The profession of baristas is a relatively new field, fuelled by the advent of popular coffee chains like Starbucks in last few decades. However, more and more people find themselves wishing they could channel their passion for making good coffee into a viable career option. In fact, many of the baristas you come across at coffee shops have – at some point in their life – decided to quit that routine cubicle-bound corporate job to chase their zeal for pulling perfect espresso shots.
A growing number of coffee shops are looking for baristas with a unique knack for creating excellent cups of coffee. So if you want to follow your heart and pursue this career option, here is a comprehensive guide about how to pave your path towards becoming a bona fide barista with little or no experience.
How to Know if Being a Barista is Your Calling?
Some of the best baristas known to the world were always sure that their true calling lay in producing remarkable cold brews, pourovers and artistic lattes. However, not everyone is so fortunate. Sometimes, one may wonder if being a barista is the right calling for them, professionally-speaking.
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Here are the core traits that determine if being a master barista is your calling:
True Passion for Coffee
If coffee makes your world go round and you take great pride in perfecting each shot, this might be the right career choice for you. Being a barista requires you to understand and wisely choose from the best source of beans, the optimal grind coarseness, degassing, storage, and their appropriate usage for different coffee brews. In addition, you will also need to understand the finer details about the related machinery and its due maintenance.
If you’ve always been an outgoing person with a positive outlook and a penchant for putting everyone around you at ease, you may be natural fit as a barista. It is a fact that more customers prefer a coffee shop where a friendly barista can serve them their caffeine fuel, than a café with a rude barista.
Cheerful and Friendly
A barista is expected to meet a lot of caffeine-deprived people in a single day’s work. There’s no denying that serving those who haven’t had their caffeine-fix yet can be a challenging task. If you posses a cheerful outlook and can easily make friends with strangers, being a barista may be the best vocation for you.
Adherence to Standards
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Maintenance of machinery, as well as following cleanliness, hygiene and safety guidelines is a must in this profession. If you are attentive and meticulous in nature, becoming a barista may be the ideal career choice.
6 Steps to Becoming a Pro Barista
Without further ado, here are the 5 easy steps to becoming an expert barista, with little or no experience:
1 Hone Your Coffee-brewing Skills
It is not really necessary to enroll for an atrociously expensive course for learning how to roast the coffee beans or how to pull a shot using an espresso machine. There are thousands of online and offline learning resources available for free or at a reasonable cost.
Make learning an ongoing process – continue to learn all about different origin coffee beans, processing, roasting, grinding and brewing – along with methods, techniques and machinery at each step. Scour YouTube and other online and offline resources to know everything about types and styles of coffee, customer preferences according to geographical factors and culture, etc.
2 Be Willing to Learn!
If you’re willing to learn and approach each step of the way in a proactive manner, rest assured that you’ll scale great heights eventually in your career as a master barista. You may not be put on the bar immediately when you start, and your job may involve learning, executing and serving other menu and bar items like sandwiches and desserts as well.
You may have to help the owner/ manager with opening and closing the coffee shop too, and sometimes the job description may involve tidying up the place or cleaning the dishes as well. However, along with learning new skills and fulfilling all these tasks and responsibilities, you’ll also be getting essential practice in the core specialization you seek: making exceptionally good coffee, one cup at a time.
3 Clear the Relevant Tests
Yes, it pays to graduate as a master-barista or an equivalent title, so clearing the tests that help you get there should be your next priority. After all, you did put in countless hours of learning, training and work to get this far!
However, a smarter move would be to also clear certification exams in related fields, like hospitality management, customer service management etc, to prove that you’re an all-rounder. Aside from this, growing your professional network via websites like LinkedIn.com would promote your career growth as an expert barista.
4 Get Some Experience
Let’s get real here – most of the established cafes might only be looking for a barista with more than 2 years of work experience. However, you don’t need to feel dejected, for this is where your learning can take the center stage. Look out for corporate-owned coffee chains or smaller cafes that do not have a super posh espresso machinery setup.
Family-run cafes/ coffee kiosks in shopping malls/ newer coffee shops in suburbs can be your best bet in this regard, as these places are more likely to look for someone who is willing to learn and can juggle between several roles. This will also help you polish up your coffee-making skills, understand the basic workflow at a coffee shop and fine-tune your customer service abilities.
You could also ask around – friends or family members might be aware of someone who runs a coffee shop and has a barista position vacant. Even if you’re moonlighting as a barista there, it helps you get a foot inside the door, and leveling yourself up thereon.
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5 Get a Hang of the Industry Jargon
To be a good barista, you will need to be able to understand and communicate with the other team members efficiently, so that the customers can be served great coffee in quickest manner. During apprenticeship, you may also need to take orders directly from the customers, and need to ably explain their preferences to the barista, which is why it is important for you to learn the industry jargon as quickly as possible.
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Here are some of the common terms one will come across while training as a barista:
- FOH & BOH – These refer to “Front-of-House” and “Back-of-House” respectively. While FOH pertains to the customer-side of business, BOH encompasses all the back-end processes like ingredients and method of preparation etc.
- Put On Bar – If you’ve been fortunate to be “put on bar”, you’ll be the concerned personnel in charge of making great-tasting cups of coffee.
- Open & Close – If your job description as a barista entails “open”, you’re responsible for arriving at the shop before the shop opens its doors to the customers. Similarly, “close” refers to your presence mandated for help with tidying and closing the shop once the customer service hours have ended.
- SF – stands for sugar-free, A us for almond milk, L is for latte and S is for skim.
6 Learn What Worked for Others
Talking to those more experienced than yourself and asking relevant questions would help you keep your knowledge base updated. Tracking down consumption patterns according to days and grinding beans in advance as per estimated demand data, devising ways to make the line faster and more efficient, taking customer feedback regarding the place and its offerings etc can strengthen your reputation as an expert barista.
Becoming a Pro Barista – Some Helpful Tips
The Power of Networking
Never underestimate the power of word of mouth and social media, no matter if you’re looking for a work opportunity or just want to hire a worthy apprentice. A study revealed that up to 85% positions are filled by candidates referred through networking.
Commit to Perfection
There are 4 factors that determine the consistency of pulling a shot:
- Origin and freshness of coffee beans.
- Adjusting grind time and coarseness so that the perfect shot can be pulled within 30 seconds once the machine is ready.
- Pre-adjusted water temperature to 194-200°F mark.
- Keeping the machinery setup clean, serviceable and updated.
Commit to Constant Learning
Coffee making is both an art and science, wherein the latter keeps evolving with time. There are newer developments and novel brewing methods each day, and hence a bona fide barista cannot ever afford to remain stagnant in terms of their knowledge and skill. Subscribing to coffee journals, magazines and research articles can help you remain up to date and in the loop.
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Becoming an Expert Barista – Conclusion
All in all, one can be a certified and experienced barista if they’re willing to invest the time to learn and commit to improving their skill through constant practice. If you are committed to cheering others with faultless cups of coffee and never pass an opportunity to level yourself up, your dreams of becoming an expert and sought-after barista are bound to come true.