Tag Archives: Coffee

Upping my Barista Skills

This last weekend I finally went on a course all about coffee. All my interest in coffee has been built on the last 10 years and I’ve never been on an actual course to learn the skills you need to make good coffee. I don’t count being the whole person at a cupping demonstration as a course, although I did learn a lot! So on Saturday I headed to Rave Coffee in Cirencester for a Barista Skills course.

I really want this art work on a smaller scale for my reading nook. I will also buy some of their old coffee sacks at some point to make cushions!

I was early so waiting in their small cafe area with a lovely flat white with the Signature Blend. It got really busy as they are only open in the mornings on Saturdays, but I did wonder how many they had on the course as it is only a small roasting area. It ended up be 5 plus Donavan who took us through everything. I watch him set up the machine we would be using.

This course was focused on espresso shots and the drinks you can make with an espresso base. It was really interesting to learn about the grind and the ratio of water to beans. I still need to learn about the other brewing methods, but this gave me a good start on that road to be able to understand and learn on my own using websites.

We worked through weighing the beans and adjusting the grinder time. We were using a commercial electric one, but I did ask about grinders for the home and they recommend spending more money on the grinder than any other piece of equipment. I also asked about hand grinders and they recommended one I had been pointed to already and a different one I hadn’t heard of. I also recommended to look at Bella Barista, Coffee Hit and Coffee Forums to find out more about this area.

So my shopping list so far is a new grinder and much better scales!

We then worked through what a coffee shot looks like when split out. This was fun to watch and something I don’t want to attempt myself. They each smelled and tasted completely different and the very last one just was not right as too much water had run through the beans. It was really interesting to see and understand what too much water really means to the taste of coffee.

We then got to practice making quite a few shots each. As we had set up the grinder to do exactly the same each time we only had to press the button and out it came. The next skill was in the flattening out of the bean and the pressing it down with a really nice tamper (another thing to add to the shopping list, but not essential). The put it into the machine and timed the shot. We set the machine to the correct time so that all we needed to focus on was getting the tamper pressure right. I was not brave enough to check the seal of mine by turning it upside down, but I will over a sink when I can control the mess if it goes wrong!

We also learnt about keeping everything clean. This will extend the life of all your equipment and shows a real pride in the skills you are learning and demonstrating. It is a really mark of respect and you can tell and good coffee shop from a bad coffee by how well they keep it all clean, but also by how well they clean between making each drink.

We then moved on to the milk. This is the harder part I think as every machine is different and every type of milk is different. We stuck with whole cows milk to keep it simple. This is all about the steam and getting the foam and then the spin of the milk. It’s all done by feel, although we ha d a thermometer to check our gauge of temperature. It gave me a really appreciation for skill involved in getting this right and I definitely need more practice in the area to get my flat white right. The pouring is also key and was the bit I was even worse at than the steaming, which improved as I had multiple goes.

We talked through each type of drink you can make from an espresso base, starting with the cappuccino, which is the one we concentrated on making as this is the one with the most foam. Donavan made this one as I got so absorbed in this I forgot to take any photos of my own.

We then moved onto the latte and that involves less foam so you focus on heating the milk straight away rather than creating the foam like with the cappuccino.

Then we added the flat white. This was the first time I have ever tasted them all side by side and it was enlightening. The latte tasted watery and weak compared the cappuccino and flat white.

We then looked at the cortado and the ristretto, which reduces the milk much further than the other drinks to the point where there is more espresso than milk. I am definitely a fan of the stronger coffee drinks over the milky drinks.

Overall it was a really great day and I learnt a lot. We also got to meet Dave who is on the Coffee Forum a lot and restores coffee machines. It was really interesting to get more insight into the brands to get and to avoid when it comes to grinders and the espresso machines. This was my first step into the local world of coffee and I love it.

I then went home and waited until the next day to practice as I had a little too much caffeine that day. So on Sunday I practice espresso and milk skills. I think with the addition of scales and a better grinder I will improve my coffee, but otherwise I like how I make espresso.

It’s my milk skills that need drastic improvement and my gauge of temperature is awful! I made this cappuccino like drink liking the milk was hot based on my hands and found when I came to drink it, it really wasn’t hot, but rather the hot side of warm. Some work needed there (or a better machine!).

Seriously though scales and a grinder on my must get soon list as they will benefit all my coffee brewing methods. I am also going to get an aeropress for travel coffee making and work I think. Then when my espresso machine breaks I will look at investing in a better one to take it up another level.

Catching up on coffee 2016 Part 1

Like with my book posts, I’m very behind on my coffee updates. Although I seem to be taking longer to get through coffee than normal. I have reduced the amount I drink slightly, but I’m also more consistent in having at least one every single day.

I have also been drinking coffee out a bit more and have been enjoying some very nice flat white coffees, which makes a change from my standard americano or if I want milk a latte.

Rave Fudge Blend – this has been my staple over the last year. Every time I go and visit Rave I stock up on this and a new one I haven’t tried. I still have this in my stock so will be continuing to enjoy until my next visit at the end of the month.

Starbucks Christmas Blend – a tradition in my house is to buy this blend every Christmas and take round to my parents every year to get them to drink nice coffee instead of instant (I know!). This year I also the espresso blend, which I felt was slightly stronger than the standard blend, but I admit I didn’t try them side by side.

Hope and Glory Spiced Winter Coffee – an impulse buy as I don’t normally pre-ground coffees, but I couldn’t resist a spiced coffee. I could totally do this myself next year as it is juts a nice coffee with added spices. I liked the warming impact of this coffee and it felt very festive over the Christmas period.

Rave Hurrave Blend – This is the second year I’ve bought this blend and I like it a lot.  It was a nice one to drink going into January while it was grey and wet. This was very warming and lovely to use as a french press or pour over coffee.


I have one Christmas coffee left, the Wonderland Espresso Blend from Hope and Glory. I’m looking forward to opening this one and enjoying at home this month.

I also bought myself a new mug on my recent trip to Bruges. I try to find local places to drink, but will always pop into a Starbucks to get their city series mugs as I like the style, size and practically of them as a souvenir.

On another note I have booked on a barista skills course being put on by Rave at the end of the month and I cannot wait. I really want to take my home coffee brewing to the next level and need to learn about grinding properly and the ratios of water to coffee. I’m aware of both, but have never been shown what to do and reading about it has not been a huge priority, even though I know I want to learn.

Adventures in Tea and Coffee… December 15 Edition

December is the time of festive coffee concoctions and each year I seem to be less and less enthralled with them. When I started this blog in 2011 I made sure I tried every single one that Costa, Starbucks, and Nero had to offer, but now I am searching out coffee roasters to enjoy their festive blends instead. However I haven’t even started on two of the 4 festive blends I purchased as I was unwell and so they will have to wait until January. I did still have a few of the festive drinks as it was time for catching up with friends and needing breaks from Christmas shopping.

Starbucks Eggnog Latte

A decadent must have for me. I know many coffee experts wouldn’t even count this as coffee, but I do at this time of year and as I usually only have the one I enjoy it a lot.

Costa Salted Caramel Cappuccino

A new one for the Costa menu this year. It’s basically a sweet cappuccino and I wouldn’t bother again as I didn’t get a hint of salted caramel at all. Such as shame as I was hoping this would be a good one.

Jeeves of Jericho Oxford brew

I went to Millets Farm to find some stocking fillers and took a break in their cafe and tried a tea I’ve not had before from Oxford based tea company Jeeves of Jericho and really enjoyed it. I will be looking at ordering from them in the future.

Cafe Nero Praline Latte

Another festive try this year. This was on the same wavelength as the salted caramel cappuccino. I think I am not a fan of sweetened coffee anymore. It just makes me thirsty and does nothing for the actual taste of the coffee.

Rave Rwanda Simbi flat white

A trip to Rave Coffee in Cirencester saw me order my favourite flat white with the origin coffee of the month from Rwanda. It was a nice choice as it has a bit of a bite too it that even came through in the flat white. I also purchased some of my favourite fudge blend and also their festive Hurrave blend.

Hope and Glory Spice Winter Coffee

My coffee of christmas week. This has been rather nice and although it could only be order pre-ground it was kept nicely over the week. I do prefer to get beans and grind as I go, but wanted to try this one with the spices. I would get this again, but I would also look to try and make my own version by adding spices in a pour over with a favourite bean.

Starbuck Christmas Blend 2015

I always get a bag of this and take it to my parents for Christmas Day and Boxing Day. They only have instant coffee, but also do not appreciate fresh coffee as much as I do, so this one is the perfect compromise.

Quite a busy month for different drinks and also for building up a stash of beans to enjoy in January. I am going away in January and am debating getting an Aeropress to take with me as I follow a number of people on Twitter and Instagram that travel with them and it looks like a fantastic idea for having good coffee on the go. Some even take grinders, so it’s something I am going to look at for 2016 as well as getting better at brewing good coffee at home buy getting a scale.

I hope you have a good year of coffee and I’m looking forward to making 2016 an even better year.

Adventures in Tea and Coffee… November 2015

This month I have worked through the big stash of Rave coffee beans I bought last month and it’s good that I bought extra as I have not been that way since. I will be making a special trip in the next week or so to pick up their Christmas blend.

The coffee I’ve just started is my first Christmas Blend from Taylors. It’s nice and dark and warming. It’s not a complex taste and surprising smooth for a pre-package coffee.

Tea wise I treated myself to teapigs winter spiced tea and am loving it. It’s so warm and spicy on a dark evening and smells divine.


This month has really been about trying out my new toy – the Bodum pour over! I really want a big chemex, but saw this when was out shopping and couldn’t resist for £15. I love the pour over method for brewing coffee as it just takes a bit more time and makes it a bit of a ritual.

Plus I love the way it looks while brewing!

I also found a new purple version of my french press. Mine has been splitting at the bottom for a while and I’ve been worried it will break. I’m going to keep it though as it will be useful tot make places where I won’t mind if it does get broken.

This is my favourite time of year for coffee  and tea.

Adventures in Coffee and Tea – October 15 Edition

 I’ve decided to streamline my posts so am bring together my adventures in coffee and tea into a monthly update to share with you all.

There has been a nice selection of drinks I’ve been having the last month or so.

First up I got a free sample from Starbucks and I liked it a lot. I have a preference for Guatemalian coffee so this was a nice freebie to get. I tried it in both my espresso maker and as a pour over and both were very nice.

Next up I was lucky to win a Twitter competition by Hope and Glory to try their Honduras coffee. This was a nice change for me I found it lighter and more a six than what I would normally go for. I tried it a variety of ways and found the French press with milk suited this coffee for me. It left the oils in and could be made quite strong and then the milk added some balance.   

 Also in October I took a trip to Cardiff to visit a fried s and we went for late lunch at Barkers Tea House. I had the house blend breakfast tea and it was lovely. I also had a sandwich and came, both of which were excellent and we are planning to head back for a proper afternoon tea before Christmas.


I’ve been working my way through a stock of Bluebird tea I have and the first one is coffee pu’erh. I really like this. It’s a strong smoked tea and the adoration of whole coffee beans gives it a deep flavour that isn’t quite tea, but also not quite coffee. I refit sky recommend trying this one if you love both coffee and tea. It’s great on a weekend morning when I can’t make up my mind of what I want.


I also found the Hot Cross Bun tea I bought back in April! This one was okay.mots not my favourite, but was it was nice to try some ring different and I do like to have a rooibos tea for the cold evenings.


I found this one, but I’m sure this is a multiple from last year, but is definitely a favourite from Bluebird as it feels like a guilt free mocha drink.


This was the month of finds of the tea I got last winter and the. Didn’t finish before it got warmer. I think I meant to give this one as a present, but nevermind. This has felt nice on an evening while cosying up with a good book as its dark and rainy and turning to winter. I don’t normally like ginger based drinks, but as long a only lightly brew this works great for me.  

I also treated myself to new mug of my Halloween trip to the Harry Potter Studio. This is a great size mug!


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