Barista Skills: Definition and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated August 27, 2021 | Published January 22, 2021

Updated August 27, 2021

Published January 22, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

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If you want to become a barista, improving certain hard and soft skills can make you a better employee now and in the future. For some people, working as a barista is a gateway to another field entirely. For others, it's a path toward managing or owning a coffee shop themselves. Skills like customer service, teamwork, attention to detail and multitasking are helpful in a wide variety of industries. In this article, we discuss the most important skills for a barista to develop.

What are barista skills?

Barista skills are the talents and abilities you need to work at a coffee shop. Working as a barista requires technical knowledge of coffee and other coffee shop products as well as customer service and communication skills for working with a team of coworkers and the public. Most baristas often have more responsibilities than making coffee and taking orders, so there is a degree of flexibility required for these positions.

While entry-level work is available as a barista, to reach greater responsibilities, most people need to develop advanced knowledge of different kinds of drinks and foods that customers order at coffee shops to compete with other candidates. Being a barista can be a fast-paced job with a lot of expectations, but by practicing and enhancing these skills, the work can be manageable and enjoyable.

There are a lot of directions to take a career as a barista, whether you want to learn skills for a different path entirely or you intend to one day manage or own your own coffee shop. Many of these skills are relevant for a wide variety of careers, and knowing how to be a better barista can make you more appealing to a lot of employers.

Related: What Is a Barista?

Examples of barista skills

Good barista skills revolve around a few different aspects of the work done at coffee shops, including drink and food preparation, cleaning, taking orders and coordinating with a team. Here are some of the most important skills for a barista to have:

Customer service

Having excellent customer service skills is one of the most important parts of being a barista. The minimum use of this skill is to be polite and helpful to customers. Excelling at customer service means acknowledging regular customers, working to resolve issues quickly even when it requires extra work and being positive and friendly even in difficult situations. An excellent customer service experience can mean more business for that shop and greater tips for the barista. By working hard to give customers a good experience, the barista helps everyone involved.

Coffee knowledge

To get an entry-level position at a coffee shop, some basic knowledge of coffee can be helpful. A barista should know the difference between coffee and espresso drinks like lattes, Americanos, flat whites, cold brews and cappuccinos. As a barista becomes more experienced, knowledge of things like roasting and grinding practices, how coffee beans are sourced and what the differences are in the flavors of various kinds of coffees can be very helpful for the customers they serve and their employer.

Attention to detail

Attention to detail is a skill that enables a barista to make fewer mistakes and improve the customer's experience. For instance, remembering what a regular customer orders every day can make that person feel valued and more likely to continue to come to that coffee shop. With the many aspects of a barista's job, whether it's knowing how to properly clean all the parts of an espresso machine or understanding a complicated custom order, a barista with attention to detail can set themselves apart.

Teamwork

At peak hours for a coffee shop, there can be many employees working together to fill orders, which makes teamwork necessary to keep customers happy. Teamwork is key, especially as many coffee shops use an assembly line organization to keep drinks moving. One person might run the cash register and pass along the orders, another might make most of the drinks, another might take drive-thru orders and yet another might finish the drinks and give them out to customers. All of this requires excellent communication and cooperation.

Multitasking

Multitasking is a skill that allows a barista to handle many tasks at once, which is frequently necessary for a coffee shop. Many other skills listed can improve the multitasking skill, such as attention to detail and teamwork, so that the barista can complete all necessary duties quickly. At one time, a barista may need to take orders, operate the cash register, communicate orders to coworkers, fulfill orders, answer the phone and deliver orders to the customer. If it's a particularly busy time at the coffee shop, multitasking keeps orders moving quickly, which makes customers happy.

Cash management

Most baristas need to be able to use a cash register or point of sale (POS) system, making cash management an important part of the position. A small coffee shop might have a simple register system and handwritten orders, but larger chains have intricate systems with many options to allow for customized drinks. Either method will require some training so that the barista is using it efficiently and avoiding mistakes.

How to improve barista skills

There are ways to improve the necessary barista skills, whether you're already employed as a barista or trying to find employment in the field. Here are some ways to improve your barista skills:

1. Educate yourself on coffee drinks

Whether it's reading up on the different styles of drinks available at a coffee shop, trying them out in person or watching educational videos, there are a lot of ways to find more information on various types of coffee and techniques. Enhancing this skill can make you more effective as a barista, as you'll be able to converse with customers about their orders and improve their experience.

2. Take a customer service class

Classes of this sort exist online and in-person through a wide variety of organizations, including professional development centers. Some employers might even offer classes like this to improve employee performance. This can be an accessible and high-impact way to be a better barista, since customer service is such a cornerstone of the job.

3. Practice taking food and drink orders

Attention to detail is a key part of being an effective barista, and a good way to improve this skill is by practicing taking orders for friends and family. Either around the house or out at restaurants and coffee shops, be the point person for placing the order. It might require taking notes at first, but improving this skill can help you memorize orders and quickly input them into a POS.

4. Work as a team

Barista jobs are often appealing to high school and college students who need flexible work schedules, and students have access to team sports and activities that can improve this skill. Learning to communicate at team events can make you a better barista. For non-students, there are all sorts of casual sports teams and other team activities you can join. Consider searching community message boards to find a pickup sports game or volunteer opportunities.

Read more: How To Become a Barista

Barista skills in the workplace

As you practice your barista skills, you'll likely notice a marked improvement in your work. Here's how that might look:

Execute efficient order fulfillment

It's important to put effort into getting all customers' orders done quickly and correctly. By utilizing the barista skills mentioned above, you can deliver that experience for all customers.

Be a helpful coworker

To get everything done around a coffee shop, every employee has to contribute and be a part of the team. Use team-building skills to assist coworkers as needed, which will make everyone happy, from customers to coworkers to your supervisor.

Exhibit your coffee knowledge

Many customers ask baristas for drink recommendations. Understanding the range of what's available at your coffee shop can allow you to give an educated and thoughtful response tailored to each customer who asks.

Put on a customer service attitude

When interacting with customers and coworkers alike, be polite and positive to create a friendly atmosphere. Smile and greet customers when they first enter, and try to take their orders and deliver them as quickly as possible.

How to highlight barista skills

Throughout the application, interview and hiring process, it is valuable to show employers any applicable barista skills. Here are some ways to show off the relevant skills:

Highlighting barista skills on your resume

Whether your resume has one former job or 10, when looking for work as a barista, it's important to point out how you used and expanded these skills in the past. You can include soft skills, like customer service, and hard skills, like knowledge of coffee, depending on your previous experiences. Look at your resume to see how you can incorporate some of the key barista skills needed.

Highlighting barista skills on your cover letter

Use your cover letter to elaborate on important skills and experiences on your resume. For example, if you added customer service to your skills section, provide a specific example of how you helped a customer in your cover letter. That way, employers can clearly understand your customer service abilities.

Related: Barista Cover Letter Sample

Highlighting barista skills in the interview

The interview is the best place to prove the skills you've mentioned in your application documents. Interacting with an interviewer is just a different kind of customer service, and it requires a lot of attention to detail to track what is being said and expected of you. Show the interviewer your skills by being polite and friendly throughout the conversation.

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