The latest in the interview series features coffee aficionado, Luis Alvarez. Originally from Venezuela, Luis is a widely respected AST* barista trainer based at Java Republic, Dublin. Luis gave me a tour around the roastery last year, and I can attest his knowledge and expertise is nothing short of extraordinary.
Here he shares his dos and don’ts when it comes to making coffee at home, including what equipment to have, the most important things to get right in the process, and his thoughts on the coffee industry throughout lockdown and beyond. Get your pens and notepads ready folks, this is some cracking lockdown coffee training…
*authorised SCA trainer
“If I’d have to suggest something I’d suggest a Hario V60 and a weighing scale. That’s your starter kit”
So you’re at home in isolation – with no coffee brewing equipment. What are the essentials to buy for making great coffee at home?
So thankfully I do have a bit of equipment! If I’d have to suggest something I’d suggest a Hario V60 and a weighing scale. That’s your starter kit. Then you can add stuff like a Brewista Kettle, to control the temperature, an electric (or manual) coffee grinder, to have freshly ground coffee all the time, and a couple of other brewing methods like a Chemex or an Aeropress.
I have a Chemex, Aeropress, V60, Moka Pot and a Brewista Glas Brewer (pourover).
Where are you buying your beans from at the moment?
At the moment I’m not buying much, because just before the lockdown I came back from Costa Rica and Venezuela and brought coffee with me. However, I’ve got some coffee sent to me by Bell Lane Coffee Roasters from Mullingar and I recently purchased some coffees from Supremo Coffee Roasters (Munich, Germany).
OK. The big question: how do you make your coffee at home?
My ultimate morning brew has to be a V60, quick and easy.
-15g of coffee/250g of water
-Temperature around 93degrees
-Total extraction time aimed at 3min
What’s the most important thing to get right in this process?
The grind size for your ground coffee, that’s why is so important to quickly evolve and get an electric grinder which will make your life really easy.
An incorrect grind size can be determinant in how you brew your coffee.
What’s the most important thing to get right? “The grind size”
What was your route into becoming a barista?
It was a bit incidental, I needed a job to pay the bills, and even though I thought about becoming a bartender, I was able to pay for a short barista course in which I actually didn’t learn much, but it gave me the confidence to get out and look for a job. Not long after, I got a job for Butlers Chocolates Café, a local coffee franchise where I started developing my barista skills.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into the coffee industry?
You need to evaluate what you actually want, have a lot of charisma, respect and understand what other people are doing and stay extremely humble. Never stop learning new things.
“[Lockdown] will be hard for many small businesses, but at the same time I think that coffee is such a deep part of our culture that we will continue to be the morning version of the local pub”
Why are we a nation obsessed with coffee?
I think it represents a natural evolution from a nation obsessed with tea. As part of our culture, just like many other countries, coffee and tea go hand with hand, and the fact that more people are learning about coffee, it has created an overall interest in the matter.
And what do you hope for the coffee industry throughout lockdown and beyond?
It will be hard for many small businesses, but at the same time I think that coffee is such a deep part of our culture that we will continue to be the morning version of the local pubs. A place where people can meet, socialise, and enjoy a high quality beverage.
“My ultimate morning brew…15g of coffee/250g of water; temperature around 93 degrees; total extraction time aimed at 3 mins”
What’s the secret to making great coffee?
Being passionate about it, and understanding that behind a cup of coffee there’s a chain of events that most people have no idea about.
What’s the best coffee-related item you’ve ever bought?
My brewista kettle and my Baratza grinder. I can play so much with how I make my coffee just by being able to adjust the temperature of the water and the grind size.
Favourite coffee shop in Dublin?
Favourite coffee shop in the UK?
Root and Branch (Belfast)
If you had to drink coffee at a chain coffee shop (ie Costa, Cafe Nero etc), which one would you pick?
In Dublin, Butlers Chocolates. And maybe Frank and Honest.
Flat white or black? (Or neither…)
Black, hands down. Or Filter. No milk!