As a little girl, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d say the silliest things, as I’m sure most of you did as well. My choices were a nun, then a doctor, journalist… I had many ideas and they would change frequently. To this day, I love asking little kids what they want to be as grown-ups, and there’s always an interesting answer.
Nobody knew what a Barista was back then. We can say that the occupation of a Barista is fairly new. Once I realized that I wanted to be a Barista, I had already graduated from college and the only way I could get qualified was enrolling an expensive course. Luckily, my troubles were solved by being hired in a Coffee shop that gives you full training before you can say that you’re a Barista.
How to appear as a professional Barista even if you’re not one? Well, here are some tips and tricks right from the Professional Barista’s Handbook.
Barista is a Coffee Artist. When we speak about artistry in this field it entails making the Coffee drinks step by step and making them look pretty. The taste and the look of the drink must be up to standard.
Professional Barista knows that when it comes to milky Coffee drinks, the first thing is preparing the milk. After it’s prepared the milk needs to rest for at least 30 seconds. That is of utmost importance. MILK FIRST. After that’s done you can continue with preparing the shots.
How to make a perfect Cappuccino:
- Froth the milk
- Let it sit (while it’s sitting bang the jug a couple of times and swirl the milk until it’s glossy and creamy)
- Prepare the shots
- Tilt the cup with the shots in a full circle motion so that you get crema trace in the cup
- When pouring in the milk (tilt the cup) and aim for the middle
- In one swift motion pour in the froth (if you aim for the middle you should get a nice golden ring on your drink)
- Sprinkle with chocolate or cinnamon sprinkles (if preferred).
There’s another way to appear as a professional Barista and that is by asking questions. Not just any questions of course. Professional Barista always asks the same questions and in a specific order.
Sometimes it’s impossible to take an order without interrupting a customer. The customers are not concerned by your job. They see you in your place, so you should know what they’re asking for. Even, it’s wrong.
When it’s their turn they will just spit out what they want and move on to cakes or sandwiches leaving you with a huge question mark right above your head. So let’s start with basic questions. The same questions serve us to serve them better.
Basic question is if they want their Coffee in a to go cup or a mug. That’s the alpha and omega of every order, because I as a Barista, have to know how to prepare it. It’s easy to prepare everything for a latte very quickly (because the shots go in last). What if they want a Cappuccino? Your first question should be: Is to go or for here (inside)? They might get offended by this question so you can formulate it as: Would you like it in a paper cup or a mug? Customers tend to react in a friendlier mode to this question, because they don’t feel like they were sent out. 🙂
The second question is the size. What size would you like? Nothing confuses them more than this question (even if they know exactly what they want). You can offer them sizes that your shop offers to ease their minds. My way of asking this would be: Would you like a medium or large drink?
Tips And Tricks
There are some tips and tricks on how to appear professional, even if you’re still in training:
- Heat up the cup for a single or double Espresso before extracting the shots
- Heat up the glass for the Latte (if you’re serving your Latte in a glass and not in a mug) before pouring in the milk
- Heat up cup for the Tea
- After frothing milk for a Cappuccino or a Mocha – bang that jug a couple of times to let the air out of the froth
- After texturing milk for a Flat White or a Cortado – bang the jug and swirl it until it’s glossy
- Always use fresh milk, empty out the jug before frothing/steaming milk for a new drink
- When ordering Americano ask them if they need room for milk
- Give them a choice – chocolate or cinnamon sprinkles or various types of milk
Explain The Taste
As a Barista, you should not only know how to prepare the drinks, but also what they taste like. That means that in the process of learning you should try the drinks, so you can explain them better to the customers. Sometimes they don’t want your expert explanation of a drink, they need to be reminded of the taste by something specific.
Example 1: When a customer asks what’s a Flat White, they don’t want to hear the recipe you have to learn. They want to hear something like: it’s a strong type of Coffee, much like your Cappuccino without the froth. It is your task to bring them closer to a decision.
Example 2: ‘What does Mocha Latte with coconut milk taste like?’ ‘Oh, it has too many different flavors for my taste, it’s like drinking a melted Bounty candy bar with Coffee’. Again, you don’t explain the recipe step by step – find a way to bring them closer to a solution by a familiar example.
Due to my lactose intolerance, I couldn’t have tried all the drinks I made in the beginning, but I’ve tried them with soy milk.
All these tips are very handy when customers know what they want. How about the situations where they have no clue what they want or prefer. These are my favorite customers. Let me explain this with an example.
One of our regular customers came in one day and started asking about calories in the drink. She told me she just started a diet and has to count calories carefully. Her usual drink was hot chocolate with cream, or Coffee blended over ice with caramel syrup. So, it was safe to say that she prefers a sweeter drink with not so much Coffee. When I asked her if she ever tried a Mocha, she wasn’t sure what it was. I prefer a challenge anyway, so I explained to her that it’s the same type of Coffee as a Cappuccino only with frothed chocolate milk. She was still concerned by calories.
Behind the bar we have a book with all the explanations, recipes and calories for the drinks. I took out the book and looked for calories related to Mocha drinks. Mocha prepared with soy milk has significantly lowered number of calories than the regular one, so I offered that to her. She was still thinking about it when I added: there’s no need to add sugar in a soy Mocha because the milk is sweeter. My last statement won her over and ever since then the soy Mocha is her drink.
Winning Them Over
It is important to have the customer on your side, it will make your job easier. Find a way to talk to them without making them feel stupid. Everybody will always react better to a friendly face/question.
There are some customers who have never had a decent cup of Coffee. Whenever I have a customer who doesn’t know which Coffee to choose (my favorite ones), I try to explain Coffee types in the simplest way possible. If they don’t like the drink, offer to make them a new one. For some people it takes time to decide – and how would they decide if they never tasted something amazing.
It is your job to make them something amazing to drink. Like I said in the beginning it’s not just the process of making it, but the finishing touch as well. Make your drinks look pretty and presentable. Practice your drinks, practice the latte art and using the stencil for dusting (if your shop uses one).
Last but not least – do not stress about making the drinks quickly – a true Coffee Lover is always ready to wait for their perfect drink!