Jolt of Java

giorgio milos

It’s not every day you meet a master barista. On September 8, from 8 to 11 AM at the Mandarin Oriental Miami, Master Barista Giorgio Milos (pictured above) will host a fun get-together for caffeine junkies (you know who you are…and I’m right there with you). His talk/demo “Coffee Sense,” happening at the MO’s Cafe Sambal and M Coffee Bar, will cover everything from the chemistry of the coffee bean to techniques for making a proper cup of espresso. There will be a little sampling, too, and a recipe booklet to take home. Giorgio took a little time out to talk espresso with me.

So what qualifies you as a master barista?
It was an honor that came with winning the Italian Barista Championships a few years ago. It was the product of the many years of training and on-the-job experience at Illy in Trieste, Italy. I started learning as a teenager.

Great espresso, like you’d find in Italy, is so elusive in the states. Why is that?
You know, I’ve had some really terrific espresso here, too. What you get in Italy is more consistently good, but you get unfortunate surprises, too. But I agree, there is room to improve, and it comes down to two main things: more and better training for baristas, and sticking to the formula for authentic espresso, the one published by trade groups like the Specialty Coffee Association of America. Single-dose capsule systems like Illy’s iperEspresso system are making it easier than ever, because there is no measuring, grinding or tamping; just great, authentic espresso at one press of a button.

How do you achieve that authentic Italian texture and taste?
Authentic Italian espresso requires seven to eight grams of freshly ground coffee, ideally roasted two to three days in advance, or preserved using pressurization. The water in your machine shouldn’t be too soft, and must not exceed 200 degrees F to avoid burning, nor lower than 190 F to ensure all the best aromatic components are extracted.

The grind is also fundamental. A too-fine grind can create burnt coffee and extract unpleasantly bitter and woody flavors, and why so many espressos’ taste is described as bitter. On the other hand, an overly coarse grind doesn’t permit full extraction of certain key elements. A medium grind permits proper extraction of one ounce of aromatic black liquid in 25 to 30 seconds, the ideal amount of time. That should produce a beautiful, solid, light brown layer on top, called the crema. If your crema has no bubbles or holes, chances are what’s waiting underneath is terrific.

Is there a proper way to imbibe espresso?
For sure. Espresso is best served in a proper, ceramic espresso cup, pre-warmed on the top of your machine.

Sugar or no sugar?
I’m a purist, a no sugar guy. If you want to add a little, who am I to judge?

Beyond espresso, what coffee drinks will you be preparing on Sept 8?
I will be making several espresso-based beverages including cappuccinos and Americanos, plus a special Miami-inspired drink I call the Miami Vice, an espresso-based cocktail made with vodka. Delicious!

To attend the event, simply pop in to Cafe Sambal/M Coffee Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Miami (500 Brickell Key Dr.). There is no charge (other than the one you’ll get from the coffee). Call 305.913.8358 for more.

cafe sambal

 The Coffee Sense talk happens Sept 8 at the trop chic Cafe Sambal & M Coffee Bar


The Miami Vice … oh, so nice. Get the recipe here

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