Kirsty's Barista Journey: Week 6

Kirsty's Barista Journey: Week 6
Written by
Kirsty Evans

For this weeks bog blog, I am going to discuss the initial stage of my SCA Barista Foundation Skills training. Last week, myself and four other colleagues spent the day with Mark Hodovan; the National Coffee Trainer here at Tchibo Coffee International.  

The training day itself was split into two parts. The morning consisted of learning about basic theory, the history of coffee and its origins. We were firstly told some general knowledge by Mark surrounding the history of coffee. Shortly after, we took part in a pop quiz including geographical knowledge of the "Coffee Belt", which unfortunately I failed miserably at!

In terms of the actual history of coffee itself there is very little evidence of where it all began. Yet there are a few conspiracies; one being Kaldi and the Dancing Goats. Around a thousand years ago an Ethiopian goatherd named Kaldi observed his goats acting strangely. Later that day, he discovered the goats eating red berries and leaves from an unfamiliar tree. Intrigued, Kaldi ate some of the berries and experienced increased energy which was given to him from these coffee cherries.

During the morning session with Mark, we were also educated on the different types of coffee beans –  the two that are most prominent in coffee culture being the Arabica and the Robusta bean, with the Arabica being more sought after due to its consistent quality. The following description shows the characteristics and a comparison of both beans. 


  • Higher price point
  • Grown at 800-3,000m altitude
  • More labour intensive due to high altitude
  • Higher fat content – more sugar – more acidic
  • Caffeine – 1.7-3.5%
  • Fat- 18%
  • Sugar – 8%
  • Acidic taste



  • Grown anywhere from 0-800m altitude
  • Higher caffeine
  • More bitter than Arabica blend
  • Less demand in comparison to Arabica blend
  • Small and round in shape
  • Caffeine – 1.7-3.5%
  • Fat – 8-9%
  • Sugar – 8%
  • Bitter taste


Later on, we were taught about the importance of extraction timings and how integral this is to ensure the best quality of coffee possible. Initially, the concept of extraction seemed quite daunting, but in simple terms. The grind of the coffee is determined by the way in which the dials are adjusted on the machine.

So what exactly does the coffee grinder do and why is the extraction time so important? The magic number for extracting coffee ideally falls within the range of 22-25 seconds. Anything below this figure is known as under extracted, and if the number is higher this makes the coffee over-extracted. The dials are adjusted so that the perfect extraction time is achieved every time and the best coffee can be produced.

A general rule of thumb being if the grind is more coarse when the blades are further apart, it can be compared to water pouring through rocks, water moves faster through the gaps as there is more room for it to flow. When the blades are closer together it’s like water draining through sand, which causes the water to flow through slower. The grind is adjusted until the perfect extraction time is achieved this is done by moving the collar.

  1. Firstly, you should establish whether the adjustment of the grind needs to be finer or coarser and ensure that enough beans are in the hopper.
  2. Secondly you should turn on the grinder and discard the first grind that is released as it will still be on the old setting.
  3. After this you should adjust the grinder accordingly and assess the extraction time.
  4. Step three should be repeated until the perfect extraction time is achieved.

I really enjoyed learning about the history of coffee and I never realised the amount of work that goes into making the perfect cup! Stay updated with the rest of my Barista Journey and keep your eyes peeled for a new blog next week, where I will be discussing my practical and theoretical exam and you can find out if I qualified for my SCA Barista Foundation Skills qualification!