Although many people can prepare a cup of coffee, a barista can transform a common beverage into a unique sensory experience. Apart from knowing how to prepare a perfect cup of coffee, a good barista can create a cozy and pleasant atmosphere in the coffee shop.
Coffee shops are present in every corner of our cities, a reality we all know. But do they all work well? How can you recognize a good barista?
I will show you some key points to differentiate a good barista from an untrained one. Thus, you can enjoy an exceptional cup of coffee from the hands of the best professionals.
1. Ask the barista what they are serving you
This exercise is as good for the barista as it is for you. Not all coffee beans are the same, as hundreds of varieties are cultivated throughout the planet. In addition, each coffee bean goes through different roasting and other processes that make them unique.
The main questions you should ask about the coffee bean used are:
- Is it a blend or a single origin?
- What type of roast does the coffee have?
- What is the species?
- At what altitude was it grown?
- On which farm was it grown?
These questions will allow you to understand if the person preparing your coffee knows what raw material they use and how to treat it.
As surprising as it may seem, few baristas know the type of bean they use. Often, they think that the only task they have is to press a button on the machine to make espresso, but the truth is that there is much more behind a well-made cup of coffee.
2. Check if the barista follows all the correct steps when preparing the espresso
Observe if, between coffees, before starting to prepare the one you have just ordered, the barista performs the following steps:
- Do they pass a little water to clean the residues from the previous grind?
- Do they clean the filter with a dry cloth, thus eliminating the previously used coffee?
- Do you level the ground coffee and press it evenly before brewing?
- Do you extract the coffee in 6 seconds, and it comes out as a waterfall? Or, on the contrary, do you serve it in one minute, dropping only one drop at a time into the cup? Neither of these two things is correct. The coffee should come out between 22 and 27 seconds, continuously flowing.
If the coffee comes out in less than 22 seconds, it is said that it is under-extracted, that is to say, that the water, passing quickly, has not been able to extract as much as it should. Therefore, the final cup will be flat, without much aromatic complexity.
If, on the other hand, the coffee comes out after 27 seconds, the coffee is over-extracted; that is, the water, not being able to pass through the ground coffee, will have remained in contact with it for too long, extracting more than it should, giving the cup notes of burnt and strong bitterness.
➡️ If the barista follows all these steps, you can be sure that they know how to work, has received training, and know the importance of each step.
3. Is the workstation clean and tidy?
In addition to coffee preparation skills, cleanliness and order in a barista’s workstation are critical elements to guarantee a quality coffee experience for customers. Therefore, observe if your barista keeps these work tools and utensils clean:
- Do they keep the frother clean?
- Is the machine shiny or completely encrusted all over?
- Are the nozzles through which the coffee comes out clean, or are there still traces of coffee from 2 years ago?
- Are there different rags for the machine, the workbench, the work surfaces, and the steam wand?
- Is the workbench clean, or is there coffee, sugar, etc.?
- Are the cups neatly organized along the countertop and rotated correctly in the cup holder, or are they all left dirty between the sink and the workbench?
- Lastly, is the professional’s appearance well-maintained? Are they clean and tidy? Are their apron and uniform neat?
This is part of professionalism; it would be like having a cook who does not clean his hands after going to the bathroom or any other unclean action.
4. How do they deal with customers?
Recognizing a good barista depends on his ability to prepare an excellent coffee and how he treats his clients.
- A good barista should be friendly and cordial when a client enters the premises. Greeting with a smile and asking how the customer is doing is a simple gesture that makes all the difference.
- A good barista must be willing to listen to the needs and preferences of their customers. Knowing how to ask questions and being attentive to details is essential to offer a personalized service and meeting each person’s expectations.
- On the other hand, a good barista must be patient and calm, even in times of high demand. Remaining calm and serene in stressful situations conveys professionalism and confidence.
- Finally, a good barista must be a good communicator. Knowing how to explain coffee brewing processes, offering recommendations and suggestions, and being willing to answer questions are fundamental to creating a satisfactory customer experience.
A good barista is one that not only knows how to prepare a perfect cup of coffee but is also capable of creating a welcoming and pleasant atmosphere in the coffee shop.
Key points can be followed to recognize a good barista, such as asking what coffee is being tasted, if it is a blend or single origin, and how it has been roasted. It is also important to observe if the barista follows all the correct steps when preparing the espresso and if his workstation is clean and tidy.
Lack of knowledge and attention on the part of some baristas can affect the quality of the beverage and disappoint customers looking for a unique experience in their favorite coffee shop.