Our guide to barista

Our guide to barista

First published date April 02 2014 Amended date April 28 2014

We all need it to wake up in the morning, especially those muggy Monday mornings in the winter; coffee has become a kind of black gold these days, even more so now with coffee shops springing up all the time on the high streets. Demand is high and supply is constant. A barista is someone who serves coffee in a bar, as aptly defined by the Oxford Dictionary and it’s a tough skill to master fully. If this sounds like something you want to do, then there are barista courses available to show you how to make the perfect latte or macchiato.


Why should I take a barista course?

Some people are happy with a standard filter coffee in the morning before they start work, others order mochas with skinny soya with an extra shot and extra whip; complicated eh? Here is where you can come in. Baristas are more than just coffee servers; to understand the complex coffee machines and to grasp the vast scope of coffees people order these days require serious skill similar to that of a cocktail expert. In Italy, more so than in other nations, the barista is a highly respected craft and profession. So if you love your coffee and want to master serving it to the public, take a barista course and learn the ways of the coffee world.


What will I be learning?

When taking on a barista course, you may already be working in the hospitality industry, either in a coffee shop, cafe, restaurant or anywhere else of that nature. Course content can range from basic beginner courses to ones that are devoted to solely latte art which will have you learning how to make hearts and other shapes on the top of a latte. The more standardised barista courses will show you all the fundamentals of coffee making. You will learn the different types of coffee from lattes to cappuccinos and the correct technique to steam the milk perfectly for each one using a professional coffee machine. Different coffee types require steamed milk with varying levels of foam and froth.

 Not only will you learn drink varieties, some courses will delve deeper than that and teach you about the two types of coffee beans, Arabica and Robusta and learn their properties. You will also be taught how to use the coffee machines correctly, how to maintain and take them apart to clean them thoroughly.  


Qualifications and careers

The majority of barista courses on offer will be aimed toward those looking to start or further their careers in the hospitality industry. On some courses you will gain a vocational qualification upon completion, but even if you took a course that may only offers a certificate of attendance, the skills you pick up will still be very valuable to any potential employer. Careers in hospitality and service are always available and could lead you into catering management career.


Some barista equipment and terms

Burr grinder: This is the recommended grinder which grinds the coffee beans into a fine ground coffee which goes into the portafilter to brew an espresso shot.

Portafilter: This is the device that attaches to the coffee machine and holds and filters the ground coffee.

Knockbox: This is a box with a rubber or wooden bar across it used to dispense of the spent puck (left over coffee grounds after a brewing espresso shot) after brewing an espresso shot.

Steam Knob: Most coffee machines will have a steam knob with a manual valve. The valve increases and decreases steam pressure released to steam the milk in different ways for different coffee types.

Under Extracted: This is when coffee hasn’t had enough boiling water pressurised through it to brew the shot properly. This will often result in a weak watery flavour.

Over Extracted: Opposite of under extraction, this happens when the coffee is exposed to too much water leaving a kind of burnt or bitter flavour.


A hot cup of facts...

-          Coffee beans are actually the pits of berries. Yes... Coffee is fruit!


-          Caffeine can kill in large doses, but it would take a monumental 100 cups of coffee to do so –  imagine the jitters! So don’t worry when you have one of those days where the java is really flowing.


-          The term ‘Americano’ came from American soldiers in World War Two watering down their espressos because they were too strong.


-          Coffee is second only to oil as the world’s most traded commodity, with Brazil being the largest producers, and the Dutch are the biggest drinkers per capita.


-          Hawaii is the only state in the US that grows coffee commercially.