For many of us, coffee is part of our daily routine. It accompanies us at all hours of the day. From waking us up to its scent in the morning, to keeping us company during work hours, bringing us together around meetings and encounters or just to finish off a good meal, coffee is omnipresent in the lives of those who like it.
Since it is National Coffee Month, we connected with Gabriela Ferreira, coffee lover and barista at Dispatch Café in Montreal, to dive into a behind the scenes snapshot of her story as a barista, her advice and goals.1. Hi Gabriela! Tell us a bit about your background and how you got into coffee.
I initially was exposed to coffee by drinking at home with my mom when I was a teenager. The turning point in my inherent obsession with coffee, however, was at one of my previous jobs when I went in for the interview and was handed the best cup of coffee I had ever tasted in my life, which led me to want to explore coffee in a different and more immersive way.
2. What do you like most about your job?
My favourite part about my job is talking to people who come into the cafe and want to learn more about coffee. Whether it’s with someone who’s passionate about coffee already or someone who has just stumbled in and has some curiosity about what we're doing.
3. Where do you find inspiration?
After learning about the issues in the supply chain, I have been very inspired to share the realities of coffee being so accessible to the masses with a severe lack of transparency on how it got there. We try very hard to make sure to source our coffee ethically and that to me is the most important part of working in this industry at the present moment. Sourcing and buying consciously and impactfully.
4. What does National Coffee Month mean to you?
To be honest, I didn’t know it was National Coffee Month, but I am hoping to see this as an awareness month to educate people on supply chain issues and what we can do to work towards a common goal and present solutions to those issues.
5. Tell us how to do the best coffee?
The best way to make coffee is the way you like it. I know this seems like a vague answer but what I mean to say is that everybody has their own version of what the best coffee is and they are not wrong. There are ways to manipulate coffee to make it taste however you’d like. There are many ways to make a great cup of coffee, whichever brew method is used – it’s really a personal thing. Fun fact: coffee is approximately 3 times more chemically complex than making wine and it has more aromatic and flavour compounds!
6. What are the issues in the supply chain and what can the public do to help?
The supply chain works in the following way:
Coffee producers→Private trader→Processing plant→Local exporter→Importer→Roasting company→Retailer→Consumer
All of these people share the profits that come from selling the farms’ green beans and because of historic low coffee prices; many coffee producers do not earn enough from selling coffee to support their families. These people absorb the biggest amount of risk when it comes to growing and selling their product. Coffee is an incredibly hard plant to grow and can be damaged very easily due to unforeseen weather conditions and plant disease outbreaks. The way that you can affect this issue in a positive way is to be aware of the product that you buy. If you can’t find any information about how it is sourced, there is something wrong.
Companies who are proud of what they sell are transparent about their sourcing and often want to give as much information as possible about their relationship to the growers. The best action the public can take is to buy as directly as possible and support coffee roasters that buy from importers or directly from farmers that operate sustainably and invest in community healthcare, education including knowledge sharing, training and gender equality for example.
7. You’re Brazilian born, and a Canadian citizen. In your opinion, how does culture influence the way we make and have our coffee?
Culture plays a huge role in how coffee is consumed and is often emotionally connected to memories and expectations of what it should taste like. Coffee is very closely related to culture in Brazil because we are the largest exporters of coffee in the world and it has been a pivotal role in the economy giving many people jobs in that industry. As a Canadian, I’m being presented the opportunity to change the perspective that we have about the industry in order to help the farmers and their families at the very start of the supply chain.
8. Do you have any tips for people who want to make their coffee at home?
The best tip I can give is to play around with the following parameters to find your own sweet spot:
Grind. Never grind with a machine blade grinder, this creates an uneven grind size which, when making coffee, is comparable to boiling water and throwing in different types of pasta and expecting them to be done at the same time. Some will be overcooked and sloppy while others are undercooked. It’s always better to exchange some freshness for an even grind by getting your bag of beans ground at your local cafe.
Grind size. For each method of brewing (French press, stovetop, etc.) you will need to adjust the grind size accordingly. Ask your barista to grind it according to the method you will use and they’ll take it from there.
Time. There is a direct correlation between time and grind size. The smaller the grind size the more surface is being exposed to the water; therefore it reacts faster and extracts the coffee more easily. The bigger the grind size, the harder it is for the hot water to break down the coffee. All that being said, if you have a large grind size, give it more time and if it is smaller, give it less time adjusting to your needs and taste preferences.
Weight. If you don’t have a scale, use the same scoop or spoon so that you have a consistent input of coffee (we call this dose). The goal is to play around with the other mentioned parameters (grind size and time) while keeping your water to coffee ratio the same. A classic ratio where I usually start at is 15g of coffee for 250ml of water. You can change these as well but for starters it is best to keep it simple and stick to grind size and time.
9. What’s your favourite drink? Would you share the recipe with us?
I have been really into cold brew this summer, especially due to the hot weather we have been blessed with. It is very easy to make at home and doesn’t take much effort. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to make it at home:
- Use 1 part coarse ground coffee (French press grind) to 8 parts water.
- Put your container and your grinds on a scale and zero it so that you can keep track of how much water you're adding.
- Start by hitting the grinds with just enough water off a boil to wet all of the grinds (about 10-15% of your total amount of water).
- Stir and set a timer for a minute. This hot water "bloom", as we call it, will make your coffee sweeter.
- When the timer goes off, add the rest of your water, but use cold water, not boiling.
- Steep for anywhere from 8-24 hours in a fridge.
Do your best to filter out the grinds when you're done. If using a mason jar, pour the grinds through coffee filters, trying your best to leave all of the large grinds in the bottom of the mason jar so the paper filter won't clog. You can also just make cold brew right in a French press and simply plunge it when it's finished, though a paper filter will remove more sediment, and the more sediment you remove, the cleaner and less bitter your coffee will be. Feel free to use a French press to filter out big particles and THEN pour it through a paper filter.
Finally, if your coffee tastes acidic and lacks sweetness, brew for a longer amount of time. If it's bitter, brew shorter.