Finding work as a barista has become increasingly common as America’s national passion for coffee has boomed in recent decades. Crucially, more and more Americans are choosing to buy their cup of coffee whilst out and about, meaning the share of home-brewed products has diminished as a whole.
Not surprisingly then, the industry has birthed an exponentially increasing demand for trained baristas. This development has not been welcomed by all, with some experienced baristas hitting out at the perceived ‘lowering of the bar’ in terms of standards within the profession.
Indeed, many have come to perceive work as a barista as a temporary vocation, rather than the pursuit of mastering the technique required to create great beverages. But the truth is rather more nuanced — in the UK, for instance, 1,700 people applied for just 8 open barista positions at a popular high-street chain.
Although salaries are modest in most of the leading coffee houses, generous tips and the perception of job security in a booming industry generate substantial interest among those looking for both short and long-term opportunities.
The chance to work with a drink we love and cherish while putting a smile on the faces of satisfied customers are other benefits often cited by budding baristas across the world.
After all, if you adore coffee what can be better than mastering the art of its creation while building a career that can lead to well paid managerial positions. Those who are committed and determined enough to develop their expertise at a high-level can also supplement their earnings by training other baristas to hone their craft.
Our Key Pieces of Advice
#1 Mastering a Craft Takes Patience and Time
Sure — some individuals make their way into the barista trade as a stop gap or as a means of earning some extra income while studying or training towards a separate career.
The availability of jobs has made this option increasingly plausible for young people across the nation. However, it would be short-sighted to claim that the art of quality coffee-making can be distilled into a rapid stint of training and on-the-job practice.
The most accomplished baristas approach their occupation as an opportunity for continuous learning and development. Some embark on stints working abroad in countries like Italy, which places a particularly high emphasis on fine coffee.
Barista work is proactive, interesting, and skilled, and many in this profession find satisfying lifelong work. Indeed, the more you hone your skills, the greater your desirability to top employers in high-end coffee establishments across the world.
#2 Start Your Repertoire With The Fundamentals
It’s tempting to dive right in at the deep end with intricate coffee art and milk texturing, but you’ll always be better off mastering the basics first. This principle is perhaps best known in the culinary world, where chefs are famously first appraised according to their ability to produce a quality omelet.
The best starting point will always be fundamental techniques and popular classic preparations of our favorite drink. Here’s a useful list of foundational areas in coffee-making for you to build your skill set around:
- How to operate commercial espresso machines
- How to correctly use a grinder
- The ability to identify markers of bean quality
- Avoiding common beginner mistakes
- Hand brewing techniques
Baristas at high street chains often find their occupation reduced to ‘button-pushing’ that strips much of the art and understanding away from traditional coffee-making skills. But if you have aspirations of pushing your understanding further then you’ll find great help from free resources on YouTube.
#3 Don’t neglect the importance of customer experience
Baristas that can turn the customer’s enjoyment of coffee from a routine event into a truly memorable experience are the ones that stand apart from their peers.
Sociability is one element of this, but being extroverted is not an essential element of charisma when operating from behind the bar. Rather, deep-felt passion for your craft has a special and contagious quality.
If you are able to build an experience for the customer then they will feel as though they are sampling something truly special — a one of a kind work of art that was created solely for their momentary pleasure.
Unlike the previous two pointers, this one requires some individual flair and is not premised as entirely on honing your technical skills. Nevertheless, practice breeds confidence and spending time around enthusiastic baristas committed to their work helps you to absorb some of the qualities that turn a technically skilled barista into an artisan coffeemaker that brings the customer into a new realm of experiential consumption.
There is a steep learning curve in every profession but one key factor that distinguishes those who drop out from those that stay the course is a desire to keep on improving.
It is okay to become a barista to make ends meet while you pursue another goal. Many have chosen this path and enjoy their work without developing a thirst to take it further.
But for some, coffee instills a lifelong passion to master the craft at a higher and higher level. You will find this process of learning and growing as a barista easier if you have tapped into a desire to become an expert in all things coffee.
The ‘secret sauce’ on top of technical skill is the ability to bring the customer into your world and to make them feel part of something special. Gaining experience and practice alongside skilled baristas will always be the best way to unlock your own potential too.