Fraser Jamieson
Cafe and Restaurant Coffee Consulting
Fraser Jamieson
Cafe and Restaurant Coffee Consulting

Barista Reference Memo

Updated: 2023-06-16

Grouphead and Portafilter Cleaning:

For best results, backflush your espresso machine with Cafiza on a daily basis, and backflush it without detergent, as often as is convenient.

Points to keep in mind when backflushing:

  • Running the pump does not clean the machine. Running the pump beyond development of infusion pressure simply puts unnecessary stress on the pump.
  • The default approach of running the machine 10 seconds on and 10 seconds off is easy to remember and caters to users of machines lacking a manometer. On machines with a manometer the better approach is to charge the head and then immediately release pressure allowing it to drain for 10 seconds, or 30 seconds, when using Cafiza.
  • Simply mount the backflush cup, turn on the pump, watch the manometer go from line pressure, to pre-infusion pressure, and then to infusion pressure. Turn off the pump when the machine reaches infusion pressure and allow it to drain.
  • Repeat this process a minimum of 5 times per head.
  • Following the use of Cafiza it is extremely important to backflush with water 10 times per head.
  • At any time during service hours you may “flush” the groupheads by mounting a backflush cup and then quickly opening and closing the portafilter while water is flowing from the grouphead. Flushing in this manner removes stray grounds from the screen, the seal, and the associated mounting flange.
  • Next, using a grouphead brush, or, a dental pick and disposable cloth, clean the grouphead seal and mounting flange. Coffee grounds typically accumulate in the area where the portafilter cleats mate with the grouphead.
  • Now, using a stainless steel pitcher of sufficient size, holding enough water to cover the metallic portions of a portafilter, add a half teaspoon of Cafiza to the water. Then, with a portafilter submerged, boil the water using steam from the espresso machine.
  • Using cloths and scrubbing pads remove accumulated coffee from the interior of the portafilters including their spouts and splitters. Note: Some newer technology portafilters reject buildup on their own and should only be cleaned with soft disposable cloths.
  • Clean portafilter baskets with soft cloths only. Never clean baskets with scrubbing pads.

Using A Doser-Grinder:

  • Remove a portafilter (handle) from the espresso machine.
  • Press a brew button to run water through the screen.
  • Turn on the grinder and dose coffee using many pulls of the dosing lever. Turn off the grinder as you approach a mild overdose.
  • Perform a Chicago Chop (see below) to scrape excess coffee back into the doser.
  • Tamp firmly to pack the coffee into a sold puck.
  • With a cloth or your fingers, clean all stray grounds from the portafilter cleats and basket. Never load a portafilter into the espresso machine if it is not clean. Never load coffee which has not been tamped.
  • After it has been loaded you may place a cup under the spouts and select the appropriate brew button.
  • Upon completion of the brew cycle remove the portafilter and knock it into the knock box.
  • Press the continuous brew button and wash the portafilter with the machine’s water flow while returning the portafilter to the group head. Then, turn off the flow.
  • When not in use the portafilters should be left mounted in the group heads of the machine but not locked in tightly.

The Chicago Chop:

For restaurant applications one of the most consistent espresso distribution methods is The Chicago Chop. This technique was invented by Intelligentsia Coffee Consultants as a way to assure shift to shift consistency. The Chicago Chop is performed using the following technique:

  • First, dose your coffee into the portafilter basket filling it above the rim.
  • Then, use an icing spatula to chop parallel lines across the dose having the top edge of the spatula angled in the direction of travel.
  • Next, chop parallel lines at 90 degrees to the first set of lines, again, with the top of the spatula angled forward in the direction of travel.
  • Finally, scrape the dose level to the top of the basket. To prevent density increases at the trailing edge, finish the process by scraping in at least two directions.

Note: Do not press the dose flat with the spatula. Pressing the dose flat will cause an increase in density and thereby an increase in dose. As per your espresso recipe dose is not a variable.


Accurate dosing, grooming, and tamping, are key to quality extractions. To avoid premature mat wear follow the examples below:

  • When using a spouted portafilter hang the spouts over the edge of the mat and apply pressure straight down. This allows the smooth bottom surface to distribute forces through the mat.
  • When using a bottomless portafilter press straight down on the mat. The large circle distributes force gently.

Espresso Based Beverages:

  • Espresso Recipes: Dose, Yield, & Time
  • Don’t use water from your steam boiler
  • An Americano is an espresso shot into which hot water from the espresso machine’s boiler is added.
  • A Long Black begins as a cup of hot water extracted from a brew head into which an espresso shot is added.
  • Both drinks emulate the strength of gravity brewed coffee but taste totally different from it and from each other.
  • A knowledgeable barista will prepare a Long Black in answer to a request for an Americano.
  • Basic Recipes to use as starting points.

Milk Steaming Videos:

Please follow THIS LINK  to view instructional videos by barista consultant Ryan Soeder.

Keep in mind that these videos are aimed at coffee shop personnel who typically make hundreds of drinks per day. If you do not I strongly suggest that you make drinks using a thermometer.

Also, keep in mind that there is typically a time delay between achieving a temperature and having it displayed on the dial. Your target is 70 degrees C, or 160 degrees F, but you will have to turn the steam off before this point to allow for the response time of your thermometer.

Most importantly do not overfill your pitcher. Your goal is to have zero waste.

Your expansion ratios are as follows:

  • Latte: 20% expansion. Expand the milk as per the video until you reach about 20% expansion, then, raise the pitcher to terminate expansion.
  • Cappuccino: 80 to 100% expansion. Expand the milk until you have reached 80 to 100% expansion. Terminate expansion as required.

Once you learn your fill points and cut-off temperatures you should end up with a nearly empty pitcher after making each drink.

Coffee Bar Tips:

  • Steam Wand Tips: Wipe the steam wand and vigorously scrub the end of the tip after each use. Use the left cloth for this purpose. Steam pressure is not sufficient to clear holes blocked by milk protein.
  • Thermometer Placement: There’s no reason to remove a thermometer from a pitcher except while rinsing it. Even when pouring milk, the thermometer need not be taken from the pitcher; simply hold it with your thumb during the pour. At no time should a thermometer be placed on the counter. Regional health inspectors look for such things.
  • Espresso Machine Hot Rack: When placing clean cups on the espresso machine hot rack, leave the space closest to the operator, empty. That’s the order zone in most shops where cashiers place cups as orders come in. Placing a cup and calling out the order helps to minimise the duplication of orders or the missing out of orders entirely. There will always be little mistakes during rush periods, that’s to be expected, but they should be very few and far between. If you don’t work from service tickets, or from a heads-up display, cup placement and calling it out are a perfectly fine solution. Just use your own judgement as to how busy the shop is.
  • Espresso Machine Cloths: As per near universal protocol, the left side cloth on the deck of the machine is for wiping the steam wands. Left, or right wand. The dry or nearly dry cloth on the right is for drying/cleaning the portafilter baskets. The third cloth goes under the espresso machine and is there for general cleaning.
  • Leave a cloth in the drip pan having it folded so as not to block the drain hole. This cloth reduces the volume of coffee grounds going down the drain hose.

Barista Training Workshops

  • Customers love to finish their meals with a latte or cappuccino; however, servers are often unsure of their own skills and tend to shy away from recommending them.

Why do pucks stick to shower screens?

Considerable suction is created when a three-way-valve exhausts. This will sometimes cause spent pucks to adhere to the shower screen rather than the portafilter basket.

Nothing is wrong.

A short blip of the pump, while removing the portafilter, will knock the puck down into the basket.

Do not use a metal tool to scrape the screen. First off, you will create a mess, and secondly, in time you will damage the screen.

Instead, just be mindful that this can happen and be ready to blip the pump.

“Just serve it.” with Chris Baca

  • The customer’s time is valuable.
  • Your store’s time is extremely valuable.

Bottomless Portafilters with Chris Baca

  • It’s not messy, you are!


Contrary to what some may claim humans are not particularly good at judging temperature by touch. Studies have shown that while people are excellent at detecting changes in temperature they are poor at judging absolute temperature. In the age of Bluetooth enabled gram scales and laser refractometers it seems almost silly to work without a basic thermometer behind the bar.

General Rules For Refrigeration:

  • Make sure that your refrigerator is never overloaded. Cramming food into the fridge may seem like a good idea, at the time, however you are in danger of blocking the cooling ducts which chill your food. There is also a risk that the fridge door may not shut properly leaving you with food which is unfit to eat the following morning. Air needs to be able to circulate around the food. The refrigerator chills the air in the fridge, not the contents; therefore, air circulation must not be restricted.
  • New stock should always be placed behind old stock. Yes, the rules in a commercial kitchen should apply at home as well. Ensure you eat the food in the fridge based on the use by date in order to prevent food wastage which ultimately hits your wallet.
  • Open cans should never be stored in the refrigerator as this may result in chemical contamination, especially acidic food such as fruit and tomatoes. If you wish to put canned food in the fridge ensure that you put the food into a container that is suitable for chilling first.
  • If your fridge temperatures are too high, it may be the result of overloading, the blocking of cooling units, or the thermostat being set too high. If your fridge does not have a thermometer built in, we recommend that you purchase a fridge thermometer to monitor the temperature. Remember that the correct temperature is between 0 and 4°c.

Coffee Bar Design

  • Coffee bars and liquor bars appear similar, in many respects, but differ operationally.

Recommended Vendors

  •   A list of vendors catering to the cafe and restaurant industry.

The Expodist

  • Ah, yes, so many tales in the life of The Expodist.

Human Resources

  • Do You Want To Be In Charge Or Do You Want To Be Successful?

News, Updates, and Announcements

  • Check here for periodic changes to service offerings.