What is a Barista? What do Baristas do?

what is a barista?

In this article, I will summarize who the barista is, what tools they use and how, and what makes you successful in this profession!

You’ve probably heard the term “barista” before. But who are they? If I work behind the counter and make coffee, am I already considered a barista? What knowledge is required for someone to complete a barista course successfully? In this article, I will strive to provide detailed answers to all these questions!

Meaning of Barista: Who Qualifies as a Barista?

Am I considered a barista if I work in a café and prepare coffee? Or is there an exam involved? When do I become one? Who certifies that exam?

The term “barista” refers to a bartender, server, or pourer, but nowadays, it encompasses a much more complex profession.

Just as a sommelier is knowledgeable about wines and a mixologist about cocktails, a barista needs to know everything about coffee and its perfect preparation.

Working in a bar where coffee is prepared doesn’t automatically make someone a barista.

To be a certified barista in the US, you must complete a training program focusing on brewing techniques, coffee preparation, and espresso. While there’s no national certification, many respected organizations offer recognized programs. 

These programs cover a range of topics, including:

  • Espresso Basics: Learning about espresso extraction, grind size, dosing, tamping, and shot timing.
  • Milk Steaming and Latte Art: Mastering the techniques of steaming milk to create microfoam for latte art designs.
  • Understanding the origins of different coffee beans, their flavor profiles, and the importance of sourcing.
  • Exploring brewing methods like V60 pour-over, French press, AeroPress, and more.
  • Coffee Tasting: Developing a palate to identify flavor notes, acidity, body, and balance in different coffees.
  • Customer Service: Learning to provide excellent customer service and create a positive café experience.
  • Hygiene and Equipment Maintenance: Understanding the importance of cleanliness, equipment maintenance, and safety in the workspace.
  • Café Operations: Gaining insights into the day-to-day operations of a café, from managing inventory to interacting with customers.

Barista vs. Bartender: What’s the Difference?

We already have a reasonably good idea of what a barista does, or we’ll elaborate on it more soon, but how does a bartender differ?

Like a barista, a bartender is equally passionate, but their focus is not on coffee but on cocktails and everything related to alcohol.

A performance often accompanies their work behind the bar; they create drinks in various extravagant ways, which can be visually appealing.

The key point is that the two professions shouldn’t be confused – though, of course, there are individuals who are professionals in both.

what do baristas do? they make coffee, froth milk, take orders, etc.

What do Baristas Do?

Let’s delve into the tasks. A good barista:

  • Knows everything about coffee, 
  • is familiar with the tools down to the last screw.
  • Understand the calibration of grinders and coffee machines.
  • Can use various coffee makers (machines and alternative brewing techniques, too)
  • Invents new drinks.
  • Takes orders, serves customers, and handles the cash register if necessary.
  • Has a passion for coffee and everything related to the profession.

Based on this, the barista’s responsibilities are clear: preparing and testing coffee. Those truly dedicated to the profession can also educate consumers about the coffee they’re drinking, what they need to know about it, and how to detect flavor notes.

They explain the differences between Arabica and Robusta or how to use a Moka Pot.

Baristas encourage coffee lovers to prepare their drinks at home in a high-quality manner.

Challenges of the Barista Job

The greatest challenge of the barista job is the hospitality itself. Long, tiring shifts, including weekends.

This profession might not suit you if you don’t enjoy the fast-paced environment. You need to constantly improve yourself, especially now that this profession is becoming increasingly recognized due to the spread of the third-wave coffee movement.

Expectations from employers are growing, but fortunately, this is compensated in terms of salary.

A barista doesn’t just make milk-based drinks and create latte art in fancy cups. Alongside the numerous exciting types of coffee, it’s equally important to master the preparation of a traditional Italian espresso.

Behind the counter, the world of coffee opens up, and for those who live and breathe coffee, there will always be something new to discover in their work!

Where do Baristas work?

Baristas work in a variety of settings where coffee is served and prepared. Here are some common places where you can find baristas:

  • Cafés and Coffee Shops
  • Restaurants
  • Specialty Coffee Shops
  • Catering Companies
  • Hotel Cafés
  • Airport Lounges
  • Food Trucks and Mobile Coffee Carts
  • Artisanal Bakeries
  • Event Venues
  • Educational Institutions

Barista Recipes

When necessary, a barista needs to come up with new drinks. By this, I mean that they must not only know how to make espresso with a high-pressure machine. Baristas should also be familiar with brewing a good pour-over coffee or creating a captivating new recipe to capture the interest of coffee enthusiasts.

Some are mixologists and baristas simultaneously: they can create various alcoholic coffee specialties called “Coffee is Good Spirits” drinks. A rum cocktail can also include coffee!

You don’t have to think of extravagant things, but a good barista needs to be creative. There are many variables within the preparation methods, and exciting recipes can be concocted with a little twist.

Barista Tools, Home Barista Essentials

Many tools are required for this profession, and it would be nearly impossible to list them all. Most of the tools, however, are manual – a barista doesn’t work with capsule coffee machines – so the quality of the coffee often depends on the baristas themselves.

This profession demands precision, patience, creativity, and dedication. And since it’s part of the hospitality industry, you must understand exactly what that entails.

To become a “home barista,” it’s highly recommended to undergo barista training, read a few books, and practice a lot. There are plenty of tools available to achieve café-quality coffee at home without having to spend hundreds of thousands of forints.

At home, I usually recommend alternative brewing tools (V60, Aeropress, French Press). The essential requirements for making a good espresso are a high-quality coffee machine and grinder, which can’t be obtained cheaply.

The French Press is perfect for frothing milk, so it could be a good choice if you’re practicing latte art!

One of the most essential components for making great coffee is water! The finished drink is mostly water, so we must use properly filtered water to achieve the desired quality.

Aside from water, the other crucial element is the coffee itself: preferably a tasty specialty coffee, freshly ground, with the appropriate particle size for your equipment.

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