The 2020 COVID pandemic and the subsequent global lockdown, has ignited the passion for good coffee at home across the world. ‘Seven Questions with’ is a series of interviews with people we from Marzano Caffè have met on social media who are passionate about coffee and we talk about their coffee journey and what drives their passion for the art of making the perfect cup.
Tell us about yourself. Who are you and what do you do in life?
I am Amer and I’m from The Netherlands. A licensed pilot and a licensed coffee geek. I have more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality service. Held almost all imaginable positions in this sector; from being a waiter or bartender to sous-chef and being the (General) Manager of several restaurants. Currently I work as a freelancer to train home and professional barista’s and I help out restaurants and shops as a consultant and trainer in all facets of the hospitality service. In early 2020 I also started my YouTube channel: iBarista and my IG account (@iBarista_Amer) The goal of the channel, besides entertainment, is to help out people in coffee without being to serious or pretentious about it. At least that’s what I’m striving for :-)
How did you discover your passion for coffee?
Coffee is a big part of my culture. Being of Arab descent, we drink A.LOT.OF.COFFEE. I think I was about 15 years old when it started to become a regular thing, of course at the time with lots of milk and sugar. I was always the ‘adventurous’ type, I like trying out different products just to experience it. Getting answers to ‘Why is this coffee or shop more expensive than that one?’ Or ‘What does the roast level or origin do with flavor?’ Intrigued me. Once that Pandora’s box was opened, it never closed. To this day I still like to experience new coffees, brew methods and recipes. Different blends, single origins/estates, varieties, roasts levels, brew methods etc. can create such diversity in flavors. From chocolaty and nutty flavors to a very fruity and fresh tasting cup. It still catches me off guard from time to time, how big of a difference it can make and that just puts a smile on my face! Coffee is just fun!
What was it that made you decide to get serious about making coffee?
Having a managerial task at a restaurant, forced me to know a lot more about coffee. Back in the day, specialty coffee wasn’t really a thing here and you couldn’t find a lot of easily accessible info about this subject. It forced me to experiment and ask a lot of questions at the local Italian restaurants about dialing-in the coffee the right way and the correct steaming techniques. Since a lot of people remember a good place by the quality of the coffee, it gave me an edge to help boost the revenue of a shop or restaurant if the magical liquid tasted great instead of ‘meh..’. I was brought up to strive for perfection. Good enough isn’t good enough. Since specialty coffee/ 3rd wave started trickling in, I was completely sold. Now you have a big plethora of flavours to unlock. This keeps me on my toes in this industry and I still learn every day.
How did the COVID pandemic influence you and your coffee journey?
Due to the flight restrictions a lot of pilots lost their jobs or were put on the back burner. This was really tough. But giving up isn’t an option, so I started to pursue my other passion; being a trainer in coffee and like mentioned above, helping out in shops and restaurants. Several places had (and might still have) real challenges staying afloat in these difficult times. A local roaster whom I am friends with, had a few places in mind where my help was needed. Their coffee was sub par, they had efficiency problems and/or wanted to reinvent themselves. By helping them out, I found my niche in the industry.
In the meantime I also started my YouTube channel and IG page. I had more than enough free time due to the lockdown. I found joy in making these vids and reading the comments and feedback. It’s such a great international community. More often than not, my followers/subscribers like to hear my thoughts on certain espresso machines or grinders. Or they want to bring certain flavours out of the beans and need my help. It’s fulfilling to help out. But also because of the videos and posts, a few people started to contact me through YouTube and IG and asked me if I could train them professionally to be a better barista or latte artist.
What is your favorite method of brewing coffee recipe and why?
In the morning I tend to like a lungo or cafe crema style coffee. But my favorite has to be all espresso based drinks, either straight up or with milk. I love the texture and complexity that comes with a good espresso and the creamy goodness you’ll have with a good flat white or other type of milk based drink.
As far as recipes go, it depends on the coffee itself and it’s application. For example; an Ethiopian coffee might have a longer brew ratio as a straight espresso but a shorter more concentrated one for a milk based coffee. Like I always say in my videos and when I train people, do not fixate on the base guidelines, these are ‘base guidelines’ after all! Judge by flavour and adjust. If you always stick to a 1:2 brew ratio between 25 - 30 seconds you might miss out on a lot and end up with bitter, sour or a plain old boring shot. A dark roasted blend extracts in a totally different way than a light roasted single origin grown on high altitudes. Tasting is key!
If you can go back to when you just started with coffee, which advice would you give to yourself?
This is a hard one! But I think; nothing! I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t experience all the ups and downs. This goes for coffee, but also life itself.
Where will your coffee journey take you next?
Expanding my YouTube channel for one. Certain companies are reaching out to me lately to be a sponsor, so hopefully this will allow me to free up more time to make more vids. I’m also looking abroad for some potential business opportunities. These are countries where specialty coffee hasn’t been a thing yet but has the great potential to boom. They lack a certain skill set and good quality beans. Who knows, maybe I’ll fill in those gaps :-)