How To Be A Barista 101

How To Be A Barista 101
A barista must know how to operate his equipment, how to stretch milk, how to make Latte Art, and be ready to Clean up.

A general perception exists that being a Barista is a chill, laid back job in an exciting environment. Yes, baristas do work in a relaxed atmosphere surrounded by the aroma of freshly ground coffee. But make no mistake, a barista has to work hard throughout the day. Learn what you need to know in this Barista 101 to become one or improve at your job.

How To Be A Barista 101
2 Baristas prepping for service.

Qualities Required for a Barista

  1. A keen eye for detail: “Grande, Quad, Non-fat, One-Pump, No-Whip, Mocha”. Orders like this are not uncommon in coffee shops, they’re actually very common. The customers want their specific needs fulfilled without any errors. Here, a barista needs to be sharp and note every small detail of the customer’s unique order. One slip up potentially could make a regular customer not to revisit the establishment. So a barista needs to be alert and precise in throughout everything he or she does as part of work.
  2. Action-oriented: Barista not only makes the coffee but has to wake up early, keep the station and the shop tidy, handle the register serve the customer, top up the raw materials, alert or place the order for coffee, milk. Does all that on feet mostly throughout a workday and it can get very tiresome.
  3. Cheerful and friendly: Coffee shops early in the day. The customers are still sleepy heads and grumpy before having their shot of caffeine. The last thing they want to see is a sad face in the morning. The barista has to be smiling and should be able to perk up the mood of customers.
  4. Flexible and reliable: A barista will have to wear many hats in coffee shops. Therefore the barista must be willing to take up the myriad of responsibilities that may arise. Also, baristas will have to work on weekends and other holidays usually.
  5. Team-oriented: Most businesses are not successful as a result of the efforts of a single employee. It is the same case with a coffee shop. A barista will have to work and get along with other employees, manger and other stakeholders. Not only that he or she might have to train a new employee, but barista will also have to Take over a shift or other responsibilities from other employees. So baristas cannot act in silos and must work well in a team environment.
How To Be A Barista 101
Barista at Blue Bottle Coffee serving drip coffee.

Good Coffee

As personable as a barista can be, he or she must make good coffee too! In this Barista 101 let us look over the essential knowledge a barista needs to have. Given below are four facets a barista works on regularly and should have a thorough understanding about. Also check out our article on “5 Tips When Starting a Coffee Shop” if you like what you’re reading so far, you might be a barista already and want to open up your own shop one day!

1) Learning The Equipment

The equipment is where the magic happens. It is where the espresso shot is made. A barista must learn every last element of the press. For this, let us go through the necessary actions need to get espresso from the machine.

Grind the coffee beans fresh, this is important. Take the filter handle and make sure it is perfectly clean after the previous use. Note that there are various sizes for the handles available. Choose one according to the need. For example 7-16 grams of coffee is used for a single shot of espresso. It will vary according to the coffee beans used.

Applying even pressure to the base of the tamp, the coffee powder is flattened and made even in the filter handle. Turn the machine on for a second to purge any coffee power that lingers around the filter. Slide the filter handle back into its place and turn on the machine. It takes 25-60 seconds for the espresso to drip from the filter. It varies depending on the amount of coffee powder added and the specifications of the machine used. The resultant brew will have a darker shade towards the bottom of the cup and lighter at the top. The espresso shot is ready!

Look at that, you are getting better in your Barista 101 course!

How To Be A Barista 101
Barista checking on press.

2) Becoming a Milk Master

In this second part of the Barista 101 course, we talk about Stretched Milk, the most important thing here is not to have any bubbles. It should be foam. Bubbles just don’t taste good.

First, pour cold milk into a metal pitcher, about a third full. Release steam from the steam arm for two seconds to eliminate any residual water from the nozzle. Two changes have to happen to milk after this process, heat the milk and change the texture of the milk. It is of paramount importance that the milk needs to be cold before this process.

Dip the tip of the steam arm into milk and turn the steam on. Lower the pitcher as the foam rises and milk increases in volume. The tip of the steam arm has to be always submerged and kept at an angle. This will create a vortex. Continue steaming until the milk reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit and its volume doubles. At this temperature, the pitcher becomes too hot to hold.

Rest the pitcher for about 10 seconds. This will help any air in the milk to come up. Tap the base of the pitcher firmly on the countertop once. This will pop any bubbles present and will compress the foam. Swirl the milk slightly while placed on the countertop. This will make the milk polished. Now the milk is ready to be poured!

Turn on the steam one more time to eliminate any remaining milk residue on the steam arm.

How To Be A Barista 101
Working as a barista in a coffee shop.

3) Latte Art Expertise

One of the major experiences for a customer coming to the coffee shop is latte art. It is so simple yet makes a huge difference in the presentation of the drink. Latte art is created when the milk is infused to the coffee.

Start pouring the milk from a distance into the cup. The milk gets infused to the coffee. When it is ready for the art, pour the milk very slowly and bring the pitcher close to the cup. Pour the milk in the desired shape to get the latte art. It takes a bit of practice to make perfect art.

4) Cleaning Your Barista Station

An extremely important part of a barista is to keep the station clean. Every part of the machine has to be kept clean. The filter handle has to be cleaned before and after use. The remnant coffee powder has to be disposed of properly. The steam arm has to be kept clean. It needs to be wiped with a clean cloth after stretching milk. Any clogs or blockages in the machine will encourage the growth of bacteria, and a bad smell will emanate over time. So it is extremely important to keep the machine and countertop clean.

Learn how to fully clean your barista station here, it’s very in-depth for any coffee shop!

How To Be A Barista 101
Barista making latte art.

Do You Want to Be a Barista Now?

These are the extreme basics a barista needs to know. One has to gain a lot of knowledge and practice to become an expert in the art of coffee making. But this will give a strong foundation to build upon. What other tips will you give a barista that is starting out? Leave a comment to let us know!

Thanks for reading! Be sure to check out some of our other content by simply going to the Brand My Cafe page. Any of your baristas having trouble getting into rhythm? Be sure to check out “How to Motivate an Employee Who’s Underperforming in Your Café” as well.


Brand My Cafe helps small & medium-sized businesses, cafes and foodservice brands grow their identity through custom coffee cups, coffee sleeves & more. Join our exclusive Facebook group Restaurant Brand Builders to brainstorm ideas with passionate other passionate owners!

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