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Many people in America today make coffee for a living, and most make a decent wage, at least by serving industry standards. Companies like Starbucks, Seattle’s Best, Nabob and such all compete with each other for a large market “the fast order coffee market” and they usually do all of their own training of new staff in-house. But there is another kind of coffee maker out there, a variety of individual who can identify any of dozens of different coffee types, make you whatever you want, and get it to perfection every time. These people are known as Baristas.
And sometimes they make a lot of money doing what they’re trained to do. A Barista that really knows their stuff can be a massive draw to a specialty coffeehouse, bringing in caffeine connoisseurs and aroma aficionados for miles around.
But how do you become a true barista? Is there a course you can take? And how can you tell a quality barista course from a dud?
A lot of things can tarnish a cup of coffee – cleanliness of equipment, quality of the beans being used, freshness of the roaster, quantities of ingredients, but in amongst all the stuff you can detect pretty easily is something you can’t – barista training. Generally, when a new employee joins a coffeehouse roster, the owner of the establishment, or a manager, will handle the training. That will usually mean teaching them how to make a cappuccino, how a mochaccino differs, and how to ring up a sale on a register. Not exactly the most in-depth artistry assistance.
There is more to being a top quality coffee jockey than just learning to grind, dose, and tamp a certain way. You’ve got to feel it down deep.
Some specialty coffee establishments certify their staff as baristas after a detailed and punishing training course that measures their ability to handle espresso, milk-based and iced drinks, regular, skim, and soy milks, rosetta decoration, serving in the right cup, using the right saucer and spoon, grinding the exact amount of coffee, steaming milk to the perfect temperature, tamping with 30 pounds of pressure, drying the portafilter, timing shots, tasting, adjusting the grind, and much more.
So how do you get trained? Well, for starters you can look for any professional schools dealing with coffee making in your neck of the woods. Chances are there’s at least one barista training program close to you, but if there isn’t, there are plenty of how-to’s you can find online to help further your knowledge in the field.
But in the end, if you really want to learn how to make a devastating drop of caffeine, you need to find the best coffee house in town and get a job with them. There’s simply no substitute to working alongside a true coffee-master if you want to learn all the tricks, and learning them first hand, in the middle of a busy workplace, is the only way to see what really works.