A beginner’s guide to becoming a barista
So, you want to be a barista? Good choice. Of course, working in the coffee industry, I would say a barista is a solid choice of career for anyone with a passion for coffee.
And, you will probably find that passion is what you will need to really claw your way to the top, to sit among the best of the best.
For starters you will need to learn the basics of coffee making. From understanding what a fresh coffee bean should smell and look like, to the perfect grind size for your intended brew method and milk frothing.
Then there is the impressive, awe-inspiring talent of amazing latte art – this will take a lot of practise to perfect.
Aside from the physical aspects of creating a perfect coffee, you should endeavour to understand what coffee is, where it comes from, its history and journey. This will be different for every coffee blend you work with, get to know your coffee, this way you can engage your customers and give them an informed story or fact about the latte or double espresso you are handing them.
The machines and methods
To become a barista, you will be required to work with a whole host of coffee related machinery and equipment.
This will include understanding how to use, maintain, clean and troubleshoot them.
This could be a grinder, either on-demand or dosing. Where grinders are concerned, they are arguably the most essential part of the coffee making process. This is where you will create the perfect grind size to suit your brewing method and it will be down to you to alter the grind to create the right consistency.
Next up, traditional espresso coffee machines. These are the big, impressive looking, all singing, all steaming pieces of kit. They are essentially a fancy kettle, with a steaming function for your milk. Of course, there is much more to them than a kettle, with adjustable settings to create the perfect conditions for brewing your coffee. These machines employ the ‘espresso’ brewing method, which basically means coffee extracted under pressure.
You will probably learn to use ‘infusion’ brewing equipment, such as, Chemex, V60 drippers and Kalita Wave. These coffee brewers are named infusion brewers as they have a constant stream of water running through the coffee, allowing optimum extraction.
Finally, ‘immersion’ equipment will be on your list of things to study. In this method, the coffee grounds are simply immersed in water and left to brew for a few minutes. Most often paired with a metal or paper filter in order to remove the grounds and particles from the final product. The French press and AeroPress are both immersion methods.
In order to become a barista, there are many techniques you will need to grasp, and eventually, master.
We have briefly discussed grinding. Following this, you will learn how to ‘tamp’ the ground coffee. This is the part where you press a coffee tamper down onto the ground coffee in the portafilter, using just the right amount of even pressure, to create a uniformed, slightly compact ‘puck’ of ground coffee.
This wants to be done in a fashion that allows the water to run through at a specific speed to extract the coffee in a certain amount of time. Usually, you will be required to apply around 15g of pressure to the coffee to create the correct density.
We have all looked on in admiration as an experienced barista has steamed milk to silky, shiny perfection and proceeded to pour it into an espresso shot, ending with a perfect Rosetta or rippled heart with ease. The reality is that this is a skill that needs to be practised.
Different drinks require slightly different milk foaming techniques, as does different milk types. So, familiarising yourself with the many varieties and styles will stand you in good stead.
As with all customer facing careers, a barista needs to be friendly and personable, yet resilient.
The ability to work under pressure, while people are waiting and watching is essential. Being able to move on from a mistake quickly and not let it drag down the rest of the day, becoming disheartened. There will be plenty of mistakes made, but this is how you will learn.
Eager and willing to interact with customers and colleagues. Taking in knowledge from the people surrounding you and in turn passing it onto others that you serve. Engaging your customers will make their coffee shop experience that extra special, encouraging repeat visits.
Along with the above points, a passion to learn and practise your craft will be what determines your success. The coffee world is a massive one, and is only getting bigger. With a huge amount to learn and perfect, you need to be willing to dive in head first!
Training with us
Here at Refreshment Systems we supply detailed training and a barista kit with every traditional espresso machine purchase, all from an SCA Accredited Barista.
We will run through how to use, clean and maintain the machine and barista kit, answering any questions you may have. This can be done in our modern coffee school or on-site, one-on-one or in a group setting for your staff.
With continued support after your purchase with us, you will always have someone to call in times of need.