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How to Become a Barista

By Lace Brunsden

Published:

Welcome to the world of coffee artistry! If you’ve ever dreamed of becoming a skilled barista, the path to mastering the art of crafting the perfect cup of coffee starts here. In this article, we’ll walk you through the essential steps and barista skills needed to embark on your journey as a barista, from learning the basics to perfecting latte art.

So, grab your apron, and let’s brew up some knowledge!

Career Summary

How Much Do Baristas Make?

Baritsa Salary

The barista salary can vary a great deal. The largest factor that influences a barista salary is the location in which they work. So how much do baristas make? According to Glassdoor, the barista salary can be summarized as follows:

  • Entry Salary (US$33k)
  • Median Salary (US$41k)
  • Executive Salary (US$52k)

When comparing a barista’s salary to the average across the United States, we can see that it is relatively low. 

What is a Barista?

What is a barista? A barista is a coffee professional responsible for preparing and serving a variety of coffee beverages to customers. Your primary duties would include grinding coffee beans, brewing espresso, steaming and frothing milk, and creating a range of coffee drinks such as lattes, cappuccinos, and Americanos. 

Baristas also play a crucial role in maintaining coffee equipment, ensuring the quality of ingredients, and providing excellent customer service. Additionally, some skilled baristas are known for their artistic flair, creating intricate designs in the foam of espresso-based drinks, a practice known as “latte art.”

Barista Career Progression

  • Entry-Level Barista: You’ll be responsible for tasks such as grinding coffee beans, operating the espresso machine, and maintaining cleanliness in the cafe.
  • Experienced Barista: After gaining experience, you’ll perfect latte art, master advanced brewing techniques, and provide exceptional customer service.
  • Shift Supervisor: Here, you’ll oversee the daily operations of the cafe, including managing other baristas, handling customer service issues, and ensuring smooth workflow during your shifts.
  • Assistant Manager: The assistant manager assists the cafe manager in various aspects of running the coffee shop, such as inventory management, staff scheduling, and more.
  • Cafe Manager: Your duties will include budgeting, ordering supplies, hiring and training staff, creating marketing strategies, and ensuring the cafe’s success.
  • Master Barista or Coffee Sommelier: These experts have a profound understanding of coffee, its origins, and various brewing methods. They often work as consultants, judges in coffee competitions, or educators in the coffee industry.
Barista Career Progression

The Pros and Cons of Working as a Barista

Pros:

  • Creativity in Coffee Making
  • Developing Customer Service Skills
  • Engaging with Coffee Enthusiasts
  • Building a Sense of Coffee Community
  • Opportunities for Advancement in the Coffee Industry

Cons:

  • Physically Demanding Work
  • Irregular Hours, Including Early Mornings
  • Fast-Paced and Stressful Environment
  • Dealing with Difficult Customers
  • Limited Earning Potential, Especially at Entry Level

Useful Barista Skills

  • Espresso Machine Operation
  • Milk Frothing and Steaming
  • Coffee Grinding and Brewing
  • Latte Art
  • Customer Service and Communication

Popular Barista Specialties

  • Coffee Roasting
  • Coffee Training and Education
  • Cafe Management
  • Coffee Quality Control
  • Coffee Consulting and Advisory Services

How to Become a Barista

Barista 5 Steps to Career

Step 1: Education and Research 

You need to learn about coffee, its origins, and the basics of brewing by reading books or taking online courses.

Do I Need a Degree to Become a Barista?

No, you do not need a degree to become a barista. Barista positions are typically entry-level roles that emphasize hands-on experience, training, and skills. While a degree in a related field like hospitality or culinary arts could be beneficial, it is not a strict requirement. 

Many baristas start their careers with little to no formal education and gain the necessary barista skills and knowledge through on-the-job training, barista courses, and certifications. What matters most in this profession is your passion for coffee, dedication, and a willingness to learn and improve your barista skills.

Useful Web Resources for Aspiring Baristas

There are numerous web resources available to help you learn how to become a barista. These resources offer a range of tutorials, courses, videos, and articles to enhance your knowledge and expertise in the field.

Here are some valuable online resources:

  • Coffee Blogs: Many coffee enthusiasts and professionals share their knowledge and experiences through blogs. Explore websites like Perfect Daily Grind and Sprudge for insightful articles and guides.
  • Coffee Forums: Participate in coffee-related forums like CoffeeGeek or Home-Barista forums, where you can ask questions, share experiences, and learn from the coffee community.
  • Specialty Coffee Association (SCA): The SCA offers online courses and resources for baristas. These courses cover everything from brewing to green coffee. Visit their website for more information.
  • Barista Magazine: The online version of Barista Magazine provides articles, interviews, and industry insights, giving you a glimpse into the world of professional baristas.
  • Coffee Equipment Manufacturers: Companies that make coffee equipment often provide resources and video tutorials on how to use their machines and grinders effectively.
  • Books and eBooks: Look for books on coffee and barista skills, such as “The World Atlas of Coffee” by James Hoffmann or “Espresso Coffee: The Science of Quality” by Andrea Illy and Rinantonio Viani.
  • Coffee Courses and Workshops: Various coffee schools and training centers offer online courses and workshops in barista skills. For example, Boot Coffee provides online learning opportunities.

Step 2: Gain Basic Skills

Familiarize yourself with coffee equipment, such as espresso machines and grinders. Practice making coffee at home or seek entry-level positions in coffee shops.

What Skills Will I Learn as a Barista?

As a barista, you will develop a diverse skill set that extends beyond simply making coffee.

Here are some of the skills you can expect to learn:

  • Espresso Preparation: You’ll master the art of making a perfect shot of espresso, adjusting variables like grind size, dose, and extraction time.
  • Coffee Brewing: You’ll learn different brewing methods, such as pour-over, French press, and AeroPress, to produce a variety of coffee flavors.
  • Milk Steaming and Frothing: Creating silky microfoam for cappuccinos and lattes is a crucial skill for baristas.
  • Latte Art: Baristas often develop artistic skills, and create designs and patterns in the foam of espresso-based drinks.
  • Coffee Tasting: Known as “cupping,” this skill involves evaluating coffee for aroma, flavor, acidity, body, and balance.
  • Customer Service: You’ll hone your ability to provide exceptional customer service, handle customer inquiries, and ensure a positive experience for cafe patrons.
  • Coffee Equipment Maintenance: Understanding the operation, cleaning, and basic maintenance of coffee equipment, including espresso machines and grinders.
  • Menu Knowledge: You’ll become familiar with various coffee beverages, their ingredients, and how to prepare them according to customer preferences.
  • Time Management: In a fast-paced cafe environment, baristas must efficiently manage their time and prioritize tasks to serve customers promptly.
  • Communication: Effective communication is essential, whether it’s conveying customer orders to the team or explaining coffee options to patrons.
  • Problem-Solving: Baristas can encounter equipment malfunctions or handle challenging customer situations, requiring problem-solving skills.
  • Multi-Tasking: The ability to juggle multiple orders, brew multiple drinks, and maintain cleanliness simultaneously is crucial.
  • Teamwork: Working cohesively with fellow baristas and cafe staff is vital to ensure a smoothly operating coffee shop.
  • Quality Control: Baristas must maintain consistent quality in all beverages served and identify and rectify any issues.
  • Inventory Management: Some baristas may have responsibilities related to ordering and managing coffee and cafe supplies.

Step 3: Formal Training (Optional) 

Enroll in a barista training program, which can be offered by coffee schools or cafes, to refine your skills.

How Long Does it Take to Complete Formal Barista Training?

The duration of a barista training program can vary widely depending on the training provider, the level of training (basic or advanced), and the specific curriculum.

Here are some general guidelines:

  • Basic Barista Training: A basic barista training program, which covers the fundamental skills and knowledge required for a barista, typically lasts anywhere from a few hours to a few days. It can be relatively short and is often designed for beginners or entry-level baristas.
  • Comprehensive Barista Training: More comprehensive training programs that cover a wider range of skills, including advanced techniques, espresso machine maintenance, and latte art, may take one to two weeks to complete. These programs are suitable for those who want to become well-rounded baristas.
  • Apprenticeships: Some baristas choose to learn through on-the-job apprenticeships, which can last several months. This approach involves learning and practicing while working in a coffee shop under the guidance of experienced baristas.

Step 4: Certification (Optional) 

Consider obtaining certifications like the Specialty Coffee Association’s Barista Level 1 or Level 2 certifications to validate your expertise.

Is it Difficult to Obtain a Specialty Coffee Association’s Barista Level 1 or Level 2?

Obtaining the Specialty Coffee Association’s (SCA) Barista Level 1 or 2 certification can be challenging but is achievable with the right preparation and dedication. The difficulty may vary depending on your prior experience and the level of familiarity you have with coffee preparation. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Barista Level 1 (Foundation):

This certification is designed for those who are relatively new to coffee or want to start their journey in the coffee industry.

It covers fundamental knowledge and skills required for a barista, such as espresso preparation, milk frothing, and customer service. If you have some basic experience as a barista and study the SCA materials, passing the Level 1 certification should be attainable.

  • Barista Level 2 (Intermediate):

The Level 2 certification goes more in-depth and may be more challenging.

It requires a deeper understanding of coffee, including advanced brewing techniques and coffee knowledge.

To pass Level 2, you’ll need a solid foundation in coffee preparation and a comprehensive study of the SCA curriculum.

Step 5: Apply for Entry-Level Positions 

Look for job openings at coffee shops or cafes. Apply for barista positions that suit your skill level.

What Are Internship Opportunities for a Barista?

Internship opportunities for baristas are not as common as in some other professions, but they do exist, especially in specialty coffee shops and larger coffee chains. These internships can provide valuable hands-on experience and the chance to refine your barista skills. Here are some internship possibilities for baristas:

  • Coffee Roastery Internship: Many coffee roasteries offer internships where you can learn about the coffee roasting process, bean selection, and flavor profiling. This experience can deepen your understanding of coffee and its origins.
  • Coffee Farm Internship: In regions where coffee is grown, some farms offer internships to gain insight into coffee cultivation. This can be a unique opportunity to learn about the coffee supply chain from the source.
  • Coffee Equipment Company Internship: Companies that manufacture and distribute coffee equipment (espresso machines, grinders, etc.) may offer internships where you can gain expertise in equipment maintenance and repair.
  • Coffee Education and Training Programs: Organizations or coffee schools may provide internship opportunities to assist with training baristas, conducting workshops, or managing training facilities.
  • Coffee Shop or Cafe Internship: Some coffee shops or cafes, especially those in the specialty coffee sector, may offer internships that focus on advanced barista training, coffee menu development, and cafe management.
  • Barista Competitions and Events: You can intern or volunteer at coffee-related events, such as barista competitions, coffee festivals, or trade shows. This offers exposure to the wider coffee community and hands-on experience.

What’s the Career Outlook for Baristas?

The growth of the barista profession is estimated to be 2% between 2022 and 2032. This is considered to be about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Barista Popular Career Specialties

What are the Job Opportunities for a Barista?

A barista’s skill set is not limited to working in a coffee shop or cafe. There are various job opportunities available for baristas, both within the coffee industry and in related fields.

Here are some potential job opportunities for baristas:

  • Cafe Manager: Experienced baristas can advance to become cafe managers, responsible for overseeing daily operations, staff management, inventory control, and customer service.
  • Coffee Roaster: Coffee roasters select, roast, and blend coffee beans. Baristas with a deep knowledge of coffee can transition into this role.
  • Coffee Trainer/Educator: Skilled baristas can become trainers or educators, teaching others the art of coffee preparation and conducting workshops and courses.
  • Coffee Quality Control Specialist: This role involves assessing coffee quality, conducting tastings (cupping), and ensuring that coffee meets specific standards.
  • Coffee Consultant: Baristas with expertise in coffee preparation and cafe management can offer consulting services to cafes and businesses in the industry.
  • Freelance Barista: Some baristas offer their services on a freelance basis, working at events, catering, or offering mobile coffee services.
  • Coffee Blogger/Writer: If you have a passion for coffee and strong writing skills, you can become a coffee blogger, writer, or reviewer.
  • Barista Competitions and Judging: Baristas with exceptional skills can compete in barista competitions or become judges in coffee competitions.
  • Own a Coffee Business: Some baristas choose to start their coffee-related businesses, such as opening a coffee shop, mobile coffee cart, or coffee roastery.

What Type of Companies Hire a Barista

Baristas are primarily hired by coffee-related businesses, such as coffee shops and cafes, but their skills and experience can also be valuable in various other types of companies.

Here are some examples of the types of companies that may hire baristas:

  • Coffee Shops and Cafes: This is the most common and direct employment opportunity for baristas, where they prepare and serve coffee and other beverages to customers.
  • Chain Coffee Stores: National and international coffee chains like Starbucks, Dunkin’, and Peet’s Coffee hire baristas.
  • Restaurants: Many restaurants with a focus on quality coffee service hire baristas to prepare and serve espresso-based beverages.
  • Hotels: Larger hotels may have in-house cafes and coffee bars where baristas are employed to provide guests with coffee services.
  • Catering Companies: Baristas can be part of catering teams for events, weddings, and corporate functions, serving coffee to attendees.
  • Coffee Roasteries: Coffee roasteries hire baristas for their expertise in brewing and for providing coffee tastings to customers.
  • Coffee Equipment Manufacturers: Companies that design, manufacture, and sell coffee equipment often employ baristas for roles related to product demonstrations and training.
  • Coffee Sales and Distribution: Businesses involved in the distribution and sales of coffee beans and products hire baristas for sales and customer engagement.
  • Event Venues: Stadiums, arenas, and event venues often have coffee concessions that employ baristas during events.

What is the Work-Life Balance of a Barista?

The work-life balance of a barista can vary significantly depending on factors such as the type of coffee shop, its location, and the specific role within the coffee industry.

Here are some key points to consider:

  • Cafe Type: In larger chain coffee shops, baristas may have more structured and consistent schedules, which can lead to a more predictable work-life balance. Independent or specialty coffee shops may offer more flexibility but could also entail irregular hours.
  • Shift Work: Baristas often work in shifts, which can include early mornings, evenings, weekends, and holidays. This can impact work-life balance, especially if you have commitments during traditional off-hours.
  • Part-Time vs. Full-Time: Some baristas work part-time, which can provide more flexibility for pursuing other interests, while full-time baristas might have a more stable income but potentially less time for other activities.
  • Seasonal Variations: Work-life balance can be influenced by seasonal fluctuations in the coffee industry. For example, cafes may be busier during holidays or specific events.

Should I Become a Barista?

As we conclude our exploration of the world of becoming a barista, you might still be pondering the question, “Should I become a barista?” The answer ultimately depends on your passions, goals, and what you seek in a career.

If you have a deep love for coffee, enjoy the artistry of brewing, and thrive in fast-paced environments where each cup is a canvas, then a career as a barista may be a perfect fit. The coffee industry offers a dynamic landscape, opportunities for creative expression, and room for advancement, allowing you to grow both personally and professionally.

However, it’s important to recognize the challenges as well, including irregular hours, physically demanding work, and the need to handle demanding customers. You may also want to consider your long-term career goals and whether you aspire to stay within the coffee industry or use your barista skills as a stepping stone to other roles.

Ultimately, becoming a barista can be an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling journey for those who are passionate about the craft. If you’re ready to embrace the aromatic world of coffee, serve up delightful experiences, and immerse yourself in a vibrant community of coffee enthusiasts, then the path to becoming a barista could be your next adventure in life. So, should you become a barista? Follow your heart, let your love for coffee guide you, and savor every moment in this unique and flavorful profession.

Careers Related to Barista


Lace Brunsden

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