Kitchen & Cooking

This online espresso class really upped my coffee game

I'm no barista, but I'm getting there.

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As we’ve seen sales in coffee makers, espresso machines, and burr grinders tick up, the demand for acquiring basic brewing skills and fundamental coffee knowledge has increased. Maybe you have the best beans and a smart scale to help you calibrate the perfect cup, but there are still questions that need to be answered, as each individual’s brewing experience may vary. There are YouTube coffee gurus who share their tips and tricks, but learning efficiently requires a human touch that can guide people through the most unique circumstances.

Enter: Breville’s virtual coffee class, an innovative and interactive option for people who want to learn how to improve their skills and make the best cup of coffee, whether they’ve been home baristas for a while or they’ve just purchased an espresso machine. I’ve owned an espresso machine for a long time but have never done any professional training. Out of curiosity, I signed up for the class ($110)—here’s what I learned.

How does a virtual espresso class work?

How does a virtual espresso class work?
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

First and foremost, you must have an espresso machine.

To enroll in a course, sign up through Eventbrite. I signed up for the Fundamentals of Espresso class because I was in desperate need of improving my barista skills, but you can also choose the more comprehensive class Brewing FUNdamentals, which covers general brewing knowledge that relates to manual pour-over and automatic drip coffee makers.

Prior to my espresso class, the organizers sent me a barista kit, which included a mini knock box, a milk jug, some glasses and cups, a stainless steel canister for bean storage, two Breville towels, and a tamp mat. These accessories can be helpful if the attendees don’t own them already. Two days before the class started, I also received two bags of freshly roasted coffee from Onyx.

The two-hour Zoom session is divided into three parts: How to dial in a shot, how to texture the milk, and lastly a Q&A that allows you to ask questions and share your brewing experience. (You can also ask questions throughout the session.) After the class, you’ll get a link to the recorded class to watch later.

The course instructors are also worth noting—Andrea Allen, the 2020 U.S. Barista Champion, and Lance Hedrick, the 2017-18 World Latte Art Champion. Both are experienced baristas who have previously trained espresso newbies. They also make the course material easy to digest—I never had trouble understanding the terminology mentioned, despite the fact that I had never received coffee training before. Plus, they also encourage participants to ask questions along the way. In comparison, YouTube coffee stars often seem to talk too fast and there’s no time for questions (unless it’s live).

Who is the espresso class for?

Who is the class for
Credit: Getty Images / benzoix

If you've been making coffee at home, you may like this online class.

If you own an espresso machine, this class will improve your experience, regardless of your skill level. As an intermediate home barista, I’m familiar with the basics, from extraction to milk texturing—but a refresher course is always helpful. Though I’ve passionately written about latte art, I was rusty after a few months of not properly doing it. Lance’s instruction was so thorough and clear that I felt as if he was right in the room guiding me through the process. In addition, the instructors’ professional backgrounds working with espresso machines and grinders allowed them to provide helpful information on best practices, so relatively new users like me can learn how to maintain our expensive machines.

If you’re Team Drip Coffee, you may want to opt for the brewing fundamentals class. The class is designed for people who want a deep understanding of coffee science, and how it applies to both manual and automatic brewing. For aspiring latte artists, there’s also the latte art class.

Is the espresso class worth it?

worth it?
Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li Stack

There's also a chat box (right) on the screen for attendees to leave their questions.

The answer is yes. After taking the class, I noticed immediate improvements to my coffee. After the first sip of the espresso that I pulled following Lance’s thorough instructions, I couldn’t believe I had pulled the shot myself. Our instructors did a great job making sure that we understand how small changes can make a big difference in flavor—if the cup of coffee tastes too sour or bitter, they suggested altering the grind size to dial in the coffee, which worked.

With virtual classes like these, staying at home doesn’t necessarily need to be boring. Whether you’re inspired to spice up your chef game or you want to pick up a new language, we’ve reviewed a handful of virtual learning experiences so you can find the ones that are right for you.

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