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How a coffee master makes the perfect cup of cappuccino

It’s a fine balance between high quality espresso, hot milk and silky milk foam, explains coffee sensei Sherri Johns

A perfect cup of cappuccino. (Photo: Unsplash) 
A perfect cup of cappuccino. (Photo: Unsplash) 

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Sensei is a Japanese word which translates to a teacher or master. Coffee expert Sherri Johns was regarded as a sensei when she was in Japan doing what she does best—training people to brew the perfect cup. Johns’ helped set up India’s first Specialty Coffee Association Premier Training Campus and Araku’s flagship store in Bengaluru. Now, she is visiting the city for the certificate programmes at ARAKU World Specialty Coffee Academy (AWSCA) which run from January 25 to February 16.

In a career spanning more than 40 years, the Portland-based Johns worked with Starbucks, launched the World Barista Championship and was on the board of Specialty Coffee Association (SCA)—a nonprofit, membership-only organization that represents coffee professionals across the globe. In 1980, during the early days of her career in San Francisco, she entered an annual Barista competition, won it for three years straight, and earned the title ‘cappuccino queen of San Francisco’.

Also read | What’s behind the enduring popularity of pourover coffee?

Lounge caught up with Johns who talks about the training programmes at AWSCA, how the West views Indian coffee and shares tips to brew the perfect cup of cappuccino.

How many coffees do you have in a day?
Generally, it’s like two cappuccinos and a specialty beverage after lunch. But, we also do cupping where I might try upto 40 or 50 different coffees. I just slurp and spit it out. Surprisingly, my daily coffee consumption is not as much as one would think.

What is the specialty coffee that you have after lunch?
It’s my variation of a dark and stormy with no alcohol. It’s a cold brew with sparkling water and homemade syrup with ginger, sweetener and lime. It’s very refreshing.

What are you teaching at the ARAKU World Specialty Coffee Academy?
The curriculum is authorised by Specialty Coffee Association and I helped develop it. I'm recognised (as what they call) an authorised specialty coffee trainer. The course includes introduction to coffee, a barista training programme for professionals, sensory evaluation of coffee which includes a taster’s flavour wheel, cupping, and more.

What’s the course for someone who wants to learn the basics of coffee?
The introduction to coffee is perfect. It's a four-hour class that includes the global movement of coffee, specialty coffee, farming and harvesting. It’s also quite hands-on with tasting experiences with no more than six people signing up for it.


Sherri Johns
Sherri Johns

How do you think people view coffee in India?
Early on, Indian coffee was regarded—mostly by the farmers and the government—as an export product. Arabica and Robusta are two types of coffee India produces, and in the early days Karnataka was the dominant coffee-growing region. Now, coffee is grown in different parts of the country, Indians have started to consume more, and the market is getting more sophisticated. Consumers are curious about specialty, and they yearn to be educated, or get a little more experimental. So they go to independent coffee shops or cafes seeking out high quality coffees.

How does the West view Indian coffee?
Early on, Indian coffee was considered to be only Robusta (which is believed to be inferior compared to Arabica). It was not necessarily high quality specialty coffee and people around the world weren’t aware India produced coffee at all. Some assumed it was a low quality blend of coffees which was created to maintain low costs. But, now India’s Arabica coffee is getting a lot of attention globally. I'm a head judge of a programme called the Gems of Araku, which is a has seen a lot of interest from buyers in the UK, Germany, Bulgaria, USA, Canada, Australia, Spain, Bulgaria, among others. For me, the proof is always in the cup.

How does one make a perfect cup of cappuccino?
Well, it starts with fresh roasted, high quality coffee to make 30 ml espresso which is the foundation of your drink. Top that with perfectly steamed milk foam that’s very silky with micro bubbles. The measurements are 30 ml espresso, approximately 15 ml of steamed milk and 15 ml of perfectly silky foam on top. To make foamy milk at home, there’s a jugaad method: put hot milk in a blender and blitz well till you see the foam. For the perfect cup of cappuccino, you should be able to sip the drink and feel the harmonised mixture between the foam, milk and espresso.

To sign up for a training programme, visit

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