Coffee Talk

I slung coffee and told people what to do for a little over four years at America's premier coffee retailer, Starbucks.

For years I endured abuse (mentally, verbally and physically) from fans and haters alike. It was more than a job: it was a career (for a time), a social outlet, a third place (apparently, if you're not at work and not at home, you should be at Starbucks).

Most of all, it was my life. My Starbucks family helped me turn from college graduate into a young lady. Well, I was a young lady before I knew Starbucks existed, but it made the post-collegiate transition easier. I met my (soon-to-be-ex) husband there. I met long-lost and new-fast friends there.

But I digress...

Starbucks and I parted ways in May of this year. For all of the good it did me, it was time to go. I don't miss cleaning up after people. I don't miss telling people where to go and how to get there (and them not doing it). I don't miss having to train people to do my job and them not doing it as well as me. And I certainly don't miss getting up at 4:35 AM to get there by 5 AM to pray to the coffee gods to let me get out on time at 1:30 PM.

But I do miss the coffee...

I was a Certified Starbucks CoffeeMaster for three of those four years. I probably won't be using those skills any time soon, so I thought I'd share a piece from a pamphlet I made for a coffee seminar.


Use the right proportion of coffee to water

The recipe for great coffee is TWO tablespoons of ground coffee (10 grams) for each SIX fluid ounces of water. Starbucks did not invent this brewing recipe. The standard is based on consumer research introduced in 1945 by an organization called the Coffee Brewing Center.

Coffee is made when hot water pulls out the flavor components in the ground coffee and mixes them with water. A rich, aromatic cup is desired. Proper extraction yields full, round flavors too.
The best way to make a “weaker” cup of coffee is to add hot water to properly brewed coffee.

Using less coffee results in thin, bitter tasting coffee. More water passes through the grounds continuing the extraction process long after the desirable flavor components have been pulled out. This is why we recommend diluting full-strength coffee if a milder cup is the target.

To create a stronger cup of coffee, it is acceptable to use double the amount of ground coffee. Iced coffee is often brewed in this manner.

Different brewing methods require different grinds

If coffee is ground “too fine” then the water stays in contact with the coffee for too long, resulting in over-extraction. A common belief is that a finer grind will mean more cups per pound. The result of this practice is indeed more cups per pound, but all the cups are bitter and over-extracted.
If coffee is ground “too course” the opposite happens and the coffee is watery.

Basic brewing methods:
Drip coffee—uses paper or mesh filters, flat bottomed or cone-shaped.
Espresso—pump driven, steam driven, and stove top
Coffee press—Starbucks recommended brewing method

FIVE official grinds which every store should be able to reliably produce:

o Espresso
o Extra Fine
o Fine
o Medium
o Coarse

Espresso: for pump-driven and piston espresso machines
If the grind is wrong: shots will pour too fast or too slow

Extra Fine: for all cone-shaped filters and for steam-driven electric espresso machines.
If the grind is wrong: bitter-tasting coffee or producing coffee too slowly in a steam-driven espresso machine.
Gold cone filters are superior in the flavor they produce because the flavor oils ordinarily trapped in paper filters are allowed to pass through.

Fine: stovetop espresso makers and vacuum pots

Medium: for flat-bottomed paper filters
If grind is wrong: there is the possibility of grounds and water overflowing in the basket if the coffee is ground too fine. Coarser grinds are more forgiving.
If you are purchasing whole bean coffee for a gift or are unsure of the filter type, this grind will work better in a cone filter than extra fine will in a flat filter
Course: for coffee press, open pot, or percolator

Coffee is 98% water. Always use cold, fresh filtered water. If your tap water is the best tasting water, by all means use it. Your coffee will taste as good as the product you put in.

Coffee Freshness

o Treat coffee as fresh produce or a loaf of bread. The enemies of coffee are oxygen, light, heat, and moisture.
o Never store coffee in the refrigerator or freezer for daily use. Moisture will collect on the coffee each time the container is opened, exposing it to damage.
o Coffee CAN be stored in the freezer for later in the year (ex. Christmas blend to enjoy in August), just put a piece of tape over the FlavorLock valve on the front of the coffee bag before storing.
o Keep coffee in an air-tight container in a cool, dark place for daily use.
o For best results, coffee should be ground fresh just before brewing. Whole bean coffee stays fresh longer because there is less surface area exposed to oxygen. By grinding beans each time you brew, the freshness is preserved.

Freshly roasted beans, from a portable bean roaster I used to have

Like this post?

About the author

Nikki Miller-Ka

Nikki Miller-Ka

Ms. Miller-Ka is a classically trained chef with a BA in English from East Carolina University and a Culinary Arts Associate Degree from Le Cordon Bleu-Miami.

Formerly, she’s worked as a researcher, an editorial assistant, reporter and guest blogger for various publications and outlets in the Southeast. She has also worked as a catering chef, a pastry chef, a butcher, a baker, and a biscuit-maker. Presently, she is a food editor, freelance food writer, and a tour guide for Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours.

Leave a reply

  1. YOu know what...I never was one to drink coffee...I'm still not. But I love their caramel apple cider!

  2. Soon to be ex??!!
    Best wishes and warm hugs.

  3. D: I really don't like the taste of coffee, but I appreciate its complexities and culinary worth.

    CC: Yup. And I'm OK with that. Thank you xoxo

  4. Ahhh... I used to work for Starbucks as well. It was fun but I spread myself too thin by picking that up as a part time job. I did love the nature of work though and learned a lot. At the time I aspired to open up my own coffee shop/cafe. When I realized the depth of responsibilities of what needs to happen to make that dream into a reality, I had a change of mind. If anything, I have to credit Starbucks for knowing what they are doing!

  5. Lots of info in this post. Hugs on the ex part, cool on the Starbucks part (and I now know to order medium grind for the cheap coffee maker at work so that it doesn't overflow anymore!)

  6. Nikki, I am so jealous of you. I want to be a barista. Actually my daughter and I talked about taking time this holiday season and pulling out the old espresso machine and experimenting with various Starbucks recipes. I tell you, you are just too cool. Great post.

  7. Great post. CS and I differ on coffee. He swears by Swedish coffees and never likes what I make. And I dont have weak tastes in coffee either! So I will use your tips and try to produce a cup he will like.

  8. Girl, preach ON about the dark side of retail. It got to the point that I actually hated Xmas, now I'm back to lovin' it.

    How's this, do you have a favorite iced coffee recipe? I have one that I do every other day and I'd like to see someone with skills such as yourself to really put out a kick ass drink. Whatcha say?

  9. I was a barista in high school for an old, crotchety man who tucked his polo shirts into freakishly fashionable jeans. It was weird. And I still, to this day, do not eat or drink anything with or tasting of coffee. Except kahlua in a white Russian, and that's clearly a valid exception.

    Where shall you work now? I mean, until you find a wealthy man who demands nothing and adores your sexy ass, of course.

  10. also, I would do anything (yes, that too) to be able to make the hot green tea latte at home. Ideas?

  11. Really interesting post! I love coffee and get really grumpy when an untrained teenager makes me a lukewarm cup 3/4 full of foam when I ask for an extra strong latte. The more people like you who know what they are doing the better!

  12. Loved the info -- and congrats to you on the next big part of your life. I left a profession that oddly sounds just like you so effectively described yours as being, and will also not expect to use my hard learned and used skills anytime soon. Suffice it to say, I gave, and gave and gave, so am crispy around the edges and enjoying writing instead. Good luck to you, and I've got you linked now. Love your spunk...

  13. joelen: I loved my job. I woke up every day glad to be there and sad when I didn't have to be. The company has changed, and so must I

    mrs: thanks xoxo and overflowing coffee at work really sucks. I hope I've helped lol

    teresa: you can be a barista! I don't know what you do during the day, but you could totally work at Starbucks! And I'm being serious when I say this.

    courtney: I didn't know Sweden grew coffee... soon to-be ex didn't like my coffee either. And I met him at Starbucks. Pfffft.

    mgr: Iced coffee is the only coffee I religiously drink. I guess I have a recipe...I brew it double strength and add ice. Sometimes addtional shots of espresso. I have a black eye, when all is said and done. But let me marinate on that for a minute...

    spiteful: Yes, totally valid exception. 'Til I find a new man. Or men. Or whatever it is that's coming my way, I'll just sit around all day and blog. Green tea latte? Find some matcha powder at the Asian grocery and add powdered sugar. Add water and milk, yeah...that should be about right. Not too much match's strong.

    foodycat: foam is decoration, not an actual part of the drink. I hate it when teenagers do that to me, too.

    kelly: Thanks a lot. I am not as crisy now, as I was in May but I don't miss it at ALL. I only miss my rich customers giving me $10 tips at Christmas.

  14. Hot damn - first of all, big hugz to you. You know we got your back.

    Secondly, ummm.. apparently you got the memo that this gal over here can't *ahem* make coffee. I can make a mean, stress MEAN arroz con pollo but coffee, *pshaw*, I'm hurtin' in that department and that's my one major addiction (outside of all things shoes, Global knives and Le Creuset).

    Thanks for the tutorial - I'll have to try it out :)

  15. Lys: Thanks, girl. I need somebody in my corner! I hope my tips help you out. Well, The Coffee Center's tips. I just interpreted the lofty language into something everyone can understand lol


Post a Comment

Thank you for coming by! Don't make this visit your last!