What Is A Barista

by Daniel Harrington on February 16, 2011

A Complete and Thorough Barista Job Description

A Barista prepares excellent coffee and espresso as well as espresso coffee drinks (specialty coffee drinks) such as lattes, mochas and cappuccinos. A Barista also has a great deal of other knowledge and skill.

Using the Espresso Machine

A Barista knows how to work an espresso machine (espresso coffee maker) for pressurized extraction of a fine espresso shot. The espresso machine forces very hot water under very high pressure through a compressed bed of roasted and ground coffee. A Barista might even know the fun fact that espresso means “pressed out.”

A Barista knows, first and foremost, how to brew a traditional shot of espresso. The traditional and classic espresso consists of a single shot of espresso which is typically about 1.5 ounces in volume.

Of course a Barista knows that this espresso is best served in a three-ounce demitasse. A Barista definitely knows that the demitasse should be pre-heated before pulling the espresso. And a Barista will also know that the word demitasse is French for “half cup.”

Baristas Know About Coffee Beans

A Barista knows about coffee beans, and in particular a Barista should know that coffee beans that are used for making espresso are typically given a Dark Roast which is also sometimes referred to as an Espresso Roast.

What Is A Barista – The Grind Size

A good Barista is aware that the grind size to be used for coffee when pulling an espresso is usually very fine because this produces a very concentrated and intensely flavored coffee beverage.

What is a Barista? A Barista is someone who knows that a fine shot of espresso is very strong and flavorful, and that this is due to a very strong concentration of coffee flavoring materials creating a thick consistency and a very robust taste.

Espresso Machine Knowledge

A modern Barista will know about the many types of espresso machines including modern machines such as those produced by the Illy company for automated espresso brewing with E.S.E. Pods (ESE Pods – Easy Serving Espresso Pods) and Hyper Espresso Capsules. These are some new and efficient ways to create fine espresso coffee.

What Is A Barista – The Fine Points of Espresso Making

A good Barista should be aware of the many factors that go into producing a high quality shot of espresso. After all it is the espresso that is the base of many specialty coffee drinks so it is essential that the quality of the espresso be top notch.

In this regard a Barista will be aware that espresso brewing requires paying attention to the many factors involved in the espresso shot including the brewing temperature, the pressure provided by the particular espresso machine in order to force water through the tamped coffee grounds, the fineness or coarseness of the grind of the coffee, and the particular type of coffee grinder used to grind the coffee (a conical burr grinder is best).

What Is A Barista – The Quality of the Coffee Experience

A Barista is also aware of the importance of the freshness and quality of the coffee beans, and how the coffee beans were stored (a cool, dark, dry place is best), and also how the coffee beans were roasted as well as when they were roasted. Of course a Barista knows that coffee and espresso is best if the beans are ground just before being used.

The Crema of the Espresso Shot

Now every great Barista will have some knowledge about the espresso shot itself, and in particular a Barista should know that an essential component of the fine taste of any espresso shot is the crema. This crema consists of a very thin layer of fine foam that is comprised of emulsified oils that float on top of the espresso shot.

The Barista may even know that an espresso shot’s crema is created by the gases being dispersed into the liquid due to the high pressure used. The Barista should definitely know that a great crema is golden-brown in color and tastes very sweet since it contains the finest flavors and aromatic qualities of the espresso shot while also retaining the shot’s intensity.

What Is A Barista – The Anatomy of An Espresso Shot

A respected Barista should know about the components of a shot of espresso which include the heart, the body, and the crema. We’ve already mentioned the crema, which is the top layer of the espresso shot. The crema should be thin and foamy with a golden-brown color.

The heart of the espresso shot is found at the very bottom and is a deep, rich brown color. The heart is the part of the espresso shot that contains the bitterness of the shot and supplies the balance to the overall sweetness. In the middle layer of the espresso is the body of the espresso shot which is a caramel brown color.

Barista Knowledge About Dilution and Concentration

Any great Barista is aware that using high pressure to brew espresso creates an ideal concentration of the coffee’s chemicals and tastes. This concentration makes it perfect for using to make espresso drinks because there is very little dilution of the flavors even when the steamed milk and velvety foam are added to the coffee drink.

Of course a Barista will know a whole range of fine espresso drink recipes and how to make them. The Barista will have perfected the primary espresso drinks including the Cappuccino, Latte (Caffe Latte), and Mocha (Caffe Mocha).

What Is A Barista – The Fine Points of Coffee Grinding

Some finer points a Barista might be aware of include the fact that the grind size for a steam-driven espresso machine needs to be finer than the grind size used for a pump-driven espresso machine. This is because a steam-driven espresso machine does not have as much pressure to push the hot water through the coffee grinds.

A true Barista will gain an in-depth knowledge of coffee grinding and will be aware that a conical burr grinder is best to ensure a consistency in the grind particle size. A conical burr grinder is preferable to a wheel burr grinder and definitely better than a blade coffee grinder which generates excess heat an may even re-roast the coffee beans.

An old-school Barista is well aware that there are numerous factors to take into account when determining the proper grind size of the coffee in order to create the highest quality espresso. These factors include the temperature and humidity of the environment which can cause a variation that may require some adjustments by the barista.

What Is A Barista – Drinking Your Espresso Shot “Solo”

Any good Barista will know that it is an Italian tradition to drink your espresso at the very peak of its freshness. The espresso should be consumed with a grand sense of ceremony and this is done by drinking the espresso “solo,” which means drinking it in one gulp. Drinking your espresso “solo” allows you to enjoy all of the espresso’s fine flavors flavors.

A Barista knows that a shot of espresso shouldn’t be consumed within thirty seconds so that the full flavor can be enjoyed. The Barista may even realize that it is oxidation which degrades the flavors and aromas of the fine espresso shot as the temperature of the coffee beverage goes down.

Barista Knowledge – Specifications for Fine Espresso Brewing

When a Barista brews an espresso shot, he or she knows how to follow the Espresso Technical Specifications by keeping the brewing temperature between 190 and 197 degrees Fahrenheit and 88 to 92 degrees Celsius and the grind size should be very fine, almost powdery (see Grinding Coffee for Espresso).

The Barista knows that the force of the water pressure in the espresso machine should be about eight to ten atmospheres, or Bars, of pressure which is equal to about one hundred and thirty-five pounds per square inch. Finally when it comes to the Espresso Technical Specifications, the amount of coffee should be about six to nine grams of coffee per espresso shot.

The Espresso Brewing Time should be about 22 seconds and this can vary based upon the other factors above including the fineness of the coffee grind and how hard it was tamped, though it should always be between eighteen and twenty-five seconds for an espresso shot of one to two ounces (30 to 60 ml).

What Is A Barista – Fine Points of Espresso Machines in Regard to Grinding Coffee

An exceptional Barista knows that the grind size for a steam-driven espresso machine must be a bit finer because this type of espresso machine (or espresso coffee maker) does not have the same amount of pressure as a pump-driven espresso machine to push the water through the compacted coffee.

A fine Barista knows that to assure a good consistency of coffee grind size a Conical Burr Grinder should be used rather than a Wheel Burr Grinder or a Blade Coffee Grinder, and that a blade coffee grinder is the worst since it generates so much heat that it can end up re-roasting the coffee beans.

Barista Encyclopedia – Knowledge is a Sign of a Great Barista

A great Barista will even know something about the history of espresso, perhaps the fact that Francesco Illy invented the first automatic coffee machine in 1935 and this was the predecessor of today’s modern espresso machines. A studious Barista will study the World’s Best History of Coffee.

An up-to-date Barista will be aware of the new methods of espresso brewing such as the Easy Serving Espresso (E.S.E.) pod design and standards, and that it is an open design to encourage adaptation and compatibility with the goal of making home espresso preparation more convenient by accommodating the use of either a 45 mm, 7 gram espresso pod containing the hand-tamped coffee grounds.

What Is A Barista – Some Consideration of the New Espresso Pods

The Barista will be aware that an espresso pod is a small compacted disk of  coffee that weighs either 7 or 14 grams (for a single or double shot), and measures 45 mm in diameter. The ground coffee is contained within a paper filter and an espresso machine pod adapter can be used to brew the espresso pod or it can be brewed in the brewing chamber of a pod espresso machine.

If a Barista is asked about these pods they could provide some information about the pros and cons of the method such as its ease and convenience, less mess and more consistent taste, though not with the fine touch of the master Barista in grinding it yourself and tamping it in the portafilter of a traditional espresso machine.

The master Barista feels no resentment to these newer methods which serve some people well, but also takes pride in the traditional way knowing that it is a true art that is still highly valued by gourmet coffee and espresso connoisseurs.

What Is A Barista – Pride In the Traditional Methods

Of course you can expect a master Barista to tout the freshly ground and tamped coffee he or she provides and also that there is no extensive packaging like the mylar film pouches which are used to individually wrap each pod.

Yes, certainly the Barista may discuss with a patron how the hyper espresso capsules facilitate a 2-phase extraction process and that they do indeed brew a smooth and full-bodied, aromatic shot of espresso with a pretty long-lasting crema, though of course not to the master level of the Barista’s crema which has been fine-tuned through years of experience making fine espresso drinks.

The Art and the Science of Steaming and Frothing Milk for Espresso Drinks

A Barista is an absolute maestro when it comes to steaming and frothing milk for Espresso Drinks, also called Specialty Coffee Drinks. The Barista knows that the frothed milk should reach a temperature of at least one hundred and forty-five degrees Fahrenheit but not any higher so as to avoid burning the milk.

The Barista knows when to let the milk to rest for a few moments to allow the foam to rise to the top while the milk stays on the bottom, thus providing a perfect situation that will allow proper layering of your Latte or Cappuccino, or the espresso drink of your choice.

What Is A Barista – A Steaming, Frothing Barista

A Barista is fastidious about the process of steaming and frothing milk and is aware that it involves heating the milk in just the right manner while simultaneously injecting air into the hot milk so as to prepare it for use in an espresso-based specialty coffee drink (espresso drink).

The Barista’s first and foremost goal in this regard, steaming milk, is to create a very luscious, creamy milk with a wonderful rich and velvety taste, and sitting gently atop the steamed milk is the foam.

Expressing the Specialty Coffee Drink’s True Essence

A great Barista shows his or her fine skills in creating a very high quality foam that is not large-bubbled and also not be dry like a meringue. Instead the foam, rather than just floating lifelessly on top of the specialty coffee drink, blends harmoniously with the drink and helps the beverage express its true essence.

A Barista has practiced and perfected the subtle techniques necessary for proper steaming and aeration while steaming and frothing milk for espresso drinks, and consistently produces a very silky and frothy steamed milk with an exceptional, high quality foam.

The fastidious Barista creates this excellent frothy steamed milk and foam by first making sure to the milk was just taken from a sufficiently cool refrigerator because this cold milk will work best.

What Is A Barista – Knowledge of Milk Types for Espresso Drinks

Of course the Barista knows that low fat milk can be used but that a nicer taste will be achieved with one or two percent milk, and that whole milk creates the finest foam of all. In this regard the Barista is aware that the higher fat content (e.g., whole milk or cream) will result in more of a silky texture and taste though with less of an increase in volume during the steaming process.

Preparing to Steam and Froth Milk for Espresso

The Barista knows that to begin the steaming and frothing process the steaming pitcher should first be filled about one-third full with the cold milk and the the steaming system should be purged of its water using a damp towel placed over the steaming wand while releasing the pressure valve for about one to three seconds.

The Barista knows that the purpose of this is to avoid getting any hot water in the milk. Of course the Barista is always concerned with proper safety and thus is very careful when releasing the steam of the espresso machine which comes out at a very high temperature.

Steaming and Frothing Technique – What is a Barista

A Barista knows from years of experience just how to lower the steaming wand into the steaming pitcher with the tip of the wand submerged just far enough below the surface of the milk as the steam power is turned on by turning the espresso machine’s steam knob.

The Barista is good at keeping the steam wand tip aimed just bit away from the center of the milk so that the liquid will start to spin in a circular vortex. The steam wand tip is not submerged too deep by the master Barista, but just deep enough to stay beneath the surface and prevent the tip from emerging which any good Barista knows will produce an inferior frothed milk and may also splatter milk around, something the great Barista never does, especially because this would tend to produce big bubbles rather than fine bubbles, and bigger bubbles don’t have the same delicious taste and feel.

Achieving the Proper Consistency of Milk for Espresso Drinks

A wonderful Barista sees the the vortex spinning around as the steaming and frothing milk works itself into the proper consistency. The Barista knows that this occurs quite naturally and a hissing sound tells him or her that the air is being injected properly and creating the desired effect on the milk. The master Barista knows just that perfect sweet spot to create excellent steamed and frothed milk and foam.

A skilled Barista is aware that by keeping the steam wand in the perfect location it won’t be necessary to raise or lower the steaming pitcher while steaming the milk except for a slight lowering of the steaming pitcher ass the milk expands and grows in volume. A Barista appreciates the vision of the rolling action of the milk as the volume doubles or even tripes depending upon the milk used.

What Is A Barista – The Angle of the Steaming Wand

The magnificent Barista is aware of how to keep the steaming wand at just the right angle to apply the proper amount of steam pressure into the milk so it continues to spin in a circular motion and growing richer in texture as the air is injected into the hot milk during the steaming and frothing process. The Barista is a master at creating a very creamy and high quality milk that is perfect for espresso-based specialty coffee drinks.

As the Barista continues steaming and frothing, he or her makes sure the steam wand tip stays just underneath the surface of the milk and just lightly kisses the surface and the perfect angle so as to maintain the rapid flow of the vortex of milk.

The Barista will notice if there are any excess bubbles forming and then will deepen the position of the steam wand to increase the steam pressure so it aerates properly and emits the tell-tale hissing noise.

Nuances of the Espresso Drink Preparation Process

The exceptional Barista, in the process of creating this high quality milk and foam, knows some subtle nuances such as that for a cappuccino the steam wand can be left near the surface for a bit longer to create more foam.

The humble and artistic Barista knows that when steaming properly that any big bubbles which form will roll back into the frothing milk so that the bubbles that remain will be quite tiny and very creamy and velvety in their taste and mouthfeel. The Barista looks forward to pouring this foamy froth that it just the right consistency to be shaped and poured.

What Is A Barista – Avoiding Scalded Milk

The Barista knows quite well that once the temperature of the milk reaches one hundred and forty-five degrees Fahrenheit it is time to stop the steaming process because letting the milk get any hotter will create a burnt taste because of the scalding effect of the excess heat on the milk.

The Barista also knows that if any large bubbles are present, which will rarely be the case with a fine Barista, then a few light taps of the steaming pitcher on a hard surface will take care of this.

What Is A Barista – Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

The master Barista is very tidy as this is an important part of the fine Barista tradition. Once the Barista has finished steaming and frothing the milk then he or her cleans off the steaming wand thoroughly and uses a wet, folded towel to completely wipe down the steaming wand and then also turns on the steam for just a moment in order to blow any remaining milk out of the steaming wand.

Now the Barista prepares the fine espresso drink and takes great enjoyment in the customer’s enjoyment as they savor their espresso drink and its rich, thick, and velvety-textured steamed milk and foam! The master Barista even took the time to list all the tips in a section called Steaming and Frothing Milk.

Preparing the Cappuccino – Master Barista Tips

Stepping back a moment, the Barista reflects on some of the fine points of pouring steamed milk for a Cappuccino, first filling the cup about one-third full and then slowly adding the espresso. Then the Barista spoons some of the frothed milk on top the cappuccino to fill up the rest of the cup so the espresso layers very nicely between the foam and the steamed milk.

Of course the Barista is aware of the many wonderful espresso drink recipes and knows how to prepare them. The Barista also knows that a Caffe Latte espresso drink usually takes a double shot of espresso along with about five ounces of properly steamed and frothed milk.

Also see: World’s Best Coffee

What Is A Barista – Using a Spoon to Hold Back the Foam

The fine Barista knows that when pouring the steamed milk for a Caffe Latte it is important to make sure and use a spoon to hold back the foam during pouring. The master Barista likes to use a big bowl-shaped, porcelain cup to prepare a traditional caffe latte because this type of cup will enhance the espresso drink experience.

Integrating Flavored Syrups Into Espresso Drinks

A well-studied Barista is knowledgable about integrating flavored syrups into espresso drinks and always makes sure to add the flavoring directly to the espresso shot(s), then stirs it very well in order to make sure the flavoring dissolves properly in the espresso. Then the Barista adds the steamed and frothed milk to the specialty espresso drink.

The master Barista even published step-by-step instructions as well as a list of all the favorite Espresso Drink Recipes and even a list of the traditional recipes for fine Espresso Cuisine.

Also see: Best Coffee Beans In the World

Barista Resume

Barista Job Description

Great Espresso Drinks

How To Make Coffee

Barista and Coffee Knowledge

Improve your espresso brewing skills by reading instructions on Pulling A Perfect Espresso Shot as well as the Barista Guide to Perfect Lattes and Cappuccinos. If you want to be a Barista at a coffee shop see the Barista Resume.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

hijam netaji July 2, 2011 at 11:07 pm

coffee served in barista were good enough for a person who loves coffee especially cappuccino.

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