Jenni Juntunen

Barista Trainer Jori Korhonen: A Self-Confessed Coffee Geek

Barista trainer Jori Korhonen evaluates every cup of coffee he prepares but does not pass judgement on cups made by others.

Filter coffee, not people. This is what it says on Paulig Barista Institute trainer Jori Korhonen’s T-shirt that was a birthday present from his girlfriend. The message is spot-on for this barista who loves filter coffee and people.

”We’re all similar. I don’t care what colour you are or which religion you represent. All people can, for example, enjoy coffee in the same way,” he points out over a cup of pour over coffee in Paulig Kulma coffee house in the heart of Helsinki.

The work of a barista trainer involves meeting new people every week. Korhonen mainly teaches coffee preparation to coffee business professionals: young people and old-timers, café owners and staff, people from big chains and small places, from the Helsinki region and from all the way up in Lapland.

”It’s great fun to work with a variety of personalities. The best thing is when you make the people you train realise how good coffee can taste and manage to rub at least a couple of per cent of your own enthusiasm onto them.”

The 28-year-old barista has worked in cafés for around a decade and been a trainer for a couple of years. He already found his spark for training during his first year of study in 2014. That is when Korhonen participated in coffee training run by his current colleagues Ulla Suoraniemi and Emmi Kinnunen as part of his hospitality management studies.

”I got into it when I saw how much fun Ulla and Emmi had when training us. I said to my coursemate that’s what I want to be doing in the future.”

From latte art to pour over

Korhonen was permanently swept away by coffee around five years ago. While working for Robert’s Coffee, he first got so into latte art that he was learning new designs almost every day. Then the young barista came across an Aeropress video on YouTube and dived into the world of manual brewing. Now he has a Kalita Wave, Hario V60, Clever Dripper and a couple of Aeropresses at home. He even discovered he had an ordinary coffee machine when packing for his move into a new home but has not used it for years.

”There’s nothing wrong with a traditional coffee brewer, but with them you rarely see the water temperature or where the water is distributed on the coffee bed. When brewing manually, you get to see and do everything by yourself, so it’s easier to analyse why the coffee turned out really excellent or really poor.”

A self-confessed coffee geek, at times Korhonen is teased by his mates: How come is it that you can distinguish aromas of cucumber or watermelon in coffee? And every now and then when he visits someone he is greeted by an embarrassed host muttering ”this coffee’s just normal stuff”.

Korhonen, however, enjoys coffee in all of its forms – if nothing else then at least as the necessary caffeine fix.

”I’d never get critical about other people’s coffee. I’m perfectly happy with whatever people serve me.”

Barista is a job full of variety

What Korhonen is interested in coffee is the variety found in the raw material. There are endless types of beans, blends, roasts and preparation methods. The more you learn about coffee the more passionately you want to take in more information and learn new skills.

Over the past few months this barista trainer has been delving into the secrets of roasting at Paulig Kulma roastery in Aleksanterinkatu street, Helsinki. Opened a year ago in October, Paulig Kulma features a coffee shop, a micro roastery as well the Barista Institute’s training facilities.

”It’s been interesting to learn how much the roast level affects the taste of coffee. Today we tasted two coffees with a 10-second difference between their roasting times, and they tasted completely different,” Korhonen says.

”When you try to understand the entire palette, you get even keener to find out what lies behind the individual cup.”

Korhonen has recently also taken an interest in coffee tasting. He has kept the advice given by Paulig’s chief taster about tastebud training firmly in his mind: ”Just keep on tasting. There’s no other route to becoming a good taster.”

One day Korhonen would like to work as a green coffee buyer. That is a role where you get to taste coffee samples and visit coffee farms in countries of origin.

If Korhonen got to change one coffee-related thing in the world, that would be the price of coffee.

”I’d like to see people prepared to pay more for coffee so that we would get better coffee and producers would get more money. That would be a win-win situation for all.”

Dreaming about a coffee laboratory

At times the passionate barista even slips into work mode while off duty. This was the case during a recent trip to Berlin where Korhonen’s girlfriend almost got sick of café-hopping and blogging. Eventually even the tea-drinker got interested in cafés – not because of coffee but because of their decor.

”Cafés in Berlin look really nice, and you do get tea there as well. The look and ambiance of a place are important for me, too. The same goes for the attitude of the staff – that they’re not just someone impersonal behind the counter but people you can chat and exchange opinions with.”

If Korhonen was to set up his own coffeehouse one day, it would be "extremely geeky" and only focus on coffee.

”It would have all the best equipment in the world. I'd make coffee using all sorts of methods and try out new stuff. There could also be a roastery in conjunction with the café.”

He already even has a name for the place: Helsinki Coffee Laboratory. So not your ordinary café but a coffee laboratory.

How to make latte art by Jori Korhonen

  • Name: Jori Korhonen
  • Grew up in: Kirkkonummi, Finland
  • Currently lives in: Kallio, Helsinki, Finland
  • Guilty pleasure as regards coffee: “Caffe Affogato! A scoop of vanilla gelato and a double espresso in the same cup.”

Read more about Jori's thoughts and work with coffee from his blog.

Jori Korhonen