Is Being a Barista Hard? Insider’s Look Working as A Barista

When it comes to career choices, many people dream of high-flying corporate positions, while some keep it simple. Many coffee heads secretly dream of being able to stand behind a counter and pour beautiful coffees every day.

On the surface, being a barista looks like a glamorous job. They wear beautiful aprons, and they pour their drinks with smiles on their faces. However, is there a dark side to being a barista? Is being a barista hard?

Being a barista can be hard. This is because:

  • It is a front-facing customer service job.
  • You also need to memorize a lot of drinks and orders quickly. 
  • You usually work long hours, standing
  • You will engage in physical, laborious work such as carrying things
  • The pay may not be as great as other customer service jobs

This article explores the ”darker side” of being a barista and how hard it is to work as one.

What Does A Barista Do?

A barista’s job is mainly to make coffee and related beverages. Many cafes also expect their barista to serve customers, clean up tables, and help in setting up and prepping for coffee service. Baristas are also expected to have a wide knowledge of coffee to advise their customers.

The name ”barista” is not English but originally from Italian. It points to a person who tends a bar and usually stands behind a counter. Traditionally, baristas serve drinks and light snacks. The drinks may be hot, cold, or alcoholic.

However, in the English-speaking world, the term barista tends to be associated with people who make coffee drinks in coffee bars or houses. These coffee drinks cover a wide range, from simple espresso shots to the oddest recipes of frappuccinos you see at Starbucks.

Depending on their establishment, Baristas also perform tasks beyond making coffee. They also help serve customers, engage in cleaning and maintenance tasks, and unload goods and supplies. 

Baristas are also expected to have great coffee knowledge, which helps to advise customers on choosing the right coffee to drink. Very good baristas are also appreciated for their social skills and ability to build good customer relationships.

Is Being A Barista Hard?

Being a barista is not all glamor and sunshine. It can be hard. This is because baristas need to memorize many drinks and coffee knowledge. They also need to work long hours, performing physical work. The pay is not good as well. Barista is a customer-facing job, which means dealing with difficult customers.

Like many things in life, being a Barista is not all sunshine. What you see on the smiling faces of your local baristas is hiding a lot of dark sides.

 Many jumped at the opportunity to work as a barista to chase their dreams. However, they become disillusioned at it once they see how hard it is. 

Here are some of the harder, darker sides of being a barista you should know:

Memorizing Drinks And Orders

A barista’s main job is to serve coffee-based drinks to customers. In many cases, cafes operate in a high-paced, pumping environment, which means you need to be able to recall drinks quickly. 

For example, if a customer orders a Cortado, you cannot refer to a book or ask people about it. You must immediately remember the formula (1:1 milk to coffee) and get going. 

If the customer ordered a customized drink, you must remember what was ordered. For example, a Long Black with an extra shot of espresso and some cinnamon powder on top.

These are not easy tasks, and you may struggle to keep up if you go in expecting easy, slow-paced work.

Physical Labour

A barista not only pours and takes coffee drinks but also needs to perform much other physical labor to ensure the cafe can perform well. These include, but are not limited to:

Cleaning: At the most basic, baristas are expected to help keep the premise clean. This means cleaning the work area and the tables after customers leave. Baristas are also expected to often clean the floor, door, and glass panels during their shifts. 

Maintenance: Baristas work with machinery to perform their job. These may include an espresso maker, coffee grinder, blender, and POS (Point of Sale) registers. In many cases, baristas may be expected to know how to maintain these machines. For example, Espresso machines and coffee grinders must be cleaned and lubricated.

Loading and Unloading: During the operation of the cafe, many deliveries may arrive at the cafe. These include raw materials such as coffee beans, milk, pastries, and cakes. At times machinery or furniture may arrive too. 

When extra hands are needed, baristas may be asked to perform these physical jobs to help speed up the loading and unloading work.

Delivery: With the rise of food delivery, it is not customary for food and drinks to be delivered to customers. A barista may be asked to deliver the drinks when the delivery destination is nearby. 

Setting Up & Winding Down: A cafe does not just open up in the morning and starts selling. The cafe needs to be cleaned, the machinery powered up, and test coffees made and tasted to ensure all is in working order. This task may be handed over to the barista responsible for the day’s first shift.

Long Hours

A barista typically works in shifts, usually over long hours. On normal days, an 8-hour shift may be common. You may be expected to work even longer hours on holidays and weekends. Some cafes also require their baristas to be on standby to handle high customer surges. 

Baristas are also expected to work faster and display energy and enthusiasm. Sitting down is also rare. Most baristas work standing.

When you combine the long work hours with the degree of physical labor baristas, perform, you mostly see young people performing the job. 

Low Pay

Baristas are not paid well for the jobs they are performing. As an entry position, baristas may look glamorous. However, the pay is similar to entry-level service positions, such as waiters or bartenders. 

Generally, if you are to become a barista, expect to make about $10.10 to $14.90 an hour, which is considered a lower-range wage.

Front Facing, Customer Service Job

Barista is a customer service job where you face, interact with customers, and deliver their coffee drinks. This is seen as a front-facing job, not a back-facing one, such as a manager, truck driver, or engineer. 

As a result, you may be exposed to dealing with difficult customers. Difficult customers may demand excessively or pressure you to get free espresso shots. Some may be constant complainers, complaining about the smallest speck of dust on the table or how the drinks are not hot enough.

At worst, you may have to deal with abusive customers, thinking they can throw abusive language or boss you around once they have paid for your drink. It is painful, but baristas generally can deal with them well.

Final Thoughts

Working as a barista can be a challenging job that requires you to be on your feet for long hours and memorize a lot of information quickly.

It is a customer service job that requires excellent communication skills and the ability to deal with difficult customers.

Despite these challenges, being a barista can also be rewarding, as you have the opportunity to create connections with customers and make their day a little bit better.

If you’re interested in becoming a barista, it’s important to understand both the challenges and rewards of the profession. 

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