#baristalife

This week, we go behind the counter of Pleasant Pops and talk with Aaron about the ins and outs of barista life. Once tweeted at for being the "barista...as cute as he can be", Aaron takes espresso seriously, whether or not this interview shows it. 

What makes an espresso shot taste delicious?

The magic in your eyes.

Editors Note: there are different tastes a shot of espresso can have (bitter, sour, acidic, sweet). We aim to pull a shot that is bold, well rounded and sharply sweet.  There are several contributing factors to get the taste spot on including how recently the beans were roasted, how finely the beans are ground, how densely the shot is tamped, and even how humid the air is at that given moment (a struggle for us DC coffee spots).

When you're pulling a shot, what are you looking for?

The magic in your eyes to melt my heart.

Editors Note: there are many things you look for as a barista when pulling a shot; when it begins to "drop" (aka start to drip), when the color of the shot begins to "blonde", and if the shot is dripping at an even, consistent speed. Our shots typically take 22-32 seconds to fully drop depending on the day and the barista.

What's your favorite hot drink to make?

This is getting a little personal now.

Editors Note: Aaron loves making his original, secret recipe drink, the Swagerdagger.

What's your favorite drink to drink?

Laphroaig single malt scotch.

Editors Note: Fair answer.

What's the most caffeinated drink someone could (reasonably) order?

Probably one of those big liquid energetic concoctions at 711.

Editors Note: Reasonably speaking, a dirty chai with an extra shot would give you a petty hearty caffeine boost (chai is made with black tea and therefore is already caffeinated). Or a Black Eye (coffee with two espresso shots). I once served a quad shot Americano with a "I hope you don't die from too much espresso" warning. He didn’t die.

What are some terms that people toss out when ordering a drink and what do they mean (wet vs dry, long vs short, etc...)?

Small--means the smaller of the two sizes

Large--means the larger of the two sizes

Editors Note: "wet" means you want less foam and more steamed milk in your cappuccino/latte and "dry" means you want more foam. "Long" means you'd like your shot of espresso to be pulled for a longer than "normal" time for an elongated shot. "Short" means the opposite. It's a taste thing.

Is there a difference in steaming whole, skim, soy and almond milk?

On a molecular level one can see many differences.

Editors Note: Yes, they all steam differently. Whole is the easiest to steam "correctly," to get the right balance of steamed milk and "micro-foam". Skim or non-fat is tricky because the fat content is lower and the bubbles become bigger resulting in more airy foam instead of silky foam. Soy can go either way. Almond is a different story all together. Because of the molecular content in almond milk, it aerates in such a way that the bubbles lay on top, totally separate from the hot milk, resulting in a delicious, yet rarely beautiful, drink.

What do you like to draw in lattes?

My feelings.

Editors Note: There are a few basic latte art designs. A heart is simple, a round pour of milk that you quickly draw a line through at the last second to get the dip and point of the heart visible. A rosetta, which ends up looking like a fern or leaf, is made by a slow but constant pour and a gently wiggle back and forth. There are other tricks to the trade, using tools to draw more intricate designs, faces and letters. Latte art is only possible with perfectly aerated milk, so using whole milk is usually your best bet for a pretty design.