After my baptism into specialty coffee, I bought a Clever Dripper. My close friend gave me a Hario hand grinder, and I started buying amazing coffee to brew. Once I started brewing my own coffee, I gained the courage to explore coffee menus, and brew methods more. Then I had my first pour over.
It was perplexing to see scales being used, and a timer to monitor the brew. It seemed more like a science experiment, than a cup of coffee being brewed. I was still so naive. So, I bought my first pour over set up. I got myself a Hario V60, a Bonavita temperature variable kettle, and a scale. This led me on my journey in learning brewing techniques, and what is happening to the coffee during the brew process. My coffee knowledge was still in the infancy stage, but I kept falling deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole. Everything would change when my friend started a coffee popup.
I won’t get too much into the coffee popup, that will be a different post. Brewing coffee, and pulling espresso are two different beasts. Though they share many principles, the procedures are different, and pulling espresso requires a certain precision that can be difficult to grasp. Being on bar was exhilarating, confusing, overwhelming, and at times frustrating. I really didn’t know what I was doing. My friend is a home barista by hobby, and never received formal training, but his knowledge of coffee is like an encyclopedia, or I guess now it’s just wikipedia. There were times where it seemed like we had to learn things together. The camaraderie was amazing, and I loved it, but it was frustrating to not really have a strong sense of how my actions produced specific consequences.
I started to frequent a coffee shop near my house, and decided that I would make it my mission for it to be MY spot. I went religiously, getting to know the baristas, and owner, and trying to understand the craft from their perspective. After many months, I finally felt like a regular. There were moments where the baristas, who I now consider friends, would let me pour my own cappuccinos, only to fail in their presence. My comfort level was to the point where I was washing my own dishes, and helping around the shop. It felt like home.
I would constantly take the espresso machine that we would use for the popup home, so I could gain the Consistency in pulling espresso, and steaming milk. Finally, after pounds and pounds of beans, and numerous gallons of milk, I could pull shots and pour hearts. The owner was interested in my progress, and asked me to go behind bar one day. This was huge. This was like being called into the principal’s office, and going to Disneyland at the same time. I tamped. Unevenly. I pulled my shot. Espresso sprayed from the portafilter. I steamed my milk. Stretched too much. Instead of being sent back to my seat, because I failed, the owner walked me through his routine, and demonstrated proper technique. I worked at it daily, and after a few more months, I started working at a specialty coffee shop. But as always, the journey doesn’t end there.