Being a barista requires a certain kind of personality. Making coffee is a skill that can be taught but true personality can’t be. As a barista in a cafe you are the business ’ first line of defense. The barista is the link between customer and coffee. He/She has the responsibility of cultivating sustainable relationships with customers.
But when your station is in disarray it’s hard to make your customer feel at ease. It’s crucial to be on top of your game and in control of your work station. There’s nothing worse than making someone wait for their coffee longer than they should. Let’s look at ways to avoid disappointing your clients by managing your barista station better.
Check, and then double-check your barista station at the start of your shift:
Ensure that proper health and hygiene practices are followed at all times. Professionals thrive in a clean and tidy working area. Cleanliness enhances your coffee shop’s image.
- Keep the coffee machine and the surrounding counters clean at all times.
- Ensure that staff clean up after themselves.
Color Code Cleaning Rags
Having cloths in different colors ensures that you won’t use them for the wrong tasks. Using your cloths for the wrong tasks is a quick way to ruin your cloths before you’ve even started your day.
- Use dark-colored towels to clean any spills immediately
- One for the steam wand
- One for drying portafilters
- One counter cloth
- Have extra cloths in different and identifiable color to wipe your cups or spoons
- Have spare cloths close-by as replacements.
- Have different size sweeping brushes. You need a brush to sweep excess coffee grinds off of various surfaces around your barista station.
- A paint brush is an inexpensive and effective option for this.
- Have different size brushes for different spills.
Tip: A small brush will be more effective in cleaning coffee grinds out from your grinder. A larger brush will be more suited to coffee grinds on your counter. Think about which kind of brush will best suit your needs before you buy one.
You can’t make great coffee with a dirty espresso machine. Dirty groupheads are the easiest way to ruin good coffee. You can avoid this by:
- Backflushing your espresso machine every hour. If it’s not possible to backflush your machine every hour then be sure to backflush after every rush.
- While you’re at it you can wash your portafilters as well. It makes the world of difference.
If you want to take it to the next level, here’s a lesser known cleaning tip:
The little disc in your grouphead that distributes water is a shower screen. Remove your shower screens at the end of each day and give them a good scrub. They tend to get neglected and often end up caked with coffee gunk.
Keeping Machines in Good Condition
Nothing is as effective as having a clean, presentable, and well maintained espresso machine. Cleaning and general care of your espresso machine should be part of your daily routine. The same principle applies to your grinder. Make sure you have all the right cleaning equipment. It’s a fail-safe way to keep your machine clean and your coffee tasting delicious. There are few things as pretty as shiny espresso machine in a cafe.
Don’t assume that the machine is in working order. Check:
An eye for detail is the best quality you can cultivate as a barista. If you want to work quickly and efficiently you need to know where everything on your bar is. Do you?
It’s your responsibility from the moment you step into the bar. The espresso machine is your ship and you are the captain. Arrange every item in a place that works for you:
- Only use the steamwand furthest away from your grinder.
- You can only steam one jug of milk at a time so it makes sense to only use one. This way, it’s easier to ensure that your milk and milkjugs are all exactly where you want them when you want them.
- The milk steaming side should have a clear work counter where you prep drinks for serving. This includes pouring latte art and placing saucers and teaspoons.
- Water pitchers and milk jugs to be next to the coffee machine.
- Ensure there is ample working space in front of the machine for pouring the coffees.
- Milk should always be kept cold, in the fridge, when not in use.
- Keep clean cloths next to each steam wand and wipe them down after every use. When not in use the cloths should be neatly folded.
Grinder Process Setup
- Set your grinder. Do this as soon as you walk behind the bar. It will allow you to save time and avoid embarrassment later.
- Keep the grinder side separate from the milk steaming side. This ensures there is space for two baristas to work together if the need arrises. It also means less cross contamination between coffee and milk.
- Grinder hoppers must be full or ¾ full at all times. Fill your grinder up before you have to because more often you’ll find your grinder empty at the worst times.
- Any excess coffee bean stock must be stored in a cool dry place. Make sure this “cool dry place” is easily accessable from the barista station.
- When choosing coffees to use, start with the ones with the oldest roast date. A “first in first out” policy will ensure you don’t end up having to throw away old coffee beans.
When it comes to milk the “first in first out” policy is even more important.
- Rotate your milk stock, using the oldest first, so that you never find yourself steaming milk that has gone bad.
- Milk must be packed into the fridges as soon as it is delivered so as not to compromise the quality and for health reasons.
- Fridges must be thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis. This includes the door seals which should be washed properly during a weekly deep-clean.
- Keep your fridge fully stocked with the bottled drinks you serve or need during shift.
- Blind filter basket
- Espresso machine cleaning detergent
- Scrubbing brush for the groupheads
- Have a few damp, and dry, equipment rags is also a good idea.
Clear Customer Communication
Create a work flow
- Take orders at a till point or on the grinder side of your station.
- Collections should take place at the milk steaming side of your station.
Clear signage makes all the difference
- Signs like “order here” and “collect here” at the appropriate counters makes a difference. It will save you and your customers a lot of time and frustration.
- Display examples of cup sizes that you offer. Your “large cup” might not be the same size as what your customer is use to. Displayed examples of cup size will prevent false expectations and disappointment.
Use this checklist to tick off in the mornings:
- Working steam wands
- Clean groupheads
- Clean portafilter
- Enough coffee stock What is enough? How much = how many cups
- Enough milk
- Appropriate work cloths
- Appropriate cleaning aids
Think about how to encourage better work flow. Every cafe is a little different and has it’s own quirks. So it’s important to think about how to improve work flow at your cafe.
Every cup of coffee you make is an opportunity to improve as a barista so be sure that everything is where it should be so that you can focus on making and serving that delicious cup every time.