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What is a Barista?

Also known as: Coffee Barista, Espresso Machine Operator, Coffee House Employee.

A barista is someone who is specially trained in preparing and serving espresso-based coffee drinks, usually for a coffeehouse or bar. Espresso is notorious for its finicky nature, and being able to make a quality espresso is truly a skilled task. Baristas are masters at coffee, having knowledge of different roast types, and are able to create different extractions according to their customers’ specifications. Baristas are also entertaining artists, some are able to create intricate designs of latte art using frothed milk.

What does a Barista do?

Good baristas are essential to the success of any coffeehouse or bar, as many customers will return for the great service and, most of all, a perfectly brewed coffee. Baristas usually operate commercial espresso machines by preparing and pulling shots. Preparing the shot refers to the grinding of the beans, and the dosage amount in the drink. Baristas are usually trained and notified of specific guidelines to follow depending on the drink. At times, more experienced baristas can even experiment with their own styles of preparation.

Depending on the machine, the whole process of preparing a drink may be fully automated or fully manual. The job typically involves a mixture of both. For example, a machine may be semi-automatic, meaning that pressure is applied automatically, though brew times are set manually. Other machines are fully automatic, where the barista only needs to load the beans and let the machine do the rest of the work.

Beyond just preparing the drink, baristas often assist customers in selecting beverages and bean types, and making suggestions. They may also hold general duties in the coffee shop or bar. These responsibilities include but are not limited to:

  • Memorizing drink choices and being able to explain them to customers when needed
  • Memorizing drink ingredients and specifications, as well as being able to make modifications according to customer requests
  • Creating latte art on drinks upon customer request
  • Operating different types of industrial coffee equipment, such as grinders or pressers, both automatic and manual
  • Occasionally training new employees on store operations, duties, as well as drink choices, ingredients, and specifications
  • Stocking refrigerators and other merchandise, such as other baked goods, drinks, or food
  • Taking drink orders and payment from customers, whether it is at a cash desk or through serving them
  • Interacting with and serving customers, whether it be taking a simple order or delivering the order itself
  • Wiping down countertops, tables and chairs periodically
  • Sweeping the floor, cleaning up spills and taking out the trash

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What is the workplace of a Barista like?

Baristas are found in common coffee shops and cafes such as Starbucks, Tim Horton's, Dunkin' Donuts, Seattle’s Best, etc. Sometimes hotels and country clubs will have a small coffee bar within their complex, and they will need someone to serve drinks there as well. They can also be found in smaller and more local coffee shops and may even choose to run their own coffee shop.

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