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The Art of the Barista

When thinking a barista “expressing art”,  many times we simply think of latte art. This is true, but we must not forget the primary art form of the barista, which lies in the espresso.

In mechanics, we learn to control systems through automation. The idea is to control all variables for a consistent desired outcome.  For example, if I need to put 2lbs of rice in a bag I can use a scale and a little controller to automate the process. I can use a conveyor to bring rice into a room. The conveyor can drop the rice on a scale, when that scale reaches 2lbs, the conveyor stops and the rice is dumped in a bag. That bag is then removed. The only variables to control are weight and the bag. Well, bagging rice is not really considered an art form, because the variables can be controlled.

But, being a barista is an art form. When your barista pulls a shot of espresso for you, she or he is dealing with a multitude of variables. Coffee crops are different every year depending on rains, soil content and the method of drying. There are variables around the roasting method like humidity, ambient temperature, and pressure. When the coffee is finally blended for espresso, the variables of influence are innumerable. That is where the skill of the barista comes in. She or he can control the pressure, temperature and time of the water impacting the espresso and she or he can control the grind of the espresso beans. But the barista will also take into account ambient temperature changes, ambient humidity, pressure differences, differences in the grounds themselves. The goal of the barista is to deal with all the variables and provide a consistent product to their clientele. When the variables exceed the possibility of control, it becomes an art form ==> a shot of espresso.