There are many great ways to be a barista. From jumping right in and working at a big chain coffee shop like Starbucks or starting at an independent coffeehouse,
There is no “right way” to become a barista as each way is justified in its own right. To be sure the “coffee industry” is a huge global field that employees millions of people around the world – from the farmers, to the processers, shippers, traders, green coffee buyers, coffee roasters, retailers, and baristas.
The most common connection that many of us have with the coffee world is your local barista. The final ending point where the local supply chain of coffee finally meets the customer is the barista – and as you can imagine it is an important connection. After all, where would the coffee industry be without the customer? So, as you can imagine that a great entry point into the coffee industry is to become a barista.
How Do You Become a Barista?
The truth is that a barista that you see at your local coffee shop and elsewhere all arrive in to be in that position from a number of different ways. Some have a background in coffee, some have a work experience in customer service, some have been hostesses or have waited on tables, and some had absolutely no coffee experience before they landed their job as a barista. But if you are wondering whether you need any barista certification or “official” training to become a barista, the answer is no. Not at all (we’ll cover this more later). But you do need to know the basics of coffee and espresso, serving coffee, pouring coffee, and maintaining your espresso machine (That is where we come in!).
We’ve spoken to a number of coffee shop owners and managers about the very issue of becoming certified and whether or not it is necessary to get a job as a barista. We’ve heard a variety of answers that all flowed into one cohesive answer: While you need training, you don’t need to be certified. That’s because a barista is not say, a nurse, massage therapist, or lawyer, but rather cook.
In fact, that’s a good way to look at the whole prospect of training as a barista – from a cook to chef perspective: You don’t need to be a certified chef to work in a kitchen. In fact, there are very many famous chefs that taught themselves by trial and error – and lots and lots of practice.
Now, is it good to be formally trained and to learn the distinguishing tricks of the trade by seasoned chefs?
Is it good to get barista training in through available resources so that you know the basics? Yes!
Likewise, you don’t need to have official training as a barista – or go through official school like say a hair stylist because it is not required by law.
However, most certainly having a “barista certification” under your belt and on your resume certainly shows that you are capable of working the coffee bar, understand the basics of pouring and delivery a number of espresso-based coffee drinks, and can handle the basics of an espresso machine. In other words, it demonstrates passion for coffee and serving coffee. Therefore, as barista job applicant, you will certainly stand out in the interview process.
So, what’s so important about having a barista certification?
A barista certification is a great way to show that you are able to create great espresso shots and turn them into great coffee drinks that people will love! Certainly, the added training can help you to better dial the espresso machine to for the perfect espresso. However, with that said, being certified is not required – but rather demonstrates your ability to make espresso.
With that being a said, when a coffee shop owner or manager has to decide between two “equal” individuals who happens to be applying for one job opening – who do you think they rather choose?
So, What Really Makes a Great Barista?
Passion! Passion! Passion! Passion is what makes a great barista. Paradoxically, coffee is an extremely complex drink (with over 1000 flavonoids) but it can also be very simple to brew. The ability to dance between the appreciation of its complexity and the simplicity it can offer and that your customers want – and learn from both – is what makes a great barista. But what does that mean exactly and how do you display that passion exactly?
This is a great question, which we intend to answer. After all, having passion for anything in any particular field is useful. But what does that mean when we are talking about being a barista?
What does having the passion for coffee look like?
To be sure there is no right way to demonstrate your passion for coffee. However, we consider the following as a demonstration of having a passion for coffee:
The willingness to learn about coffee is an excellent characteristic, what we like to call a positive symptom of your passion. There is so much to learn about coffee – the various types of beans, the various processes, the farming practices, the roasting practices, the tasting and blending, the brewing practices and techniques, and the serving of coffee to customers. You can delve into each of these fields (and a dozen others) with so much passion and spend a lifetime of learning, perfecting, and sharing. So, it is with this mantra of learning, perfecting, and sharing that we offer 12 Great Ways to be a barista.
Great Ways to Be a Barista
*Remember: There is no “right way” to become a barista. Every avenue can be taken to become the barista you would like to be.
- Take Our Barista Training Course – Getting barista training from our barista training course can help you develop your skill and demonstrate that you have had barista training. While being certified is not a requirement for employment it makes you stand out in a field of good barista job candidates.
- Attend Coffee Tastings (Coffee Cuppings) – If you are fortunate to have several independent coffeehouses and roasters in your area, consider inquiring about their public “coffee cuppings”. This is where they publically taste the coffee they’ve roasted or have recently bought – and discuss the taste, flavor, aroma, and other elements of coffee. Attending coffee cuppings is a great way to meet new people and people who are involved in coffee in your area.
- Attend Coffee Events – There are several coffee events that occur every year – from SCAA’s Annual Coffee Event to Coffee Fests to local coffee conventions can be fun, provide a learning environment, and allow you to meet many regional people in the coffee world.
- Apply to Starbucks? – Why not? Chances are that there is a local Starbucks close to you. Starbucks, believe it or not, is a great place to start being a barista – they offer training to people have never had experience before, offer you a pathway to learning more about coffee with their consistent training, and customer service. If you can apply to a “big coffee” chain because a job may be available, then you should! Depending on what city you live in, getting a job at an independent coffee shop might not be an option because the jobs have already been filled. We encourage you to get your barista experience anyway you can!
- Start a Coffee Blog – Starting a coffee blog can be fun, but it can also help you articulate your observations about coffee, nearby coffeehouses, and related topics. A coffee blog can help develop your expertise in the coffee field in your area.
- Roast Your Own Coffee – Roasting your own green coffee beans can be fun and provide you with an excellent learning experience. Being an amateur home roaster can allow you to experiment with developing profiles that you like.
- Spend Time at Coffeehouses – Whether you need to get homework done, complete a work assignment, or simply meet friends – spending time at the coffee shop you would like to be employed at makes sense. Get to know people there – other baristas, managers, owners, etc.
- Visit Coffee Farms – if you like traveling and have the money to do so, consider any upcoming trips to coffee growing regions a great excuse to visit a coffee plantation. Many coffee farms offer a coffee tasting room and tour. We’ve been to coffee tastings in Central America, but you can also visit Hawaii – which is currently the only place in the United States that grows coffee.
- Experiment with Home Brewing – making good coffee at home can, over time be more cost-effective than going to a café or coffeehouse every time you want a cup. Consider a variety of low-tech ways of home brewing, such as using a Chemex, AreoPress, and Sowden Soft Brew.
- Be a Waiter/Waitress – Working as a waiter or waitress can expose you to working directly with customers, getting orders, and delivery excellent customer service. This can provide you with experience that some coffee shop owners might want from a barista. In addition, if your restaurant serves gourmet coffee, why not learn how to work an espresso machine with them?
- Be Sociable! Baristas often need to talk to customers and their fellow co-workers. Developing a positive attitude that is passionate about coffee – all wrapped in the ability to get along with anyone is a valuable asset.
- Just Do it! Being a barista means simply just doing it! Apply to your local coffee shop regardless of your experience. Some coffee shop managers actually like people to have no experience in pulling espresso shots because sometimes unlearning bad habits can be harder than starting with a clean slate.
At each of these points, you can find opportunities to learn, perfect, and share. That is the job of a barista. By finding ways to improve your skills, you will be already halfway to being an excellent barista!
For more information on barista training, visit our barista training blog.