The art of the espresso

A new venture for us at Lawson’s is to serve coffee. There are two factors to great coffee: firstly to use the best coffee and secondly to make it well. After some thorough taste-testing we chose Monmouth Coffee to supply our beans. We also knew that Ash, who has worked at Lawson’s for nearly 4 years, is passionate about coffee and keen to learn more, so we sent him off to London from the day to learn how to make it from the experts. 

We asked Ash to write a few words about his barista training at Monmouth Coffee:

I’ve loved coffee since I first tried it, aged about 12, at Starbucks in Palm Springs!  It triggered a lifelong obsession in coffee that meant when I was at secondary school in Ipswich I’d walk all the way across town, rather than go by bus, so I could spend my bus fare on a decent cup of coffee! 

I’ve always dreamed of running my own coffee shop so I was really excited when I heard we’d be serving coffee in Lawson’s and I would have the opportunity to learn how to make it properly.

Busy Borough Market

A trip to London is a rare treat for me and my day started with a visit to Neal’s Yard Dairy to see their impressive range of British artisan cheeses and a foray into Borough Market to see and sample an impressive range of charcuterie and saucisson. By now, in desperate need of a coffee, I popped over to Monmouth Coffee for an espresso. Monmouth is always bustling with people and there is usually a long queue out of the door for arguably the best coffee in London.

The skills of a true barista

Refuelled and inspired, I headed to Monmouth’s roastery a mile away on Maltby Street for my barista training. It was a real privilege to spend a few hours with one of Monmouth’s experts to learn how to make the perfect espresso. I had never realised how complex making a simple cup of coffee could be and I was a bit nervous when after one demonstration he handed the controls over to me and I was thrown straight in the deep end. Here’s what I learned:

Key elements of a perfect coffee

Fresh - Freshly roasted, and even more importantly freshly ground coffee, is essential. Grinding the beans releases all the aromas and floral notes which are lost if it’s left to hang around long.

Quantity - I learned that the using the precise weight of coffee is vital, even 2g too little or too much will create a coffee that is either too sharp and acidic or too bitter. You wouldn’t make a cake without weighing the ingredients, so why a coffee!

Temperature - The temperature of the water is also critical - optimally between 90 and 94* centigrade.

Latte art

Once I’d mastered the espresso, the next challenge was to learn to steam the milk perfectly for cappuccino, flat white or latte each of which requires a greater or lesser amount of aeration in the milk.

It was an incredibly inspiring day. My teacher was so knowledgeable and passionate about coffee and has fuelled my enthusiasm further.  I took pages of notes and now can’t wait to start putting my new skills in to practice making coffee in Aldeburgh.