MUMAC Academy Talks, the format devoted to coffee professionals’ stories is back: barista-oriented technology is the focus of the eighth episode.
The star of the eighth episode is Davide Spinelli, an ambassador and trainer with over 20 years of experience in various coffee-related fields. Together we find out how technology facilitates baristas’ daily work.
Over twenty years of experience in the HoReCa sector, half of which was dedicated to training in various coffee-related fields, including sensory analysis, espresso and filter extraction, as well as various experiences in plantations. In addition to his formative experience, ambassador and trainer Davide Spinelli also works as a consultant, providing valuable support to start-ups in areas such as R&D and quality control, as well as to companies dealing with espresso and brewing equipment. After working as a sommelier and olive oil taster, in 2013 Davide became an authorised SCA Trainer for the Barista Skills, Sensory Skills and Brewing courses on the Coffee Skills Program, a globally recognised training programme promoted by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), tailored for coffee professionals and anyone wishing to perfect their skills. In addition to working with MUMAC Academy since 2021, Davide has also obtained Q-grader and Q-professional processing qualifications. In 2014, he won the Italian Aeropress Championship, qualifying several times as a finalist and achieving excellent results at the Italian championships in the SCA’s Brewing, Barista and Coffee in Good Spirits categories. He is the star of the eighth episode of MUMAC Academy Talks, the format devoted to coffee professionals’ stories.
In your experience as a barista and trainer, how much has the arrival of new technologies impacted your everyday work?
“The arrival of technology, as in any field, helps us to improve both ourselves and the product. It makes our work easier but, as always, if something helps us ‘too much’, then we risk becoming lazier. In reality, thanks to new technologies we can do much more, while having fun at the same time. Just consider the multi-boiler or GTI systems, which allow us to programme our machine so that we can create different recipes with a single product. This evolution is reflected in menus that can follow trends, as well as in ergonomics that allow us to keep up with workloads.”
What do you consider to be the must-have features of an espresso machine?
“The main features of an espresso machine? To sum them up, I would say: ergonomics, ease of use, precision, durability and product consistency. That’s a simplified answer, but each of these features encapsulates a small world of work. Also, let’s not forget that if a barista does not have a grinder to provide them with a consistent product, the machine will be flawed before even starting.”
At this point how important is it to choose the right grinder?
“As mentioned earlier, the machine/grinder combination should go hand in hand. Since, in my opinion, the coffee grinder is the first machine to encounter the coffee, if we get off to a bad start with this machine, the whole process will suffer as a result. If I don’t have a constant grind (grain size, distribution, etc.), my drink will always be different. So ergonomics and consistency are the first things that will be lacking at the barista’s workstation.”
What is your opinion of automatic barista assistance systems, such as Autosteam or grind control via Bluetooth?
“Today’s baristas have several tools at their disposal. I’ll be honest: when this technology first came out, I didn’t have much faith in it – I always believed that if you want something done well, you should do it yourself, but I’ve since changed my mind. Today, there are now established technologies that do not help baristas to avoid their duties, but rather enable them to keep pace at peak times, while maintaining a high quality standard. I don’t find them substitutes or excuses not to work, but valuable helpers.”
When it comes to ergonomics, what would you recommend when looking for the right equipment?
“The search for the right equipment once seemed like something mystical, to the extent that many people made do with anything. Jokes aside, finding the right equipment is a fundamental part of our work. Ergonomics starts with the worker. Obviously beginners will have to ask for help and perhaps even invest in training. We are starting to survive the traffic and find out what we like and what we don’t like, but we can only understand how to navigate in traffic after a lot of guidance.”
You are a highly experienced trainer. In your opinion, considering technology’s contribution to daily work, is professional training still as important?
“Not to blow our own horn, but the more technology there is, the more there is to know.
Earlier I said that technology helps. That’s right, it helps, it doesn’t replace. So it’s always the barista who interacts, prepares, serves and gives experiences. As an operator and industry professional, I have to know everything around me, I have to know how to serve a cup of espresso or coffee to my customers while giving them a pleasant experience. What used to be called ‘the barista’s hand’ is the barista’s knowledge, i.e. how to get the most out of your tools.”