How to Become a Barista: Job Description & Training

Have you ever been in line at a Starbucks and heard the customer in front of you order a Grande, Quad, Nonfat, One Pump, No Whip Mocha only to wonder what the heck that meant and how to make it? If so then maybe a job as a barista is for you! Being a barista gives you the chance to be around coffee and fun people all day. So if this sounds like something that might be interesting to you, keep on reading! If that’s not something that seems interesting to you, keep reading anyway!

How to Become a Barista

Becoming a barista is not at all difficult, which is pretty cool and exciting for those that are looking to pursue it as a career. This is a job that will not require you to have a college degree and most training is offered on the job, so no additional training is required. There is the option to pursue additional training on your own time and at your own cost, but we will talk more about that in a bit. So for starters you’ll likely need to have a high school diploma or GED to get a job in this industry. If you are still in high school, you may still have a shot, so get that application in anyway.

If you are ready and prepared with proof of your diploma or GED in hand, now you can find a barista position to apply for. Half of the battle has already been waged and you are nearly ready to make an awesome cup of coffee! Coffee shops may also prefer that their employees have an interest in coffee and an eagerness to learn, so it’s a good idea to brush up on some coffee lingo to really shine during your interview.

Some of you that are applying for a position as a barista may have the desire to also become coffee shop owners one day. If this applies to you, then this is what you will probably want to do. Use your time as a barista wisely and soak up as much information as possible. Ask lots of questions and pay very close attention to the answers that you receive. Those of that are considering owning your own coffee shop one day and are using a job as a barista; it may be a good idea to go through a barista training program too.

There are actual schools out there that will train you in and become your guide on your journey to become a barista and shop owner. They will be like the Yoda of coffee for you! These schools offer pretty intensive (in a good way) workshops that will also help you learn the ropes of being a business owner too. We will go into more detail about these schools a bit later on, so keep your eyes open…that should not be a problem though because you’re likely on your third cup of coffee for the day!

How to Become a Barista with No Experience

You may be asking yourself “Can I become a barista with no prior experience?” Yep, you can totally become a barista with little to no experience. Luckily most of your knowledge and skills will come from awesome on the job training. The most you will really need to have prior to getting a job in the coffee industry is a willingness to learn and it’s probably to at least like coffee a little bit considering it will be your bread and butter.

What is a Barista and What the Heck Do They Do?

This is the million dollar question now isn’t it? We all know that baristas make coffee, but they do so much more than that. Now it’s time to find out what it is that a barista does and what duties can be expected on the job.

As a barista your main job is to make awesome drinks for your customers. As a matter of fact the word “barista” is derived from the Italian word for bartender. You will most likely be working in a coffee shop, whether it is a large chain or a single location shop, is totally up to you. As a barista you will take customer drink orders and prepare them. You’ll need to be able to do multiple things at once since this is a pretty fast paced position and making two drinks at a time will become the norm for you.

Don’t down play the role as a barista though because it is a more complicated job than just flipping on a coffee maker or popping a K-cup into a Kuerig. In this job you will have to know how to make many specialty drinks and how to work many different types of machines. You may even have select certain whole coffee beans for your customer and grind them right then. It is also common to educate customers about all of the different coffee products available to help them decide what they would like.

When you are making and serving drinks, you will be tasked with keeping the shop as clean and sanitary as possible. There will also be lots of organizing of things to make it easier for you and your fellow employees to find all of the things that are needed to make awesome coffee. If you work in a coffee shop that also serves baked goods, you may be asked to whip something up there too.

How Much Does a Barista Make?

Let’s reach into the tip jar and talk about money! According to our trusty sources at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2012, baristas are reported to earn a median annual salary of $18,400 or $8.84 an hour. The job outlook isn’t too shabby with a 12% growth rate that is as fast as the average occupation, so at least you won’t really have to worry about finding a job.

It is possible to earn a higher wage if you pursue a management position as a barista. Another thing to consider is if you are going to be employed with a privately owned coffee house of a mega franchise as the rates of pay may vary a bit. Lastly, the state and area you are in may have some sort of influence on your pay as well.

Barista BLS

Barista School

This was an area that we were totally unfamiliar with prior to researching how to become a barista, but were kind of shocked by the great information that was found. We took three of the reputable and well rated barista schools that are out there and have brought them for to you for your consideration. Take a look and let us know what you think!

Midwest Barista School

The Midwest Barista School is located in Holland, Michigan and offers most of their training courses out of that facility. One of the cool things about this school is that if you can’t get to them for training, they will come to you. Talk about service! They offer a complete training experience to anyone that is just starting out in the coffee biz. They work very hard to ensure that the student to trainer ratio is spot on so that your time and money are spent wisely.

The Midwest Barista School offers classes that are aimed creating the perfect cup of fine coffee, how to work all of those fancy coffee bar machines and even will teach you how to make that awesome latte foam art that you’re seeing in Pinterest or eHow tutorials…it’s cool, we totally look at those too and your secret is safe with us!

There are key elements that are offered by this school to surely earn them a spot on your list. They pride themselves in the fact that their instructors work in and on a coffee bar every day. This means that there won’t be any rusty wheels during your training. The Midwest Barista School also has put thousands of hours into the creation and precision of all of the in house operating and training systems provided. You’re sure to be a coffee making ace in no time using those fine specimens of coffee making awesomeness.

They have a really informative website and their Facebook page is pretty cool too! Click here and here to take a quick look!

Seattle Barista Academy

The Seattle Barista Academy is a pretty cool school that is located in Kent, Washington. Yep, the coffee mecca of the United States! They tout themselves as “the” source for your professional barista training. That’s a pretty big statement, but they just may have the goods to back it up.

This school offers several types of courses at their facility in Kent. Some of the courses available are Barista Fundamentals, 90 minute Home Brewing Barista Class, and a Corporate Training Course. These classes will vary in duration from 90 minutes to 3 days. If the courses available aren’t quite enough for you, the Seattle Barista Academy also has plenty of books and CD’s to lend a hand.

There is a lot of fun and interesting ground that is covered during the courses available at this cool school. You can expect to gain some hands on experience in the areas of proper machine use, step by step instruction on how to make coffee drinks of every variety and some helpful concepts will be covered for business owners too.

The American Barista & Coffee School

The American Barista & Coffee School has been kicking butt and taking names in the coffee industry for more than 25 years and has two great training sites located in New York and Portland. This is a school that really seems to pull out the big guns and has a mission to share their vast knowledge, experience and business savvy. They want to help the coffee makers and business owners.

The workshops that The American Barista & Coffee School offers are pretty large and in charge. These are hardcore and will definitely show you all of the ins and out of the job of a barista as well as give you a serious boost in the business world. As it stands now, this school offers 6 mega courses that range in time from 6 days to 1 day. There is also the option to schedule corporate training sessions too.

You can expect to gain oodles of knowledge from any one of these training courses. An example of some of the cool stuff you can expect to learn from your time at The American Barista & Coffee School is equipment maintenance and operation, menu development, espresso extraction, latte art, work flow and speed.  There is also an interesting corporate workshop option that is said to operate kind of like a think tank where you can gain lots of useful information for your business.

The American Barista & Coffee School also has a pretty rocking website and Facebook page. Take a look and get registered if this is the route you’d like to go!

Online Barista Training

So we did quite a bit of research on this subject and we feel like you are better suited to going to an actual barista school. From what we were able to tell, not all of the online barista programs are worth the money you will be putting out. You’ll be doing all of the learning from on your own and not by instructor. We are sure that you will take something away from it, but we’d skip it if you have other options. That’s just our two cents though and feel free tell us to stick them in our piggy bank if you’d like.

Confessions of a Barista

Now let’s take a break from all the serious job talk and statistics. We are going to let you into the inner sanctum of baristas and shed some like on some funny little confessions that they’ve shared. Hopefully this will tickle your funny bone as much as it did ours!

Say hello to Jen! Jen is a barista at a well-known coffee chain and here is her confession:

“Dear customer that orders a “dry” cappuccino during my morning rush – How can I say this in a polite way? Oh well I guess I can’t, so you suck! I’m not the only one that is thinking it either, because every single person in line behind you thought it to. Now because you wanted your cup of milky air with some espresso at the bottom, everyone else will have to wait longer. It takes forever to make that drink, so hopefully you enjoy the extra bit of flavor I added…wink wink”

Meet Silas! Silas is a barista at a privately owned coffee shop in California and here is his confession:

“Hey peeps! Not to sound greedy or anything but it’s pretty awesome when you tip your favorite baristas. I’m not saying that you have to make it rain or anything but a light sprinkle now and then is pretty nice. You know what they say, you get more bees with honey…but in this case it better translates into a free cup if Joe or two!”

Let’s see what Elsa has to say! Elsa is also a barista at the coffee chain to end all coffee chains and here is her confession:

“Just a little tip for our lovely customers from all of the baristas out there. Be cool and don’t change your drink order while we are in the middle of making it. It kind of makes you a bit of a pain and totally makes extra work for us too. Be nice to your barista or we will give an extra flavor shot in your double frappucino and you can bet that extra shot won’t be hazelnut flavored”

Coffee Tips that Will Get You Tips!Coffee-Bean

Well since you are going to be grinding up some coffee beans soon, we figured that it’s a good idea to know some helpful tips about coffee and beverages. Take a looksee and try not to drool…it’s bad for your keyboard.

  • A breve is when you use half and half cream and a skinny or non fat is when you use fat free or skim milk
  • Pay close attention to the amount of shots that your customer wants. It’s pretty straight forward: single=1, double=2, triple=3 and quad=4…not exactly rocket science is it?
  • A cappuccino is a coffee drink that has a very small amount of milk and a lot of foam. A latte has a good amount of milk with foam. Here’s an extra tip – be careful not to stir either of these drinks. Just let the foam form and fluff up
  • Be sure to ask your customers if they want you to leave some room for cream. It’s better to ask and not assume. You know what they say about assuming, right?
  • The more you get into the rhythm of your position, you will become a major multi-tasker. You’ll be able to steam milk and pull shots of espresso at the same time. You’ll also get into the groove and be able to make more than one customers’ drink at a time
  • Another cool thing that comes along with getting more comfortable will be the ability to remember people’s orders too. That is a pretty cool and valuable skill to have, especially during a super busy rush
  • It’s important to match the temperatures with the drinks in order to maintain their flavor and integrity. For example: anything that is iced or blended, has to be made with cold additives and likewise can be said for hot drinks

 Final Grade

We hope you’ve been sipping on your espresso because it’s report card for our guys and gals that are thinking of becoming baristas! We are going to give you it to you straight here and hopefully you will come away with a sense of feeling that this is or is not the right job for you.

  • Degree vs. Debt: C

So we know that there isn’t a required degree or certification that you have to get to become a barista. Two thumbs up for that! However, the pay is on the low end with this job and may make it a bit difficult to support yourself. The courses at the barista schools aren’t cheap either and will take lots of latte slinging to afford.

  • Difficulty of Degree: A-

Most places that hire baristas don’t require that you actually take any sort of formal training. Most training is provided on the spot through the actual coffee house you will be working at. You can definitely take it upon yourself to attend a barista school to really learn the ropes. These schools are pretty helpful if you want to start your own coffee shop though. You’ll learn a lot, it’s pretty darn easy stuff and it’s fun! Oh we almost forgot to mention that you get to drink all the coffee you can stomach during your class. Where do we sign up?!

  • Happiness Quotient C

 There is sort of a mixed bag answer here. It’s definitely not a bad job to have at all. It can be quite fun once you get into the swing of it. That being said…there are super early mornings, semi late nights, grumpy customers, holiday and weekend hours and the pay is on the lower end of the spectrum. When you add the less than stellar hours, less than ideal pay and the customers that forget that you are a human rather than a robot – it can leave a bit of a sour taste in your mouth.

  • Job Outlook: B

 The Bureau of Labor Statistics is predicting pretty good growth for baristas. It’s looking like there is an anticipated 12% growth between 2012 and 2022. This is a bit faster growth than other job markets and is likely due to the estimate that 63% of adults that drink coffee daily. As we are sure you have noticed, there are coffee shops popping up left and right these day. Yay…job security!

Sources and Recommended Reading

Oh sources! They are the caramel to our macchiato and without them, this article would be laced with more bad coffee jokes than you could shake a stick at. We always toss our sources links into the piece to make it nice and clickable for you, but you can also get click happy here too.

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