Instructor Jesse Raub makes it look easy. But students at Intelligentsia’s aromatic Roasting Works in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood know that pulling a perfect shot of espresso is anything but. With six coffee bars in the Windy City and locations in seven others nationwide, Intelligentsia has the gear and expertise to bring espresso-making dreams to life.
The Public Barista Class is as scholarly as you’d expect, given the company’s brainy name. Meticulous and focused, Jesse uses a whiteboard to describe the acids and sugars in fine espresso and the “flow restriction” techniques that send water through grounds at the perfect speed to balance their flavors.
One by one, the students step up to the gleaming machine normally restricted to baristas who have passed Intelligentsia’s test, aka The Gauntlet, by pulling 10 tasty shots in 11 minutes.
Students also try creating latte art (or as Jesse calls it, “fluid dynamic tension”), walking away with new respect for their neighborhood baristas.
At $200, the three-hour class isn’t for everyone. But if you want to treat yourself or thrill a coffee geek in your life, it’s worth the splurge. There’s also a Chicago Roasting Works tour option for $30 that includes a roasting demonstration and all the freshly brewed coffee you can drink (intelligentsiacoffee.com).