Common barista mistakes (and how to fix them)

Michael Elligett

Whether you’re just starting out or have been making coffee for years, it is easy as a barista to take shortcuts under time pressures and forget about key practices you should be considering. We decided to go through 5 common mistakes to make sure you’re delivering your best latte every time.  

Two baristas making coffee

1. Expecting too much too quickly 

As a beginner, this is the easiest way to get frustrated and give up! There is so much that goes behind making a good coffee and learning all that info, and putting it into practice, takes time. It is common to feel overwhelmed and become disheartened after making mistakes, or comparing yourself to baristas with 5+ years' experience (which is easy to do when you’re Googling tips or watching YouTube videos). Have patience and trust the process. If you can’t do it yet, it doesn’t mean that you never will.  

Don't push yourself too hard. Make small changes, and gradually. If you’re adjusting your grind, tamp dose, or shot length – do it one at a time, observe and correct as you go.  


2. Halting your learning  

There are countless resources out there, if you take tips from too many different sources you will confuse yourself and be inconsistent. Be critical with information, compare different views, and carefully consider what you choose to put into practice. Check with your workplace about what they expect and any tips/certain practices they may have.  

If you’re just starting out, look into learning from a specialised barista trainer. This way you can have one person customise your learning experience to your needs without getting lost in the piles of competing info out there. We offer mobile one-on-one barista training for our coffee customers at your cafe. If you’re interested in learning the ropes or just want to be up to date with the newest industry practices to enhance your skills, get in touch today. 

Another thing is to never stop learning! No matter how long you have been pumping out those coffees, there are always new changes and technologies in our industry to stay on top of. Be open to changes and be observant of practices that will take you to that next level. Follow industry publications or bloggers that will allow you to stay one step ahead.  


3. Not purging water before your shot 

Always flush some water through the group head before pulling a shot. When you do this, you are cleaning the dispersion screens from old coffee grounds that will negatively impact the taste of your coffee if not flushed out.  

Another benefit is that this will regulate the temperature for consistent extraction. When you remove the group handle for grinding/tamping, the group head and dispersion screen begins to cool, which can under extract your espresso and lead to sourness. Purging allows you to offset this temperature reduction and ensure proper espresso extraction. 


4. Using old beans  

To get that peak flavour of freshly roasted coffee, we need to look at two things: the build-up of carbon dioxide and the loss or aromatics that occurs in the beans. For most coffees, the ‘best’ taste is not as soon as the beans are roasted, but a few days after. This allows for the beans to become oxidised. That being said, it’s always a good idea to contact your roaster about when you should be using your beans – as they know the ins and outs of the beans and how to nurture the flavours to ensure the best taste.  

After you’ve opened the original packaging of your beans, consume them within two weeks to guarantee maximum freshness.  


5. Using the wrong milk 

Not all milks are created equal. While home brand might be fine for your cold drinks – when it comes to coffee you need to make sure you’re choosing a high-quality milk that is crafted for barista use and will suit the roast of your beans. This is especially vital for alternative milk, which is harder to steam and pour as it is. We proudly stock Alternative Dairy Co and Happy Happy Soy Boy (at competitive prices!) because they are industry favourites that are specifically crafted for coffee, come out nice and creamy, and you can still do great latte art.

On a side note, remember to shake your alternative milks every time before using. The milk tends to separate in the carton, which will ruin the consistency when you pour it into your jug without shaking. 


Lastly, anyone can search for tips and tricks on the internet, but at the end of the day the top things that will set you apart are practice, patience and persistence. As they say, good things take time.  

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