If you are a true-blue “cafephile” and love coffee in all its various forms, becoming a barista is a goal worth aiming for if you don’t have the means to open your own café yet.
But with hundreds of people contending for a single vacancy at well-known coffee shop chains and small cafes, finding a job as a barista can be challenging. This is a hurdle that you will have difficulties overcoming if you have no experience.
If you want to become a professional barista while working on your resources to pursue your dreams of opening a café, getting a job is still possible even if you have no prior experience. You can do this by acquiring, improving, and highlighting some hard and soft skills that will make you stand out from the competition.
Highlighting some of your personal traits on your CV and during interviews can help bring your job application to the next recruitment stages. But which ones should you emphasize to show your capabilities and potential in becoming an excellent barista? Below are the top three:
Coffee shop owners and managers want employees that customers feel comfortable with. Patrons are often at ease with baristas that know what they are talking about and look experienced.
Regardless of the level of knowledge you have regarding coffee preparation, you can be confident as you start working as a barista. Your training before and during your employment will allow you to know the ins and outs of creating brews, which will make you a master of the café’s menu items.
This, in turn, will help you prepare beverages and make recommendations that will impress your customers and help ensure they come again.
However, you have to back up your claims, too. If you need to work on your confidence, try to step out of your comfort zone. Learn to talk to people you don’t know and smile more often.
The best baristas have excellent verbal communication skills. They know how to talk and listen to their customers clearly, calmly, and in a professional yet friendly manner.
Baristas have to be ready to provide information to customers regarding café menu items. They should know how to explain the ingredients of the beverages and what it tastes like so that patrons will have an easier time choosing their drinks.
Highlighting your skills in active listening can help you become a more desirable candidate, as well. Since satisfying customers is one of the main goals of café owners, you need to be adept at understanding and remembering their orders and special requests so they will leave the shop happy and eventually turn into patrons.
Your communication skills are also crucial in helping you provide good customer service, another factor that entices patrons to stay loyal and spread positive words about the café.
3. Attention to detail
Having a good eye for details can help you become a successful barista. When you are able to take note of customer requests and make sure all are incorporated in their orders, you will always leave them satisfied.
Taking quick action regarding things like chairs that are out of place or spills on the floor, also gives coffee shop owners reassurance that you are there to help improve and maintain the smooth operations of the café.
This trait is also crucial for dealing with customers with special dietary needs. If you add whole milk to a latte instead of the requested soy milk to someone who is lactose intolerant because you did not read the note on the order slip or cup, you could be in deep trouble. Paying attention can help you avoid such unpleasant scenarios.
Being a great barista means learning some technical skills essential for preparing great coffee. If you have the money and time to take up a professional coffee making or preparation course, you will do well to do so before or while you look for your first job.
Below are the three hard skills you need to develop if you are serious about becoming a great barista:
As a barista, espresso-making will be part and parcel of your daily life. This is because most customers order espresso-based beverages such as cappuccino, latte, macchiato, and Americano.
Due to this reason, you have to be an expert in making espressos.
Espresso-making requires a few technical skills, with tamping as one of the most important. Depending on the machine in the café, you may also need to learn about espresso pre-infusion, flow profiling, and pressure profiling.
Fortunately, you can learn all these and more from a coffee-making course and on the job.
2. Manual and batch brewing
All coffee shop menus have filter coffee. As such, you need to know how to use the main manual brewer. Understanding the importance of the different types of filters and how to manipulate filter recipes will also help you explain the menu items to your customers and make better recommendations.
All these will help you become a better barista.
Additionally, if a café offers batch brews, you will also have to learn how to go about this particular brewing process. This includes operating the equipment and knowing and following the right practices to produce excellent coffee.
3. Milk steaming, pouring and creating latte art
Finally, coffee and milk always go together. However, steaming and pouring correctly requires some skill.
Your first goal should be to create great textures and avoid scalding the milk. This comes with learning the correct wand position and improving your pour speed.
Additionally, you also have to learn how to choose which milk is best for each beverage. You also need to practice steaming and using alternative dairy products for latte art.
Lastly, since latte art is a standard in most specialty coffee shops, you should know how to create them. You can learn how to do them from a coffee-making course since your tutors will teach you the basic pours, which include hearts, tulips, and rosettes.
Once you become an expert in these basic pours, you can create other designs by applying your imagination and artistic prowess.
Being a barista entails more than having a serious love for coffee and making delicious brews with the right ingredients. Work on these skills and you will find success in the world of coffee making as a barista and ultimately, as a café owner.
Shanaaz Raja is the Course Director at International Centre for Culinary Arts – ICCA Dubai.