How to make a perfect cafe latte, by world champion Tim Wendelboe

Many a sleep deprived mum (and dad) are totally depending on their daily caffeine. In the Little Scandinavian home we not only need but absolutely love coffee! Sourcing fresh beans from independent coffee roasters around London, grind at home before making a utterly irresistible creamy cafe latte on our little coffee machine.
Did you know that Norway not only is one of the countries in the world that consumes the most coffee per capita but also have some of the best baristas (coffee makers)? Norwegian coffee expert Tim Wendelboe runs a micro roastery, a coffee training centre and an espresso bar in Oslo -and is a world champion barista. We had a chat to find out how we can achieve that espresso and cafe latte in a true barista style to enjoy at home.


© Tim Wendelboe

How did it all start, why did you choose working with coffee?

I actually just finished school and quit my part time job at a local grocery store. I wanted to work for a couple of years until I could figure out what to study. The job market was quite hard at that time (1998) so the only job I got was in a cafe downtown Oslo. It turned out it was not just a cafe, it was one of the first proper coffee bars in Oslo. At that time I did not drink coffee nor did I know what a coffee bar was.
I went to a 3 hour crash course on how to make espresso, and the day after I started working in Stockfleth’s as a full time barista. All the employees were new, so since I had some experience running a fruit section in a grocery store, I felt it was natural for me to lead the store and take responsibility to run it. None of us really knew how to make good espresso, so I started seeking knowledge and tried to improve. The owner of the store then signed me up for the Norwegian Barista Competition and that really motivated me to do better and continue improving my skills and knowledge. I started liking coffee and understood that there was potential to grow within the industry and to learn more and make a career of it as the whole thing was very new in Norway. 14 years later I am still working in coffee and enjoying it more and more.

What do you recommend, how to choose the right coffee beans?

This is difficult as the market in Norway is very different from other countries. AS a general rule, the more transparency and information you get about the beans you buy the better. Look for information about variety of coffee, farm, producer, region, etc. Roast date should be printed on the bag and always buy whole bean coffee in air tight sealed bags. Whole beans have a shelf life for about 3-4 weeks after roast date. ground coffee should be used immediately after it is ground as it looses aroma and sweetness. Buy the coffee in stores where they have good knowledge about the products. There are several roasters in the UK buying great coffee at the moment. Some of the more famous is Has Bean and Square Mile Coffee Roasters.

All countries have their own coffee tradition. What will you say is the traditional way of enjoying coffee in Norway?

In Norway we drink black filter coffee or steeped coffee made in a kettle where you just add coffee to water off the boil.
90% of the market is black filter style coffee and you can find very high quality coffee almost everywhere in the country as long as you know where to go. Even the big commercial roasters sell coffee of fair quality. The roast style is in general lighter than in most other countries and the water is very soft. You will very often find coffees with high acidity and low bitterness. To be honest I think this style of beverage is far more interesting than espresso, as it is easier to prepare and more difficult to make it taste really bad. Espresso is less forgiving to mistakes and highly concentrated, making small errors taste really bad.

How do you make the perfect espresso?

I could write a whole book about this. But here are some ground rules:
1. Buy fresh good quality coffee beans roasted for espresso preparation.
2. Get a good espresso grinder, a tamper, and a good scale with 1g sensitivity and an espresso machine that gives you about 9 bars of brewing pressure. The machine needs to have a proper pump to create pressure. I also recommend getting the VST filter baskets as they make extraction a lot easier and yields sweeter coffee. (I have no commercial interest in VST baskets, but I like them a lot)
3. Use filtered water. London water for example, is extremely high in minerals and you will end up with scale inside your espresso machine, that will break it after about a year. It also gives you very bitter espresso. The water should have a mineral content of 100-200 ppm. This is very important.
4. Make sure the equipment is clean!
5. Check out some espresso preparation videos on the internet to learn the techniques. It is pretty straight forward, but excellence lies in the details.
6. Grind 18-19 grams of coffee for a 18g VST filter basket, then extract 28-30 grams of liquid in the cup (just tare the cup and weigh all the liquid that comes out of the machine). This should take about 25 to 30 seconds from when you push the button until the shot is finished.
7. TASTE! Always taste the espresso. Good or bad, you will start learning how to adjust the grind setting in order to achieve a sweet espresso.
8. If you still struggle, then get a course from a professional.

How do you make the perfect cafe latte?

Use small glassware. Big lattes only tastes like milk. use a single or double shot of really good espresso. Then add steamed milk (don’t steam / heat to more than 60-65 degrees Celsius as the milk starts tasting bitter over this temperature)
Make sure you steam the milk properly and have a decent amount of micro bubble foam on top. If you wonder how to steam milk, look it up on You Tube. There are some great videos out there.
The milk foam should have no visual bubbles and be dense and creamy in texture.

We highly recommend visiting Tim Wendelboe, for coffee inspiration, in Grünersgate 1 on your next visit to Oslo.

4 Comments

  1. Hi Matt! Yes, of course; Isomac Coffee Machine Millenium IIII Professional and Mazzer Mini Timer Coffee Grinder. Very happy with both! So, you into coffee too?

  2. Hi Matt! Yes, of course; Isomac Coffee Machine Millenium IIII Professional and Mazzer Mini Timer Coffee Grinder. Very happy with both! So, you into coffee too?

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