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Barista Tips & Tricks


The traditional portafilter machine that runs on an Ulka vibratory pump system or rotary vane pump can be intimidating. Whether it is a pour over unit like a residential model machine or one the is hooked up to a waterline like the commercial models, one must feel comfortable with the machine and its functions to properly make full use of the machine and extend the life span of the machine. The internals are simple for both commercial and residential models; there is a water source that should be consistent, which is siphoned to the heating system, boiler/thermoblock, through the pump, and then to the group through a solenoid valve. There are other safety features that come stock in the machine and need to be maintained to ensure full functionality, e.g. level probe.



Coffee Grinding

There are 3 ways to supply the unit with coffee:

  1. Buy ground coffee (prepackaged)
  2. Grind while bean coffee at grocery stores with a "bulk" grinder or have a local roaster grind the coffee for you
  3. Use a grinder at home for a fresher cup

The grinder burr quality is very important; the most economical grinder on the market with burrs that are of a great quality will fall under the category conical burrs. Conical burrs outlast ceramic flat burrs any day of the week, as these burrs are made up of a stainless steel alloy that are configured for a more consistent grind, The more consistent the grind, the better the extraction, as the permeability rate is more even within the group. The portafilter configuration plays a large role in this process as well. From the filter basket to the gasket seal that is created with tension on the portafilter, one will obtain a best, more consistent shot pull if the pressure within the group housing is held static. It is well understood that the two most important components of the espresso pull are the grinder and the barista. When it comes to making purchases, do not skimp on a grinder. It would be better to use an industrial grinder to grind the beans at a store with a bulk grinder or buy the preground coffee then to settle for a low quality grinder. The consistency of the grind is very important for traditional machines.


The Basics of Making Coffee

  1. Fill portafilter with 7 grams (about 2 tablespoons) of ground coffee
  2. Tamp with tamper to press and compact the ground coffee in the portafilter
  3. Wipe the excess coffee off of the top portafilter opening to create a good deal
  4. Lock the portafilter in the group housing
  5. Press the coffee switch and leave on until the desired cup is full
  6. Press switch to stop coffee
  7. Unlock portafilter and knock into the trash
  8. Rinse out portafilter
  9. Press the coffee button without the portafilter in - to clean out the group (rinse the group)


Steaming Milk

The pressure capacity within the steam tap body is an imperative component to the process of building microfoam. The functionality of the steam mechanism must be very uniform. A couple of tricks to creating the microfoam for cappuccino, latte, macchiato etc are simple to implement.

  1. Open the steam wand for several seconds to clear the water from the steam tap body that has settled
  2. Close the tap
  3. Submerge the steam wand in the cup of milk
  4. Slowly start to lift the wand by moving the cup down and allowing the wand to set just shy of the surface
  5. Allow for the foam to form just until the cup gets almost too hot to hold the cup
  6. Bring the wand near the bottom of the milk cup again to create a whirlpool motion.
  7. Close the tap with the steam wand submerged in the cup
  8. Knock the cup on the counter twice and swirl
  9. Take a hand towel and hold it around the steam wand - open tap to allow for milk and water to clear from the steam tap body
  10. Stir the milk if you would to combine the foam for a denser milk or use the steamed milk and spoon the froth on top