July 12019

Coffee tips for baristas

8 nudges and tweaks 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 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 an experience based on a mixture of its most intense (in this case delicious) moment and its conclusion.
This psychological phenomenon holds true for both colonoscopies2 and potato chips3.

So how can you improve the end of an iced coffee? Some cafes keep their cold-brew delicious throughout by using iced coffee cubes. As they melt, they'll replenish the drink with more 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 monks-head, are easily learned.

monks head latte art illustration
Monk's Head

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 affects taste

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

A culinary version of the Bouba/Kiki experiment was performed using cappuccinos with chocolate powder sprinkled through stencils. This loose definition of latte art was to control for the "effort," and "skill" of the baristas.

The results showed that rounded shapes were perceived as sweet and angular shapes bitter.2 You can see how this would apply to the rounded monks-head and the pointy edges of a rosetta.

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 | 3. Synaesthesia — A Window Into Perception, Thought and Language – V.S. Ramachandran, E.M. Hubbard

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.

General loudness can be diminished with 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 non-preferred shrill and high-pitched sounds.3

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

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

So, pretty much everything affects the experience of drinking a coffee.
Some variables are not directly in your control — you cannot make perfect latte art every time. Others only take a moment of your time to achieve permanent results; like choosing to purchase weighty cups.

This list grows longer as more coffee-people submit knowledge they've picked up along the way. Please share with us any ideas you think are worth researching.

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