How to learn barista skills to impress your friends
I guess the first rule is we have to actually start somewhere and believe we can do it and, first and foremost, taste. Taste, taste, taste. For some reason, this is one of the most common mistakes in the kitchen. Whatever it is we're trying to cook / make / prepare: we have to taste it. Trust your taste buds, because if it tastes good to you, other people are probably going to appreciate it too.
So, whether you're looking to become a professional barista or you're just curious to add barista skills to your talent portfolio to impress people at home parties, there a few tips and things that could help us.
Ignore criticism but listen to advice
Criticism is important and irrelevant at the same time, in the sense that blind criticism is pointless but useful advice is important. That's why we should listen to constructive criticism and work to get better, and ignore the "haters."
It is entirely possible that your first cappuccino, on your very first attempt, is going to be a spectacular blend that will leave everyone wanting for more. But it's also unlikely. So, if your first cappuccino isn't that great, you don't have to worry and you don't have to give up. You'll get better. That's what practice is for.
Don't shun tutorials
The internet is awash with tutorials on how to do just about everything and while I agree that for the most part tutorials are a bit useless, there are also some helpful ones that we can follow to learn new things.
Obviously, demonstrable skills, certifications and previous experiences are important but as a general rule, I always look for tutorials made by people who A, keep it simple and B, don't take themselves too seriously. Served me well so far.
Photo by Trent Erwin on Unsplash
There's no point trying to reproduce the Sistine Chapel on your cappuccino unless you know how to do it. When it comes to Latte Art, the technique to decorate and create different patterns in your coffee cup by pouring microfoam on the surface of the latte/coffee, we should always start simple. Start by recreating simple designs and shapes, such as small stars and hearts. You'll get better with time and practice and before you know it, you can start experimenting with more complex patterns. And at that point...
Don't be afraid to experiment
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash
You're not on Masterchef and you're not on the Great British Bake-off and no one is judging you. There's no right or wrong. It's okay if you make a mistake, once or twice or three times. It's okay if you make a mess. There's an old Italian adage that says "nessuno nasce imparato". It is (deliberately) grammatically incorrect and it means "no one is born learned". In other words, practice makes perfect and no one is going to blame us for being bad at something we have no previous experience with. And if they do, well they can go get their own coffee because we certainly ain't going to make it for them.
Quality pays dividends
Photo by Tina Guina on Unsplash
One of the harsh truths about food and drink is that the quality of the ingredients makes all the difference in the world. The importance of quality ingredients almost always outweighs both skills and experience. Using high quality, freshly roasted and freshly ground coffee beans will exponentially increase your chances of success because even if you make a mistake, the taste and quality and texture of premium coffee will, at least partially, compensate for that.
Be a good server
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash
Perceived quality is crucial and we don't have to underestimate the psychological importance of aesthetics, smell and presentation. Think back on all those great dishes and drinks you ever had. I bet every single one of these amazing culinary experiences started out with you saying "that looks good". So, remember to go the extra mile and make the extra effort to be a good server. Spice it all up with a fancy wooden tray, be nice, use cool looking mugs and cups. Every little detail counts.