What is a Barista – What Do They Do?

When asking what is a barista, it is important to understand what the word means. The word “barista” comes from Italian and simply means a bartender. This could be a male or female bartender as it is not gender specific.

However the term barista almost always refers to someone who makes, prepares and serves coffee. The word barista is now in common usage outside of Italy and especially in countries such as the United States of America and United Kingdom.

What is a Barista?

A barista is usually an employee in a coffee shop, cafe or restaurant that is responsible for serving coffee. You will find baristas in all sorts of cafes and it is normally common practice to employ an individual specifically for this role. Although sometimes a barista will have other responsibilities depending on the workplace. This may include basic bar duties, cashier duties and cleaning duties.

What Does a Barista Do?

Baristas will, for the most part, spend their working day making and preparing coffee. What type of coffee they will be making will depend on the menu in the cafe, coffee shop or restaurant they are employed. Most baristas will be expected to prepare espresso based coffees, filter coffee, pour over coffee, iced coffee and less often will be expected to make syphon filter coffee and coffee cocktails.

They are responsible for the daily setup and maintenance of a coffee shop’s espresso machine, grinder and other associated equipment. This will include tasks like turning the espresso machine on, setting up the espresso machine, making sure enough clean coffee cups are available, cleaning the grinder, refilling the grinder and regular maintenance of both.

Often a barista will be expected to carry out other duties as well as making coffee based drinks. This depends greatly on what other menu items are available in the store at which they are employed but can include things like, serving cold food items (ready to eat) such as sweet goods and desert items. It can also include the preparation of hot food such as lunch menu items.

Almost always a barista will be expected to carry out at least basic cleaning tasks, this will include the regular cleaning of their specific area, cleaning the equipment they have used and any spillages. This can also include general cleaning around the store and is often expected.

One of the more important tasks that a barista has is to complete cashier duties. The barista is often one of the employees that spends the most time interacting with the customer whilst taking drink orders and it can often be the barista’s responsibility to complete the transaction by processing the customers order at the cash register.

How Much Do They Get Paid?

How much a barista gets paid varies from place to place however we found after looking at over 19,000 baristas incomes in the United States the average hourly rate is $11.52. Baristas can also earn tips on top of this hourly rate. In the United Kingdom it is common to see baristas being paid the national minimum wage. As of the date of publishing that is £4.55 (for 16 years old), £6.45 (18 years old) and £8.20 (21 years old and above). In the United Kingdom baristas can also earn tips to supplement their hourly rate.

Do They Get Tips?

It is very common for baristas to receive tips in most cafes and coffee shops. This depends on whether or not the employer allows for the collection of tips and how they are distributed. For example in the United States the average daily tip amount for a barista is $17 which can make a substantial difference to the income of a barista.

In the United Kingdom it is also possible for baristas to earn tips to supplement their hourly rate of pay however due to culture differences with the United States tipping is less common in the United Kingdom. It is more likely to see a ‘tip jar’ for cafes in the United Kingdom and this is often distributed between staff at the end of shifts, end of week or end of month.

Getting a Job as a Barista

If you want to work as a barista it is important to understand what duties you will be expected to carry out and approach potential employers showing them you are capable of doing so. The best place to start is local job boards in your area, for example in the United Kingdom a great job board for finding barista jobs is indeed.

Remember that when applying to work as a barista employers will expect someone with great customer service skills and you should be comfortable interacting with a large number of people every day. You will be working with and serving people from all different backgrounds throughout the day and should be able to show that you have a friendly and welcoming manner.

Another key skill that baristas should have is the ability to upsell other products that your store may have available, this may be sweet desert items to accompany beverages or hot food and lunch menu items such as sandwiches.

Employers will be inclined to hire someone that shows the potential to work well in a busy environment and can easily take on new tasks when required. Some cafes and coffee shops will be looking for baristas that have particular skills and these jobs may require some previous experience working as a barista, this is common in specialty coffee shops.

Want to work on your barista skills at home? Why not check out our review of the Sage Barista Express, the ideal home espresso machine for budding baristas.

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