What You Need to Know To Be a Barista

how to be a barista

how to be a barista


What You Need to Know To Be a Barista

(1 in an occasional series)

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Becoming a Barista: Brewing Excellent Coffee

There are several ways that coffee shops and coffee businesses brew coffee. Depending on which coffee shop you’ll work at, you will get more experience in a few of them in particular. Each brewing method extracts coffee a little differently but usually has the same principle (which we will be talking a little more about later).

Making coffee in a coffee shop usually means you will be working with an espresso machine.

Espresso is a method of extracting coffee. So, let’s talk about extraction since you will need to know this as a barista.

What is extraction?

Extraction is everything hot water takes from coffee.

As a barista, we want three different things from extraction:

  • We want a balanced extraction
  • We want an even extraction
  • We want a consistent extraction

What do extraction elements these mean?               

When we are talking about espresso that is balanced, we refer to a beverage that isn’t sour or overly bitter. This often results in a sweet and ideal profile that of course, has a desirable strength to it.

Let’s consider the whole shot of espresso as there are actual phases within the espresso that dictates taste and how it feels against your palate.

An espresso shot takes about 27-31 seconds to complete using an espresso machine.

A full shot of espresso: The flavors, taste and consistency differs depending on where along that extraction period we find ourselves.

Let us consider the first part of a full espresso shot. The first half of the shot is often sour as it contains the acidic compounds. In an under extracted shot, you will find a more sour taste.

As the water first starts extracting the coffee, the more soluble compounds get released first. These first solubles contain most of the caffeine within the shot.

The next or second part of the espresso shot, we find that more water is required to extract the remaining coffee. This extra water dilutes the espresso shot. Bitter tasting compounds and sugars are released in the second half of the espresso shot. These compounds work to counteract the acids that are quickly dissolved in the first half of the shot.

So, a balanced extraction requires both parts of the shot to be ideal.


It should be noted that an excellent tasting shot of espresso is often noted of having “sweet” tastes. Interestingly, there aren’t that many sugars in coffee. No doubt, the idea of sweetness is often confusing when it comes to describing coffee. Brewed coffee has rather a minuscule amount of natural sugar and yet the complexity of sugars and the caramelization of the beans creates a perception of sweetness. Still, sweetness – or the perception of sweetness – always makes for a great-tasting cup of coffee.

When we extract coffee via the espresso method (or any method), we want to take the entirety of the desired flavor offered by the coffee dose of the espresso.  A dose is the actual coffee in the portafilter.

In our next blog post, we consider the variables of extraction.

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