As a barista, you have probably heard about the so-called 'God shot'. This is one of the most commonly used terms in modern cafes, and one that relates to a perfectly extracted shot of espresso coffee that is used as a base for a host of different beverages.
While many baristas may aspire to this, however, the 'God shot' is extremely difficult to execute. There are also a number of variable factors to consider, from the quality of equipment used and the coffee blend to the nature of the drink that has been ordered by the customer.
Young or aspiring baristas are better served by focusing on elements that they control and the core attributes required to become great at their craft. Here are seven of the most crucial: -
#1 - Great Baristas are Excellent Listeners
Let's start with the basics, as a great barista is a gifted listener who is able understand the needs of their customers in precise detail.
This is particularly important when you consider the sheer range and complexity of modern coffee drinks, which may start from a single (or double) shot of espresso but can include so many additional elements.
As a barista, you must make a concerted effort to listen to your clientele and deliver the exact drink that they have asked for. If you become distracted by the single aspect of the execution or achieving the 'God shot' you may ultimately miss the mark from a service perspective.
#2 - Great Baristas are always Busy
Another thing that separates a great from good barista is an appetite for work, with the former likely to be constantly busy and energetic.
You will often catch a great barista cleaning the filter and the portafilter in their machines, for example, as this erodes the build-up of burnt coffee oil that can begin to impact on the quality and taste of each espresso shot.
This not only shows an innate understanding of the equipment that is used to create high quality coffee drinks, but it also underlines a strong-work ethic and a willingness to maintain an exceptionally high standard of workmanship.
#3 - Great Baristas have superb attention to detail
Similarly, do not be surprised to hear the sound of a coffee grinder at work if you are being served by a great barista.
This highlights the keen attention to detail that distinguishes skilled and experienced baristas, as they have the desire and the awareness to use the freshest ground coffee for every drink that they make.
This type of attentiveness helps great baristas to get the most from the ground coffee that they use, as many of the delicate aromas found in espresso are lost when exposed to the open air.
#4 - Great Baristas are experts with equipment
Becoming a skilled barista doesn't happen overnight, infact it takes exceptional levels of barista training to reach such high levels of service, both in terms of the technical aspects of drink making and the service delivered to customers.
When it comes to the former, a great barista possesses the knowledge and understanding to be at one with the machinery that they use, enabling them to leverage the technology at their disposal to create incredible beverages.
From the proactive maintenance of filters to monitoring the performance of key gauges (which drives the extraction of a single espresso shot for each drink), great baristas take every conceivable step to get the most from their equipment.
#5 - Great Baristas deliver an exceptional level of service
When it comes to customer service, there is also a significant difference between great and good baristas.
The former are trained not only to listen intently to their customers, but they are also educated to a standard that enables them to interact and develop rapport with consumers while they are making their drink.
This makes a huge difference, as there is so much more to a coffee shop experience than drinking perfectly roasted blends. The atmosphere and the ambience also play a central role, and the interaction that the customer has with their barista sets the tone for an enjoyable experience.
This is where great baristas come into their own and make a real difference in a competitive marketplace.
#6 - Great Baristas have exceptional timing
They say that timing is everything, but this is particularly true when it comes to executing the perfect cup of coffee.
A great barista knows precisely when to finish the extraction of espresso, for example, at the point when the balance of flavour has reached its optimum levels. They also understand the importance of this, as those who act too soon will be left with a drink without flavour while those who delay the finish risk burning the beverage and tainting it with a bitter after-taste.
This is why is a keen sense of timing remains one of the most important attributes that a great barista must possess, especially during the hustle and bustle of a typical working day.
#7 - Great Baristas are Calm under Pressure
At this point, it is important to reaffirm that great baristas are not immune to mistakes or human error. Instead, the difference between great and good baristas lies in their reaction to mistakes, as the former take such instances in their stride and retain an incredible level of calm even during busy periods.
The same principle applies when orders (or individual details) get altered, as a great barista will focus on the details of the request and process these with the minimum of fuss. They will also take their time to ensure that they do not rush after a mistake or an amendment, as they know that this will only need to more errors further down the line.
The Bottom Line
While chasing the God shot may be appealing to some, it can distract a barista from the numerous elements that go into their job role. In this respect, truly great baristas take the time to understand their craft and the machinery that they use, while developing the key attributes that will enable them to deliver the highest possible quality of beverage and service.