Industry Dish

Working as a Barista: Everything You Need to Know

Working as a Barista: Everything You Need to Know
Table of Contents

If you're interested in working as a barista, it's important to know a few things before you begin your job hunt. This way, you'll arrive at your interview knowing all that will be expected of you, and feeling confident you're putting your best foot forward.

Training as a barista

Most of the training process for a barista will revolve around the nuances of making different beverages. These will include coffee-based drinks like lattes, as well as tea, smoothies, and other menu items.

Espresso machine training

One essential appliance that helps keep most coffee shops and cafes running smoothly is the espresso machine, and it will probably be where most of your training is focused. Training on an espresso machine is vital for creating consistently delicious espresso shots and ensuring the longevity and proper functioning of the machine itself.

Below are some critical areas of focus for espresso machine training. If you can enter an interview with a solid knowledge of how an espresso machine works, you’ll position yourself at the top of the list of candidates.

Bean grinding

Different coffee beverages require finer or coarser grinds. For example, espresso requires a very fine grind, while drip coffee requires a coarser grind. Grind size affects the surface area of the coffee, which affects how quickly water can pass through it. 

Because of this, learning how to grind beans is essential for barista training.


Tamping is the process of pressing the coffee grounds into the espresso machine. As a barista, you must apply pressure to the grounds to create a level surface. If the grounds are not tamped evenly, the water will find the areas of least resistance, resulting in an uneven extraction and a sub-par shot.

Shot pull times

A shot pull refers to the time spent brewing an espresso shot. This time is generally around 25 to 30 seconds but can vary depending on grind size, number of grinds, and machine pressure. If the shot pull time is too short, the espresso shot will be weak and lack flavor. If the shot pull time is too long, the espresso shot will be bitter. 

Mastering shot pull times is vital for a barista so that customers are satisfied with their orders.

Shot life

Espresso shots have a limited lifespan. A shot loses its quality shortly after it comes out of the machine. It can become bitter if it is left to sit too long. It is essential to use a shot immediately after it's pulled from the machine to ensure the customer receives the best quality espresso possible.

Latte art

Food and beverage presentation is a large part of creating the ambiance of any establishment. You can watch a customer's face light up when you hand them a beautiful latte with a design, such as a leaf or a heart, crafted with steamed milk. 

Latte art is usually made with the milk itself, and with the most talented and practiced latte artists, it can be done freehand. If you want to refine your latte art skills, this step-by-step guide featuring pro tips for latte art is a great place to start. 

Alternatively, many baristas create patterns on top of the milk using a stencil and sprinkling on other ingredients, such as cinnamon.

Customer service under pressure

Work as a barista is fast-paced, especially during those times of day when everyone seems to stop in to get their coffee before work or during their afternoon lull. As a barista, you’ll be expected to provide excellent customer service, even under pressure and while working in an often high-stress environment.

Being confident in your menu and understanding common special requests or modifications you can expect from customers will help you to better manage busy times. That way, an order for a quad shot half-caf breve no foam with whip and two splenda stirred skinny peppermint mocha won’t send you into a panic. 

Upward mobility as a barista

Working as a barista is a fulfilling and enjoyable job for many. It is also a great place to start for those looking for upward mobility in the hospitality industry. Excelling as a barista shows you know how to multitask, have solid customer service skills, and don't mind working in a fast-paced environment. 

These same skills will be considered if applying for other positions, including those in management, in the future.

How to get the best barista gigs

So, once you know you want to be a barista, how do you find the best barista gigs? First, consider asking around! Is there a coffee shop you frequent where you already have a nice rapport with the staff? Check to see if they have any job openings.

Or maybe you’d rather try out different coffee shops to see which environment you like best? Qwick is a platform that matches experienced hospitality workers with businesses looking to fill shifts. If you have at least a year of experience as a barista, you can sign up and get matched with open shifts near you

Working as a barista with Qwick

Becoming a Qwick professional will provide you the chance to pick up barista shifts that work with your schedule, and even get paid as soon as 30 minutes after clocking out. 

Sign up for Qwick today to start earning money on your own schedule. 

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