KEARNEY — Barista’s Daily Grind in Kearney is not only devoted to brewing the perfect cup of coffee, it is invested in its employees’ futures.
Barista’s co-owner Jasmin McGinnis recently sent two of her baristas, James Royle and Zoe Ritz, to Barista Camp in Greece where they learned more about the art and science of making coffee.
Royle and Ritz, University of Nebraska at Kearney students, were enrolled in four-day intensive brewing and barista classes, respectively. Each barista earned credits toward coffee making accreditation.
McGinnis said she paid for Royle and Ritz’s classes, airfare and hotel because she wanted them to not only become better baristas but she wanted to make an impact in their lives.
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“It’s not just to help Barista’s. It does help Barista’s because they come back super passionate, but it helps them to get a broader perspective on how the things we do every day apply in the big picture of the world,” she said.
And it’s important to McGinnis to provide opportunities to her baristas for further growth, which will help them in their careers.
McGinnis sent Royle, who is a senior studying international business, to the camp because she wanted him to make international connections.
Royle said he and Ritz were two of three Americans at the conference and he thought it was “cool” to meet people from around the world who were connected to other individuals in the coffee industry in the United States.
“And now I’m realizing I can be a part of this. This is one step in that direction,” he said.
Ritz, a junior majoring in math education and minoring in entrepreneurship, wants to own a coffee shop one day. So, McGinnis said she and Barista’s co-owner Edgar Cruz are “fostering what that looks like behind the scenes.”
“Because it’s one thing to dream about, ‘One day I’m going to have a shop and it’s going to look like this,’” McGinnis continued. “It’s another thing to actually have to market, and do cost of goods, and manage people, and manage expectations and have employee turnover.”
Royle and Ritz each learned about the science of coffee in their classes.
“It’s more than pushing buttons on the machine,” Ritz said.
Along with learning more about the science of making the perfect cup of coffee, Ritz said she learned about the process of growing the coffee beans to making espresso shots.
“And I feel like as I learn as a barista, I feel that it’s important to show the customer how good coffee can be because it takes a lot to get it there,” she said. “So you kind of want to show off what the farmer has done and give the customer the best quality drink you can.”
In the brewing class, Royle tasted coffee, guessed how much coffee was in the water and how much was extracted from the beans. He then had to identify what might be wrong with the coffee.
McGinnis said Royle’s class especially involved a lot of science “because, then you need to go in and say, ‘Well, this should have been roasted for this many seconds or minutes longer ...’”
Royle and Ritz’s training was a notch above what they learn at Barista’s. McGinnis and Cruz classically train their baristas to properly grind and steam coffee per the Specialty Coffee Association standards.
“There’s a science to everything,” McGinnis said. “When I say science, I mean millions of dollars of research backed up into what the chemical process of making coffee is, and how it affects your taste, and your sense of smell and all of these different things.”
Barista’s employees manually set how fine they grind the coffee, hand-tamp the coffee in the porta-filter with the proper weight and set the time to brew an espresso shot, for example.
The larger chain coffee shops set their machines to automatic, McGinnis said. This is problematic, she said, because heat and humidity can change the machines and the coffee beans. If adjustments aren’t made, the end product can be watery. If the timing isn’t correct, the coffee can be too sour or too bitter.
The coffee also may be too acidic and may make customers feel sick, McGinnis said, if the espresso shots aren’t made properly.
“And this is why sometimes people say they don’t like coffee or they don’t drink coffee because coffee makes them sick,” she said. “It’s not the coffee that makes them sick. It’s baristas who don’t know what they’re doing with the science and pull the wrong kind of espresso shots.”
Since returning to Kearney a few weeks ago, Ritz and Royle said they have applied what they learned in Greece at Barista’s.
Ritz makes sure to continually clean the counters and machines.
“If you go to a shop and you just see a dirty shot glass and milk everywhere, it just doesn’t look appealing,” she said. “That’s one thing I think is important is to set yourself up for success.”
Royle said he focused on pulling quality espresso shots when he returned to work.
“We don’t want to give you a bad cup of coffee. We want to make sure that we’re giving you the best cup of coffee that we can no matter what it is,” he said. “That’s something that really kind of flooded into my mind when I came back.”