When I started my career in a coffee bar, I had only a little experience working in a grocery store and a strong desire to work as a barista. I was in my first year at the university and realized that these few years would be a good time to explore various interesting fields. At that time, I had my heart in two occupations: a barista and a tattoo artist. To practice tattoo art, I needed money to buy the specialized equipment. To try my hand as a barista, the only thing I needed was my desire. The coffee shop I work at now is located on the most beautiful street in the city, right next to the university. As a college student, I often visited it to buy a cappuccino with vegetable milk and take photos of the interior. When I saw a vacancy notice posted on its social networks, I decided to offer myself as a candidate without hesitation.
I had no idea how to brew coffee. But I knew that a barista is often the first person you meet in the morning on your way to work, and to a certain extent, this person is responsible for how your day begins. Often, rude behavior or poor service can affect your mood for the rest of the day. I understand that this fact is primarily important in my professional work.
The work of any barista consists of two main parts: brewing coffee and communicating with people. Let’s start by discussing professional skills. Of course, the barista’s work is bound up with drinks and food, so it is imperative to know and abide by all sanitary regulations. In addition, this person must understand the processes of growing, roasting, and brewing coffee, including the following:
- types of coffee, particularly the difference between arabica and robusta, their features depending on the country of origin and the method of processing (natural, washed, or fermented);
- various methods of brewing coffee and differences between them. Every barista should know the recipes of espresso-based drinks. They should learn the brewing methods, observe the proportions, and monitor the hardness of water, the freshness of coffee beans, grind characteristics, and the right consistency of frothed milk;
- work with equipment. A barista has to learn how to operate a coffee grinder and a coffee machine, to use portafilters, to set the pressure of water for brewing espresso, to choose the right grind setting and the brewing time;
- milk and latte art. It is very important to learn how to froth milk to a certain temperature and consistency and get glossy foam. Of course, the experience in pouring latte art comes only with practice, and not all coffee shops demand this skill of applicants, but it is considered an advantage in employment.
You can learn all the ins and outs of the job during the working process where the theory is immediately supported by practice. However, a lot of knowledge should be obtained from books and thematic materials. Since it takes a lot of time for books to be written and published, some knowledge rendered in them may become outdated. So, I advise you to read books only about basic things, preferably written by experts. Up-to-date information can be found on social networks while reading the blogs kept by famous baristas and roasters.
There is also an opposite (unspoken) side of the barista’s work – communication with people. As practice shows, it is the most difficult and exhausting part of the barista’s work, especially in the long term. The process of brewing coffee is a routine but quite creative job where you can experiment, try and search for new recipes. Communication requires a lot of effort and complaisance. In a coffee shop, the client can be wrong, but he/she comes to receive your service, and you have to make it in the right way. I don’t think that you need to adapt to all clients and fulfill their requests, which may sometimes seem weird, but baristas should always be polite and friendly. I remember one morning when a rude barista made me delicious coffee but spoiled my mood for several hours.
People come to a coffee shop when they have a break at work, in the evening, and in the morning to devote a few spare minutes to themselves and their cup of coffee. A good barista can help them by asking about their working day, clarifying their coffee preferences, and wishing them a good day. The client is ready to pay more than usual for this good atmosphere and will come back here again and again.