As an exercise in staying awake I’ve developed the sad habit of trawling through coffee related blogs written by knowledgeable people who frankly should know better. I’ve read articles on new, scientifically designed (probably in a wind tunnel (!)) portafilters. The merits of steam wands with three jets as against five, or indeed a NASA (Probably. Maybe) creation that funnels steam through a short tube with two offset holes in the side. Incidentally the last little gem is supposed to magically froth milk despite the inadequacies of a poorly trained Barista.

But then, perhaps that’s the rub. Is it the case that owners of coffee shops, despite the enormous investment, will not pay for proper staff training instead seeking out these funny little shortcuts? Perhaps some are thus guilty but I suspect that there are other reasons why these blogs get a hearing.

It is regularly portrayed in the industry press that coffee in all its guises, is a great art and science and absolutely cannot be brewed by anything other than a €15,000 super auto bean-to-cup espresso machine. Or indeed by a “state-of-the-art” lever machine (yes, some pundits are suggesting that the hard pressed coffee shop entrepreneur should buy a piece of kit that requires even more skill to operate!). The fact that the latter machine is where espresso first started all those years ago tells me that the major machine manufacturers are not above using PR companies to move the metal.

So, here it is. There is no substitute for;

1. Proper Barista training (AND refreshers)
2. Using only fresh roasted coffee
3. Buying equipment that allows the skilled Barista to adjust and change settings according to the requirements of the bean.

If we all remember that coffee is a natural product that, like good wine, will be of differing qualities crop by crop then we will all see that the only machine that counts is the human one – VIVA LA BARISTA!