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Becoming a barista... advice?

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  • Becoming a barista... advice?

    Howdy folks,

    First of all apologies if this is in the wrong section or has been answered somewhere else. I couldnt really find it.

    I suppose it might be an obvious sort of thing to some but Im looking for any advice anyone might have on becoming a barista... and more.

    I dont just want to learn how to sling coffee as best as possible; Im looking for a serious education in coffee. Some people might consider it a fairly modest goal, but personally Im in love with the idea of becoming a coffee professional and expert. As I say, Im looking for an education. I want to learn everything I can and Im guessing the bottom is probably the best place to start.

    I have a philosophy about this sort of thing though. If I just wanted to learn how to make average coffee all day I wouldnt have a problem applying to work at one of the big corporate chains who seem to care about the green more than the bean. But I really take this seriously and really WANT TO LEARN everything I can from someone who takes their job seriously. I realize that this might be a bit of a big ask for someone who doesnt have any experience to show, but thats why Im asking for advice.

    Ive seen that there are a few places around town that offer short courses on espresso making but Im a little wary... 5 hours doesnt seem like a lot of time to get much experience and thats what all the job ads seem to want in an employee. As a poor Arts student (see why Im interested in coffee as a career? :P ) its also kind of difficult to afford that kind of thing.

    How would one with plenty of enthusiasm but no experience go about getting that experiene, learning everything they can (growing, roasting, tasting, building drinks, latte art, everything) from an experienced professional with real passion for their work. I wish I could say I just happened to know someone like that personally... alas it just isnt so.

    Id be glad and appreciative for any advice anyone has that might help. Im sure there are many other people out there just like me and competition is fierce.

    I live in Brisbane by the way, and study at UQ. Im leaving the country soon but will be back in August and thats when I really want to knuckle down and start paving the way to achieving this dream of becoming great in coffee.


  • #2
    Re: Becoming a barista... advice?

    Welcome Canalien,

    I think that youve just got to get yourself a job, either part or full time and get into the industry. Once youre in the industry, I think youll be surprised at the people youll meet and the opportunities youll get to grow your knowledge and experience. I guess, look around at the cafe names that are being held up as places who are making exceptional coffee and see what they are looking for in the way of staff. Even if you do only just start serving the drinks out to customers at first.

    Even being a humble small country town barista in the middle of NSW, I am amazed at how I know so many people in the industry and so many of them are willing to be friendly and helpful with sharing their knowledge and passion.

    Of course, Coffeesnobs has been a big part of the knowledge base as well! So, stick around here, you might learn something!

    Good luck with it all!


    • #3
      Re: Becoming a barista... advice?

      As a farm boy from forbes to now the coastal life and just a newbie to this. i suggest to get the job anywhere in the industry. Learn as much and take in all as you can from anyone.Good and bad, as this will help when ur a boss. The courses are good as they can give you something you may not have known or thought long as you can take something away form it, it is a benifit.

      good luck


      • #4
        Re: Becoming a barista... advice?

        Welcome to CS Canalien.

        I couldnt have said it better than scoota gal.
        Especially this bit:

        Originally posted by 392925253E2B152D2B264A0 link=1244731459/1#1 date=1244758037
        Coffeesnobs has been a big part of the knowledge base as well! So, stick around here, you might learn something!


        • #5
          Re: Becoming a barista... advice?

          Originally posted by 7E6E6262796C526A6C610D0 link=1244731459/1#1 date=1244758037
          Even being a humble small country town barista in the middle of NSW, I am amazed at how I know so many people in the industry and so many of them are willing to be friendly and helpful with sharing their knowledge and passion.

          People of like mind and passion will freely pass on tips & tricks

          That said, I would to try & get a job with an organization that roasts and brews its beans on the premises
          In this way you will have a better introduction & understanding from green bean to the cup



          • #6
            Re: Becoming a barista... advice?

            Scoota Gal sums it up very well. It doesnt matter where you get your foot in the door, the coffee industry is well connected. Doesnt matter where you start, its the journey that follows that counts.

            Lukey makes an excellent point too. Learn from your superiors at work, they can teach you a lot. Sometimes what to do, sometimes what not to do .

            And welcome to CS!


            • #7
              Re: Becoming a barista... advice?

              If you are seriousl about it, you could always ask for work expierence.
              No pay but the chance for knowledge and a foot in the door as you will have then worked in the industry.

              Every chance you get, even if you are going out for a coffee yourself,
              ask to get behind the machine and make your own.

              Who knows, you may even get a job out of it.


              • #8
                Re: Becoming a barista... advice?

                The courses are a very good introduction and worth the expense. Poor student or not, by most educational standards its small change. How much is your degree costing you?

                Youre right, a course wont give you much (or indeed any) real experience, but it will show you the RIGHT way to make espresso based drinks, clean machines etc etc. As others have said, the important thing is to get your foot in the door. However once in, there is no guarantee that those "teaching" you have even the faintest clue as to what theyre doing, its just that theyve been there longer than you. A course will fill in the appropriate gaps.

                Its an amazing industry and good luck in your pursuits.



                • #9
                  Re: Becoming a barista... advice?

                  Thanks for the warm welcome and friendly advice. Really decent of you all.

                  Does anyone have a recommendation for any of the best barista courses in Brisbane?
                  PM me if promoting specific things like that isnt cool on the forum.



                  • #10
                    Re: Becoming a barista... advice?

                    I did the Barista Basics three hour course and found it really interesting. There wasnt a *lot* of coffee making involved but the information was great.

                    I think it was $120. One of the site sponsors, Veneziano Cafe does an in-house course over in West End, you might want to look into that as well.


                    • #11
                      Re: Becoming a barista... advice?

                      Originally posted by 7F54466E7354505F310 link=1244731459/9#9 date=1245054676
                      I did the Barista Basics three hour course and found it really interesting. There wasnt a *lot* of coffee making involved but the information was great.
                      Thats strange, maybe they changed the format as Ive done 2 courses run through them (consecutively) and pretty much all we did was swing on a machine all day. Mind you, 3 hours isnt very much time to get through the coffee menus and also cover essentials like adjusting the grinder, cleaning the machine etc. As previously mentioned, as far as "experience" goes a course wont help much (mind you I think few courses in the world do provide true experience), however will cover the correct way to go about a task.


                      • #12
                        Re: Becoming a barista... advice?

                        Theres one above the one that I did I think but my voucher was for the three hour course. It definitely wasnt a waste of time but it would have been nice to spend more time making coffees and dialing in the grinders. There was a lot to get through, though.


                        • #13
                          Re: Becoming a barista... advice?

                          I would suggest getting in touch with the different roasteries in Brisbane and see what you can do for each other.  Try everyone from veneziano to dibella to the smaller guys like Black star.  Youll be exposed to lots of different viewpoints which is quite healthy for your overall coffee knowledge.  Or you can just apply for cafe jobs.  Just be wary of places that promise you heaps and give you not all that much in return.  eg- "Ill teach u coffee later if you can prove to me youre reliable", and 6 months later youre still doing dishes without any change in sight.  Also, try not to be sucked into being the weekend person or the night person the whole time on a shift- but thats dependent upon having a reasonable manager who prepares rosters fairly.....  Use your intuition before asking/demanding stuff like that.

                          The other thing to ask which is further down the track is where you want to take this ambition in the next 2 years or the next 4 years down the track.  Hospitality if you do it for a long time is about passion for service and the dedication towards making a small difference in someone elses life every day.  Pride in your job comes through best from serving something that you truly believe in, and then finding that your customers agree with you. If its just what you fall into, and you keep doing hospitality just because then youll waste your uni degree, and possibly end up like me and crack the shits at the age 29 and race back to do a second degree before the credit from your first degree because you no longer feel the love of hospo

                          But before all this happens, what will also help you through hospitality jobs is the people that you are surrounded by.  Coffee is awesome but you also meet heaps of interesting and wonderful people along the way. In a good environment everyone gets along, is very friendly no matter how busy and they dont wig out and go berko when the heat comes on..
                           If you want to be a barista by trade, be prepared to work some fairly long stints in some inner city cafes or suburban ones, and not all of them will involve just focus behind the machine.  Youll usually need anywhere from 30-38hrs a week to make decent money if you want to keep up with friends who finish uni and get normal jobs.  Its really heartbreaking when your friends go off to europe, asia, america, nz etc and have an awesome time and you struggle to make ends meet.  So have a good think about whether youre prepared for time in hospo if you are just floating at the moment after finishing your degree.
                           Another issue that never gets addressed when people ask about working as a barista- is the choice of cafe.  Whether you know it or not, youve been ingrained to accept having weekends off by virtue of your parents, school and uni.  So when you are hitting cafe work, inner city cafes tend to be better because they are more monday-friday, whereas suburban cafes are usually open saturdays and sundays as well.  So if you really value your weekends, make sure you choose wisely.
                          Last but not least, coffee is heaps of fun, its kind of like golf or tennis or any other sport where theres an infinite depth to the little steps and its a rewarding job if youre into it because you can see the good shot, see the good milk, pour the good cup, and have the happy customer come back the next day and say, "thanks that was great".


                          • #14
                            Re: Becoming a barista... advice?

                            Thanks ant, great advice.

                            Actually this IS my second degree at uni, most of my friends DID go and get normal (actually, most of them went and got abnormal, high paying) jobs, and Ive never had a job in my life that didnt require me to work past midnight on any given day of the week, (man things, from actor to apprentice pastry chef to cinema projectionist) so the whole 9-5, M-F, weekends off thing has never been something Im familiar with... so your warning made me feel pretty good actually! I already know what to expect I guess!

                            Making a difference in peoples life, even if its just something small and putting a smile on someones face... i guess in a word; GIVING is probably what makes me feel happiest in life (along with some sort of outlet for creative expression) so I guess that, combined with the opportunity to become passionate and a perfectionist in regards to something is what draws me towards hospitality and coffee in particular.

                            I just hold of a second hand EM6910 to replace my modified and customized EM4800B so at least Ive got a machine a little closer to something commercial to practice on.

                            Who knows what will happen, well see how it goes. Thanks again everyone for the advice.


                            • #15
                              Re: Becoming a barista... advice?

                              I Have done the barista basics course and enjoyed it. However their claim to have 1 instructor to 4 participants was not the case. We had 1 instructor 1 assistant to her. (bottle washer) and 12 participants.

                              Crisp Image