August 2018

Coffee Tips for Baristas

8 ways to up your coffee game

There are many steps in making a coffee and many variables that affect the experience of drinking one. Any improvement in this process gets repeated for every cup served.

Attention to detail can save lots of time and money, and significantly enhance your customers' experience.

The coffee industry is continually growing and innovating, and so is this list. It will remain updated with new research and practical tips from baristas.


Push Tampers

Like so many of the best innovations, Push Tampers1 seem obvious in hindsight.

Rather than twisting your arm and wrist trying to achieve a flat 90-degree angle, Push Tampers use gravity and their adjustable base to do the same. They make it easy to produce consistent shots with even extraction, and their ergonomic design has been shown to reduce repetitive strain injury and carpal tunnel syndrome.2

Try This:
Position your arm as you normally would with a regular tamper. Hold it there for a little while, apply some downward pressure. You should feel a bit uncomfortable. Okay, done.

Now imagine you're holding a hockey puck in the palm of your hand. Turn your hand over. That's what using a Push Tamper feels like.

1. Push Tampers - Clockwork Espresso | 2. Can the use of an alternatively designed tamper alter spine posture and risk of upper limb injury while tamping espresso? – Diane E.Gregory, Stephanie E.Romero

Use Heavy Coffee Cups

The heavier the cup, the tastier the coffee is perceived. Professor Charles Spence, the author of Gastrophysics and many academic papers cited throughout this website, puts it like this:

“Time and again in our research, we find that adding weight to a soft-drink can, to a box of chocolates or to a carton of yogurt leads people to rate the product, no matter what it is, more highly.1

1. Gastro-Physics – Professor Charles Spence – p106

Iced Coffee Cubes

Iced coffee, though delicious, tends to end in disappointment. The ice melts, leaving you with a cup of diluted coffee-water. 

This tragedy doubles when you take into account the peak-end rule1. The rule dictates that we judge our experiences based on their peak (when the experience was most extreme, painful or delicious), and the end. This psychological phenomenon has been shown to hold true for both colonoscopies2 and potato chips3.

So how can you improve the end of the experience? You can make the iced coffee stay tasty throughout, by using coffee ice cubes. As they melt, they'll replenish the drink with more delicious coffee, instead of old freezer water. You could even add sugary cubes, to finish with a sweet kick.

1,2 – Thinking, Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman | 3. Interference of the End - Why Recency Bias in Memory Determines When a Food Is Consumed Again -  Emily N. Garbinsky, Carey K. Morewedge, Baba Shiv

Do Do Latte Art

Latte art is becoming increasingly popular and expected. It increases positive expectations of your coffee and is a great visual cue for quality. One study has shown people are willing to spend between 11-13% more on a coffee with latte art.1,2

Simple latte art like the heart or monks head is easy to do. There are lots of great online resources to learn them.

1. Gastro-Physics - Professor Charles Spence | 2. Latté Art Influences both the Expected and Rated Value of Milk‐Based Coffee Drinks -George van Doorn, Maxwell Colonna‐Dashwood, Reuben Hudd‐Baillie, Charles Spence

Latte Art Style Affects Taste

The shape of latte art affects the perceived flavor of the coffee.1

One experiment showed that rounded shapes were considered sweet and angular shapes considered bitter.2

This test was performed using chocolate powder sprinkled through stencils to control for the "effort," and "skill" showed by baristas. But there's no reason the same wouldn't hold true for good old-fashioned latte art. You can see how a Monks-Head, with its curved shape, could make your coffee seem sweeter, whereas a Rosetta with is pointy edges could make your coffee taste sharper.

1. Gastrophysics - Professor Charles Spence | 2. Latté Art Influences both the Expected and Rated Value of Milk‐Based Coffee Drinks - George van Doorn, Maxwell Colonna‐Dashwood, Reuben Hudd‐Baillie, Charles Spence

Viora Lids

One of the best things about coffee is its smell; in fact, it's one of humanity's favorite scents.1 And yet, when we get takeaway coffee, it almost always comes with a lid, blocking the smell from reaching your nostrils, diminishing that most favorite of smells, and dulling the taste.2

Viora Ltd has designed a lid for takeaway coffee cups that allows the drinker to smell the coffee while they're drinking. The lid has a hole in it and is ergonomically designed to fit a nose.

Not only that, it mimics the experience of drinking from an open-topped cup, allowing a wide stream of liquid to "coat more of your taste buds."3

1,2. Gastrophysics - Professor Charles Spence | 3. Viora - The Lid

Lid Standardization

The Qin Emporer, Ying Zheng, unified China. This feat was possible, partly through burying people alive, and partly through standardization1. You can achieve similar results, by using one-size-fits-all cups, lids, and saucers.

Most cafes use small, medium, and large takeaway cups, each with an opening corresponding to their size, and each requiring a differently sized lid. But it doesn't have to be this way.

Manufacturers have started producing cups that share the same sized lid, saving you time and money.

Similarly, keep in mind when purchasing ceramics, saucers that fit different sized cups helps everything run smoothly.

1. How China’s First Emperor Pioneered Design Thinking and Revolutionized the Branding of Legacy –  Maria Popova

Coffee Machine Acoustics

The sound of your coffee machine affects your customers' experience. One study “systematically influenced what people said about a cup of Nespresso coffee simply by filtering the sounds made by the machine”1

“...preferred sounds tend to feature more prominent dripping, sizzling, and crackling components and a more even temporal structure, while non-preferred sounds are more high-frequent, shrill, loud, powerful, and hard.2

This research also suggests “rattling” should be avoided.

So what can be done about this? Well, for starters, general loudness can be diminished by using sound-proofing sponge (or foam.) This type of soundproofing is known to work best for medium to high frequencies. So it should help to reduce those non-preferred shrill and high-frequency sounds.3

Placing your coffee machine on a cork or rubber board and making sure it has rubber feet will minimize noise and rattling as well.

1. Gastrophysics – Professor Charles Spence | 2. Using Customer Insights to Improve Product Sound Design – Klemens Knoeferle | 3. Wikipedia - Soundproofing  – ( Sorry   )

If you have any coffee expertise that you'd like to share — Contact Us. If we use your tip, we'll credit you and your coffee store.

Also, if you found any of these tips useful, help us out by sharing them with your pals.

Sign Up

We are open

Sign up for weekly nudges, tweaks, and tricks to increase happiness + profit.