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When you want to be a barista, you have a lot more to learn than just making drinks. To be a professional barista in some of the world’s finest coffee houses, you need to learn about the history of coffee as well as the process that it undergoes in order to make it into your cup.
And even beyond that, you need to understand the techniques and practices required to keep each cup tasting just as good as the last one you served. In short, you need to know a lot to be a barista – are you up to the challenge?
To begin, you will need to find a coffee shop or a training class in your area. These are often difficult to find unless you have a thriving coffee community, but at many local coffee shops, you can be hired on and get a basic training as a barista (coffee bartender). For more advanced training, you will need to head to areas like Seattle.
In this training, you will move from basic coffee shop skills (basic cups of brewed coffee) to espresso drinks and then other more complicated drinks that require foam and decorations. This is an extensive process that can take weeks at smaller coffee shops to years at higher level stores. You will be tested and retested on how to make each particular drink and shown how to maintain your consistency in flavor as well as in foam texture. You will make hundreds of espresso shots in order to get them right and be tested on how to adjust the grind of your espresso in addition to learning how much pressure to put on each shot.
Additional training classes can include the history of coffee as well as how to roast coffee, coffee roasting process, coffee cupping and tasting and creating specialty drinks. These classes may be funded by your coffee house or taken outside of the work setting. Some coffee houses send their baristas to coffee conventions that allow them to interact with sales reps and top notch baristas. These training sessions are valuable for those that want to start their own coffee house and need to interact with vendors as they begin to build their business.
But in the end, experience is the best teacher for a barista. After making and tasting thousands of drinks, you will learn what works and what does not. You will learn to feel when a cappuccino is too heavy and when a latte is too light. You will find out the difference in steaming 2% milk versus steaming skim milk (hint: skim milk is easier). And in time, you will be able to remember all of the drinks called out to you without having to write them down – but no training manual can teach you these things. A true barista is one that learns them because they learn well and they love coffee.