May 22, 2019

A Barista’s Guide to a Successful Work Shift


Are you a new barista unsure of how to manage your shift? Or an experienced barista who sometimes finds things getting disorganised behind the bar? We all have room for improvement in our work habits and the potential to make our set-up more efficient.

A bit of planning will allow you perform at your best level. Read on for some tips I’ve learned as a barista trainer at Red Band Barista Academy, a South African youth training initiative.

Lee este artículo en español Guía Para Baristas: ¿Cómo Tener Éxito en tu Turno de Trabajo?

Barista working a shift in a coffee shop

A barista behind the counter. Credit: Louis Hansel

Approach The Day With The Right Attitude

Whether you’re working the morning rush or burning the midnight oil, come to work with the right outlook. Your attitude is what makes the difference between a good barista and a great one. Customers will recognise an enthusiastic and positive vibe and appreciate the good service that comes with it.

If you’re finding yourself without enthusiasm, consider what you can change. Are you tired because your regular shift is at an inconvenient time? See if you can change shifts with someone else. Are you growing bored or feeling limited in your role? Look into professional development or talk to your manager about taking on more responsibility.

Approach each day as an opportunity to practise your skills and learn new ones. Be open to teaching and learning from your coworkers, so that you never stop growing as a barista.

You may also like Barista Blues: Why Are You Sick of Your Job & What Can You Do?

Portafilter full of ground coffee at work station

A barista holding a portafilter with coffee. Credit: Şahin Yeşilyaprak

Set Up Your Station For Success

Your duties will vary depending on whether you’re opening your coffee shop or on the closing shift, but it’s important to organise your space well regardless.

No-one should be scrambling to find milk or tools to prepare a drink while there’s a customer waiting. So make sure to keep fridges stocked, have beans on-hand, and clean and organise tools as you go. By making this your standard way of working, you can help the efficiency of the whole team. Consider creating a checklist for each shift to keep you organised and help avoid running out of items.

Your dial in is another important part of setting up for success. Dialing in your coffee properly will mean you can be confident you’re serving a delicious cup to every customer. Check your grind and measurements including yield, and don’t forget to sample your coffee. Perform these checks throughout the day to ensure everything is consistent and you’re serving the best coffee you can.

Learn more in Dialing In The Dollars: Tips For Serving a High-Value Coffee

Barista working a shift in a coffee shop

A barista in Bandung, Indonesia makes a drink. Credit: aliyahya979

Know Your Coffee & Your Equipment

It may seem obvious, but make sure you really know what you’re serving. What beans are currently available in your coffee shop and how well can you explain their profile? Have you actually tasted everything you’re serving?

You should be able to confidently explain different coffees and brewing methods to customers and also know them well enough to recognise when something is off and you need to dial in again. So when you start your shift, make sure to familiarise yourself with any new drinks or beans on offer.

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Barista holding a cup of coffee. Credit: Şahin Yeşilyaprak

Part of preparing good coffee is using the right equipment and tools. Maintain your grinders, clean brewing equipment regularly, and make sure your water filters are replaced as needed. All of these things (and many other small factors) impact the quality of the coffee. If your cafe doesn’t have a regular cleaning and maintenance schedule, suggest one to your manager.

Make sure you know how to use all of your tools and have them within reach. When I train new baristas, I explain what each tool is used for and its importance. If you’re not sure what something is or how to use it, don’t be afraid to ask a more experienced barista or manager.

These are the tools that should be available at every coffee station:

  • Tamper and tamper mat
  • Distribution tool
  • Milk texturing jugs (different sizes and different jugs for plant based milks)
  • Espresso shot glasses
  • Thermometer
  • Digital shot timer
  • Digital scales
  • Knock box
  • Blind filter
  • Espresso machine cleaning agent
  • Cleaning brushes for group head and grinder
  • Cleaning cloths

Look after your tools, replace them as needed, and treat them with respect.

Learn more in How to Serve Consistently Good Coffee in a Café

Tamping coffee. Credit: Daniel Norris

Go to work with a good attitude, set up your workspace in an organised fashion, and stay informed on what you’re serving. These tips will prepare you for a great shift, but the rest is up to you. Remember that you’re a barista because of your love of coffee, and don’t lose sight of what motivates you.

Enjoyed this? You may also like Five Things You May Be Doing Wrong As a New Barista

Feature image: A barista ready to make an espresso. Feature image credit: Paul Mordheweyk.

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