How To Be A Barista At Home - A Coffee Geeks Guide!

How To Be A Barista At Home – A Coffee Geeks Guide!

This article is all about how to be a barista at home and developing the skills that you need to become an outstanding home barista and brew outstanding and delicious coffee that has you known as the coffee guy or gal amongst your friends.

Are you ready to take your coffee brewing skills to the next level and make truly amazing coffee?

Yes?

Then keep reading!

How To Be A Barista At Home – Home Barista Meaning

The term “barista” is borrowed from the Italian language and can be translated to mean “bartender”. It is not specifically referential to a coffee shop as a bartender or barista in Italian can perform their duties at a cocktail bar or a regular pub.

A barista is skilled at making both hot and cold drinks of alcoholic and non-alcoholic nature and some snack food to accompany them.

In the English language, the general use of the word “barista” has a tendency to refer exclusively to artisan and boutique coffee shops and cocktail bars.

While there is no official regulation of the title, a barista should mean a person who is able to competently operate an espresso machine, make a wide range of different coffee drinks from a number of different coffee machines, confidently brew coffee using different coffee brewing methods and techniques.

I expect that a professional barista, home barista and coffee lover know at least the basics of brewing coffee, the various brewing times and the effect of brew time on the resulting flavor.

I also expect that, with experience, a good barista will know about the different coffee beans like a wine connoisseur would with wine and the subtle differences and how they affect the coffee taste and coffee experience.

A barista should also know about grind sizes, water temperature, amount of coffee to be used and coffee to water ratios.

Key skills also include being able to program in regular maintenance schedules and cleaning schedules for the machines and coffee grinders as well as the calibration of coffee scales.

High end baristas are skilled at customer service, keeping the customer happy, entertained and good at latte art.

Extra plus skills are roasting coffee to various roasts and knowing exactly how to keep coffee beans perfectly fresh.

All of these can be learned on the job and in class. The better you are at it, the more likely you can be promoted from home barista, should you wish, to a professional barista to managing the food and beverage of a 5 star resort, a very well paying in-demand job.

And one that comes with travel. Some friends of mine have been head-hunted by companies in Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Vietnam and all over Europe.

It sounds like there is a lot to learn to be a high quality barista – that is because there is and there is a lot that goes into making coffee!

Coffee is, after all, a beautiful mix of art, science and love!

Home Barista Meaning
Home barista make stunning coffee

Must Read: Fresh espresso beans

Home Barista Essentials – Essential Barista Tools

There is a lot to serving up a great cup of coffee. It is a lot more to it than just hot water and beans. As you get on your journey to becoming a home barista and pulling a perfect shot of espresso every single time.

As you progress and build up your skill level, you will need to invest in certain tools to take your coffee to the next level. Some are essentials that you simply cannot do without! Some of these, the espresso machine you will need to get started.

Other coffee makers, like an automatic drip coffee maker, French press, vacuum coffee brewing device, Moka pot, percolator, a Chemex, an aeropress are optional extras that you can perhaps spend a few pennies on later.

Learn how to use each of these essential barista tools properly and in very little time you will be making coffee on par with coffee experts, and soon you will not be able to make a cup of coffee without them.

These home barista essentials will help you to gain more control over the variables involved in brewing coffee, such as the water temperatures, brew times, amount of coffee grounds, grind size, the milk and, of course, keeping your whole bean coffee or ground coffee fresher.

  •  1. A high quality Espresso Machine with a built in electric Milk Frother / Milk Steamer.
  • 2. A quality ceramic conical burr coffee grinder. (Alternatively an old school manual hand grinder).
  • 3. A digital coffee scale.
  • 4. A digital thermometer.
  • 5. A tamp and tamping mat.
  • 6. An air tight pro coffee cannister with a one way valve.
  • 7. Coffee cups and glasses.
  • 8. An electronic timer with an alarm facility.
  • 9. A milk pitcher.
  • 10. Non-abrasive micro fibre cloths for cleaning.
  • 11. A fine brush or two.
  • 12. A Caffeine wrench.
  • 13. A Goose neck kettle.
  • 14. A knock box.
  • 15. Cappuccino art templates.
  • 16. A Back flush.
  • 17. Descaling solution (alternative: distilled white vinegar).
Home Barista Essentials
You have some essential Must have tools to buy

The list above the first 12 are essential barista tools. The rest are completely optional. I’ve classed as essential cups and glasses as I find it annoying to pour the wrong type of coffee in the wrong cup.

Such a perfectionist!

A caffeine wrench is very inexpensive, and you will need it for a multitude of tasks, such as opening up your coffee machine to give it a proper clean. It is the right tool for the right job. Regular wrenches are too big and clunky and may damage your coffee machine.

There is nothing on the list that can be considered as too expensive other than the initial machine and grinder. To be fair, I do not consider them as expensive, as if and when you take proper care of them they will last you 10 years and more easily!

How To Make Barista Coffee At Home – Coffee Tips And Tricks

Here I am going to give you all of my top tricks and tips that I would pass on to any fellow master barista to bring your home barista skills up to that level.

There is nothing difficult at all to learn. Each one of these tips should only be a starting point for each one. Coffee is all about personal taste and this is where it differs from wine, which you only have one wine drink of all the different wines.

With coffee, the beans are just as complex as the grapes, and we have several different, very different coffee drinks to make.

When you learn to brew and get the fundamentals right you are half way there.

The Freshness Factor Is King, Queen And Duke!

Freshness is something that I drill home to readers of Latte Love Brew. It is something that we should not take lightly or skimp on at all. Coffee is a food product. The fresher, the better and more full of flavor your cuppa Joe will be.

Just adhering to the rule of fresh is best you will end up with a more aromatic coffee by default.

Maximum freshness means storing your whole beans properly, grinding in the moment you are about to them, using only freshly roasted beans and, when you progress to the stage roasting your own beans. I’ll talk more about these later.

Follow those simple rules and you will start brewing and enjoying high quality coffee at home. You will find that very few things improve the taste of your drink than using freshly ground coffee beans.

Use Whole Beans

Using whole beans is one part of the “double F” (freshness factor) as your actual coffee brewed will be that little bit fresher just because you ground your beans immediately before you started to brew your drink.

As soon as you grind your beans they start to degrade. Very few, literally no coffee shop will grind their beans immediately before brewing. Coffee shops use automatic grinders and have grounds stored in a chamber that were ground an unknown period of time before brewing.

If the coffee shop is quiet, the beans could have been ground hours ago, or the night before if you are one of the first customers that morning. This is why I visit only coffee shops that are busy. Due to being busy, the grounds chamber is flowing, and your coffee grounds were likely ground 5, 10, 15 minutes earlier.

At my coffee shops in Vietnam, Cambodia and Mexico, the coffee is ground immediately with the grounds taken straight from the fridge.

Yes, I said the fridge!

Use Whole Beans
Use fresh whole beans

Use A Coffee Canister And Store Your Beans Perfectly!

Storage is a key factor in keeping your coffee beans at peak freshness. While you can absolutely keep your beans in the bag that they came in providing that they have a:

  • 1. Ziplock
  • 2. A one way valve.
  • 3. Foil packed.

A specifically made coffee canister that is designed for the purpose with all the 3 characteristics above and has an airtight seal and keeps out bright lights and sunlight as well as strong odors.

Coffee is an excellent deodorizer as it absorbs all scents easily – this is why we need to keep them away from strong scents. Strong light and heat accelerate the degradation of coffee beans, whole or ground also.

This is why I insist that beans are in the fridge right until the point in which you are about to weigh, grind and brew them.

Upgrade Your Tap Water – Coffee Water Matters!

Water, water everywhere! Few people that are just starting on their coffee journey think about or even realise the difference that water makes to the quality of coffee.

When you upgrade your water and use filtered water, spring water or mineral water, you will start moving towards barista worthy coffee quality. Most of the professional coffee machines that you see in boutique coffee shops use filtered water.

At my two coffee shops, due to the high volume and my quest for perfection, the water is filtered and descaled at the mains and then distilled before it makes its way to the coffee machines. I take this step as I want to remove all impurities that may be in the water, leaving me with perfect water ready for brewing.

You don’t need to go to such an extreme at home. Filtered water, spring water or mineral water is good enough. Use the best water for coffee that you can.

Upgrade Your Tap Water
What more do we need in life

Regularly Clean Your Machine

As they say, cleanliness is next to godliness and if you keep your machine clean, on the inside and the outside.

Mineral deposits and lime scale can and will alter the taste of your coffee and reduce the lifespan of your coffee maker.

If you want clean, fresh tasting coffee, you absolutely must clean your machine. Plus, old coffee grounds and old coffee can build up in the machines pipes and lead to mold building up and pretty disgusting and unhealthy coffee.

This is why I included cloths,  brushes, distilled white vinegar and a caffeine wrench as must have items.

Learn To Tamper Correctly

“Watch your tamper” said the lady to the angry barista…

Tamping is very easy to do and is a skill you will pick up in your first half dozen or so shots that you pull. Take your time to begin with to perfect it. Ensure that the portafilter is not overfilled, or unevenly tamped.

…or too compact or too soft. There is a skill to it and is so easy to get perfect. It is also something to keep an eye on as nuances in your machine over time can lead to channelling and poor quality crema on your espresso shot.

The best option you have is to first focus on your tamp, ensure that it is perfect before you start to brew your coffee. This is the easiest adjustment that you can make. Make sure adjusting your machine is the last thing that you should do, even when initially setting it up for the first time.

What you want with your machine is “once and done” then any errors or disperfection’s can come down to tamping, cleaning, blooming and other “off machine” variables.

Learn To Bloom

Learning to bloom your grounds is also known as degassing and, like tamping above, it is a very easily learned little skill that all home baristas and professional baristas know.

It is called blooming and degassing as the two words are very descriptive of what is happening.

The hot water (or cold water) used for your coffee to initially wet or slightly soak the grounds, and you will kick-start a reaction where carbon dioxide starts to get released from the grounds and your coffee grounds bubble a little and start to bloom.

Bloom for too long or too short a time, and you will miss that sweet spot of maximum flavor. How long will depend on your beans and the roast of the beans. It is something that you will just know by experience.

There is no need to bloom with your espresso shots from your machine.

Your espresso machine will take care of this for you. If your tamping is perfect and you are not getting rich crema in espresso shots one reason may be the machines is not blooming correctly, and you will need to look at the water pressure and temperature adjustments.

Timing Is Everything

Timing is everything. Learn all the brewing times for the different brewing techniques. Keep a note on your phone or in the iPhone note app for the brew times. Since you are brewing at home and for friends.

Knowing how long you brewed that French press or Moka pot, or Siphon coffee alters the flavor.

You don’t want to over brew or under brew. The brewing time of an espresso shot is 25 seconds to 30 seconds and something you will only need to adjust when initially setting your machine up the first time.

I have a database, set up in my coffee shops where we record exactly how our regular customers like their coffee and link it to their discount card. This way, we can custom coffee to custom clients.

A cup of coffee starts by knowing how the drinker likes it. The basic core truth about coffee, and making barista worthy coffee drinks and winning this coffee game is controlling all the variables  and serving it exactly how your drinker likes it.

Controlling the variables will lead to consistency and serving up excellent cups of coffee worthy of champions every single time.

Raise The Temperature

From cold brews to a pot of coffee that is piping hot, Knowing the ideal temperature and the effect that this has on the flavor of your beans is good to know. Do you know the difference in taste between brewing an espresso or dark roast at 92C (196F) than the upper limit of 96C (205F)?

Try it and you will appreciate that little tip. Boil your water and make a French press coffee at full temperature and then try it at the upper most maximum temperature of 96C (205F) and the lower temperature of 92C (196).

This will help you to understand this key variable.

Get Steamy!

Ohh yeah! Coffee is sexy and baristas are like a good coffee hot, and wet! Get steamy and learn how to use your wand.

Enough of the puns. Learn how to steam your milk based on the various milk drinks that you will be making and get that layer of milk perfect. It is far better to use a steam wand that is part of your machine.

However,

you can also use an electric milk frother, but the quality is not the high quality steamed milk that you would expect from a home barista. There are techniques and tricks where you can use a French press to produce good quality frothy milk.

However, this is not true, authentic steamed milk and more “milk with air”.

Practice your steaming skills with a variety of milk low fat milk, full fat milk, oat milk, rice milk, almond milk as these all alter the taste, texture and consistency of your milk and coffee drink.

Get Steamy
Learn to milk it!

Be Artistic

Use a variety of latte art stencils and get that eye catching and create and perfect the skill of making beautiful presented stunning designs that are only made by the professionals. Keep you stencils a secret from your friends. Serve up latte art at dinner parties, and you will be the talk of the town for weeks to come!

Perhaps even the envy of your neighborhood coffee shop!

Latte Art
latte art can be done by hand or a stencil

Study Coffee Beans, Brewing Methods And Techniques.

Get to know the various whole bean coffee, their scent, their flavor how to bring out the subtle flavor notes and if they are best with what type of coffee and which roasting methods and when you should and when you should not use single origin whole bean coffee.

Understanding subtle differences between a Guatemalan coffee and their fellow South and Central American coffees as how they, in turn are different from African, volcanic, and Asian coffees.

Learn to perfect a number of different coffee brewing techniques and the very different flavors they produce from the exact same beans and the nuances of how a coffee filter alters a coffee‘s characteristics and why. What might seem trivial but there is a reason why I always try to use a metal filter over any other type of filter.

If that is not possible I’ll use an organic cotton one. I’ll try to never use a paper filter!

Why?

Ask us on our Facebook page. We’ll happily answer!

Certain coffees are best avoided at night, while some are ok due to the brewing method and beans not being high in caffeine or the brewing method not being one of those that are known for being high in caffeine content.

Learn About The Coffee Roasting Process

Learning about roasting and taking part in what is becoming a new wave and joining the home roasting revolution. This really will take your home barista skills to the next level, to a Michelin level! So very few baristas know about roasting and the roasting process or are capable of doing it themselves.

Do this and you and your coffee will stand head and shoulders above every other barista in town. In the environment of coffee makers you will be The King of coffee.

Learn About The Coffee Roasting Process
Learn about coffee roasting with a home roaster

Practice Does Not Make Perfect!

While some people will tell you that practice makes perfect I’m going against the grain here and telling you that practice leads to bad habits and mediocrity.

Perfect practice leads to perfect results and great habits leads to great results. Get into that habit that I brushed on earlier of taking notes of all the variables, brew temperature, coffee beans used, how fresh they were, how long you brewed for, grind size, water quality, quantity of grounds used and the brew method.

Do this and you WILL get predictably better coffee and consistent results.

How To Make Good Coffee At Home Without A Machine

While you can make good coffee without the need for a world-class espresso machine or a one stop espresso machine, these tools of the trade make your life much easier.  We have been making and brewing coffee for hundreds of years and when that button for your all-in-one machine it is time to go old school!

No machine. Strictly no modern machine period. Making great coffee can be done with a French press, moka pot, and if it needs to be, nothing but beans, a mortar and pestle to grind them and hot water to brew up a cuppa Joe.

Learn these techniques, and you will achieve the task of making great coffee without a machine.

Frappé-Ing It All Up – How To Be A Barista At Home

This article is much more than a simple “how to”. It is a guide for coffee geeks that are just getting started on their coffee journey and want to be a top class barista at home and known for making outstanding coffee.

To get to that level, you need to invest some of your hard-earned cash to get the essential tools that will get you on the right road and fast track to brewing amazing coffee. By far the best investment is your time, your effort and dedication to the art and skill of making truly great coffee.

Coffee is love, it's more than love — it's a passion of mine. I've had the luck to have travelled and enjoyed the most exotic of coffee's and unique flavors, brewing methods and techniques of making the perfect coffee from Thai hill tribe coffee to Indonesian volcanic coffee, Malaysian coffee that comes in a tea bag and the array of flavors in Vietnam, from Vanilla to Orange to Coconut to Avocado to even salt coffee and the famous egg coffee. The best part of my coffee adventures is getting to mix with the locals over a nice brew and learning how they make it! I'm cited and referenced on Google Scholar for the topic of coffee.

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