Good baristas aren't born. They're made.

Recently, we felt that our espresso-making skills were seriously lacking (read: nonexistent), so we went to learn and train with the best at Counter Culture's brand new educational Training Center in Nolita. It's open to professional baristas and humble home brewers alike.

The tools

The public can drop in to buy beans any time, or stop in on Fridays at 10 a.m. for a free cupping.

Katie Carguilo, the 2012 United States Barista Champion showed us around the 3,600-square-foot space. Imagine a veritable coffee lover's paradise, with a sleek under-the-counter Modbar brewing system, more espresso machines and stadium-style seating for hanging out.

The method | Katie Carguilo

Carguilo had some easy-to-follow advice for pulling better shots at home.

Start with a ceramic burr grinder. "They give the beans an even particle size," Carguilo said. "As if you were chopping onions for a sauté." Storing your coffee in the freezer? "Skip it. Freezers are damp and smelly, and soon your coffee will be too."

Then came the hard stuff: a hands-on lesson in making designs with steamed milk. How'd we do? Find out in our video.

Want to go to barista school? We're giving away free admission to a full-day Beginner Espresso Lab to one lucky Tasting Table reader. To enter, send an email telling us what your favorite coffee shop in town is and why. See the rules here