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What is a barista?

Learn all about what a barista does, how much they're paid, and much more!

What is a barista

What is a barista?

Baristas are masters of brewing coffee and building espresso beverages. A barista must have a refined palette. Baristas understand how the subtle flavors of coffee and expresso interact with add-ins like milk, dairy alternatives, and flavored syrups.

Depending on the work environment, baristas can have many different responsibilities. Knowledge about various coffee, espresso, and tea beverages is critical, as well as how to operate and maintain complex and delicate espresso machines.

Baristas are also adept at customer service, getting to know the coffee shop’s regular customers and understanding their preferences. They’re versatile employees, helping to keep the shop or cafe clean and inviting for all guests.

What are a barista’s duties and responsibilities?

Baristas are often expected to have a wide range of skills to fulfill their duties and responsibilities, including: 

  • Knowledge of coffee and espresso beverages

  • Coffee brewing skills

  • Steaming dairy and non-dairy milk

  • Latte art

  • Operating coffee bar equipment such as coffee grinders and espresso machines.

  • Knowledge of coffee and espresso flavor profiles

  • Interpersonal skills for customer service and teamwork

  • Knowledge of allergens to avoid cross-contamination

  • Cleaning and organizing the espresso bar

  • Cleaning and organizing the coffee shop lobby

  • Excellent time management and the ability to work under pressure

How much are baristas paid?

The national average salary for baristas is between $21,000 and $28,000 annually. Many coffee shops rely on customers’ tips to provide baristas with higher wages. Specialty coffee shops hire baristas with certifications and experience and offer competitive pay.

What are the qualities that make a good barista?

Good baristas have to balance their skills in brewing coffee and building espresso beverages with the interpersonal skills required to work on a team to serve guests. Many baristas take pride in their ability to steam milk to the perfect texture for lattes and cappuccinos and make delicate designs called latte art. But, they also have to be able to serve consistent drinks in a timely manner.

The best baristas know how to have good conversations with guests and be willing to start work early in the morning. It's good for baristas to be flexible, filling multiple roles in their coffee shop or cafe. Maintaining a clean and organized bar helps baristas to work efficiently.

How to become a barista?

Most baristas get training on the job at a coffee shop. Shops are generally willing to hire employees with little or no experience and train them for the skills needed in that specific environment. There are barista certifications and classes, but most coffee shops and cafes don’t require a certification.

The best way to become a barista is to express a passionate interest in coffee and espresso and be willing to learn. You might do some independent research and teach yourself about brewing ratios and pour-overs. However, people can’t always afford an espresso machine to learn how to pull shots and build espresso drinks outside of a coffee shop environment.

It’s always good to browse job ads to see which cafes or coffee shops are hiring in your area. Often, the best way to get a barista job is to ask the manager of a shop where you’re interested in working if they are hiring. The manager will appreciate that you made the effort and your application will stand out from the stack.

How to hire a barista?

When looking to hire a barista, consider the skills and knowledge you want your employees to have when they start the job. Many coffee shops and cafes are willing to train their baristas with the skills they need. If you’re looking for a barista that won’t need much training, try to hire someone with extensive experience in the industry.

As always, it's good to have a clear picture of the kind of barista you want to hire. Ask interviewees questions about their passion for coffee and espresso and how they interact with guests. Before hiring a barista, verify their experience and certifications. And, be sure to hire the candidate that has the best qualifications and experience.

Baristas get to be creative and interact with lots of different kinds of customers. People with a passion for coffee, espresso, and tea often find working as a barista enjoyable. And, the flexible schedule makes it a desirable job for food service workers.

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