Who is a barista?

History of the word barista

The term "barista" came into use for people making coffee during World War II. Until then, it was used to refer to barmen. Mussolini, with fascism, also led the fight for the poitalization of words, and so the American bartender became a barista, which made him even more associated with Italian espresso. Ironically, the word barista is used today in America and elsewhere around the world.

ⓘTIP: At the time the word barista was coined, there were also coffee machines almost as we know them today. Angelo Moriondo invented the first lever coffee machine in 1884.

The job of a barista

Baristas usually work in cafes and espresso bars, but you can also find them in restaurants and bistros. They use professional coffee machines to do their work , and while their job may sound simple, it's not.

Some manual coffee makers require tremendous skill, training, and the ability to be flexible in preparing each cup of coffee. Adaptability is also needed when it comes to thecustomer. Of course nowadays many coffee machines are semi-automatic, either way it means that thebarista must be able to make the perfect espresso.

Globalisation has also had an impact on the work of baristas, and so many coffee drinks from one end of the world are prepared in the other. So knowing how to make an espresso or a cappuccino like before is no longer enough.

In addition to making espresso, baristas usually also:

  • whisk milk to make a wide range ofespresso-baseddrinks ,
  • prepare filter coffee, such as coffee from a V60, Chemex or drip coffee machine,

Another thing around baristas is to know the differences between drinks like acortado or a flat white.

Milk whipped into a glossy microfoam is not missing from the baristas' job description.

Finally, there's the aforementioned customer service. The baristas serve the customers the drinks they have prepared and thus come into direct contact with them. In larger cafés, baristas may work separately and not come into contact with customers, but in smaller establishments it is likely that the same person who takes the drink order will then prepare the drink.

In addition to the above, a good barista should have knowledge of the origin of the coffee. They should also know how to clean the coffee machine and other coffee accessories, set it up properly, use it, maintain it and, in short, care for it.

Of course, not every café will have a selection of coffee, and so not every barista works with a selection of coffee, but part of the barista's job should be to "educate customers"about what aselection of coffee is.

How to become a barista?

The first option is to study at a catering school. Either way, a course taught directly by an experienced barista is the ideal choice.

But barista education doesn't end with a course. The need to educate yourself is a daily affair. You can become a better barista mainly through training and practice. There are always new coffees, recipes and preparation methods coming out, and you need to respond to that.

In addition, no two coffees are the same, so new recipes for each coffee need to be created all the time. Pressing a button is simply not enough.

Inaddition, if a barista decides to set up his/her own café, he/she will need atrade licence for the hospitality business, which requires experience and education/accredited course.

Why is the job of a barista needed?

Just as you have experts who can make desserts, alcoholic mixed drinks or who can fix a car, you need experts who can make coffee properly. We're all good at something different.

You may argue that you can make coffee at home too. However, it is important to say that there is someone who learned to prepare coffee first, perfected its preparation so that you can then prepare coffee easily at home. And that someone is a barista, whose job is also to take the level of coffee preparation to the next level.

And not everyone knows how to make coffee at home and prefers to go to a café to enjoy their cup of great coffee. Some may not want to waste their time making coffee because they invest their time in what they are good at.

Barista competitions

Competitions are a way to test and explore what the possibilities are in coffee making. And even baristas have theirs.

Competitions are held both on a local level, such as our Czech Barista of the Year, and on a global level in the form of theWorld Barista Championship. In addition to these competitions, you will find many others focused on individual preparation methods, such as theWorld AeroPress Championship or the World Jazz Coffee Championship.

The future of baristas

The barista profession is largely a rather short-term activity. In cafés, you will often find young baristas who work as baristas while they study. Even so, there are many baristas for whom making coffee is a lifelong 'mission'.

However, the job market is changing a lot these days, mainly due to the technological shift. From this perspective, the people who make our coffee will not be needed in about 20-30 years. On the other hand,the strength of the barista market has grown dramatically in the last ten years (by more than 35%).
and no decline is foreseen.

However, the job of baristas is not just about making coffee, but also about communicating with the customer. So just because a stand can replace a human doesn't mean that a machine will replace a human.

Types of baristas

There is no barista like a barista, so I have a little breakdown for you.

Trained barista

As I mentioned earlier, many of the baristas you'll encounter in coffee shops are young apprentice baristas who are in school, but are pursuing a different field. They usually know the basics of making espresso, whisking milk, making filter coffee in a V60 or Moccamaster.

Of course, they also have a basic knowledge of coffee, they know Arabica from Robusta, they know the difference between a cappuccino and a flat white. They will also master the routine maintenance of a coffee machine or grinder.

Coffee Master

The coffee master lives for coffee. In this case, you'll find precisely prepared coffee. Thecoffee master knows how coffee behaves in different conditions and can adapt to this very easily and adjust his or her coffee recipe accordingly. It recognises beans by variety and origin.

Do also perceives coffee preparation in terms of chemistry and physics. He incorporates new technologies into the preparation, and tries his own experiments and innovative methods. They are, in short, individuals who take coffee as a mission.

The Czech barista

Here in the Czech Republic you will find more multifunctional cafes where, besides coffee, you can also go for a couple of whites, brunch, soup for lunch or an afternoon sandwich and a homemade lemonade to go with it. Therefore, Czech baristas are often skilled at both making coffee and running a café, which means making all the hot, as well as cold and alcoholic drinks.