When you’re a barista, you’re often the first face that people see in the morning. You’re the one that gives them that much needed energy boost in the form of their cup of coffee.
You’re seen countless first dates play out before your very eyes, the good ones and the not so good ones.
You’ve seen reunions, business deals, arguments and God knows how many other crazy things that have played out on the floor of your workplace.
And you’ve probably been the target of a lot of pent-up frustration and anger. Some people just can’t help but take out their problems on those that serve them.
Well that’s never pleasant, there’s no doubt that being a barista is an interesting job at the very least. You’ve got one of the most varied clienteles of any job out there.
So why not make it easier for yourself? If you’re an expert at it, then the amount of people who are rude or unappreciative will go down significantly.
There will still be some, that’s unfortunately unavoidable, but you do the best job you can do and people will recognize your effort.
So here’s five tips that will help you become a better barista:
1. Clean While You Work
Coffee is awesome, but it’s also extremely messy. Those beans get everywhere, foam gets everywhere and stuff is always getting spilled.
In most coffee places, the customer can see everything that’s going on behind the counter. The place is designed so that people can see their coffee being put together.
Do you think they’re going to come back if they can see that the place is filthy? We don’t want to put anything into our body that has been prepared unhygienically.
Because you have a constant stream of customers coming in, most of them don’t see the cause of the mess, they just see the mess itself.
If you don’t clean for like an hour straight, then someone is going to come in an just assume that the workstation is always dirty.
The mess will build up unless you deal with it as it’s happening. Build cleaning up into your routine.
It might feel like it will just slow down your customer service, but the more you do it the more efficient at it you will get.
Eventually cleaning as you go will become second nature to you, and then your coffee shop will always be spotless.
2. Drink a Ton of Coffee
This is a tip that I think most baristas are not going to complain about seeing on the list here, because coffee is awesome.
Not everyone who walks into your shop is going to know exactly what they want. A lot of people have their specific order, but there’s always the newbies.
If someone asks you to give them a recommendation or ask you a question about how a certain blend tastes, you don’t want to give them a blank stare.
They expect a coffee expert when they go in there. You’re the one providing the service so you should know all about it.
If you drink a lot of coffee yourself then you’ll never be at a loss for words when people ask you about the product.
You should try every new product that comes into stock and you should also be trying different blends at home by yourself.
That way you can even bring suggestions for new products into the shop yourself. It would be good to look out for new exciting flavours.
Here’s a guide from Homegrounds about the best coffee subscriptions that are available to you right now.
Try some of these and you can give yourself a wider knowledge of what tastes great and what people might enjoy.
3. Store the Beans Correctly
No matter how high quality the beans are, or how good you are at your job, if the beans aren’t stored correctly then the end result won’t be up to scratch.
I get that this might not necessarily be your decision if you are not in a managerial position in the shop you work in, but if the coffee is being stored wrong you should bring it up.
Oxidation is detrimental to the beans and how they taste after they’ve been brewed, and this of course happens when your beans are exposed to oxygen.
What happens is that the oxygen will increase the amount of electrons in the makeup of the coffee and a new compound will be formed that has a higher hydrogen count.
This will increase the amount of water in the bean which will essentially liquify it and water down the taste.
So you have to store it in something airtight. Putting beans in the fridge or the freezer is no use whatsoever.
Store it in air tight, ziploc bags and stick them in the cupboard. This is the best way to maintain the taste and prevent a bad brew.
4. Don’t Use Boiling Water
Coffee actually reacts better to water that isn’t completely boiling. Most people making it at home will just let their kettle boil the water and make their coffee with that.
What they don’t realize is that they are actually sacrificing a lot of the flavour by taking this route.
You wouldn’t aim to burn anything that you’re going to eat because you are altering the taste. Charred things will taste charred.
The same principle applies to coffee. Of course, it still needs to be very hot, so I’m not suggesting that you only half boil the water or anything.
But what you should do is once it’s reached its boiling point, let it sit and cool down for about thirty seconds.
You’ll still be making a good, hot cup of coffee, but you will be maintaining the flavour at the same time.
This is something else that probably isn’t entirely up to you unless you’re running the place but you should go out of your way to try and get this change implemented.
5. Grow Your Customer Service Skills
It’s not all about coffee beans and water. You are just as important to the quality of your customers experience as the coffee is.
Like I said earlier, you are going to serve a lot of people first thing in the morning and you are going to serve people who aren’t familiar with coffee at all.
Every personality is different and you need to be able to adapt to every person that comes in so that you don’t rub anybody the wrong way.
Customer relations is hard, make no mistake about it. Even if you consider yourself outgoing, providing good service is not the same as making friends.
These people expect something from you and everyone is going to want something different too.
The only way to get better at this is to practice, but there is also a lot of resources for this too. You can find a lot of tips specifically on customer service online.
As much as people who work in the service industry hate the phrase, the most important thing to remember is that the customer is always right.
They might not actually be right about anything but you have to pretend that they are, for the sake of the coffee shop.
Sometimes that’s a pain and sometimes you’ll probably want to punch people, but if you are an elite barista, then you know that the jerks are probably just angry at themselves.
It’s an easy job to enjoy, and it’s a fascinating one too. We can all appreciate a great barista.
Having the right gear definitely also plays a big role. Some people swear by the AeroPress, others prefer the Chemex and some are perfectly fine with a Keurig. It all comes down to personal preference!