A Day in the Life of a Professional Barista
Barista. The very word conjures up images of caffeine artisans creating beautiful espresso drinks in small cafes in Italy. And well it should, since for generations Italy was the home of the “espresso bartender,” who tended to be a male, mentored and trained by other baristas to be a certified barista and held in as high esteem as the sommelier. But thanks to increasing global travel and the growth of big coffee chains, our seemingly endless love affair with coffee culture has seen the rise of the North American barista.
That’s good news for job seekers who are serious about espresso artistry. Many serious baristas even create signature drinks and go on to compete at regional and national barista championships. But for job seekers interested in becoming baristas, there are other options, too, such as working in restaurants and bistros, college libraries, local cafes and hotels.
A day in the life
Being a barista takes a lot more than pushing buttons on a machine or pulling espresso shots, if you want to make a career of it.
For most baristas, the day starts early. The equipment needs to run perfectly before the first customer orders. You end up throwing out your first few espressos, until after the espresso machine has been properly cleaned and “coated”. You need to ensure you’ve got all your supplies on hand: the right coffee, the right grind, the appropriate cups and saucers, and of course knowledge of how to create different espresso drinks. But the most successful career baristas must be passionate about quality and customer service. From the first latte or cappuccino poured in the morning, a full shift for a career barista can last until the evening hours. The days are fast-paced, but there’s great satisfaction in pouring the best espressos for your regulars.
Learning from the best
Being a barista is both an art and a science. As with food recipes, anyone can cook; not everyone can be a chef. Take courses, do research, apprentice with professionals, practice at every opportunity. Always make an effort to stay informed about trends and industry insights.
And, finding a great teacher or mentor always helps to build a great career path. Professional, experienced baristas teach both the science and art of espresso making – everything from machine maintenance, grind differences, bean knowledge and water temperature to the creation of award-winning latte art.
While learning one-on-one with a professional barista is still the acknowledged path for job seekers serious about their espresso, there are now courses offered by coffee academies that are helping to popularize the field.