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Barista: Job Profile and Role

Are you one of the people who think that coffee is the absolute best drink in the world? Are you also one of the people who enjoy a beautifully made café au lait with a little bit of latte art? If you now also love working with and serving people, we may just have the perfect job for you: the job of a barista.

In this blog, you will find out if this job is, indeed, the right career fit for you. You will find out what it takes to become a barista regarding qualifications and skills and where you can apply for a barista job. You will also find out what annual salary to expect and which career path is waiting for you. To help you with your decision-making, we will look into a day in the life of a barista and give you some important tips for thriving in this job.

Short Summary

  • As a barista, you are in charge of making (speciality) coffee, sometimes with latte art, and other hot beverages, such as tea.
  • As a barista, you need to be an expert on coffee, beans, and teas. This involves knowing the correct way to grind coffee and the correct time to brew both coffee and tea.
  • As a barista, you need to be very good with people since you will be serving them drinks and food daily. Therefore, you need strong interpersonal skills and should be quite business-savvy as well.

Job description

It is your job as a barista to make various hot and cold drinks and serve them to your customers. As a barista, you also need to have an in-depth knowledge of your working equipment, coffee, and tea, for example, since being a barista is way more than just preparing drinks. As a barista, you need excellent interpersonal and customer skills since you deal with people daily. It is also your job as a barista to ensure that both your workstation and the customer area are spick and span and adhere to health and safety regulations. As a barista, you may also be tasked with planning special promotions, for example, in the run-up to Christmas.

Responsibilities

  • Teamwork
  • Customer Service
  • Making Hot Drinks
  • Learning Menu Items
  • Cash and Transactions
  • Preparing Food Orders
  • Upselling and Promotions
  • Health/Safety Regulations
  • Monitoring Stock Supplies
  • Cleaning/Sanitising Equipment

Different types of Baristas

  • Freelance/Consultant Barista
  • Competition Barista
  • Speciality Barista
  • Senior Barista
  • Head Barista

Salary

Working as a barista in the UK means that you will earn between £19,000 and £24,000 annually. Besides your employer and the location of the café you are working in, your annual salary will be affected by your barista position. Note that you will earn more per year if you work full-time as opposed to part-time. Also, keep in mind that your tips may increase your salary as well.

Working hours

Your working hours as a barista can vary from 15 to 30 hours per week to 35 to 40 hours per week. This mainly depends on whether you work as a part-time or a full-time barista. If you are thinking about working as a barista, you need to make sure that shift work is the right fit for you. Typically, as a barista, you will work morning, day, and evening shifts. The latter can easily stretch into the late hours, depending on your employer’s opening hours. Also, keep in mind that you will also be working on the weekends. Again, it depends on your employer whether this includes Sundays as well.

Employers

As a barista, you can find employment in small and independent cafés as well as with well-known coffee franchises, such as Costa Coffee or Starbucks. You can also look for work in other hospitality-related companies, such as restaurants, bars, or hotels that offer hot drinks on their menus. As a barista, you can also find work at schools and hospitals and work in the in-house canteen.

Qualifications

Technically, you do not need specific qualifications to become a barista since this job can be approached through work experience in a café. However, you might want to look into doing a college course or an apprenticeship which usually requires GCSEs in Maths and English and at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D) or 3 to 1 (D to G).

Suitable college courses can be the Level 1 Award in Introduction to Employment in the Hospitality Industry or the Level 2 Award in Barista Skills. If you want to do an apprenticeship, doing a hospitality team member intermediate apprenticeship that takes 12 months to complete can be a viable option for you.

The job as a barista could be suitable for you if you have one or more of the following qualifications:

The Magic Behind Coffee and Milk

Making the perfect coffee and the perfect froth involves some serious technical knowledge. Pulling an espresso shot, for example, means that you have to know the correct tamping pressure and the timeframe in which an espresso needs to be made. This also applies to the milk. Too hot, and the froth will be either too liquid or bubbly and will not work for latte art. But do not worry – you will learn everything you need to know during your barista training (and it is huge fun, we can tell you!).

Skills

Excellent interpersonal and communication skills will be needed if you want to succeed as a barista – and we are fairly certain that most employers will list these skills in their respective job posts (nevertheless, you should always check the required skills when applying for a job as a barista). What other skills will help you to perform a brilliant and fun-laden job as a barista is what we will look at in this section.

Is the barista job a good fit for you? Typically, a barista should have or develop the following skills:

Resilience and Patience

Dealing with customers can be both very fulfilling and satisfying and nerve-wracking to the point where you can be tempted to chuck a cup at some of them. Naturally, we recommend that you do not do that since that will likely end in you being sacked. Instead, work on your resilience and patience and possibly look into workshops where you can learn helpful techniques. Resilience and patience will be the skills that get you through your working day – and ideally, ensure that you face even the most difficult and rudest customer with a cheerful smile.

Speed and Efficiency

Barista work is high-paced work, especially during peak times. Therefore, it is vitally important that you are both speedy and efficient. Everything you prepare should take as little time and as little prep steps as possible. This way, you not only ensure that your customers are served quickly, but you can also ensure that you will not have to deal with seriously long queues and unhappy customers. Being fast and efficient also reduces your stress levels and physical input, meaning that you are a lot more relaxed during and after your shift.

Eagle Eyes

As a barista, you technically need more than the pair of eyes you have. It would not go amiss if you also had eyes at the back of your head that ensure that nothing escapes your attention. Since this is anatomically impossible, you need to make sure that your eyes are everywhere at once. By very literally keeping an eye on things you ensure that all work processes run smoothly. Your eagle eyes also give you the chance to react quickly in case of spills and breakages.

Career Path

Your career as a barista usually begins with an entry-level position. Depending on your employer and your work performance over the next couple of years, you may have the option to advance to the position of a senior barista which can consequently result in you becoming the head barista at your workplace. As a trained barista, you can also think about becoming a speciality or competition barista. Another option for you can be to look into going freelance and working as a consultant barista.

Educational Background

There is no specific educational or academic background required of you to become a barista. The most common approach to this job is through work experience, you are then trained by a barista while working at a café. If you want to approach your career as a barista more professionally, you can look into completing a college course or an apprenticeship. These approaches have multiple advantages, one of them being that potential employers might favour you over other applicants.

Entry Level

When you start working as a barista, your first job will be an entry-level one – regardless of your educational approach to the job. As a barista newbie, you will learn everything there is to know about making coffee and other drinks, preparing food, and serving customers. Even though an entry-level position might not always be the easiest or most fun, it offers you valuable insights and experience that will help you with your further career progression.

Continuous Learning

Coffee and tea and the way they can be prepared are a science in themselves. Being a barista involves quite a lot of technical and in-depth knowledge about everything connected to coffee, tea, and the correct preparation. Therefore, you should invest a lot of time into your professional development. We recommend that you look into the courses offered by the SCA (Speciality Coffee Association), for example. Here, you can take part in coffee skills programs and even do an SCA Skills Diploma. Also, you should look into health and safety courses and keep in mind that these need a refresher once in a while.

A Day in the Life of a Barista

Your working day as a barista could start with opening the café you are working at. After that, you need to start the coffee machine and do your “mise-en-place”, meaning that you need to prepare everything you need for the day. What other tasks you will perform after this is what this section is all about.

Manage Customers and Queues

If you have already worked as a barista or waiter/waitress, you know that customers are an important part of your job. You also know that there are peak times, for example, at breakfast and lunch, when a café gets busy. Managing your customers and the ensuing queues is one of the main tasks you perform daily – while always maintaining an air of professionalism and keeping a smile on your face (which is no mean feat, we can tell you!).

Prepare Specialised Coffees and Meals

As a barista, you also prepare and make various beverages during the day. This naturally includes coffee in all its forms, from an espresso to a cappuccino to an average coffee. As a barista, you also know what latte art is and how to do it. An art in itself, it can easily turn into your favourite job part as a barista – and it is sure to bring a smile to your customers’ faces. Besides your speciality coffees, you also prepare other drinks like tea and cold beverages. In some cases, you may also be in charge of preparing food and serving it to your customers.

Wind Down

Towards the end of your shift, you can start to wind down. This includes cleaning your work area, restocking coffee beans, tea, and other beverages, and filling up sugar dispensers. This way, you ensure a smooth handover to your colleague who takes over. If you are in charge of closing down the café, you can also be in charge of cleaning the whole place, including the kitchen and the customer area. You can also be responsible for balancing the cash and filing the day’s sales receipts.

Tips for Thriving as a Barista

When you work as a barista, you should always strive to thrive, meaning that you should always look into ways to improve both your personal and professional skills. Besides, the following three tips will also help you thrive as a barista:

  • Know your equipment and coffees
  • Sprinkle some fairy dust
  • Join barista networks

Know your Equipment and Coffees

As a barista, you need to be an expert on everything connected to coffee. This starts with a very intricate knowledge of the various machines with which you can make coffee, including a portafilter machine, a French Press (percolator) and a traditional coffee machine. You also need to know how to grind and tamper coffee beans for different coffees or how long it takes to prepare a coffee in a percolator. You also need to be an expert on the different coffee beans you use, including their origins and their specific tastes. The same applies to tea which also is an art and science in itself. If you are an expert in these fields, you will thrive as a barista.

Sprinkle some Fairy Dust

This does not mean that you should sprinkle anything over your drinks or the meals you have prepared. Sprinkling some fairy dust applies to the attention and care you give to your customers. The people frequenting your café do so to get a break from their daily routines and to reset and recharge. The more magical their experience, the more likely they will return. Your fairy dust can be a little latte heart or a smiley face next to a piece of cake. These small but considerate gestures pretty much guarantee that your customers will return – and that you will thrive as a barista.

Join Barista Networks

Networking is key in many sectors and should also be something you pursue when you work as a barista – especially when you are thinking about starting your own café/barista business or taking part in barista competitions. Other and maybe more professional baristas can give you valuable tips on how to improve your techniques and on what is new in the coffee world. If you apply those tips to your barista work, you will thrive in this profession. Maybe one day, you will also be able to pass your knowledge on to new baristas who you are training.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a barista earn?

As a barista in the UK, you tend to earn between £19,000 and £24,000 per year. How much you earn each year depends on multiple factors, such as your employer and your kind of employment. If you work as a full-time barista, you tend to earn more. The location of the café you are working in and tips will also affect your annual wages.

What qualifications do I need to become a barista?

You do not need specific qualifications to become a barista. You might, however, want to look into doing a college course or an intermediate apprenticeship. To enter one of those education options, you generally need GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D) or 3 to 1 (D to G). Appropriate college courses can be the Level 1 Award in Introduction to Employment in the Hospitality Industry or the Level 2 Award in Barista Skills, whereas a hospitality team member intermediate apprenticeship would be an apprenticeship option.

What is the job of a barista?

As a barista, you have to perform various tasks daily, including making (speciality) coffee – obviously. As a barista, you need to know your working equipment inside out since industrial coffee machines are a world apart from the ones most people have in their homes. As a barista, you are also in charge of preparing other hot and cold beverages and food. If you want to work as a barista, you need to be up for dealing with customers and their queries daily. You also need to make sure that both your workstation and the customer area are shipshape at all times and adhere to health and safety regulations.