Kirsty's Barista Journey: Week 7

Kirsty's Barista Journey: Week 7
Written by
Kirsty Evans

Following last week's blog post, the second part of our day with Mark consisted of a theoretical and practical exam, exhibiting our abilities to produce two different types of coffee. 

Initially I felt fairly confident about the exam, seeing as I had been perfecting my skills making a different coffee every day for the past few weeks. Mark first off demonstrated how to make the perfect espresso, this was mainly focused on extraction time and the appearance of the espresso itself. Secondly we were asked to produce the perfect Cappuccino, luckily I have made my fair share during my internship here at Tchibo so this concept seemed quite simple to me. Turns out that everything has to be done in a set specific order to gain the qualification, which ended up being a lot harder than I expected!

One of the most important steps is to ensure your work space is clean and tidy, it’s crucial to keep cleanliness levels high and to make this a priority before using the machine. This way you avoid cross-contamination and ensure that quality is upheld in a restaurant or café.

Mark began by showing us exactly how the bar should be cleaned and the standard expected; we would fail the exam if this step wasn’t carried out. The exam was highly focused on the importance of extraction which was discussed in my previous blog last week. Mark demonstrated how to change the grind of the coffee, which determines the extraction time. For a rule of thumb I remembered to adjust the grinder accurately, by turning the number higher to make the extraction time lower and vice versa.

Part of the assessment was to adjust the grinder accordingly, to ensure the extraction time fell between the 22-25 second mark. We had 30 minutes to practice the drinks on the machines in pairs prior to the exam, where we had to clean our workspace and adjust the grinder accurately, with the desired result of creating a perfect espresso and cappuccino all in under ten minutes.

The practice run flew by and before we knew it, it was time for our assessment. The group was split into two, with half sitting the theory and the remaining the practical exam; which I was selected for first. Mark came and adjusted the grinder so that the extraction time was incorrect and needed to be changed accordingly to achieve an accurate extraction time. We were given ten minutes to try and correct the grinder before we were tested, I found this extremely nerve wracking as even the slightest modification can change the time drastically. Luckily I managed to get the extraction time to 25 seconds exactly, then Mark came in and the test began.

I ensured that the bar was immaculate before my exam commenced, I started with an espresso shot. I carefully followed all the steps to make the perfect shot, I began grinding the coffee and tamping, shortly after I drained the water so that the espresso was as fresh as possible. Next I placed the group handle into the group head and proceeded to extract the espresso, I remember how nervous I was watching the extraction display on the screen and luckily I produced a time of 25 seconds!

My next challenge was to produce the perfect cappuccino, I felt more at ease about this seeing as my extraction time had fallen within range. During my exam, my colleague Jack was taking pictures for this blog post so the pressure was on!

Firstly I ensured that all equipment was clean, especially the steam wand.

Straight after I ground the coffee, placed the porta filter into the grouphead and began extracting the espresso. I ensured to keep an eye on the extraction time to ensure it fell within range.

While the espresso was extracting I produced my Cappuccino milk. I had to really focus at this point to make sure I didn't overheat the milk, this is the step I felt most concerned with but I just thought back to everything I was taught earlier in the day.


Here is my finished result! The whole process ran smoothly and I have finally made a coffee that I would be happy to serve to someone. After the practical I sat the theoretical exam and felt quite confident regarding this, hope you enjoyed this week's blog and stay tuned to find out the result of my exam.