The Secret Behind McCafé Coffee
The strong aroma of coffee beans, the whirring sound of the espresso machine, there’s simply no replacement for the buzz of a coffee shop early on a weekday morning. As soon as that coffee passes your lips, the day is yours to be seized! No more tired eyes, gone are the morning yawns; and at $3.20* a latte, wave goodbye to your coffee addiction burning a hole in your pocket.
*Prices may vary across McCafé outlets
With 100% Arabica beans going into its drinks, and tantalizing treats on offer like chocolate Oreo cheesecake - McCafé let us in on its secrets on how it makes its drinks both delicious and inexpensive.
Here’s how my day as a McCafé Barista went down.
Lesson #1: Coffee-making machines are COMPLICATED.
As someone who’s doesn’t drink a lot of caffeine, I always assumed that coffee just came in those little instant sachets or in the big glass jugs you see in the supermarkets. Yes, go ahead and judge. But stepping into the shoes of a real barista opened my eyes on how proper coffee should really be made, and changed my view forever!
Don’t worry, I wasn’t wreaking havoc in there - I had Levina, an experienced McCafé Barista by my side guiding me through the entire process.
Levina showing us how it’s done
There seemed to be a hundred and one steps that went into making the perfect cup of coffee, only half of which included the equipment itself! And mind you, I’d never touched a coffee machine in my life.
From the moment the beans are ground, small intricate steps like continuously swirling the milk before pouring; and ensuring you have the cup ready 3 seconds after pressing the button, are all vital to producing a perfect brew. It’s far from simply putting the coffee in the cup!
It felt as if I was learning to drive a car all over again, surrounded by odd machines and buttons; never too sure what they all did, and feeling like I would never quite get it right. Next time you’re in a rush and complain your coffee is taking too long, remember just how many steps there are and how much effort goes into your little cup of happiness.
Lesson #2: Milk naturally sweetens when steamed to 60°C, and other stuff.
Unless you’re a coffee connoisseur, like me, you probably didn’t know that milk naturally sweetens when steamed to exactly 60 degrees Celsius. Nor did you know that coffee making is all about precision. Take too long on one step, and the whole process will be affected. Forget to do one thing? You may have to start from fresh!
High quality beans are only the start to a good cup of coffee, experience is the key. Creating coffee becomes part of a barista’s way of life. A natural movement that can be done with ease. This is what makes a coffee taste so special.
When trying it out myself, I had to make sure I tapped the coffee filter at just the right times, dusted it off perfectly, and even compressed the beans to the perfect level, and that’s all before it even gets in the cup!
I wasn’t able to try out the milk steamer myself due to rules on sanitation, which was probably best, as I likely would have caused an accident or ended up in the burns unit. Better still, I really appreciated how they took steps to make sure no customers would be affected by my antics behind the counter.
Lesson #3: Latte art requires true skill.
Latte art isn’t something you can simply learn in a day. It takes even the most natural baristas about a year to master the intricacies of latte art! Everything from the swift movement of your wrist, to the height and speed of your pour determines how pretty the final outcome will be.
When it came to applying theory into practice, I tried, but failed miserably at replicating Levina’s final product. I will never judge another Instagram latte art shot again!
Though not quite on the same level as some of the experts here, I did manage to salvage the failed heart shape I conjured with a dash of chocolate sauce, and a little help from Levina.
A coffee is never just about the taste. Attention to detail and skill also play a huge part in creating the perfect cup of coffee, and at McCafé, that was blindingly clear. A lot of devotion goes into ensuring that its just as authentic as other independent cafés around the island.
McCafé may be part of the biggest fast-food chain in the world, but the misconception that this means their coffee is in anyway less authentic couldn’t be further from the truth.
Lesson #4: You need genuine passion to do this everyday.
The first rule of life is: do what you love - and that’s definitely no exception here. Our barista expert, Levina, not only managed to help a complete coffee noob like me look like I had half an idea of what was going on; but she also let us in on her love for the craft.
I was surprised to hear that Levina had never been that interested in Coffee before starting her job as a barista. She discovered her love for the beverage by chance when she had to fill in a free shift at one of the McCafé outlets, and since then, she has never looked back.
Now, she spends her free time drawing inspiration from other latte artists on Youtube, and has even competed in National Latte Art Championship 2016 right here in Singapore coming in 1st runner-up!
Lesson #5: Over 100 hours of training goes into your cup of coffee.
Don’t expect to be served coffee by any amateurs like me; my time spent learning was only a tiny fraction of the effort that goes into becoming a real barista at McCafé. Not only are all McCafé baristas put through 2 days of intensive training in theory and practice side, they also have to pack in 100 hours of training before even serving up their first cup of coffee.
From perfecting McCafé’s signature latte art to working seamlessly on the equipment, practice makes perfect, and there’s most definitely a whole lot of practice going on here. Bet you didn’t know McCafé’s baristas were this skilled.
Lesson #6: The best McCafé baristas in Singapore get to fly to Orlando!
Everyone loves work perks - as little as they may be. But Levina filled us in on how she had an all expenses paid trip to attend a McCafé conference in the US, flying all the way to Orlando! We almost didn’t believe her. That half day off-in-lieu doesn’t sound as amazing anymore, does it?
She also filled us in on how her journey with McCafé over the last five years, and everything she now knows, she learnt from scratch, but that couldn’t have been possible without the backing of a dedicated and supportive team.
Lesson #7: Get used to 101 weird requests.
Caramel Frappes will always be delicious, but how about with no ice, and a cup of milk and whipped cream served separately? May sound odd to us, but for Levina, requests like this are a daily affair!
Troublesome? It definitely is, but at McCafé, they’re always willing to make your customisations happen. Whether that’s changing full fat milk to low fat, not including ice, including chocolate swirls or adding extra water, they’ll always try their best to accommodate whatever you desire.
Quality coffee at a price affordable for all
I learnt so much during my short time as a McCafé barista, and although I may not be a latte art champion or a top speed coffee making machine just yet, I’m at least confident that the baristas at McCafé are.
I made the first latte of my life, even managed some latte art (that hopefully wasn’t horrendous), and got to know more about the processes that go into a McCafé drink - something that not many notice.
Premium quality coffee shouldn’t need to cost an arm and a leg, and thankfully for us it doesn’t have to. McCafé may be one of the most reasonably priced cafés in Singapore, but that’s not stopping them from giving students free upgrades to larger sizes from now till the 30th of June!
If your favourite drink is on the list, you’re in luck:
- Double Chocolate Frappé
- Mocha Frappé
- Hot Chocolate
- Caramel Macchiato
Available only on weekdays, all you have to do is flash your student card and tadah - enjoy a drink upsize absolutely FREE!
So cards out, and drink up!
Also, follow Mccafé (@mccafésg) on Instagram so you never miss out on the good deals, like the 1-for-1 Frappé that has just passed. You snooze, you lose!
This post was brought to you by McCafé.
If we’ve missed any of your favourite lesser-known things to do in the East, do let us know in the comments below!