The Art of Making Art: Barista Dexter Zeiler


Dexter Zeiler at Evanston Pour trains to keep the barista craft he loves alive. credit: Sent

Dexter Zeiler creates consumable art. More concrete art based on espresso that we can drink, like a great latte, cappuccino or cortado.

Professionally, Zeiler is a trainer and barista at Evanston Pour at 528 Dempster St. He also makes coffee at home and when his family goes camping. He has trained his wife and daughter in the ins and outs of making a great cup of coffee.

It pays tribute to all members of the supply chain who bring coffee to our lips. He – like the barista – is the last link in the chain before he enjoys the consumer. He thinks about the family that grows and picks the beans, the importer of the beans and the bakery. He knows that if he messes up, then all the effort and experience that went before it is wasted.

Another artful cup of latte. delicious! credit: Gene Cunningham

If you think of art in relation to coffee, you probably imagine that clever design in the microfoam on your latte. But for Zeiler, the more important art is creating perfect taste.

When you’re at a coffee shop, you might notice a barista pushing buttons on an espresso machine and pouring liquids, but true coffee artists go far beyond pushing buttons. They learn and appreciate the importance of how each of the elements in a drink is meant to interact together.

While you’ll appreciate the cute design on top, no design makes up for the bad taste of the coffee. Art is when both taste and design are great, and your cafe comes to life.

To create a great espresso-based drink, Zeiler and his colleagues at Evanston Pour first need an espresso machine with 9 bars of constant pressure to properly extract the espresso and release the foam. (“Nine bar” means about nine times the typical atmospheric pressure at sea level, and “crema” is not cream—it’s the word for the essence separated from the ground coffee under pressure.)

Cortado (equal parts espresso with steamed milk). credit: Sent

Also, a pitcher with a pointed spout is crucial to latte art. If espresso is the paper and milk is the paint, then the spout is the pen. Finally, a porcelain cup of the right size and shape with a small base and an open mouth is important. This type of cup is often called a “tulip cup” because it is shaped like the flower.

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