How to Become a Coffee Barista

Photo credit: Jon Lin

Making a cup of coffee is an art. In fact, it is a profession – a barista is a professional who prepares all sorts of coffee beverages. The best part is anyone can become a barista and it all starts with some strong love for coffee!

How to become a coffee barista requires steps that anyone can take if they are motivated and passionate about coffee. Today, a coffee barista is a very respected position. It takes time and effort to become one. But, this does not mean its impossible! There are a few steps to help you become a coffee barista. Once you achieve barista status, you can open several doors in the amazing coffee industry.

Here are 8 key steps to empowering your love of coffee and becoming a coffee barista!

Know a Little Coffee Barista History

You don’t need to become a historian to be a coffee barista. But, it is important to know a little bit of coffee barista history. Understanding how the profession evolved and what it means today will give you an edge. It will also show how much respect you have for the profession.

A few coffee barista facts to get you started:
  • The term barista is Italian for ‘bartender’ or ‘barman.’ 
  • The profession was acknowledged as far back as 1645 in Italian coffee houses where both coffee and alcoholic beverages were served. Italian coffee bars function the same today!
  • The coffee barista profession was transformed with the invention of the espresso machine by Angelo Moriondo in 1884. This created many famous coffee shop drinks we know and love today.
  • It was not until the last few decades that a barista evolved into a reputable profession. This was accelerated by the third wave coffee movement, increasing global consumers’ demand for top quality joe. 

Master the Coffee Vocabulary

As a barista, you will be working with more than just plain old coffee. If you are pursuing a career as a barista, you probably already know that. Either way, harnessing a thorough vocabulary on all things coffee will create a strong foundation to reach barista success.

Your coffee vocabulary should focus on two specific areas. First, you should focus on the coffee itself. This means the origins of coffee, the types of roasts out there, and how to identify them. 

Then, you need to know the components of a coffee beverage menu. Understanding the names of beverages and the components that make them is really important. You need to know exactly what customers want.

The best part about gaining a solid coffee vocabulary is that it does not require a financial investment. Learning all the necessary terms can be done with simple research using search engines. There are also stellar books out there to read on your morning commute. 

By developing your own vocabulary, you strengthen your ear to things said in your future workplace. And, a solid coffee vocabulary will definitely help you if you do pursue a barista certification!

Start Working Anywhere with an Espresso Machine

Training is crucial in your coffee barista career. This all starts with getting your foot in the door. 

Formal training does not exactly start with landing a barista position. It is actually much easier to find a front of house position at a place that serves coffee. In particular, one that has an updated espresso machine. By entering a more entry-level job, you can easily acquire training for the position you wish to be in. By telling your supervisors about your goals of becoming a barista, they can help you receive the necessary training while you work. This gives you formal experience and may even land you a barista experience.

Another option is finding a job with a chain coffee shop, like Starbucks. These companies are known for hiring without any experience. While their business structure may be different than an artisanal coffee shop, the job will give you all the tools you need to reach your barista goals.

Pay Attention to Detail

Coffeemaking is an art. With art, requires great detail! While working as a barista, every little detail needs attention. From the machine to the milk temperature, you need to be precise. This takes time and practice, but keeping your eye always attentive to detail is essential. This will lead to better performance all around. And, some better tasting coffee too!

Master the Espresso

The heart of the barista skillset is the espresso. Pulling a shot of this liquid gold is an art.  It is at the heart of most coffee beverage recipes. If the espresso is not brewed correctly, the whole drink suffers. 

Photo credit: Jordan Merrick

Through all your training, the espresso shot should be your major focus. Being a barista is all about detail and you cannot miss a single one with espresso. There are a lot of different variables that will affect the quality and taste of your espresso. Learning what these variables are and how to control them will be essential in becoming the best barista out there.

There are three main components to understand so that you have an excellent espresso foundation: brew ratio, brew time, and brew temperature. This will be part of your everyday routine as a barista. Learning how to manage each part will lead you to a bright barista future!

Develop Your Palette

Coffee is a lot like wine – your palate will be one of your best assets. It helps you understand the details behind a cup of coffee even further. Smelling and tasting coffee as you go along will help you understand the different coffee flavor profiles. More importantly, it will help you understand how to adjust coffee recipes for the most optimal brewing. 

Using your senses goes for both the coffee beans and the final brew. You have to learn the tasting notes of specific roasts. Of course, you may have your own coffee preferences. But, understanding the tasting notes of a coffee will help you make the proper suggestions to customers. Your senses go a step further by understanding the flaws in your espresso. This will help you learn how to fix them. 

Strengthen Your ‘People’ Skills

Before you find yourself in a formal barista position, it is very important to strengthen your communication skills. As a barista, you will constantly be working with people. Whether it’s your coworkers or your customers, you need to know how to meet the needs of others.

This comes down to listening and being crystal clear. We are not going to lead a lesson on people skills here. However, what we will say is that you need to be as friendly as possible. Some customers unleash their bad moods the moment they enter the store, clearly in desperate need of coffee. Remember, you as the barista hold the power to change that! Don’t forget to give every customer a smile and remember how quickly you can turn the day around for them.

Get Certified

I bet this whole time you were wondering: do I have to take a course to be a barista? Well, there are actually two answers to that question. 

As with any profession, you can start off with courses. There are plenty of options out there that teach you how to become a barista. Most specialty coffee companies offer curated coffee courses. If you check the website for some of your favorite artisanal roasters, you will find that most do have courses. These typically have no requirements. The pricing varies on how popular the course is.

The thing is, though, you do not have to start by getting certified. You can easily save money and work from the ground up before attending any courses. As you progress into your barista career, you can take courses to embellish your skillset. The Specialty Coffee Association’s Barista Guild is a definite asset to utilize when enhancing your coffee training. You do not have to have previous experience to take participate in their programs either. So this can also be an option for the beginning of your barista career! 

Get to Work!

To be a barista, you got to work as a barista! This, of course, will take time by following the previous 7 steps. But, you should never stop looking for opportunities.

Like any job, networking will be your best asset. Always ask your nearest coffee shops if they are hiring or are looking to take on someone anytime soon. Or, if you are at a job with barista positions, make sure you are vocal about your interest. If at home, do not forget to search Indeed or Linkedin for any job postings.

When you do find yourself a barista job, first congratulate yourself! Then, get back to work. The learning never ends with coffee, which is what makes it so fantastic!

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *