Five Ways You’re Ruining Your Coffee Plus One Surprising Confession from a Master Barista
We recently sat down with master barista Giorgio Milos (yes, he is just as charismatic as his photo) at the opening of the new illy Caffe in San Francisco to pick his brain on all things coffee. We talked about the best things happening in coffee today (hint: It has to do with more cafés listening to their customers!) and the worst. He gave us some amazing recipes to up our espresso game and a simple method for the best cold brew you can make at home. But mostly we wanted to know what makes a great cup of coffee and what simple things we might be doing wrong without knowing it. Here are his five tips for the perfect cup, a simple home cold brew hack and one surprising confession.
1. It’s in the beans. Did you know there’s no such thing as “espresso beans?” Any kind of coffee bean can be used for any kind of brew. “Espresso” refers to the fine grind and not the bean or roast itself. As for storage, exposure to air can cause the flavors to dissipate, so it’s important to keep your beans sealed away from light and moisture. Giorgio recommends keeping your beans in the fridge rather than the freezer for long-term storage.
2. Control your temp. Boiling water makes bad coffee. Higher temperatures draw out more of the bitter compounds in the beans, which is why cold brews (recommended at 40 degrees Fahrenheit) are so surprisingly smooth. Aim for 205 degrees Fahrenheit for a perfect cup of joe. If you don’t have a thermometer or fancy temperature-controlled kettle, just let the water rest a minute after boiling before adding it to your grounds.
3. Be afraid of the dark. Roasting coffee is essential to develop its flavor, but over-roasting can mask poor-quality beans. Avoid beans that are super dark, shiny and oily and aim for medium-roasted beans to ensure you’re getting the best quality possible. Giorgio’s quick tip: “That amazing coffee smell in the grocery store actually means the beans are already degassing and deteriorating in quality.”
4. “Single Origin” may be ruining the coffee industry. By using only single origin beans, you need a lot more coffee to bring out all the natural flavors. When you blend beans from multiple sources, just like a vintner’s blend of wine, you’re able to carefully match and highlight different characteristics of different varieties. This means you need much less coffee to make the perfect cup. For example, the illy espresso we sampled used only 7.5 grams of grounds to make a one-ounce espresso. In other shops using single origin beans, that number can grow to 18 grams or more to extract the same flavor. Using more coffee means a greater strain on harvest, which could impact growers and the industry as a whole.
5. Stronger is not necessarily better. Now that you’ve got the keys to the perfect cup of coffee (the best beans, the proper temperature, the correct roast for your palate), don’t go ruining your brew by over-steeping it! While cold brews can take as long as 24 hours, an espresso takes only 30 seconds. And if you’re going the French press or siphon route, you risk leaving your beans in the water too long and drawing out those bitter notes we don’t want. Once you’ve achieved your ideal brew, remove the liquid by pouring it into a separate carafe to preserve your coffee at peak perfection.
Cold Brew Hack
Since cold brew is an essential for summer, we asked how to make the best cold brew to keep in the fridge at home. Turns out, it’s simpler than we thought! Here’s the only equation you need: 80 grams of medium-ground coffee plus one liter of water, chilled for 12 hours. And voila! Your new summer caffeine fix.
So how does a master barista take his morning coffee? You might be surprised! When pressed (get it?), Giorgio confessed that he gets his morning espresso from a machine — the illy Francis Francis X9 iperEspresso Machine ($279), to be precise. He explained that making his version of the perfect espresso first thing in the morning can take upwards of an hour. The machines need to be thoroughly cleaned and warmed up and the beans perfectly ground. That all takes time, so the routine is better suited to weekend enjoyment. On hectic mornings, he pops a capsule in the machine, and in seconds, he has a great (if not Giorgio-perfect) demitasse.
What’s your secret to a perfect cup of coffee? Share with us on Twitter @BritandCo.
Getting the word out about your brand takes time, drive, and ingenuity. And it doesn't come easy for many entrepreneurs. As part of our collaboration with Office Depot, we're chatting with Selfmade alum Taylor Morgan McPherson, founder of Sustainable Sparkle Bar, about ways in which she scored press as a solo startup brand and what she learned from Selfmade to take her brand marketing up a notch.
B + C: How did you know Sustainable Sparkle Bar was your business to start?
Glitter has always been my thing, so when I started my event company I decided to make it my niche. I started telling people I threw glitter-themed parties where people would get sparkled with glitter body art and makeup. Six months after that I applied to my first festival and to work with SUR restaurant in West Hollywood.
B + C: What's one strategy that's helped you start your business?
I honestly can't say that I've had a specific strategy that I've followed when it comes to getting my business off the ground. I have a PR background so I was just constantly pitching new business and posting on social media.
B + C: What's the biggest challenge you face as a small business owner?
I would say creating a stable income and revenue stream. With a seasonal, event-based business it can be very up and down.
B + C: What was your most valuable takeaway from Selfmade?
The relationships I made and the push to start an email database.
B + C: How do you stay motivated?
I love what I do and I believe in myself 100%. Staying motivated isn't the hard part. Pushing myself to do the work and staying accountable is the hard part.
B + C: What's your best organizational tip? Do you use any apps that help you manage your business?
I keep multiple to-do lists, hand-written and digital. I also tell clients and partners that I will have something to them by a certain time or day so I have to stick to it.
B + C: What's one piece of advice you would give to female entrepreneurs on the brink of starting?
Just do it, take the leap. And don't worry about what anyone else says to thinks.
B + C: Who inspires you in the entrepreneurial space?
Issa Rae, I'm so inspired by everything that she's created being a creative and a black woman. It's my dream to have my own show one day based on my life and where I give advice and talk about the world. She's doing it and making people laugh and giving people joy. And it's based in LA. Watching Insecure only further cemented my dreams of wanting to live in LA.
B + C: How did you hear about the Office Depot scholarship?
One of my friends that I met through Camp No Counselors saw an IG ad for it and nominated me.
B + C: What has receiving the scholarship to Selfmade done to help you start/grow your business?
It's completely helped me level up and take my business to another level. Selfmade helped me host my first virtual event and taught me how to set up my website to sell tickets to events and get RSVPs.
B + C: How have Office Depot services or products helped you accomplish more in your business?
I got new cards to send in all of my orders with my discount code on them. I also bought a really cool 4K camera that I now use for my social media.
Let Office Depot OfficeMax help you stand out in the crowd. From signs, posters & banners to promote your business, to marketing materials to keep your customers informed, Office Depot OfficeMax offers a full suite of business services & solutions to help you & your business get noticed.
Head to Office Depot's Selfmade page to check out even more amazing business resources (and discounts!) to help you accomplish more on your entrepreneurial journey. These offers are available for a limited time only, so be sure to take advantage of all this goodness while supplies last. Want to join the next Selfmade cohort this summer? Check out all of the scholarship details right here.