The Starters Guide to Being a Barista

Planning to open the coolest coffee shop in town? So what are the things you need to know before setting off on this exciting journey? Let us explore the 5 facts you need to know while buying commercial spaces, espresso machines and other café merchandise.

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Food Safety Standards

No restaurant or café is above the rules and regulations of the National Food Safety Standards 3.2.3. There are quite a few set of rules which have been laid out to ensure safe manufacturing and distribution of food form registered outlets such as restaurants, cafes and hotels.

As far as the in Australian Standard AS4674-2004 Design, Construction & Fitout of Food Premises is concerned; every establishment has to follow a few guideline criteria for the construction and maintenance of the kitchen area. As a matter of fact, the food and beverages produced need to adhere to a certain standard of health and hygiene.

Every commercial space needs to opt for equipment which has been built and manufactured for commercial use only (Recommended brands : bunn commercial coffee makers and Keurig K145 Coffee Machines.)

Not only do these equipments support bulk production, they also have extended longevity and official guarantee/warranty since these are meant to mass produce food and beverages. This makes them easier to clean, maintain and repair once such a situation arises. Take is from us, if you choose a high-end machine for a home based setting for mass production at your café, you are making one rookie mistake.

Special Electrical Requirements

The requirements of a commercial espresso machine will be a lot different from your home espresso machine and that’s a given. So before you decide on what kind of espresso machine you should opt for, do not forget to check your power supply at your would-be café. Check what voltage is required and how much your load your ground/earth can support.

Most of the grinders use 110 Volt receptacles while most espresso machines use anything between 110 Volts to 220 Volt depending on the model. Always remember to check the specs of the model you are opting for and check the circuit to make sure that it can take the expected load.

Most of the grinders use 110 Volt receptacles while most espresso machines use anything between 110 Volts to 220 Volt depending on the model. Always remember to check the specs of the model you are opting for and check the circuit to make sure that it can take the expected load.

Plumbing Requirements

If you want a safe and functional working space, it is extremely important that you check the plumbing requirements of espresso machines. You will first need to install a cold water supply line that is within 4 feet of the machine.

Commercial machines mostly require a 3/8 inch diameter line and a water pressure creator of maximum 40 pounds. This waterline is incomplete without a separate shut-off valve to prevent any kind of backflow.

The espresso machine needs to be connected to the main water supply line so there is constant flow of water. Manually supplying water for your espresso machine is neither desired nor advised.

Now comes the question of drain connection. Every espresso machine comes with its drip tray which drains into a black box or the catch basin that drains into a vinyl tube. This drain hose needs to be connected to a dedicated floor drain or waste drain for complete removal of discarded water.

Although it is recommended that you check with your local council for the exact requirement for establishing drain connections.

Water Softeners and Maintenance

Just like water filters catch the floating debris from water as well as a layer of calcium or magnesium salts that make the water hard. Your espresso machine will also have a tendency to build-up deposits of the same, and in copious amounts.

So, if you are aiming for a high volume business with years of service, you would want to exact the maximum service possible from your investments. Which is why, we recommend that you take the help of a coffee technician which is ideal for your location and water type.

In addition to that, you should clean your machine religiously and make use of a de-scaling filter whenever possible. Remember to clean the in-line water softener since that will determine the amount of mineral deposit on the machine filters and its longevity.

Number of Group heads (where the coffee is extracted)

The number of group heads really depends upon the workload on the espresso machine. This is ideally determined by the number of people catered to or number of servings made at a time. A standard two group machine can make about 4 coffees at one go. And one kilo of coffee can produce 70 to 100 cups of coffee (this is the rule of thumb for café owners) depending on the basket size of the machine.

So, a café which is consuming 5 kilo of coffee or less per week should opt for a small single group machine.

But, if the 5 kilos was used in less than a week then the café probably needs something more powerful, like a compact 2 group. As the name indicates, these models have two group heads and it can do anything up to 10 kilos per week depending on the customer distribution and footfall frequency.

The most common machine we see today is a full-sized 2 group. Not only does it have a larger boiler, it can do up to 29 kilo per week. This model is seen in most of the busy city cafes. If you push the limits, a 2 group can potentially dole out about 30 kilos a week.

However, in that case your staff strength and customer spacing becomes the limiting factors. A single skilled operator can handle only up to 4 brewing heads at one time.

The calculation is easy, it takes only a few seconds to knock out the old coffee grounds, refill the group head with new grounds, put the group handle back and hit the “Brew” button. The espresso takes about 25 seconds to brew. Hence, the idea of getting more than 4 group heads on a single machine is quite impractical and useless.

Most commercial spaces choose the group head as per the requirement standards during the rush hours. Commercial machines can have up to 4 groups. But, time has shown that 2×2 group heads are ideal if you are looking for better and smoother performance.

Wonton Soup

Many people ask me how I make my Wonton Soup.  I am happy to share that it is the most simple and basic broth to make.  And you can build on it depending on the flavor you want.

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Of course to make Wonton Soup, you have to make the Wontons.  I just use my Steamed Dumpling recipe. Now depending on how I want it served, I can make it by steaming the dumplings separately or cooking the dumplings into the broth. When I say it depends on how it is served, basically if it’s just the dumplings and broth then I just cook the dumplings in it for a good 5 minutes.  If, I’m adding other good stuff in the broth such as shrimp, snow peas and mushrooms then I steam the dumplings separate then just add it in the soup.

Regardless of how you want your Wonton Soup, here’s a very simple and basic recipe for the broth.

For 6 cups of broth

4 cups water
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
3 slices of ginger root
1/4 teaspoon white ground pepper (regular black pepper will work too)
salt

In a large saucepan, bring all ingredients to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add salt for taste. It’s ready!

Now if you want to add other ingredients such as shrimp, snowpeas and mushrooms, just add them during the last 5 minutes of simmering.

Now tell me, how hard is that?

Honey dijon pork loin

I have been absent in my food blogging. Why? Too many things going on that prevents me from experimenting in the kitchen. It’s pretty much what’s been happening when Spring comes. This is the second year and I blame it all on my daughter’s desire to play Lacrosse.  Yup, mommyhood takes over but this will be far over before I know it so I have to cherish it.  My daughter is a Junior in high school and not to mention that I also have a son who is graduating from high school this year. I’m sure some of you can relate having to juggle so many things – sports, SATs, ACTs, school performances here, graduation photos, graduation…

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But we still gotta eat! And pork is a favorite.  Here’s a recipe for an easy Honey Dijon Pork Loin. I do caution you that you need at least 4 hours of prep time for this recipe.  Trust me, it’s worth the wait.

Prep and cook time:  up to 6 hours
Serves: 4
You will need: Baking pan with rack

3 Tbsp coarse sea salt
2 tsp ground pepper
3 Tbsp light brown sugar
2-2.5 lbs pork loin
1/2 cup honey dijon mustard

Combine salt, pepper and sugar. Rub on pork loin.  Transfer to a re-sealable bag.  Marinate in the fridge for 4 hours, taking it out in the last 30 minutes to bring the temperature down.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Place rack in baking pan. Brush honey mustard on pork loin and transfer to baking pan.  Cook for 70-75 minutes until internal temperature of pork loin reaches 160 degrees.  Let meat sit for 15 minutes before slicing.

Enjoy this SARAPLICIOUS! dish.

Strawberry icebox cake

It’s strawberry season and Tampa is all abuzz with strawberry picking. I know in my neighborhood just about everyone went strawberry picking at a recently opened a u-pick hydroponic farm in Riverview, FL called Fernhill Farms. We picked almost 6 pounds of strawberries and only paid about $11.34

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I decided to make a Strawberry Icebox Cake with some of the strawberries we picked. So what exactly is icebox cake? It’s a distant cousin of the trifle which is quite popular in Australia and Great Britain. The American variation uses Graham Crackers or vanilla wafers compared to chocolate wafers that its counterpart uses. The most popular version also uses whipped creme but pudding can also be used.  The ingredients are just layered to include some layering of fruits then refrigerated for a few hours so that the crackers soften forming a cake like texture and softness.

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Here is my easy recipe for Strawberry Icebox Cake.

4 cups sliced strawberries, approximately 2 lbs
24 honey graham crackers
2 8oz tubs + 1/2 tub of fat free or lite whipped cream
Optional: butterscotch syrup

Lightly layer a 9×13 cake pan with whipped cream.  Divide remaining whipped cream into 3 portions.  Layer 8 graham crackers  on top of the whipped cream, cut others to fit in the corners.  Add a layer of whipped cream and then a layer of fruit. Repeat until all graham crackers are used making sure the top layer is with fruit.  Drizzle top with butterscotch syrup. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate preferably overnight but if you can’t wait that long, 3-4 hours before serving.

Enjoy the dish

Prime Rib Roast

We love a good Prime Rib.  However because this cut of meat, despite being flavorful is expensive,  is  usually a treat that we only occasionally indulge in.  It’s also because of the cost that it’s hard for me to experiment to find the perfect recipe for Prime Rib Roast.  To cut down on the cost of repeatedly buying Prime Rib just for experiments, I cut down to very minimal preparation and cooking experiments and resorted to research more.  I have researched the cut of meat and ways to cook it extensively by reading various sources on food science and recipes.  There really isn’t a quick way to cook Prime Rib.  Easy yes, but not quick.

Aachen-1What do I mean when I say easy but no quick way?  As with any type of roasting meat, there is no amount of searing, roasting or braising for less than an hour that can cook it to produce tender, flavorful and juicy meat.  This is why roasting beef can take hours.  It is easy though because once you season it and put it in the oven; you just wait until it’s done.  No need to baste, no need to re-season, etc.  Making it a perfect Sunday supper or holiday treat.

Prime Rib can come with or without bones.   If you do opt for having the bones, 3-4 ribs will serve up to 6 guests.  As far as boneless, removing the bones makes carving easier when done and serving much smaller portions. My rule of thumb is about half a pound of meat per person so get at least 3 pounds of boneless rib roast to serve up to 6 guests.

The easiest,  most tender and flavorful way that I have found to cook rib roast is through minimal seasoning and the use of mostly ambient heat (indirect) for cooking.  The application of indirect heat when roasting produces the “fall off the bone” meat that you want a Prime Rib Roast to be.  And remember, get the meat down to room temperature before cooking by letting it sit for one hour.  Here is a foolproof recipe for Prime Rib Roast that produces a Medium (firm, juicy with a pink center):

Prep & Cook time:  up to 5 hours
Serves: up to 6
You will need:  Roasting pan with rack

3 1/2 – 4  pounds Prime Rib (with bones), approximately 3 ribs
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.  In a small bowl, create a rub by combining salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Apply rub all over roast.  Place roast on roasting pan bone side down.  Roast for 1 hour in the oven.  After an hour turn oven off and leave roast in the oven for at least 3 hours.  DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN AT ALL.  Re-heat the oven back to 350°Fdegrees 40 minutes before serving time and cook.  Using an easy read thermometer, once roast reaches an internal temperature of 140-150 °F, remove from oven and let roast sit for 10 minutes before carving.  While waiting to carve the roast, pour liquid from roasting pan through a strainer.  This can be use au jus for the sliced roast.  Serve roast with your favorite side dishes.

Enjoy this Saraplicious! Dish.

CHEESY MEXICAN RICE

I moved to the US when I was 16.  One of my first jobs was working at a fast food place called Del Taco.  I have to say though that I loved working there because I got to nibble on food whenever it was not busy.  One of the things I loved doing was putting shredded cheese on their version of Mexican Rice.  Since then I have picked up that habit.

My son and I are the only ones fond of Mexican food in our home.  Whenever I get a chance I would make my version of Mexican Rice and then top it with cheese.  With this Lenten season and being Catholic, I do refrain from eating  meat starting on Ash Wednesday and every Friday thereafter until Easter.  Needless to say, my Cheesy Mexican Rice is perfect for lent.  However, during lent, I substitute Vegetable Broth for Chicken Broth.

Cheesy Mexican Rice

Here’s the recipe and it’s ready in less than 30 minutes.

Prep & Cook Time: 25 Minutes
Serves: 4
You will need: skillet or sauce pan with lid
Cost:  under $5

1 onion, diced
1 cup long grain rice
1 can Rotelle tomatoes, undrained
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 tbsp olive oil
salt
shredded cheese – cheddar or Monterrey jack

Heat oil on skillet or sauce pan over medium high heat.  Stir in onion and cook until translucent.  Add rice and stir frequently for 2-4 minute so grains don’t burn.  Add tomatoes and mix to combine with rice.  Slowly add in broth and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes, mixing occasionally to prevent rice from sticking on the bottom of the pan.  Remove from heat, add salt for taste and fluff with a fork.  Let rice cool down for at least 5 minutes before serving.   Serve warm in individual bowls and drizzle with cheese on top so it melts.

Enjoy this SARAPLICIOUS! dish.

PORK CHOPS BRAISED IN RUM

I originally wanted to braise these chops in Bourbon but hubby told me, “Oh no, you’re not going to use my Woodford Reserve.  I paid $40 for that bottle.”  WELL!!! I should have said, “then stay off my chops!”  Ah!  But I have some more (Myers’s) Rum.  So Rum it is!  The funny thing is, he was still talking about the pork chops the next day.  And I was so over the Bourbon…

Pork Chops Braised in Rum1I was a little worried when I used the rum.  The alcohol smell was a lot stronger than I thought.  It literally took me about 10 minutes or so to let the alcohol simmer off so that my chops would be completely alcohol free.  I have teenagers and I don’t want them telling their friends, “Oh my mom made some pork chops and the rum was good!”  Yeah I definitely don’t want to get the looks and be the talk of the neighborhood all because of my cooking.

So here goes the recipe…

Prep & Cook Time: 1 hr
Serves: 4
You will need:  Large oven safe skillet with lid

4 Bone in Center Cut or Loin Chops
1 large Vidalia Onion, sliced
3-4 celery ribs, chopped
3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup rum (you can use bourbon too)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp dried sage
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
salt
pepper

1.  Prepare Pork Chops. Rinse and pat dry with paper towel.  Season each side with salt and pepper.  Heat olive oil in oven safe skillet over medium high heat.  Brown each side of chops, 4-6 minutes per side.  Once chops are done, transfer to a plate.  Add sliced onion and celery to skillet and stir until onion is translucent and celery is still crisp.  Remove onion and celery, transfer to a bowl.

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2.  Prepare for braising.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Remove hot skillet from heat and de-glaze with rum.  Add chicken broth, thyme and sage, and return to heat, until it boils.  Lower heat and let it simmer until alcohol fragrance is gone, about 10 minutes or more.

Pork Chops Braised in Rum5

3. Braise.  Once alcohol fragrance is gone, return pork chops and any liquid that accumulated in skillet.  Cover and transfer to oven and cook for 30 minutes, turning chops halfway through braising cycle.  Once cooked, arrange on a platter and garnish with sliced celery and onion on top.

I served this dish with a very simple Rice Pilaf.

Enjoy this SARAPLICIOUS! dish.

BEEF NILAGA

Beef Nilaga is stewed beef with bananas, green beans and cabbage.  I did not include bananas in this version since I could not find the right type of banana to use.  I love making this because it already has the veggies which I love and a great light soup dish whether it’s hot or cold outside.  Typically this dish is prepared by boiling the meat.  I always brown my meat first with a little amount of oil to get some fond (that brown crusty bits that meat leave behind when searing it) off the meat to add more flavor to the broth.  As far as the cut of beef to use, the more tender the cut, the less time it takes to cook the dish.  I always opt for Mock Tender cuts.

Beef Nilaga ingredients
Beef Nilaga is typically served with rice and a side of dipping sauce made of fish sauce and lemon or lime juice.

Prep & Cook Time:  1 hour
Serves: 4
You will need: at least a 5 qt pot

1.5 lbs Mock Tender beef cut in cubes
1 onion chopped
2 tbsp cooking oil
4 cups water
2 tbsps fish sauce
1/4-1/2 cabbage chopped
1 cup cut green beans
5 whole peppercorn
salt (for taste)

Heat oil over medium high heat.  Add onions and stir until translucent.  Add beef and cook until each side is brown.  Scrape all the fonds on the pan.  Slowly add water and bringing it to a boil, uncovered.  Add fish sauce and peppercorn.  Reduce heat to low, cover and let it simmer for 30 minutes.  Add green beans, cover and return to simmer for 5-7 minutes.  Stir then add cabbage on top, cover and return to simmer for 5 minutes or until desired tenderness of cabbage is obtained.  Remove from heat, stir and add salt for taste if necessary.  Serve with rice.