How to truly make a great cup of coffee

While there are many articles and how-to guides online available to baristas. Having worked as one myself, I’ve noticed an ongoing trend that needs to be corrected post-haste. It’s absolutely wonderful that the majority now are capable of artistically shaping the foam on drinks and can rattle off the proper pull time for a double shot to prevent over extraction; however, there is another important process which, all too often, goes overlooked: proper application of a spoon used to “stir” the drink.

The barista is famous for making complex drinks, from the relatively simplistic latte to the double no-whip hazelnut truffle iced mocha breve. These drinks involve a delicate interplay of flavors, be it just the espresso and milk or other ingredients as well.

These composite flavors, of course, work much better when they are, in fact, blended together as opposed to being left in striations. Everyone has, I’m sure, at one point or another begun to drink wondering why the flavors are so weak and muddled only to be further confounded by where that syrupy sludge at the bottom of the cup could have come from. Or what its possible purpose could be (increased density has been suggested, due to the top-heavy nature of many cups provided; this is, however, largely an urban legend).

Full enjoyment of any applicable espresso-based drink, therefore, depends on the drink being appropriately mixed.


This most apparently guarded of all processes may be accomplished easily with few tools and a surprisingly low level of technical expertise. First, one needs to acquire a stirring item, preferably a spoon. The spoon should be clean (if it is not, see “Cleaning Your Spoon,” below), and of a length that is slightly greater than the depth of your drinking vessel. Make sure that your spoon is, for all general purposes, water insoluble – a spoon which dissolves deposits more ingredients is not accomplishing the task which we are attempting.

Having prepared your spoon, your next step should be to make an espresso-based drink. After completing it and pouring the drink into said drinking vessel, but before applying foam or any whipped topping, set the drink aside. It is now ready for stirring.

The stirring process

With the prepared drink in front of you, pick up and wield your spoon. A one-handed approach is generally favored, but two hands may be used as long as you are going to use them to stir the darned drink.

Apply the spoon, broadest end first, into the coffee mixture. There are now several acceptable ways in which you can manipulate the drink. Many will stir clockwise, while some prefer counterclockwise; however, as long as you put the spoon tip near the bottom of the cup and agitate it in any sort of back-and-forth or cyclical motion, you will, in fact, be stirring.

Note that the drink should remain inside the vessel; if it is slopping out and over the counter, you’re doing it wrong.

Finish the drink as you normally would, and watch as the customer’s eyes light up with delight at having a drink that tastes as it was meant to! Well done, barista, well done.


Cleaning Your Spoon – if the spoon you have located is soiled or dirty, rinse it under warm to hot water. Apply soap as needed, and wash until all traces of soap are removed. Proceed to use spoon.