Erik Becker: Barista Trainer

Erik Becker, current Barista Trainer with Cafe Grumpy, generously hosted our first lecture this semester, on Brewing on the Aeropress and Chemex. Cafe Grumpy is an independently owned and operated coffee company, roasting out of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Started in 2005, they've now grown to 6 retail locations and a roastery. We were lucky enough to have Erik give us some background on these brew methods, share his recipes and some tips for how we can make our best cup of coffee at home (or in our dorm room!), but we were also able to learn a bit about Erik, himself!

What is your first memory of coffee?

Erik: “My first memory of coffee is as a child smelling the aroma of a brewing pot in the kitchen of my families house after a holiday meal. I didn't enjoy the taste that much as a child and this was also when adults still held the belief that coffee stunted a child's growth. I honestly thought it was a ploy to keep us from being hyper from the caffeine. I didn't start drinking coffee until high school.”

When did you decide to get more involved at a professional, more serious level in the industry?

Erik: “To be honest I never really decided, it kind of crept up on me. I started working in coffee as many baristas do to pay the bills. I think what drove me to learn more about coffee was the disappointment in the coffee I was serving to customers. I wanted to know why it was so bad and what approach I could take to make improvements. This was in the early days of the internet and specialty coffee so it was hard to find information. I think my first glimpse into the world I know today was finding and reading the coffee blog/forum called coffee geek. I took what I learned in that forum and applied them to what I was doing at the time. I was hooked and wanting to know more and I was fortunate to meet many professionals along the way that not only sparked my interest but passed along what they knew and shaped me into a coffee professional.”

Favorite coffee and brew method?

Erik: “That’s a difficult question considering the sheer amount of coffee I have been fortunate to taste over the years. I guess I favor certain regions/ countries more then any farm or producer. I really enjoy coffees from Kenya, Panama, and Guatemala. I guess some of the magic of working in coffee is always discovering a new delicious coffee and wondering where it will come from next. I am partial to brewing on a 155 kalita wave brewer.”

One thing you wish more people knew about coffee?

Erik: “Honestly I wish more people would see roasted coffee as a perishable product with a shelf life. I think specialty coffee has done a better job at convincing people of the benefits of cold brew then convincing them that coffee two months old is undrinkable." 

Favorite part of being a barista trainer?

Erik: “My favorite part is when a barista gets something they have been struggling with for the first time like latte art or tamping properly and their face lights up like they have unlocked a treasure. I can relate to those moments when it’s like, 'Ohhh, I get it now!'”

First coffee shop you worked in, or first job involving coffee?

Erik: “My first coffee job was working in a Border Cafe inside a Borders Books and Music. It was more pushing buttons then actual barista work.”

What tip do you have for someone new to specialty coffee, or interested in learning more about coffee?

Erik: “Find what you enjoy about coffee and try to learn as much as you can about it. That pursuit will not only spark other interests but also drive your appreciation of coffee.”

Thank you so much to Erik, Caroline and the entire team at Cafe Grumpy for helping us coordinate this lecture and for sharing your expertize! To find the closest Cafe Grumpy to you, click here