Barista Job Description

by Daniel Harrington on February 17, 2011

Requirements of a Master Barista

The first thing a Barista knows is that an espresso shot is divided into three parts, the heart, body and crema. This is the anatomy of the classic espresso shot.

The heart sits at the bottom of the espresso and it is a rich and deep brown color. In the heart is the bitterness of the espresso shot which provides a nice balance to the overall sweetness of the shot and its fine aromas.

In the middle of the espresso shot is the body of the shot and the color of the body is ideally a caramel brown.

The Crema of the Espresso Shot

Sitting atop the espresso shot is the crema which is a thin and foamy layer that is golden-brown in color and contains the espresso’s very finest aromas and flavors. The crema is the key component holding the intensity of the espresso shot and is comprised of emulsified oils that float atop the espresso and contains sugars and proteins.

The crema is created by a dispersion of gases into the liquid at high pressure. These gases include carbon dioxide and air. The crema should taste sweet and be golden-brown in color with the finest of the espresso’s flavors and aromatic qualities and holding in all of the shot’s intensity.

Barista Job Description – The Nuances of Espresso

The job of a barista is to understand the nuances of the espresso shot and all that comes along with it from the quality of the coffee to the brewing to the serving of the fine espresso shot or high quality espresso drinks.

The job of a barista when pulling a shot of espresso is to examine all of the variables include the brewing temperature as well as the pressure provided by the espresso machine which forces the hot water through the tamped coffee grounds.

Also considered is the fineness of the coffee grind and the type of coffee grinder used as well as the quality and distinction of the particular coffee being used including the freshness of the gourmet coffee beans, and how the coffee beans were stored (a cool, dark and dry place is best) as well as how they were roasted and also when they were roasted as well as when they were ground (preferably just before use).

More Requirements of the Barista Job Description

The barista job involves using high pressure to prepare espresso with the knowledge that this results in an intense concentration of the specialty coffee’s chemicals and flavors. This is what makes the espresso so perfect for use in espresso coffee drinks (espresso drinks) with very little loss, or dilution, of the flavor when the steamed and frothed milk and foam are added to make the beverage.

The espresso shot serves as the foundation for many different espresso drinks such as the popular Cappuccino and Latte (Caffe Latte) as well as the tasty Mocha (Caffe Mocha). (See complete list of Espresso Drink Recipes.)

Barista Job Description – Pre-Warming the Demitasse

The Barista Job also involves a knowledge of some of the important things to do when preparing espresso and espresso drinks. For example, a good Barista will always pre-warm the demitasse before beginning the brewing of the espresso shot.

One of the trickiest things to learn when performing the Barista job is learning how to properly steam and froth milk for use in espresso drinks.

There are also some very important things not to do, such as letting the milk exceed one hundred and forty-five degrees Fahrenheit because this can scald and burn the milk giving it an off-taste that will taint the espresso coffee drink.

Steaming and frothing milk involves a process of heating up the milk while also injecting it with air so that it can be used in an espresso-based specialty coffee drink (espresso drink).

The goal of steaming milk is to steam into a very creamy and rich milk with a wonderful, velvety taste. Sitting on top the steamed milk is foam.

Barista Job Description – Creating the Optimal Foam

The ideal foam for used with espresso drinks does not have large bubbles. It is a high-quality foam and not a dry foam, not like a meringue. The foam enhances the espresso drink by blending with the beverage to create a harmony of flavors. It doesn’t just float atop the drink but instead helps the espresso drink express its essence.

When the barista utilizes the proper technique he or she is able to steam and aerate the milk creating a silky, frothy steamed milk along with the highest quality foam.

A barista’s job is to pay attention to all the details that create rich and velvety steamed milk and foam. First the barista must make sure to take the milk directly from the refrigerator because it will turn out better if it is nice and cold when you start the process.

Barista Job Description – Choosing the Milk

While low fat milk may be used if preferred, the taste will be better with one or two percent milk, and using whole milk will create the best foam of all.

In general the higher the fat content of the milk, the silkier and creamier the texture, however the less the milk will increase in volume during the steaming and aerating process.

Purging the System Is Part of the Barista’s Job

The Barista then fills the steaming pitcher about one-third full with the cold milk. Before steaming it is important to first purge the steaming system of all of its water and thus avoid getting any of the hot water mixed in with the milk.

This purging is done using a damp towel that is placed over the steam wand as the steam pressure valve is released for a couple seconds. Use caution whenever working with the steam wand of the espresso machine because the water is a very high temperature.

Barista Job Description – Steaming and Frothing Milk

The next step in the barista’s job is to begin the steaming process. This is done by placing the steaming wand into the steaming pitcher. Do not submerge the steaming wand tip too far down beneath the surface of the milk.

Turn on the steam power by hitting the button or turning the knob on the espresso machine. Aim the tip of the steam wand just slightly away from the center of the milk and the milk will then begin to spin in a circular vortex.

Finding the Sweet Spot When Steaming and Frothing Milk

Make sure that the tip of the steam wand is not too deep in the milk but instead just deep enough to stay below the surface and also prevent the tip from coming out of the milk which would produce inferior frothed milk and could also splatter hot milk around, making a mess and causing a safety concern.

When this steaming process is done just right the bubbles that are created should be very fine but if the steam wand is in the wrong place it will create large and tasteless bubbles.

The barista’s job continues as the vortex of milk continues to spin around while the milk is steamed and frothed. Listen for the hissing noise that will let you know you have found the sweet spot which is perfect for injecting air into the milk and creating the desired rich and creamy effect.

You may have to practice this just a bit but be patient and once you get it you will know, and so will your customers who appreciate the velvety quality of your steamed milk and foam.

Barista Job Description – Completing the Steaming

Once you have found the perfect spot to hold the steaming wand beneath the surface of the milk, and at just the right angle, then you should not need to raise or lower the steaming pitcher but just hold it steady as the process continues. You will only need to slowly lower the steaming pitcher as the volume of the milk expands.

Continue the rolling action of the milk and eventually the volume of the milk will double or even triple. This will depend upon what type of milk you used as well as your steaming skills.

By holding the steaming wand at the proper angle it will apply the proper amount of steam pressure into the milk and it will gradually become richer in its texture. This will create the creamy and velvety high quality milk and foam that is perfect for espresso drinks.

The steam wand should just lightly kiss the surface. If any excess bubbles begin forming then deepen the position of the steam wand so as to increase steam pressure and then begin aerating again and listen for the hear the high-pitched hissing noise.

Fine Points of Creating Steamed Milk for Espresso Drinks

For a cappuccino you will want to let the steam wand stay near the surface for a little longer to create more foam.

Any large bubbles that form during the steaming process should be pulled back into the vortex and disappear. If large bubbles persist then you need to reposition your steam wand. The bubbles that do form should be very tiny and fine bubbles.

This will create a foamy froth the sits nicely atop the espresso drink and is a foam that can be shaped and poured.

Barista Job Description – Small Bubbles and High-Quality Foam

The barista’s job is to make sure and stop steaming the milk once it reaches a temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit because any hotter and there is a risk that the milk will be tainted and get a burnt taste due to the scalding effect of too much heat.

Once you stop steaming look to see if there are any large bubbles that haven’t disappeared and if there are then tap the steaming pitcher very lightly a few times on a hard surface.

Keeping the Equipment Clean is Part of the Barista’s Job Description

As soon as you finish this steaming and aerating process make sure to clean off the steam wand thoroughly. It is the barista’s job to make sure and maintain a very tidy environment and in this case it is important to the overall quality of the products you produce.

Take a folded, wet towel and use it to wipe down the steaming wand. As you do this turn on the steam for a few moments so as to blow any remaining milk out of the steaming wand. For more tips see Steaming and Frothing Milk.

Barista Job Description – Cappuccinos and Lattes

To prepare a Cappuccino fill the cup about one-third full and then with the steamed milk and then slowly add the espresso. Now spoon frothed milk on top of the Cappuccino drink until the cup is filled. The espresso should layer nicely between the steamed milk and the foam.

If you are pouring steamed milk to make a Caffe Latte then this will usually use a double shot of espresso as well as about 5 ounces of steamed milk.

As you pour the steamed milk for the Caffe Latte use a spoon in order to hold back the foam as you pour the milk. It is best to serve the Caffe Latte in a big bowl-shaped, porcelain cup to make for a more wonderful espresso drink experience.

Using Flavored Syrups in Espresso Drink Recipes

If any flavored syrups are going to be used in the espresso drink then add the flavoring to the espresso shot, or shots, first.

Then make sure to stir it thoroughly to make sure that it dissolves properly in the espresso. Then you will be ready to add the steamed milk to create the perfect flavored espresso drink.

For some great recipes for drinks see the comprehensive list of Espresso Drink Recipes as well as recipes for Espresso Cuisine.

Also see: Best Coffee In The World – World’s Best Coffee

Getting the Perfect Grind Size for Espresso

Choosing the grind size depends somewhat on the type of espresso machine. For a steam-driven espresso machine the size of the coffee grind should be finer than for a pump-driven espresso machine because the steam-driven machine does not have as much pressure to be able to push the water through the grinds if its too fine, possibly leading to under-extraction.

You can get the most consistent grind size by using the best type of coffee grinder which is a conical burr grinder and not a wheel burr grinder or a blade coffee grinder.

Barista Job Description – Fine Points of Grinding for Espresso

It is a barista’s job to analyze all of the factors when determining the proper grind size in order to produce a very high quality espresso.

These various factors include the current temperature and humidity, which are things that might cause a variation that require subtle adjustments by the master barista. In the end the grind size for each coffee needs to be decided by the barista in order to achieve the optimal flavor.

Drinking the Espresso Solo

It is clearly in the barista job description to understand the Italian tradition of espresso which includes drinking it “solo” all at once and with great ceremony.

Of course everyone will not do it this way, but it is a tradition for a reason. This allows the full flavors and aromas of the espresso to be best appreciated.

Clearly it is best to drink your espresso at the peak of its freshness, especially when using very fine coffees with many wonderful qualities. After about thirty seconds the espresso will start to lose the fullness of its taste which will begin to degrade because of oxidation and also the drop in the espresso’s temperature.

Barista Job Description – Espresso Brewing Specifications

The job of a barista is to be aware of the proper Espresso Brewing specifications including the temperature of brewing which should be 190 to 197 degrees Fahrenheit, or 88 to 92 degrees Celsius.

The grind size should be very fine, sometimes almost powdery, although this varies a bit depending upon the espresso machine that is used.

If you are grinding coffee for a Steam-Driven Espresso Machine then you should grind the coffee extremely fine. The way you can tell it is a steam-driven espresso machines is that it will typically have a screw-on lid on the top where you can pour water into the machine.

For a pump-driven espresso machine you should use a slightly coarser grind for the espresso coffee beans. This type espresso machine typically will have large water reservoir and a front panel with buttons.

A conical burr grinder will provide a more consistent grind size avoid the overheating problems of a blade grinder. The barista needs to weigh all of the many factors involved and then make a determination about the proper grind size.

Pressure and Brewing Time – Barista Job Description

The force of an espresso machine should be eight to ten Atmospheres, or Bars, of pressure which is the equivalent of 135 pounds per square inch. About 6 to 9 grams of coffee should be allowed per shot of espresso.

Generally you want a brewing time of around twenty-two seconds, and not shorter than eighteen or longer than twenty-five seconds. This is varied depending upon several factors including how fine the coffee was ground and how firmly it was compacted in the portafilter of the espresso machine.

The barista’s job description does not necessarily include an encyclopedic knowledge of coffee but certainly the more you know the better. If you want to get acquainted with the rich history of coffee and espresso then check out espresso machines. See World’s Best History of Coffee.

Making Exceptional Espresso is Part of a Barista’s Job Description

It is a Barista’s job to prepare exceptional coffee and espresso as well as gourmet espresso drinks such as lattes, mochas and cappuccinos. A Barista also must knows how to use an espresso machine (espresso coffee maker) for pressurized extraction of a fine espresso shot.

It helps if the Barista is familiar with a variety of espresso machines and knows about the mechanics of how they force very hot water under very high pressure through the compressed (tamped) bed of roasted and ground coffee.

An experienced Barista is very skillful at making a traditional espresso which consists of a single shot of brewed espresso that is usually about 1.5 ounces in volume.

Barista Job Description – Evaluating Espresso Coffee Beans

The job of a Barista will often be to secure and evaluate coffee beans for making coffee as espresso. The espresso coffee beans are typically given a Dark Roast which is often called an Espresso Roast.

The espresso coffee beans or espresso blend should be of the finest quality in order to provide a high quality shot of espresso that is strong and flavorful with a distinct concentration of coffee flavoring materials and a very thick consistency that provides a remarkable and robust taste.

Everything You Want To Know About Coffee

Work on your espresso brewing techniques by learning to Pull A Perfect Espresso Shot and also become an expert at Steaming and Frothing Milk.

Study the Barista Guide to Perfect Lattes and Cappuccinos and you will learn how to make the best Espresso Drink Recipes.



{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Prakash Raut January 11, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I LOVE YOU COFFEE

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