Plenty of jobs under the hospitality umbrella require specialized skills, but working as a barista comes with a host of unique challenges. Becoming a great barista is more than understanding everything about the cafe menu and being able to make each beverage, but anyone who can check off these boxes is already on the way to a fulfilling career in coffeemaking.
A coffee lover’s usual order is a very personal thing and can be complicated, which is why confidence is one of the most valuable traits a barista can have. Besides doing your best to look and act confidently in front of your customers, the best course of action is to take as many opportunities to practice as you can. Whether you choose to take a professional barista course, practice at home, or learn as much as possible on the job, make sure you’re always developing your skills, and before you know it, your confidence will have developed as well.
Making a coffee may not sound like an overly technical job, but anyone who has seen the back of a coffee machine might suggest otherwise. There are so many moving parts involved in crafting the perfect latte or cappuccino, not to mention the different pouring methods for each. It goes beyond a basic understanding of a coffee menu to the ins and outs of the coffee machine and each of the many essential tools used, from the grinder and tampers to the thermometers and milk jugs. Chances are, once you have more experience, you’ll find yourself swapping out the thermometer for a palm against the milk jug, but while you’re finding your feet, these handy tools will help you get the job done right.
Between the front counter and the espresso machine, cafes and restaurants have plenty of moving parts, and without a great deal of organization, the whole operation is at risk of coming undone. For the most part, organization comes through communication, especially if you’re working in a team.
Even nitty-gritty details like the processes for order taking and tidying up the work area can affect your efficiency over the course of a day, so make sure each person behind the counter knows exactly how to do their job well and, if possible, has a designated task to do for the majority of their shift.
Some jobs require precision while others place more emphasis on speed, but a great barista will need to execute both in order to keep customers happy. Those who are experienced behind the machine may have no difficulty pumping out a double skinny macchiato with extra foam and a shot of caramel – the real challenge is doing it under time pressure. Regular practice is the best way to get things moving faster, but you should always be mindful of maintaining consistent quality.
In the race to create loyal customers, nothing is more important than your counter-side manner. Listening skills are paramount in this line of work, particularly as every customer likes their coffee made in a specific way. Customers might only see you for a few minutes each day, but you’ll probably be amongst their first human interactions for the day, so try to leave a good taste in their mouth by delivering exactly what they ask for. Beyond this, simple things like acting in a friendly, personable manner and making the effort to remember names and regular orders will ultimately turn casual visitors into long-term fans.
Enthusiasm is essential for success in any career, especially customer-facing roles, and keeping spirits up during the early hours of the morning can be a challenge in itself. Starting the shift with a shot of your own espresso should help you deliver service with a smile, even at the crack of dawn, but even that won’t save you without a solid knowledge of the basics – the most important of these being flavor. Taking pride in your work means tasting your shots every few hours for that perfect balance, adjusting the grinder when necessary, and perfecting your latte art. All of that work could be a hard grind for anyone who isn’t passionate about great coffee.
Barista jobs are no longer seen as a fill-in option between university classes or a simple introduction to the workforce for high school students. Cafes filled with talented coffee connoisseurs are found on every other street, but even if you’re new to the game, these skills and personality traits will help you stand out in the best possible way.