What makes a great barista?

Industry experience, speciality knowledge and technical ability are the essential holy trinity, but what separates a good barista from a truly great one? We asked the pros …

Todd Johnson & Zach Williams
Williams & Johnson Coffee Co.

‘A lot of the qualities of a good barista come down to customer service. Welcoming people when they enter the cafe and getting to know regulars are really important. Customers who visit on a regular basis often return for the human interaction, so asking how their day is going makes a lasting impression.

‘Being able to work in a team is another desirable skill and vital for consistency. Regulars become regulars because they know that the coffee is going to taste great – regardless of who made it. The barista who opens the cafe will dial in the espresso and they need to relay that information to the team so that every cup that day is as good as the first.’

Hollie Petrie
Spider On A Bicycle

‘While a solid knowledge of coffee and a technical skill set is great, the ability to multitask is important for a good barista. You can teach people how to brew coffee but teaching multitasking and customer service skills is much harder. This is amplified within indie coffee shops as a smaller set-up means that the barista will have to adopt different roles throughout the day – one minute they could be pouring a flat white, the next washing dishes, serving at the till or even baking.’

Mark Donald
The Milkman

‘A barista needs to have the knowledge to get the most out of the coffee they’re serving. They also need to have the social skills to interact with the customer without coming across as pretentious.

‘A lot of people won’t set foot in speciality shops because they feel intimidated but we want to open up quality coffee to a spectrum of people with different backgrounds. Having a positive attitude and friendly demeanour helps people feel at ease.

‘Being organised, tidy and proactive are also key attributes which contribute to efficient workflow. Being good at these will have a direct impact on the team you’re working with and the smooth running of the cafe.’

Adele McPhee
Willow Grove

‘Being a great barista isn’t as simple as training on an espresso machine – it takes years of practice with lots of contributing factors along the way.

‘Finding a good mentor is key – someone who is both a coffee specialist and an enthusiast. Be it a skilled barista who can teach the subtleties of the role or a roaster who can introduce the process and the diversity of beans, with a great teacher it becomes clear there’s more to speciality coffee than just pulling a shot.’

Lisa Cathro
Zest Cafe

‘A good barista is someone who cares about what they’re doing and the customers they’re serving. There’s no room for show ponies. A willingness to learn is important too and people learn the most when they’re teaching or helping someone else to improve their skills.’

Gerard Browne
Shamrock and Thistle

‘Enthusiasm, creativity, curiosity and an unyielding commitment to quality are the four pillars from which every barista should work.

‘Paying respect to the supply chain and having gratitude for the significant amount of labour that has gone into getting each bean from plant to cup is key. Baristas should honour this process in the careful and skilled preparation of the coffee.

‘And serving the coffee with a smile and beautiful latte art keeps the customers coming back.’

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