Become a Coffee Shop Barista

By Eric Hammer

So you want to be a coffee shop barista. Don't think it's going to be easy. However, if you are determined, you'll be able to do it. Unlike most behind the counter jobs, being a barista is more than just being the guy who pours the coffee and takes the money.

A professional coffee shop barista knows how to use the machines to create perfection in a cup. There is an artistry that goes into being a barista and if you don't learn effective techniques before you start your new job, you'll have a tough time keeping customers and your job.

In addition to knowing how to make a good espresso, you also need to know the techniques behind other coffee based drinks. For example, you need to know not only how to steam the milk but also how to pour in such a way as to create a design (the heart shape is quite popular). This is simply expected by customers at a coffee shop.

Typically, baristas will get a certain amount of on the job training, though if you want to work somewhere more upscale than Starbucks, you'll need to get professional training. This will entail a number of months of learning not only techniques but also theory behind good coffee making.

How Much Can You Make?

For a job that requires a certain amount of training to do correctly, the average salary is nothing particularly exciting. Typically, a coffee shop barista makes a little more than minimum wage. According to, the average wage for a barista is between $7.89 and $9.39 per hour. However, that is often supplemented with tips.

Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities | Tips

Ask yourself a simple question: why are people spending $5 for a cup of coffee at your coffee shop when they can just as easily make a cup at home for 50 cents? There are three answers to this question and two of them are important for you to know and keep in mind as a coffee shop barista.

1. They want a good cup of coffee - Let's face it, most people don't know how to make a decent cup of coffee at home. Yes, the coffee they make at home will be passable, but if they want GOOD coffee, they come to you. That means you need to understand your art and make something they really will enjoy.

2. They want a show - Another part of the coffee house experience is the show that's involved in making a fancy looking cup of coffee. People often stop to watch the artistry as a barista pours the steamed milk and effortlessly forms a heart with the milk. The better the show you can put on for your customers (without seeming cheap or "shticky") the better the tips are going to be.

3. They want to be a bit of a snob - This has less to do with you as a coffee shop barista and more to do with the owner of the coffee house (of course, you may very well be both if you run your own operation). They want to see a place that looks inviting and upscale so they can "be seen" having coffee there. The more upscale your place seems, the more likely customers are to come in and sit down for a cup o' joe.

Qualifications / Requirements

You'll need training in order to be a professional coffee shop barista. You can either do this training on your own or you can get training on the job at some stores. Starbucks always offers training to their baristas, however they also expect people to show up knowing quite a bit about coffee.

Beyond that, you need to be clean and presentable (nobody wants to be served by a barista in a dirty T-shirt and ripped jeans) and have a pleasant manner in working with people.

First Steps

Start by reading more about the art of being a barista. Several good resources are listed below. Consider also going for professional training, especially if you know virtually nothing about coffee. Once you have a basic grounding, you can apply to a local coffee house and dazzle them with your coffee expertise.


Barista Magazine - A magazine devoted to the art of making coffee. A must read for the serious barista in the making.

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