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  • What makes a Barista?

    As suggested by Angermangent here;
    http://coffeesnobs.com.au/YaBB.pl?num=1237716292

    I thought I would get the ball rolling.

    What in your mind makes a barista?

    Is it just someone behind a coffee machine?
    Or someone with a certain level of experience/knowledge?
    Strictly speaking, barista is bartender in Italian. But we... I think it means something different then that.

    I certainly wouldnt call myself one but get me behind a machine for an hour or so and I probably could do better than most cafes do. Does this make me a barista? Again, not in my mind.
    Personally I am more into the home roasting and the coffee making is starting to become a side thing. I primarily make short blacks. The making of cafe latte is more for the guests. Yet my guests call me a barista!?! But as you all know, start with good quality green beans, pay attention to your roasting, keep your machine clean, try to get the best extraction and you will be making better coffee than 95% of the cafes out there.

    This is the same with other foods. Start with good quality ingredients, take care of your equipment (knives, pots, pans, oven etc) pay attention to the cooking process and you’ll be up there with most restaurants. Just because I can cook a few dishes doesnt make me a chef.
    Just as chefs need to be qualified (go to a government school, apprenticeship etc) shouldnt baristas? An unqualified chef is a cook, is there or should there be a term for an unqualified barista?

    Thoughts?

  • #2
    Re: What makes a Barista?

    To me, someone who deserves the title "barista" is a person who has a passion for good coffee.... and can demonstrate that they can produce it!

    Do they have to have formal qualifications? I dont think so as that is only a bit of paper which proves someone has told them what they should do (Ive worked with University graduates.... straight out of Uni.... who I wouldnt feed.... no practical experience)...

    Do they need lots of experience? Absolutely!!

    Making great coffee is an art..... not a science..... so in the same way as you can show (teach) someone to use a brush to paint a picture.... will they be a great artist.... maybe.... eventually (but most wont!!!)...

    But take a person with an eye for painting, no (or minimal) formal training... and a passion for what they do..... and you will have a pretty good... maybe even great..... painting.

    Making coffee is the same.... passion, passion, passion..... plus some knowledge initially.... lots of practice..... and if "whats in the cup" is consistently great.... then that person is a Barista in my eyes....

    You could have a qualification program (like Michelin chefs have).... but I dont think it needs to be a formal qualification..... just a measure of how well they are practitioners of the coffee making art.

    And my pet hate..... those who call themselves Baristas because they work behind a "big coffee machine".... but dont even like coffee!!! Just like a skilled chef, you have to be able to taste and appreciate the product... ensuring it is up to standard..... or you will never produce a great product.  A Barista is a person who must MUST recognise, love and appreciate a great coffee!!!

    Thats my thoughts, for what they are worth....

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: What makes a Barista?

      Originally posted by 567D6A7D5E1C0 link=1237762659/1#1 date=1237764064
      To me, someone who is deserves the title "barista" is a person who has a passion for good coffee.... and can demonstrate that they can produce it!
      So in my guest’s minds I am a barista?

      I have a passion for good coffee and to their tastes I can produce it.
      But I dont think my lattes cut it. I get them right half the time. Cant produce a cappuccino, actually I dont think I have ever tried.

      So in my mind I am not? Barista a subjective term?

      I also have seen people with loads of passion and experience yet still suck at what they do. They seem to fail at the "feedback" thing. I have met a lot of musios like that. They get very "passionate" at their art and fail to see the science behind it. They jump into bands and only learn what they like. Never learning scales, practicing with a metronome, not learning what scale works where etc. Just like music, coffee making is an art based in science.

      Plus some people are just naturals. Some people have little or no experience or passion and still do well.

      So if someone can produce really good coffee but doesnt have experience and/or doesnt care about it, isnt a barista?

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: What makes a Barista?

        Originally posted by 696A78787C6A720B0 link=1237762659/2#2 date=1237766452
        So in my guest’s minds I am a barista?
        Yep, just like a painter or a muso.... they believe they are highly skilled at what they do..... but do others also think so? Does it matter if only some people love your painting, your music, your coffee????

        Originally posted by 696A78787C6A720B0 link=1237762659/2#2 date=1237766452
        Just like music, coffee making is an art based in science.

        Agreed.... but you can make great music, or coffee - without understanding the science behind it..... just as long as you have a good ear (music) or palate (coffee)....

        Originally posted by 696A78787C6A720B0 link=1237762659/2#2 date=1237766452
        Plus some people are just naturals. Some people have little or no experience or passion and still do well.

        So if someone can produce really good coffee but doesnt have experience and/or doesnt care about it, isnt a barista?

        I dont think many can "fluke" a good coffee the first time they use a machine.... maybe a few can..... but to get consistency - they need to practice.... and someone who doesnt care about their music, painting or coffee making is very unlikely, IMHO, to do all that well when it comes to consistency.... they might fluke a few good results.... but some will be mediocre and some downright cr@p....

        After all, if you dont care about what you are doing (have a passion for it).... you will drift into mediocrity before too long - there is no drive to make the next offering as good, if not even better than the last......

        Passion is what makes us strive for excellence in whatever we do.... wanting to be the best we can at it..... so without passion I cant see great results being achieved - after all you are just "going through the motions"....

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: What makes a Barista?

          Originally posted by 7172606064726A130 link=1237762659/2#2 date=1237766452

          So in my guest’s minds I am a barista?

          And in my guests eyes I am a chef. To me, as you said earlier, I am just a cook.

          The term/s become really subjective and pretty much people can and will call you what they want.

          I am a bit of a foodie (which resulted in me becoming a Snob) but with no training, therefore I am not chef.

          My wife is a classical performer (flute) and teacher - private lessons. She has Grad Dip Perf from Sydney Con, therefore she is a musician.

          So she has the title deservedly, and I equally deservedly dont. It doesnt stop people using it, so in that way Bassway I guess you are a barista, though your example re musicians and scales makes me think first and foremost you are a muso ;D

          On the flip side there sure are people in cafes all over town who have had training that you would struggle to call baristi, nonetheless on the above premise, the title is still theirs.

          Personal thought? Hey, you cant get upset when your friends call you a chef, barista etc... it is a recognition from outside of your passion for the task and competence, and a pretty nice compliment as well 8-)

          Chris

          wish my friends called me a barista... ;D

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: What makes a Barista?

            I think that society says we have to have a piece of paper to have a title.

            However, I know of a great many people who are instructors, teachers, baristas or chefs who dont have a piece of paper to prove that but are doing very well in their chosen fields. (and when I say teachers, I dont mean school teachers...just people who are very good at teaching their passion, IYKWIM.)

            Its funny but you dont need to have a piece of paper to own a business...except for the piece of paper that says you are business owners!

            Anyway...

            Ive been working at making coffee for the past three years now. Not many people in my town would actually know the term "barista", though some are learning it. I do actually do pretty much all of the drink making in the shop, from coffee through to milkshakes, so as far as the Italian term goes, I am the "barperson", ie drinks person.

            I dont necessarily agree that because you have a piece of paper that says you have completed a course means you are a barista (or whatever) but I do agree that it goes a long way to saying that you are, according to societies standards. If I read it right, in Italy being a barista is more of an apprenticeship than a course. Seven years before getting onto the machine, I think!

            Personally, I like to think of myself as a barista mainly because I have what has been talked about, passion and now experience. Sure, I could go and do the course that gives me the piece of paper but I wonder why Id need to do that? Mainly because I currently have a job and my employer doesnt require me to have a piece of paper. They know I make great coffee and that their business has increased in that area.

            The arguement could be made that Im just a professional coffee maker, seeing as I get paid to do it and if the term of "professional" means getting renumeration for your work, then I fall into that category I guess.

            But, I prefer the term barista, though I dont mind barista-in-training either. (which used to be under my profile sig here.)

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: What makes a Barista?

              All very good points but I believe that the chef/cook thing is a good description. My mum is a great cook but put her in a commercial environment and she would be all at sea. A barista is all that has been said above and throw in the ability to keep all the balls in the air at once pulling consistent great shots, silky milk, great customer service etc, this varies with the type of establishment but being a barista goes beyond great coffee. It includes all aspect of coffee preparation and serving. The term is bandied about too easily, mostly because anyone who makes coffee in Australia is considered by most to be a "barista" whereas in a lot of cases they are what I call "button pushers".

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: What makes a Barista?

                Originally posted by 616F626D7A6C6D030 link=1237762659/6#6 date=1237772805
                ...the ability to keep all the balls in the air at once pulling consistent great shots, silky milk, great customer service etc...
                I think that last point is quite important.  Theres nothing more frustrating than finding a place that does good coffee only to turn up the next day and be served by a staff member who responds to your order as if youve asked them to clean your septic tank.  A smile and a "Hello, how are you today/What can I get you?" isnt that hard to manage, and its what your boss is paying you to do.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: What makes a Barista?

                  I have the piece of paper.
                  I have the passion.
                  Ive worked behind a "big coffee machine".
                  My friends would call me a barista.
                  But the reality is that Im not.

                  Its all things I dont have.
                  The consistency.
                  The juggling.
                  The regular practise in a busy cafe.
                  The little details.

                  Its relative.

                  Its like my karate.
                  I teach but I still learn.
                  To my students Im a teacher; to my teacher Im a student.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: What makes a Barista?

                    Originally posted by 073B263D373621343C37530 link=1237762659/8#8 date=1237777879
                    To my students Im a teacher; to my teacher Im a student.

                    nailed it TG

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: What makes a Barista?

                      Originally posted by 5F42464348482D0 link=1237762659/9#9 date=1237781213
                      nailed it TG  
                      Thanks grasshopper.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: What makes a Barista?

                        I use to believe making great coffee was an art.. not a science.
                        But Ive change my view on that. Science plays an important role and the is the future to the next level. But I would prefer to be an artist than a scientist any day. There are many barista that talk the science of coffee, without the foundation of basic hard work. They suck.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: What makes a Barista?

                          Originally posted by 634C465B6E220 link=1237762659/11#11 date=1237789545
                          I use to believe making great coffee was an art.. not a science.
                          But Ive change my view on that. Science plays an important role and the is the future to the next level. But I would prefer to be an artist than a scientist any day. There are many barista that talk the science of coffee, without the foundation of basic hard work. They suck.
                          Agreed Andy,

                          I have always thought the mark was somewhere close to art meets science- and mate you are an artist in a lab coat...or was that a scientise with an easel?

                          2mcm

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: What makes a Barista?

                            Hey Scootagal you mentioned the apprenticeship for a barista in Italy is 7 years. curious to know what they would cover in 7 years training? seems a long time just to get to operate a machine. seems to me in Australia a lot of cafes call them shop assistants or waiter/waitress as they are all rounders serving food etc etc. and it is far more inexpensive to pay them under that award. anyway that is my observation only. i think if you can consistenly make and serve good quality fresh coffee with a smile you are a Barista.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: What makes a Barista?

                              disagree with most of you. You can call someone a barista if they have become a professional at it. doesnt matter if they suck, if its become their main job they deserve that title. If i get served a terrible cup i just say the barista is bad, not theyre a talentless operator of a coffee machine. love passion and service have nothing to do with it.

                              weve all been to bad restaurants where you can swear you can cook better than the chef. But that doesnt make you a chef.

                              Comment

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