What Makes a Good Barista?

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Photograph from journeyscoffee on Flickr

Last Saturday, Serious Eats member EtherMaiden asked, "What makes a good barista?" Cafe owner and barista ChelleyD01 gave this informative reply:

A good barista knows their customers drinks when they walk through the door. They know when milk is to temp without having to use a thermometer. They know that fresh, cold milk will bring good volume and best taste every single time rather than dank, reheated milk over and over again. They know that many steaming pitchers are needed as when flavor syrups are steamed WITH the milk, as opposed to being added cold, it brings a better flavor to the drink. They know that good, freshly ground beans are amazing and will gladly toss out pre-ground anything.

They know that light and air are a beans worst enemy. They know that breaking down your equipment at least 2 times a day for a thorough cleaning will always lead to a good pull and no build up of coffee oils. They know that a good to-go cup is paper but has a textured styrofoam outer layer so it is comfort to the touch and the lid fits tightly. They know that fake whip will dissolve into a greasy mess on top of any drink in a hot second. They know that coffee brewed into pots on a hot plate will taste like dreck in no time and any good shop uses thermal tanks to hold the fresh hot brew.

Lastly, they know that most of America doesn't know shit about coffee, the difference between a cappuccino and a latte but really, REALLY just want to sound like they do. We just smile, chat away and then make your drink correctly while letting you think you just ordered an cold banana cappuccino when its really an iced skim banana caramella latte that you ordered.

Even though I don't drink coffee, this gives me a greater appreciation of the service baristas perform for the coffee-loving masses. What's your idea of a good barista?

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