Barista Job Description

by Dan Harrington on March 30, 2011

What Does A Barista Do?

In the traditions of Italy the master Barista was the quintessential coffee drink preparation expert.

A Barista brews The Perfect Cup of Coffee and prepares spectacular Cappuccinos and Lattes as well as a whole range of other Coffee Drink Recipes and coffee beverages along with exquisite Espresso Cuisine.

Pulling the Perfect Espresso Shot

Of course to prepare fine Espresso-based specialty coffee drinks, the Barista must, perhaps first and foremost, be able to pull the Perfect Espresso Shot.

This requires utilizing an espresso machine in order to generate sufficient pressure which in turn will be used to effect an extraction of the fine coffee flavors and aromas by forcing very hot water through the tamped and roasted, ground coffee.

Barista Is A Master At Steaming and Frothing Milk and Foam

In addition to brewing the perfect espresso, the Barista must be a master of the steaming wand on the espresso machine.

The steam wand is used to create creamy and velvety Steamed and Frothed Milk as well as a fine-bubbled, pourable, shapeable foam. The steamed milk is blended with the espresso creating a harmony of flavors that pleases the palate unlike any other beverage, or food for that matter.

Grinding and Roasting Coffee Are Part of Barista Job Skills

The master Barista certainly knows about grinding coffee as well as coffee roasting, and in particular is aware of the nuances involved in Grinding Coffee for Espresso because the grind size can affect the extraction process and must be tailored to the particular coffee, espresso machine, tamping pressure and other factors to produce the perfect Espresso Shot.

Barista Job Description continued:

The master Barista is aware of the care taken with gourmet coffee beans to preserve their finest qualities, and that it is best not to overheat or essentially re-roast the beans by using a blade coffee grinder which can also produce an inconsistent particle size.

Much preferred is a burr coffee grinder, with the conical burr grinder considered slightly superior to the wheel burr grinder.

Tips for Baristas: Preparing To Brew the Espresso Shot

Make sure and brew the espresso into a pre-warmed demitasse and also pre-warm the portafilter of the espresso machine does not do this automatically.

After making sure you have the proper grind size, and following closely all of the technical specifications for brewing espresso, use eight grams of coffee grounds for a single shot (16 for a double). Eight grams is about two tablespoons.

Make sure and use fresh-roasted , and make sure the coffee was shipped properly in a valve-sealed bag, and then stored properly in a very cool, dry and dark place to preserve its fine flavors and aromas. Do not store it in the refrigerator or freezer.

The ideal water to use is filtered, and you can see a more comprehensive discussion of proper water for Espresso in Brewing the Perfect Cup of Coffee.

Tamping the Coffee for Optimal Extraction – A Barista Job Specialty

When you tamp the ground coffee down into the portafilter make sure to use a very even and consistent downward pressure, and also use just a very slight turning motion during the tamp in order to help seal the puck of coffee into an evenly compressed mass that has no weak spots where water may blow through causing under-extraction of the coffee.

Locking the Portafilter Into the Group of the Espresso Machine

Once you are done tamping the coffee then brush any loose coffee grounds away from the rim of the portafilter, and if needed tamp again. Make sure the top surface of the coffee grounds is very even and level. Now secure the portafilter and lock it into the group of the espresso machine.

In general you want to use a medium amount of force when tamping, and then you can fine tune the process from there. If the espresso shot pours out of the spout too fast you are tamping too softly, and if it pours out too slow you are tamping (compacting) the coffee too hard.

Barista Job Description continued – Barista Tips and Barista Definition

Beginning the Espresso Brewing Process – Job Description of Baristas

Place the pre-warmed demitasse beneath the spout of the espresso machine and hit the brew button to turn it on. Notice the maple syrup color of the espresso as it pours form the spout into the demitasse.

Twenty-two seconds is a standard brewing time for an espresso shot, and you may fine tune your particular shots shorter or longer depending upon the various factors involved in Espresso brewing including the grind size, tamping pressure, brew temperature, type of coffee used, how the coffee was stored, etc.

The Goal of Fine Espresso Brewing

The goal of espresso brewing is to create a very concentrated, robust shot of espresso that expresses glorious flavors and aromas capped off by the golden brown crema that retains the shot’s intensity.

By adjusting the brewing time precisely you can ensure that you have extracted all of the coffee’s fine flavors and aromas without extracting an excess amount of bitterness. In other words the shot should be perfectly balanced with a thin, fine crema on top signaling the perfect Espresso shot.

The Layers of A Gourmet Espresso Shot

When you “pull” an espresso shot should notice the shot separate into distinct layers. If the body of the Espresso shot is too dark it may be a sign that you have tamped the coffee too hard or used too fine of a grind size.

Conversely if the body of the shot is too light of a color then your grind size may be too coarse or you may need to tamp more firmly.

If the espresso shot’s body is too dark in color it may have a distinct burnt and bitter taste that will taint the shot. If it is too light the shot will be watery and weak without sufficient aromatic oils and flavor properties.

The heart of the shot, at the bottom, shouldn’t be of such a light shade that it blends in with the color of the body of the shot. This also signals a weak Espresso shot and requires a firmer tamp or finer coffee grind.

Thanks for reading the Barista Job Description – Barista Tips and Barista Definition

Evaluating the Crema of the Espresso Shot – Crucial Barista Job

Now analyze the crema of the espresso shot, the fine, thin layer of foamy oils that express the essence of the shot and retain the shot’s intensity and concentrated, robust taste.

If the espresso crema is lacking in its composition it may be that the coffee beans are old and stale, not having been freshly-roasted.

Another cause may be that the brewing temperature of the Espresso was too low. This is sometimes caused by a failure to pre-heat the portafilter and demitasse (by running them under very hot water).

Avoid Over-Extraction Which Creates A Bitter Espresso Shot

Over-extraction of Espresso, causing a distinct bitterness, is detected by a white ring in the crema. If a white ring begins to form during brewing stop the process immediately because this is a sign of over-extraction and the bitterness will taint the shot.

Once the white ring begins to appear it is a sign that all of the gourmet coffee’s finest qualities have been extracted and any further extraction will lead to an unpleasant, acidic bitterness.

Master Barista Creates Creamy, Velvety Milk and Foam

When a Barista using the steaming wand of the espresso machine to create steamed milk and foam for espresso drinks, the goal is to create a very velvety-textured milk that blends deliciously with the pulled espresso shots.

The foam that is created during the Steaming and Frothing process should be comprised of very fine bubbles, not large and tasteless bubbles.

Goal is Shapeable and Pourable Foam With Minuscule Bubbles

The foam should be pourable and shapeable, sitting atop the drink as a perfect accent that blends together the various flavors and aromas while providing a very pleasing texture to the palate. This is the art of the master Barista!

To create excellent steamed milk and high quality foam, first fill up the steaming pitcher about one-third full with very cold milk that you have just taken out of the refrigerator. By the time you are done frothing the milk it should increase in volume by one to two hundred percent.

Choosing the Milk For Perfect Espresso Drinks – Job Description of Baristas continued:

When choosing the type of milk you use here are a few tips. Using one percent milk or two percent milk creates a finer foam than whole milk, and provides a nicer flavor than using non-fat milk or low-fat milk.

As a rule the less fat there is in the milk the more the volume of the milk will increase, but a creamier texture will result from a milk with more fat.

To begin the steaming and frothing process first purge the steam wand of any excess water by holding a damp towel over the end of the wand as you turn on the steam for a few moments. Use caution not to let any steam escape as it is very hot and can burn you.

Finding the Sweet Spot While Steaming the Milk

Now you are ready to begin steaming the milk. Place the steam wand into the milk letting the tip of the wand rest just below the surface of the milk. Aim the steaming wand just slightly off center so that it causes the milk to flow in a circular motion within the steaming pitcher.

You will know that you have the steaming wand in the right place if you hear a high pitched hissing noise somewhat like something frying in a frying pan. This is how you know you have found the “sweet spot” that is optimal for injecting air into the milk and creating a creamy texture.

Maintaining the Vortex During Steaming – Barista Job Description

Once you have found the sweet spot you won’t need to move the steaming pitcher up or down as the vortex created by the steam will keep the milk circulating.

As the volume of the milk expands you will only need to gradually lower the steaming pitcher to keep the steaming wand just beneath the surface in the sweet spot.

If any large bubbles form they will be immediately pulled back down into the milk and disappear. By creating a steamed milk with only very tiny bubbles you will ensure the creamy texture that is desired.

Barista Tips: Concluding the Steaming and Frothing Process

As you steam and froth the milk check the temperature using a thermometer.

Once the temperature of the milk reaches one hundred and forty-five degrees Fahrenheit then you should stop the steaming process because any higher temperatures can scald the milk and will result in a burnt taste that taints the fine flavors of the Espresso.

Once you have finished the steaming process make sure to clean off the steaming wand properly and also cover the end with a wet towel and turn on the steam a moment to make sure any milk that remains is purged and the wand is spotless for the next time it is needed.

Barista Tips for Preparing Perfect Coffee Beverages

Follow these tips to create awesome Cappuccinos and Lattes as well as many other great Gourmet Coffee Drinks. If you prefer simple brewed coffee rather than espresso drinks, please see Brewing the Perfect Cup of Coffee.

Also learn more about gourmet coffee by reading about the various flavor terms and then discovering the Taste Profiles of the World’s Gourmet Coffees.

An aspiring Barista should also study up on The History of Coffee and read up about the world’s prime coffee-growing regions.

A Barista should be knowledgable about premium gourmet coffees from the world’s prime growing regions.

An experienced Barista will certainly know the difference between Kenyan Coffees and Tanzania Peaberry coffees, and how they differ from Costa Rican Tarrazu and Guatemalan Huehuetenango.

Certainly the Barista will have an idea of the basic qualities of a good Yemen Mocha (Yemeni Coffee) and may have an overall knowledge of the products of different coffee growing regions, such as Asia, Indonesia and Pacific Gourmet Coffees or how a great Costa Rica Monte Crisol compares to say, a Nicaragua coffee or Brazilian Bourbon Santos. Also see: Taste Profiles of the World’s Gourmet Coffees.

All of the world’s premium coffees can be generally described and compared according to their basic characteristics including body, aroma, sweetness/bitterness, acidity and aftertaste.

To become better versed in the nuances of fine coffee consider attending a coffee cupping (professional coffee tasting) or a Barista competition. Also see Gourmet Coffee Tasting Tips.

Espresso Machine Knowledge Important for Baristas

A Barista should also be knowledgable about the various types of espresso machines and should be able to vary certain factors depending upon the specification of the machine.

Espresso machines fall into several broad categories including Steam-Driven Espresso Machines and Pump-Driven Espresso Machines as well as Piston-Driven Espresso Machines and Air-Pump Espresso Machines.

For high volume espresso brewing many businesses use a commercial espresso machine which is different than a prosumer espresso machine or a home espresso machine.

In recent years many people have adopted the technology provided by pod espresso machines, and one of the most high end machines for commercial use is the super automatic espresso machine.

Flavored syrups are often added to specialty coffee drinks and some of the most popular flavors include hazelnut, caramel, vanilla, Irish Creme, peppermint and butter rum.

The proper way to add the syrup to an espresso-based drink is to first add the flavored syrup to the espresso shot and stir it to make sure it is fully dissolved. Then add the Steamed and Frothed Milk or in the case of iced coffee drinks, cold milk.

Master Barista – Creating Great Coffee Experiences

With these master Barista tips you can excel at the art and science of coffee drink preparation and create fabulous drinks on par or exceeding the finest coffee shops including Starbucks, Peet’s and others.

Thanks For Reading Barista Job Description in Espresso Coffee Guide!

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