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Scott Algate of Toby's Estate: The Science and Feelings Behind Perfect Latte Art

Scott Algate of Toby's Estate: The Science and Feelings Behind Perfect Latte Art

toby estate coffee training latte art scott algate

toby estate coffee training latte art scott algateToby Smith, the creator of Toby’s Estate has a passion for coffee that is unrivalled. Having been a lawyer is a past life he travelled the world to learn more about the little black bean. On his adventures, he had an epiphany that if he didn’t do something to make sure artisan quality coffee was cultivated, that mass producers would ruin it for everyone. From humble beginnings in his garage, he has since spent the last 12 years perfecting his craft and educating Melburnians about coffee. Now Toby has a real estate where he grows his award winning beans on a farm in Panama.

Toby Estate Coffee La Trinidad Melting Moment and Brunswick BrownieAside from selling coffee, his Flinders Lane café sells amazing treats such as coffee filled yoyos and they also have a Coffee School dedicated to providing classes for at home coffee novices who want to know a little more about having café quality coffee at home.

Having been a percolator girl myself for many years, I didn’t quite realise the extent of the science (and emotions) there is when it comes to making a perfect coffee. Meet Scott Algate, Jason and I”s tutor for the day who is passionate about the entire brewing process, “I want you to understand all of the things that baristas do from wiping the basket and filling it up – just the whole feel of it I think is important.”

tobys estate espresso school 3This is Scott’s process…
One of the most important things about latte art, is that it still comes down to how great the coffee is.  A lot of times you go to a cafe that has a nice rosetta on top and people will assume it is amazing coffee, but that is not necessarily the case. With coffee the most important thing is the flavour, so whether you have a nice display on top or you don”t, it is still about how it tastes.  So getting those core building blocks rights before you even get to the milk.

Coffee shot, the basic process:

  • Dose your coffee in the grinder
  • Use your hand to create a mound
  • Press down evenly with the tamp and twist at the end
  • Brush any access coffee off

Good coffee starts with the grinder:
Coffee starts loosing its freshness and taste as soon as the beans are ground, so it is worth buying a handheld or electric grinder for home use if you are a pro. With freshly ground coffee beans, you will get a dark, rich, colour coming through. You never get that dark colour unless your coffee is fresh. Pre-ground coffee and it will be much more watery. Otherwise, if you buy pre-ground coffee, make sure to store it in an airtight bag or container, in a cool dark place and purchase smaller amounts of quantity more frequently rather than in bulk.

With an electric grinder, basically you press a button and it grinds for you – the dose is already predetermined so you can actually adjust the dosage on here, which is based on the time. What you want to look for when grinding is making sure it is evenly sized so the water goes through consistently – e.g. you don’t want big chunks and little flour sized bits.

What about decaf?
There are also a few different processes to get rid of the caffeine, which is why it is generally more expensive. One process gets rid of the caffeine by washing the beans in coffee water – so you use double the beans. A lot of times the issue with decaf is that it is pre-ground – coffee shops usually just scoop it out, but if you get one that is freshly ground it is amazing.

tobys estate coffee melbourne espresso schoolDosage:
The amount of coffee per shot is very important – too much over the basket and the beans will burn. Too little and the coffee is weak. If it is packed unevenly the water won’t flow through evenly.

Every coffee basket has a line on the inside, which the dosage of coffee should meet without going over. That line is where it hits the shower screen at the top, any coffee above the line will get burnt from the heat of the machine which would lead to a bitter coffee.

Temper Tamper:
When you tamp the coffee, you want to press down and also twist to make it even in the basket.

How even the coffee comes out, is all due to how you tamp. If you tamp straight down, evenly, it will pour evenly on both sides. If you have it a little bit angled it will pour more to one side than the other.

The coffee in the basket is basically a channel for the water. What happens is that the water is going to always find the least resistant path to go down. If you”ve got a crack in it, it”s going to create a pathway to go down, instead of collecting that coffee, it will just go through and it will actually be very watery.

To get rid of the excess coffee after tamping, sweep the coffee down the sides with your hand back into the basket. Do not tap or knock the portafilter as this will create cracks in the coffee.

The way we can tell if the dosage and tampering is good, is if you look at the coffee in the basket and can see it is quite firm, then after the coffee is extracted, you actually knock it and it will come out clean. If it is too little coffee and the tampering is bad, the left over beans will be soggy.

tobys estate espresso school 2Speed of the pour:
When making coffee, the speed of which it comes out of the machine is important and how it is poured is really indicative of flavour. If the dosage is done well (e.g 28 grams), it will pour out of the machine slowly and the colour that the coffee is when it comes out of the machine is also going to change very very slowly e.g In about 30 seconds.

A bad shot, i.e. underdosed

  1. Pour out of the machine very quickly and
  2. The colour of the coffee will change to blonde too early giving it a sour taste.

Before putting the portfilter in the machine, run the water through the machine for a few seconds to rinse out any dirty water.

A good coffee will run out each side about the same speed. If the coffee starts out dripping, it is pouring at a good speed and will take about 30 seconds to make. If you have it dripping the whole time, this indicates that the coffee has been in contact with the shower screen for too long which means that instead of 30 seconds it will take 45 seconds or more to come out and it will get really bitter.

If you”ve ever had really bitter coffee when you go to a cafe, there are a few things that can happen it can be anything from the roast all the way to the blend itself. The barista online slots might have put it in there, gone away and chatted with his mates for a bit, came back a minute later and hit start, obviously it made contact with the screen too long.

Once the coffee gets to the blondish point, you want to stop your shot as anything past that point is bitter.

Making Milk – air x texture:
When making the coffee, it is all about sight – watching the colour change and the speed of which it pours. With the milk, it is all about the sound “I”ve been doing training for about a year now and you can hear the bad note from the start and you can kind of figure out what the problem is. When I go to the coffee shop I can tell when the milk is being burned just from the sound of the note when they are making it.”

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First you put the steamer just below the milk to start getting air into the milk. It should make a hissing sound that isn’t too high pitched. If you”ve been in a coffee shop before and you are like “what”s that horrible sound?” usually there is something wrong and those sounds are never a good indicator. If you hear the hissing sound at the end, it is too late and you will get bubbles in your foam.

Once you have made the froth, you put the steamer below the surface to add texture. Spinning it around will smooth it out and make it glossy.

Use your hand for a guide to temperature:
Usually the generally rule is you hold it for a second and it is too hot, but everyone”s hand is different. Soy milk is usually a bit lower in temperature. Normal milk burns at about 70 and soy milk burns about 60. Almond milk is also getting popular and a lot of cafes are starting to use it and it also requires a lower temperate than normal milk.

Timing between the milk and coffee is everything:
Try to do your shots and your milk at the same time. It is all about timing. “Sometimes you go to a cafe and you see a barista standing there doing nothing – it is not because he is lazy, it is probably because he is waiting for the milk to finish or vice versa”.

You want the shot to sit there for only a second before you put the milk in which will help maintain the crema. If you have your milk sitting there too long your milk is going to separate – all of the foam is going to go to the top and all of the heavy milk is going to go to the bottom. If you have your shot sitting there too long the crema is going to stick.

tobys estate espresso school Latte vs. Flatwhite:
The difference between a latte and a flatwhite is usually a latte is served in a glass and the ratio of coffee to milk is different, however, there is not a big difference when you have a take away and they taste pretty much the same.

Now… for the latte art:
All latte art is based on two different shapes.  There is the heart shape, which is the most common and easiest to make, or you have the leaf shape. E.g. A rosetta, is a leaf with a heart attached to it, or if you see a nice bird on top it is those shapes that are more complexly done and broken into sections.

To make a basic heart:
Once your milk is nice and glossy and has good texture, start pouring your milk into the middle of the cup from about 20cm higher than the cup very slowly. This will make the milk go below the surface of the coffee and bring the crema to the top.

Once half full, start lowering the milk jug and pouring at an increased speed. This will bring the froth of the milk to the surface and push the crema to the outside.

End by dragging the milk through the circle – this will create a heart.
tobys estate coffee melbourne espresso school 2

[line] Visit the Toby”s Estate website for all the details on up and coming latte art classes as well as the many more things going on at the Coffee School!

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