place, drain out the water from the dispenser. Only then, fix the coffee to the machine. Prepare your cups, then press the button, put down the cups. Oh yeah, before you do the coffee though, you should prepare your milk. There's this special pitcher they have for cappuccino. How to measure? put in milk right up till just one finger away from below the groove. Clean the milk steamer by releasing the steam to clean it and wipe with a towel. 

Preparation of the milk froth should coincide with the pressing of coffee liquid into the cups. While preparing your milk, make sure the steamer sits at the surface for a good while then once the machine stops, bring the nozzle all the way down for it to froth the milk and feel it with your palms to check on the temperature. The best way to gauge what 65 deg C feels like is when you can hold your pitcher for more than 2 seconds. Once that is achieved, remove your milk from the steamer. Before you fill up your coffee with the milk froth, make sure you stir the milk froth well. If there is a presence of big bubbles, tab your pitcher on the table and shake well till your froth turns shiny. Once that is achieved, start pouring into the cup, starting high, right in the middle, then towards the end, bring down the pitcher and let go to the front slowly - depending on the pattern you wish to create. If you'd like to make the pattern interesting, you could add cocoa powder or cocoa syrup and toy around to create the shape of your choice. 

And finally, the last person to show off his coffee making skill was Mr. Goh. This is the outcome. Simply simple and beautiful. :) 

Cappuccino Art

Here, I leave you the link to illy's website for you to discover about real good coffee. Thanks illy coffee! Or shall I say, Universita Del Cafe? Goodnight! 

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