We just invented the Ham-o-meter

WELCOME TO COFFEE SCHOOL

Coffee doesn't ask silly questions — coffee understands, and envelops you in a life-affirming bear hug of alertness. But how much do we understand about those giving little beans? 200 Degrees' barista school is open on Colmore Row (it's under the store). And on the eve of its launch, we got a lesson from Connor Fox, Brum's barista-in-chief, with support (and a light, friendly ribbing) from Graham Hepburn, 200 Degrees' chief coffee-making master. Here's but a fraction of what we learnt.
THE AESTHETICS: LATTE ART
Like it or loathe it, "latte art" has become the rule rather than the exception, and with a goodly measure of patience, you can learn it here.
You'll need to hone your skillz though, the milky magic can't be conjured with poorly steamed milk — and ace micro-foaming guarantees a velvety texture.
"Stacks" are a barista's paintbrush. And to the more technical among you, they're sequential lines — straight or twisty — created by frothed milk. 
Connor (left) can do 12. Graham (right) can do 16. If he's got his favourite jug.
'I Choose Birmingham' can almost definitely do one amorphous looking blob.
It's critical to mix a little milk with your coffee before attempting latte art.
Angling your cup and getting the lip of the pouring jug as close as possible to your coffee/milk combo are also key steps.
Latte art is easier to pull off with cooler milk, which could explain the decreasing temperature of cappuccinos over the years.
Latte art is easier to pull off if you wear a trendy hat. Oh okay, it's not.
THE OFFICE BREW: AEROPRESS
At £28, an AeroPress is a nifty bit of wallet-friendly coffee brewing kit that can improve your in-house coffee making skills by the power of 17.
The process of making an AeroPress is deeply ritualistic.
And we've been doing it wrong in our office for the last two years.
18 grams is the ideal weight of coffee for Aeropressing.
Wet the filter paper first — it will prevent ground beans seeping into your mug.
The less water used to saturate the coffee the better, encouraging extraction.
The ultimate hangover cure using an Aeropress employs Dr Pepper in lieu of water.
Replace the filter with an orange slice, and add cinnamon for a festive brew.
BARISTA-ING: THE BASICS
There are two main types of coffee — Arabica and Robusta. And though the former generally gets a better rep, it's all about matching bean to method.
Robusta is typically more caffeinated and suited to punchy drinks that will be pushed through a machine, like espresso. Arabica is generally produced in mellow, lower yields and lends itself to more delicate pour-over coffees. 
Never let your coffee come into contact with metal receptacles during the brewing process — it will change the flavour of the coffee drastically, and badly.
Keep your coffee machine clean — dried up beany sludge finding its way into your cup does not a happy coffee quaffer make.
Birmingham's council pop (water) is soft, and the minimal mineral content can cause coffee to under extract, sometimes requiring a higher dosage of coffee.
THE FUTURE: YOUR NEXT GO TO POUR
In a year's time, you'll have traded in your flat white for filter coffee or a cortado.
A cortado is espresso coffee with a small amount of steamed milk.
In five years you'll be trading in your cortado for nitro.
Nitro is cold-brew coffee infused with nitrogen gas, released through a pressurised valve, creating a Guinness-esque pour.
With a more concentrated coffee-to-water ratio, nitro can hit you quickly.
As can drinking coffee before you even get to coffee school. We've been awake for three days straight.

Courses start from £45 and here's 200 Degrees' coffee school calendar. Or contact Graham (teacher@200degs.com) to discuss group bookings and corporatey events.

MOVIE PICK: INFERNO


We all know we should be eating our veggies, but sometimes a burger of dodgy provenance is all that’ll hit the spot. If you’re in the mood for a tedious and phoney salad, American Honey is at cinemas this week, but if you want to smear your chin with something you’d buy from a van, make it Inferno. The third adaptation of Dan Brown's books is easily the best – not a high bar, to be fair – but this is endearingly goofy entertainment, with a ludicrous plot getting ever more ludicrous as Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones walk into a gap year’s worth of landmarks with suspicious ease. The guff is something to do with a supervirus, but it’s the surprisingly vivid visions of a Dante-esque hell that’ll stay with you. Times
 

SEVEN ACTS OF MERCY


The Seven Acts of Mercy is a painting by Italian Baroque bigwig, Caravaggio, and shows precisely the number of acts of kindness that you'd wager based on its name. It's also the jumping off point, and title, for the RSC's newest production, which plays out across a gap of 400 years, following the 17th century artist — and his desire to create something that truly represents his anger with the world — and a retired dock worker in present day Merseyside. Trying to open his grandson's eyes to the tragedy and beauty of life, expect a visceral look at the social issues dominating politics today, from food banks to gentrification. From November 24, get a seat from £16. They're really rather comfy.

WIN A YEAR'S WORTH OF HAIRCUTS


You know how Hollywood's depiction of a barbers is always a buzzing hive of haircuttery? The centre of a local community. Laughter, repartee and some old dudes playing chess in the corner. Well, bar the chess, Barberology has all of these things and it won the UK's Best Barbershop, 2016. After just one visit we are complete converts, now willing to travel six miles, to the JQ, just to get our curls calmed. That's not all we're willing to do. We were talked into hair removal for the first time by these frustratingly fashionable folks and, without going into detail, it's now part of our bi-monthly manscaping routine. To celebrate the arrival of their second branch, which will open at 2 Gordon Road in Harborne on October 25, we've teamed up with Barberology to offer one reader 12 haircuts, one per month for an entire year. For the chance to win, simply like this Facebook post. T&C apply

CHEERI-YO


Remember Ricicles? Ricicles were the bestest. Or maybe it was something else for you. Whatever your puff, pop, crunch or loop of choice, Cereal Killer Cafe is launching its 90s Shoreditchery at the Bullring next month, and bringing with it over 100 cereals from across the globe, 30 varieties of milk and 20 different toppings — for the cereal cocktails of course. Saved by the Bell references compulsory. London menu

BIG TAIKO BEATS


Thundering rhythms, bonkers masked choreography and post-apocalyptic martial imagery are finding their way to The Bramall, in the form of the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers. Bringing enough energy to light the city for a year, the Japanese percussion ninjas are appearing in the University of Birmingham's venue on Thursday 20 at 7.30pm. Tickets are £18.

TAPAS Y FIESTA


There's a pretty marked limit to what £20 can get you. But on the final Wednesday of each month at El Borracho, there's no limit to the amount of tapas you can inhale. Accompanying the food, which is brought out from 7pm, there's live music, plus a drink included in the dealio. Unsurprisingly the event, which next occurs on Oct 26, generally sells out. So book!
Venue: Bottega Prosecco Bar, Resorts World, Birmingham, B40 1NT; website
Choice: Salumi e formaggi (£10) Chooser: Roberta, bar manager

Whisper it but we reckon Italian just about pips Brummie in the global list of top accents. And when Bottega bar manager Roberta began to talk us through the menu there were men and women, gay and straight alike dropping to one knee and immediately proposing marriage. Politely, she declined, but did the next best thing, by bringing the salumi e formaggi board. King of the cured meats was San Daniele prosciutto which, in foodie circles, is almost universally considered to be a step up from prosciutto di Parma on the entirely fictional ham-o-meter. This extraordinary slither of pork is worth the 10 minute train to Resorts World in its own right, while its bed fellows, the prosciutto cotto and mortadella were also superb. Some choice cheesiness followed with gorgonzola, goats cheese and Millefoglie al Marzamemi all accompanied by a jar of chutney made from maple syrup, honey and pecans nuts. You'll love that chutney. You'll love it deep down in your shoes. Menu
 
  • Thai night comes to Loaf on Thursday October 20. Burmese style pork curry will be occurring. From 6.30pm, first come first served, dishes cost between £5 and £7.50. Full menu
  • Join Nordic Horse Orchestra, a semi-improvising power trio and Brum's Stepmother Jag for a wonderfully messed up musical mash up at Hare & Hounds on Oct 26. Tickets are £10
  • No more mention of that Pizza Express, Zindiya is opening in Moseley (next to Sabai Sabai), bringing with it Indian street food — and not the saucy variety
  • Eat things, and learn things, at The Golden Lion Food & Drink Festival, at Cannon Hill Park this Saturday from 11am. Part of the campaign to save things
  • The Stranger Things Halloween party is on October 29 at The Night Owl. You can get a ticket, for £5, now. Or you can run around dressed as a clown. But no one likes clowns
"You can do it!" - Coffee
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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Andrew LowryTom Cullen
IMAGE: Tom Bird (200 Degrees), Paul Stuart (RSC) copyrighted

I Choose Birmingham, Unit 317, Zellig, Gibb Street, Birmingham, B9 4AA
Copyright © 2016 Birmingham Publishing Group Ltd, All rights reserved.


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