Barista of the Week… Mike Cracknell

Barista of the Week… Mike Cracknell, head barista Di Bella, 19-21 Leveson Street, North Melbourne

The Coffee Guide (TCG): If you weren’t a barista what would you be?

Mike: I’d probably either be in management consultancy or a builder (similar, I know!). They satisfy my need to have variety and interest, thinking on your feet, and being hands-on.

TCG: How do you have your coffee at home? How do you make it and how do you take it?

Mike: I usually make it through an Aeropress at the moment (inverted method), but occasionally with a Turkish pot, plunger, cafeteria or siphon instead. I always have it black at home, definitely no sugar!

TCG: What is your favourite music? (For work or for play).

Mike: It varies a lot, depending on what kind of mood I’m in. Everything from big band jazz to drum&bass or breaks, to deep house, and everything in between (except for country music).

TCG: Tell us what your best coffee experience was.

Mike: I had a pourover of a Panama Esmerelda Geisha coffee, which was brilliant – so delicate and balanced. Also an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe we had on for a while at the Warehouse as a doppio ristretto – always beautiful.

TCG: If you’re not drinking coffee, what is your drink of choice?

Mike: Either water (because I have a lot of coffee), or a glass of red wine or beer to relax at the end of the day.

TCG: What made you become a barista?

Mike: I kind of just fell into it. I started working in hospitality back in high school for some extra money, then worked my way through a lot of different jobs in the industry as well as a Bachelor of Commerce before deciding that I really wanted to be in coffee.

TCG: What food do you think is the best compliment to a really great coffee?

Mike: Depends on the coffee! Coffee has the most identified flavour compounds of any food product in the world, and so you can just about match any food item to coffee, depending on the style of preparation and beans being used.

TCG: Does your coffee style (or how you drink it) say something about you?

Mike: If we’re talking through an espresso machine, I’ll usually drink a doppio ristretto, which is a very intense, strong, rich, viscous brew. It’s restricted and naturally sweet. Read into that what you will…

TCG: Where do all the old baristas go?
Mike: I think it’s one of the few professions where there are few limitations to what you can do. A lot of people move onto set up their own places, become coffee roasters, or travel overseas or to origin. All the old baristas are still baristas, they just may be doing other things as well…

TCG: Where has your coffee making taken you?

Mike: Just within Australia to Melbourne, Sydney & Brisbane.

TCG: What has been your favourite moment as a barista? Is there one story that only happened to you because you are a barista?

Mike: Every day is different, interesting and challenging in it’s own way. There have been many great moments over the years, but probably heading up to Sydney to set up a new Roasting Warehouse would have been the most rewarding over the last few years (although also by far the hardest!).

TCG: If you could pick one spot in the world to sit and have a coffee, where would it be and what coffee would you have?

Mike: Somewhere in Paris watching the streetscape and people pass, as it’s my favourite part of the world. Shame they can’t make good coffee though…

TCG: If you could make coffee for one other person of your choice, who would it be and what coffee would you make them?

Mike: I actually really just enjoy making coffee for my more adventurous colleagues and customers. I’m enjoying putting several different profiles of the one coffee into the one cup to create custom flavours and a sensational experience. If you ever want to have great coffee and make a barista very happy, just ask for whatever they think is good, however they believe it should be drunk.

TCG: Where is your favourite place to hang out in Melbourne?

Mike: I love going to any one of the incredible boutique roasters or cafes in Melbourne where I can discover a new coffee or new technique while listening to music & reading the paper. Failing that, I love ‘London Bridge’ down on the Mornington Peninsula or Cape Schanck, both for their natural beauty and rawness.

TCG: What is your guilty pleasure?

Mike: Chocolate!

TCG: What’s your favourite time of the year?

Mike: Probably Autumn for the crisp mornings and mid-20 temperature days. Plus the trees look stunning!

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