Coffee Tricks Every Barista 4.0 Should Know

Barista 4.0

Coffee is the lifeblood of many workers, but how much do we know about our coffees?

I had the rare opportunity to hear firsthand from barista trainers Tony Tang and Zann Cai from School of Coffee how to make good coffee, and share a peek at the skills that every Barista 4.0 should know.

Barista 4.0
School of Coffee has trained students, public and corporates in the art of making good coffee.

1. Sources of coffee

Tony introduced various coffee beans from different sources, explaining the difference in their taste profile, acidity, caffeine content and sweetness.

Barista 4.0

The lesson was peppered with facts such as the source indicated on some beans like “Brazil Santos” isn’t really where the beans were grown, but beans from all over Brazil would be shipped out via Santos, a port city in Brazil.

Interestingly, although Sumatra is closer to Singapore than Brazil, Sumatran coffee beans are more expensive than Brazil coffee beans because the former is grown in volcanic soil, which is rarer.

The volcanic soil gives Sumatran coffee beans a unique taste profile that other single origins are unable to replicate. Naturally possessing a strong body and earthy note, Sumatran coffee beans are commonly used in small proportions in coffee bean blending to enhance the body of a blend.

Vietnam’s coffee beans have a vanilla aroma as vanilla essence is sprayed on the beans after they are roasted.

Barista 4.0
Tony also revealed that as our local kopi largely uses robusta beans (which normally have higher caffeine levels than arabica beans commonly used in espresso), and because kopi o also has a longer brewing time, a cup of kopi o contains more caffeine than a cup of espresso!

2. Coffee comes alive after roasting, but only for a while

We were given three different types of beans to smell and taste, before guessing how long ago the beans had been roasted.

Coffee beans come alive after they have been roasted and will start giving out gas, which contributes to its aroma. Such a process typically takes place over about a month and coffee bean freshness is attributed to this degassing stage.

Beans should also be allowed to rest 5 to 7 days after roasting before being used.

Barista 4.0
Beans are best used within a month from roasting. The beans in A and B had been roasted 2 months ago and tasted stale, compared to the beans in C which were pretty yummy to snack on.

3. Ways to make coffee every Barista 4.0 should know

Tony introduced to us several ways to make coffee before he taught us how to use the espresso machine.

Barista 4.0
Different apparatus to make coffee, such as using a coffee filter, gooseneck kettles with long narrow spouts, and a coffee siphon.

Both he and Zann patiently guided students on the correct sequence of operating the espresso machine and on the intricacies of the art of coffee-making, such as the right angle to froth the milk, the exactness of the timing to press the button once the portafilter is locked into the machine, and the sensitivity of the beans to environmental factors such as heat and humidity.

Barista 4.0
Tony and Zann taught the class how to make different coffees such as cappuccino, café latte, and flat white using the espresso machine. The students then had to make their own cups for hands-on practice.


Barista 4.0
Zann showing the right posture to compact the coffee powder into the portafilter


Barista 4.0
Tony bought and dismantled an actual espresso machine to teach students how the machine works, and how to maintain and repair.

Besides training trade professionals to be a Barista 4.0, School of Coffee also holds classes for team bonding, coffee lovers and mid-career switchers who are aspiring baristas.

Special thanks to School of Coffee and e2i for arranging the Barista 4.0 masterclass for trade professionals.

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