Barista Of The Week… Tom Bomford
Barista at Jackson Dodds,
611 Gilbert Road, Preston, VIC
The Coffee Guide (TCG): How do you have your coffee at home? How do you make it and how do you take it?
Tom: I love to fix up little single group domestic machines. At the moment I have a 1976 La Pavoni Europiccola lever machine, 2 Sunbeam Em6910’s (one red, one silver) and a Simonelli Ellimatic in the cupboard that I plan on fixing up on a rainy day. As far as drinking is concerned, I’m an espresso man all the way.
TCG: What’s the best thing about your job- the one thing that you really love aside from the coffee?
Tom: The vibe of the cafe. Jackson Dodds is a really humbling environment. Our Linea is facing the wall so when I’m working I get to stand amongst the customers and see everyone enjoying what we put on the table for them.
TCG: Tell us what your best (or first) coffee experience was.
Tom: My first memorable experience with coffee was at a bar in Hobart. I was working behind the counter when the head chef came in and made a few lattes for the management team upstairs. I watched him pour a heart on each of the coffees and it blew my mind. That was probably the exact moment I realised coffee was an art and I had to know how to do it right.
TCG: What made you become a barista?
Tom: The need to perfect everything I start. I keep getting to a point where I think I can make a great coffee and then realise there’s a whole other aspect I’ve missed, so the journey starts again. It started at temperature, then the amount of head on the coffee, then latte art, then the speed of the pour (from the pitcher to the cup), then the extraction, and now I’m trying to really understand single origins and different extraction methods.
TCG: How many coffees would you make in the average day?
Tom: It really depends on the day. On a weekend we may push out just over 300 coffees but we’re not in a central location. As soon as people realise we take what we do seriously I’m sure that number will jump. At the moment I’m serving up single origins as our standard black coffee, so hopefully people will keep coming back to see what we have next.
TCG: Does your coffee style (or how you drink it) say something about you?
Tom: I really think it does. I’ve always drunk coffee in a way that lets me experience what the barista is like. I’ll order a flat white to see what they choose to do in terms of latte art, or I’ll order an espresso of whatever they recommend to see how much care they take with it. But primarily I love a short black followed by 20-30mls of cold milk. The milk really sweetens the palette after the shot and I think that’s how everyone should have their espresso served.
TCG: Who would make a better coffee, King Kong or Godzilla?’
Tom: King Kong, opposable thumbs are everything in coffee.
TCG: Where has your coffee making taken you?
Tom: I’m originally from Tasmania and that’s where my interest in coffee sparked. When I turned 20 I made the move to Melbourne and there’s no avoiding coffee here. In a few years I feel like there’s a big chance I’ll travel internationally to some coffee farms and really try and experience where it all comes from.
TCG: What has been your favourite moment as a barista? Is there one story that only happened to you because you are a barista?
Tom: I competed for Beanscene Magazine in a latte art competition not long ago. I didn’t quite place, but I was just thankful to be surrounded with so many people as passionate as me- and it made me realise that I’m going to be in this industry for a long time.
TCG: What is the most exciting thing happening in coffee right now for you?
Tom: Espresso. There’s always that one shot that everything syncs up perfectly; the temperature, the pressure, the grind, the age of the roast. I hit that every once in a while, more often now, and it really keeps me going. I’m always chasing the perfect espresso.
TCG: If you could make coffee for one other person of your choice (anyone- past or present), who would it be and what coffee would you make them?
Tom: My Nan. I’ve never made her a coffee, but I’d really like to show her what I do.
TCG: As a barista, what’s your next big plan?
Tom: Competitions for sure! I love watching other people put out amazing coffees and at competitions you get the opportunity to meet the best of the best. My next step is pursuing latte art competitions, as it’s something I’ve been working on for a long time, but I love producing the perfect espresso. So there will definitely be a stage where I compete in more all-round events.
TCG: Where is your favourite place to hang out in Melbourne?
Tom: Cafes, definitely. I really enjoy seeing what other people come up with in their cafe designs and I like to find out what the barista prefers to serve – that way I know I’m getting what they consider their best product. Jackson Dodds has done well with the layout and I love it when customers ask for whatever coffee I’d recommend. It should happen more often.
TCG: What did you do on your last day off?
Tom: Went into work to get a burger and set up our new single origins for service.
TCG: In a good cup of coffee, how much of it is due to the barista and how much is due to the beans?
Tom: You can’t have one without the other. I can use every trick I know to put out the perfect cup, but if I’m using old beans -or just bad ones- there’s not much hope. The same goes for a good bean. If you put someone who doesn’t understand the process in front of the machine, the results aren’t going to be fantastic even if the bean is.
TCG: Is decaf a dirty word?
Tom: I feel like it is, but it doesn’t mean I won’t push to get it tasting just as good as our caffeinated beans. At Jackson Dodds we have a third grinder especially for our decaf blend that we source from Allpress. We don’t do all that much of it, but it certainly isn’t forgotten.
TCG: Is specialty tea the new cappuccino?
Tom: I’m finding myself serving less chai lately as we’re coming out of winter, but we use a strong Indian breakfast tea that is really popular at the moment.