If you love coffee and working with people, becoming a barista might sound like the dream job for you. Baristas are masters of their trade, they know how to make the perfect cup of Joe and they manage to somehow make it look easy.
For those who don’t know, there’s a lot that goes into the perfect coffee. Do grinding, dosing, extraction, and tamping mean anything to you? They will if you’re wanting to become a barista!
We were lucky enough to chat with Dan Varvarian, Head Barista at Corretto Dee Why about his life as a barista and how he got into the industry. Throughout the chat, Dan shares some great tips for those looking to become a barista and provides practical steps you can take to achieve your goals.
Hi Dan, thank you for chatting with Locimo. Firstly, we’re interested to know how you become a barista...
Becoming a barista came naturally over the course of my roles in hospitality. When I first began working in this industry, I started off with kitchen hand work for a small cafe. Like some, I was unsure of where I wanted to go with a career, so I looked at it as a gateway into the workforce. A short time after I was out on the floor, running around and getting the chance to chat to people as a waiter, however, I was always interested in coffee. I was working alongside a barista who'd make delicious coffee and beautiful latte art on each cup and would ask if they would teach me how to make coffee. So on the odd day here and there, I'd get the chance to make a shot or steam the milk, although it wasn't much, I found it enjoyable and decided that I wanted to improve. The cafe would reach its quieter hours of the afternoon, and I saw it as a chance to practice, so I did. I'd go through a couple bottles of milk because I found milk was the most difficult part about making coffee. I then got another job working in a bar at night and again used the space to practice because I decided that one day I'd like to have my own cafe. After about 3 years since I first began working in hospitality, I opened Dan's Cafe and Bar with my family, and for the first time, I had a full time barista role. Given the experience I already had, I felt that working for myself and making 300+ coffees daily was the best barista experience I had towards improving my ability, because before I was averaging less than 100 in a week. After selling shop a few years back and wanting a change, I was given the chance to work at Corretto where I continue my role as a Barista.
Have you taken any courses to become a barista and if so, would you recommend them for those wanting to get into the industry?
Whether or not someone would like to be a Barista, I do recommend coffee courses to anyone. Different coffee roasters offer a variety of courses and classes both theoretically and practically through their roasteries and it can be educational for those looking to understand coffee. Roasteries can offer tours around their warehouses that explain the origins of beans through getting you behind a machine and getting an opportunity to make coffee. I've completed multiple courses through different roasters and do believe a foundations course is a great way to get started, especially if it's a roast you know or work with. My personal recommendation would be the Seven Miles Barista Foundations Course. The team at Seven Miles are coffee geniuses, the course they offer is fun, educational, and you have a large amount of time playing on the machine!
What does a normal day look like for you?
Like most baristas, I am up very early. I walk to work most days and watch the sunrise on Dee Why Beach as we prepare for mornings at Corretto. I like to be organised, therefore I get into work earlier and ensure everything is ready to go for our busy mornings. This includes preparations such as adjusting the grinder to provide the correct recipe and seasoning the machine. Once we are open, I spend the majority of my shift behind the machine pumping out coffee. At Corretto we average about 5+ kgs of coffee per day so this keeps me busy most of the morning!
What are your favourite parts of the job?
At Corretto, we have an extremely loyal range of locals and customers that I have the pleasure of making coffee for and a friendly team to provide great service. These awesome people get me through my mornings whether it's a friendly conversation or banter, it all helps! Also, as we are located right on the beachfront, Corretto boasts the most incredible view of the Dee Why Beach. From behind the machine I can watch surfers catching waves, on calmer days I can enjoy the scenery of the peaceful water and during the right season see dolphins and whales!
Any other advice for those wanting to become a barista?
Whenever you're first learning or starting up to become a barista, no matter what level or experience you have, I recommend completing a couple foundation courses with a couple of different roasteries. The reason I recommend multiple roasteries is because each roastery has different methods, recipes, origins and techniques to making their coffee special that you can gain knowledge from and it keeps your mind open to many different styles of making coffee. For example, when I first started steaming milk I was taught to hold the jug a particular way, then after completing 8 courses and being taught multiple ways on how to hold the jug, I ended up finding the most comfortable and efficient technique for myself which was different to everything I was shown. A good way to understand this is by watching or asking other baristas from cafes you may be familiar with and examining how they make their coffee for their particular blend.
When it comes to making coffee, most people think that a good coffee entails a firm tamp, slow coffee pour and a low pitch of the steaming milk. Although all this is true, one crucial tip I outline the most that most people miss, is the cleanliness and hygiene of all the equipment you're using. It's important to be clean because it can reflect on the coffee you're serving. For example, after taking a used basket out of a group head to refill it, it's important to rinse out the screen on that head to flush out all the dead coffee grinds that could still remain on that screen. If not done correctly, burnt coffee could be tasted in the next pour.
For those at a more advanced level, you're now looking at putting a bit of latte art on your coffees or sharing milk between jugs. Again there are courses you can complete to improve this ability as a barista. If classes aren't your thing or you're struggling to find the time to book in, there are other ways around this. When I used to work in my shop, I used Instagram as a latte art teacher. I would put the screen above my machine next to the cups, find a 15 second video of a tulip being poured, and just keep it on repeat until I would eventually learn how to do it. Takeaway coffees are also a great way to practice latte art because even if you're not happy with the way it looks, there's a lid going on it anyway!
Lastly, the best advice I can give to any barista is to maintain a positive attitude. Coffee is the make or break to most people's lives, especially in Australia, where our coffee culture is one of the biggest in the world. Anywhere you go, there is someone lining up at 7am to get a coffee and start their day, and they are reliant on you! If you're keeping happy and giving them a positive service then you're halfway to making their morning!
Are you inspired and want to look for local hospitality jobs in your area? Head to our job page to find the right role for you.