How to understand if your barista is a good one?

I maestri della tostatura media
Foto di Fabio, bar Manager della Torrefazione Ernani.
How to sort out a good barista?

Today we put our beloved baristas a bit under pressure. Yes, those who welcome us every day with a lot of patience and a big smile, always ready to offer an excellent coffee for a special breakfast, an invigorating lunch break or a delicious snack.

Tireless, courageous, full of energy and passion.

So yes: it will be an article that will bring them out into the open and bring out strengths and weaknesses, but not to bring down these very strong people, but to reward those who really deserve it more!

We all know it… there are so many bars in every single corner of every cities, city and country.

But does everyone know how to work really well? The answer is unfortunately no.

So here’s a simple point-based guide to recognizing a good barista from an untrained and unaware one. Thus we begin to reward those who truly deserve it, those who put knowledge and passion into every single gesture, those who have literally spent 10 years or more of their life making sacrifices to achieve their goal.

They are the real great baristas who make our sector so lively!

1. Cask the barista what he is serving you

This exercise is great for both the barista and us!

If you’ve been following us for a while, you know that not all coffees are the same, on the contrary… there are hundreds of varieties grown throughout the coffee belt around the globe, with dozens of processes, then roasted by different hands and extracted by as many different operators.

Therefore, asking which coffee you are tasting, whether it is a blend or a single origin, how it was roasted and the subsequent aromatic profile allows you to understand if the one who is preparing the drink for you knows what he is treating and therefore knows how he must work it.

In the meantime, you will have the opportunity to delve into the world of coffee a little more and get to know a new piece every day.

Starting to drink coffee in this way is overwhelming and somewhat reminiscent of the experience that many of us already have with wine!

It seems strange, but I can assure you that very few baristas even know the brand of coffee they use.

Unfortunately, and I say this with great regret, they think that to make an espresso, all you need to do is press a button on the machine… that’s not the case.

2. Check if the barista follows all the correct steps for preparing espresso

Between one coffee and another, before starting to prepare the one you just ordered, does he go through the following steps? Let’s see them in detail:

  1. Does he run a little water (purge) to clean the brew group and the showers from the residues of the previous ground coffee?
  2. Does he clean the filter with a small brush or a dry cloth, thus eliminating the used coffee?
  3. Does he level the ground and press evenly? In fact, very often they do not level it and they’ll therefore find more ground in one part of the filter and less on the other side. What do you think it will happen? The water will pass only where it finds less resistance and therefore less coffee, ruining the extraction which will not be homogeneous and with an unpleasant taste;
  4. Is the coffee extracted in 6 seconds and comes out like a waterfall? Or on the contrary, does it take a minute, dropping just one drop at a time into the cup? Here neither of them is correct: the coffee should come out between 22 and 27 seconds, with a thin and continuous thread!

NB. If the coffee comes out in less than 22 seconds the same is under-extracted, i.e. the water, passing quickly, has not managed to extract everything it was supposed to. The final cup will therefore be flat, without great aromatic complexity, unloaded and even astringent!

If, on the other hand, the coffee comes out for more than 27 seconds, the coffee is over-extracted, therefore the water, unable to pass through the ground coffee, remained too much in contact with it, extracting more than it was supposed to extract, bringing hints of empyreumatic (burnt) and a strong bitterness.

These two errors depend on the grind: if the coffee comes out too quickly, it must be tightened, if it takes too long, it must be enlarged.

If the barista doesn’t fix it after realizing it’s wrong, he doesn’t know how to find the correct one.

And the question now arises: how do you make a good espresso if you don’t even know the grind?!

Back to us:

  1. When frothing milk for a macchiato or cappuccino, does he clean the steam wand before and after? Does he purge before and after frothing the milk?
  2. Does the cappuccino have a velvety, smooth, bubble-free and shiny cream? Or is it searing, with cooked and bubbly milk?
If all these steps are correct, you are sure that he knows how to work, therefore he has had training and knows the importance of each step: the only way to get an espresso out at its best, and thus also honoring all the delicate and demanding work that has come first.

3. Is the workstation clean and tidy?

Sometimes we notice it, sometimes we don’t, or at least not all of it.

  • Is the steam wand clean?
  • Is the machine shiny or is it now completely encrusted in all its parts?
  • Are the spouts from which the coffee comes out clean, or is there still residue from the coffee from 2 years ago?
  • Are there different sponges for the machine, the counter, the work surfaces and the steam wand?
  • Is the workbench clean or are there crumbs, sugar, coffee stains?
  • Are the cups well organized along the counter and correctly rotated in the cup washers, or are they all left dirty and shelved between the sink and the work counter?
  • And last but not least, is the professional figure, therefore our bartender, well-groomed, clean, the apron well-ordered, as well as the whole uniform?

This is part of professionalism, it would be like having a cook not cleaning his hands after going to the toilet or any other unhygienic action.

I repeat: with this article I do not want to cast a shadow on baristas, whom I admire and respect, having tried to be in their shoes for a few years.
Indeed, it is a job that is too often underestimated: it is heavy, stressful and requires sacrifices.
Of course, all this is repaid by the passion and above all by the acknowledgments of the customers.

The article aims to learn how to separate those who have studied, learned and then applied with great skill to offer an excellent service in complete respect for the customer, or if, on the contrary, the figure has happened in this role and is not even interested in giving his best or he doesn’t know how to give his best.

So I say: let’s reward the first ones!!

Marketing, E-commerce e Social Media Manager
Coffee Lover


Martina Mazzoleni

Marketing, E-commerce e Social Media Manager Coffee Lover

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

torna su
Apri chat
Bisogno di aiuto?
Ciao 👋
sono Martina, come ti possiamo aiutare?
Risponderò a qualsiasi tua domanda dal lunedì al venerdì, dalle 9.00 alle 18.00! ☕️💛