October 14, 2016

Coffee Skills: The Daily Routines of a Specialty Barista


Want to be the best barista you can be? A few weeks ago I wrote about the need to find your passion, to further your education, and to practise your skills. But while these are all traits of an excellent barista, there are also small actions we can take every single day to serve better specialty coffee.

Together with Capetonian barista Arno Q Els, I came up with four things that will make the difference on a daily basis.

SEE ALSO: 5 Things Nobody Tells You About Being a High-Volume Barista

Dose, tamp and extract – perfection! Credit: Campbell Robert Colledge

1. Preparation

Specialty coffee demands more of you than standard coffee – and so do your customers! You’ll need to be prepared to meet these high expectations. Make sure your espresso machine is set up before you open, and all your brew methods are ready to go. Keep extra cups packed on top of the espresso machine and have spare pour-over filters to hand. It’s the extra efficiency here that will allow you  to make truly specialty coffee.
Barista at coffee grinder and espresso machine

Preparation, preparation, preparation. Credit: saiv_chow via Andy Anderson

2. Coffee Equipment Maintenance

Speaking of being prepared, that extends to your equipment. Daily maintenance procedures should be performed to a consistently high quality. Our customers deserve the best – and we can’t deliver that if our espresso machine needs cleaning or our grinder’s burrs need replacing.

It’s easy to get so caught up in extraction, recipe creation, and latte art that we forget these more “boring”, technical aspects – but they have just as big an impact when we’re trying to produce the perfect cup.
Steam espresso machine

Look after your coffee equipment. Credit: Adnan Liansyah via Andy Anderson

3. Recipe Customisation

As specialty baristas, we have the privilege of working with some of the most beautiful coffees in the world. And not one of them is the same. How do we get the best out of each coffee? With patience, experience, and a lot of experimentation.

We work with single origins and blends. We brew coffees from different origins processed in different ways. We use espresso machines, AeroPresses, pourovers, and syphons. And as a result, the variables and parameters change constantly. The perfect recipe for each coffee is an exciting challenge – and as we keep playing, experimenting, and thinking with an open mind, we’ll produce even better coffee. (Just make sure you drink the experiments, not your customers!)

Arno Q Els barista making coffee

Arno focuses on the perfect coffee. Credit: Campbell Robert Colledge

4. Commitment

We need to be committed to our coffee but even more so to our customers. And we need to be committed not just every day but with every drink. Because that is ultimately why we spend our time serving customers: it’s this passion that makes us a barista rather than a coffee lover. What’s more, Oor growth as a coffee professional goes hand in hand with our service delivery.

So get to know your customers and what they enjoy about coffee. You’ll quickly figure out who is keen to hear your recommendations for new coffees – and who just wants a flat white. And then make that your recommendations, and your drinks, are made and served to the best of your abilities. Because our journey to find the “perfect cup” has the potential to be an adventure for your customers too.
Barista using a coffee syphon

Commit to the search for the perfect cup. Credit: Strada Coffee via Andy Anderson

We all want to be the best barista we can be. And this means dedicating ourselves over the long term to coffee education, practising our skills, and more. But it also means giving it our all every day. Let’s be prepared, let’s look after our equipment, and let’s be meticulous in our commitment to serving the most delicious cup of coffee possible to our customers. Love what you do and keep making coffee!

Feature photo credit: Green Door via Andy Anderson.

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