Master barista talks coffee

Like coffee? Giorgio Milos likes it so much he has devoted his life to the wonder liquid. Talk about a grind. Illy’s master barista is making the rounds in Miami talking up his favorite topic. He’ll do two separate appearances, first hitting the Four Seasons to teach master classes to professionals and then the Mandarin Oriental, where they’ll hear about the history, origin and chemistry of espresso. We chatted with the master:

What makes the perfect coffee?

For many, and certainly for me, espresso is the ultimate form of coffee preparation and expression. It is incredibly simple and complex at once — a coming together of heat and pressure in just one little cup, producing one ounce of liquid, but with literally hundreds of flavor and aromatic characteristics inside. There is chocolate, there are flowers, and so much more going on in a great espresso. The thing about espresso is, it’s not as hard to make as most people think. It’s all about quality beans, the right measurements, some basic technique. And like most things, practice. The authentic recipe calls for seven to eight grams of ground coffee, medium grind, tamped properly to form a good “coffee cake” before extracting, which should last from 25 to 30 seconds. In other words, push your machine’s on button, then turn if off within that time frame. In the cup, look for a beautiful, light brown crema, the lighter top layer that should naturally form on top of an espresso. If you don’t see bubbles or holes, chances are you have something wonderful waiting for you underneath.

How many coffees is too many?

I usually drink around three espressos in a day, the equivalent of about a cup and half of brewed, caffeinated coffee. That stuff about an espresso containing more caffeine than brewed coffee: it’s a big myth.

Is coffee really healthy? There is a good deal of research attesting to coffee’s positive health effects. Who am I to argue?

What is life like as a barista? I was extremely lucky to grow up in a family deeply involved in coffee. My mother worked for illy for 35 years, and it was my dream to follow her, and become a barista for illy. There is nothing like delighting someone who loves coffee with a great coffee. I’ve always remained a barista at heart, even as my knowledge and duties have expanded to coffee tasting, green coffee analysis, and teaching at illy’s Università del Caffè. Training is everything, and teaching my craft is my favorite thing to do, so I’m so happy to be spending the whole year in the U.S. teaching and preparing coffee for passionate consumers and professionals. It is what the illy Master Barista Series is all about.

Why do we think we drink so much coffee in America? Miami? Yes, here and everywhere! Coffee is the second most consumed beverage in the world behind water. Why so much in America, I think there are a few reasons. First, people enjoy coffee for so many reasons — some for its taste alone, some for its invigoration, others because it helps them relax, and yet others for social reasons. So versatility is one big factor. Second, the quality coffee movement that took hold here about 20 years ago has done a great job increasing peoples’ appreciation for good coffee, and the many different ways to enjoy it. As for Miami, just look at how far the fine culinary scene has come here. As a major food capital, great coffee is naturally part of that picture.


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