Every now and then, people apply to become a barista to make some extra money and to gain new skills. It may look pretty cool to stand behind the counter of a coffee house but is working as a barista a good job? How much can you make and what does the future hold for this type of career?
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty details.
What is a Barista?
A barista is a person who is professionally trained or skilled in making espresso-based coffee drinks. He/she is usually responsible for the preparation and decoration of a variety of espresso drinks. This may involve processes such as roasting coffee beans, brewing coffee, steaming or frothing milk, operating espresso machine, and latte decoration among others, depending on the task at hand.
Also, depending on the size and how specialized a coffee shop is, a barista may be responsible for servicing and interacting with customers as well as other duties like keeping inventory and manning the cash register.
The essential espresso-making involves brewing coffee in a special way that creates more thickness and flavor from the preparation of a normal coffee. Some level of expertise is needed to be able to mix this with specific quantities of other liquids such as water, milk, and microfoam to come up with various espresso-based drinks.
Besides, commercial espresso machines are more complex than domestic ones, requiring some skills in terms of their operation. This is where a barista comes into play with their coffee making and latte art skills. Their in-depth knowledge about the coffee industry helps produces a wide range of quality espresso-based drinks significant to the customers they serve.
To become a barista, you will require some training. You may decide to learn on the job by becoming an apprentice to a more experienced employee. However, if you are looking to become an expert and be able to handle more demanding job situations, then you may opt to pursue a barista training course instead.
The coffee world has diversified, broadening baristas’ options in terms of where they can work. As opposed to working at the typical coffee shop like Starbucks, they can also work in any place where coffee bars are integrated into the business setup. This includes book stores, hotels, sports complexes, high-end stores, and many more.
How Much Can a Barista Make?
In the US, you can expect to earn slightly above minimum wage working as a barista. An average base salary of $11.66 per hour is recorded by the Indeed site, based on 21,363 salaries. The amount of money you take home daily will depend on how many hours you put in each day. You may also anticipate earning a little bit more through tips received from customers. The same site records an average earning of $17.00 daily, just from tips alone.
Another site, Glassdoor, reports an average yearly base salary for a barista to be $20,407; the higher end of the scale is $26k while the lower end is about $17k. Other than tips, your salary can also be boosted from other employment compensations such as bonuses, commissions, and profit shares. The additional income from these sources ranges between $412 to $3,455.
Technically, a barista’s income is dependant on several factors;
Location – This number varies from one city to another. For example, those who live in high-cost cities like New York, Seattle, and Los Angeles, the reported earning is said to be over 20% more than the average salary. Contrarily, the pay dwindles from the average with up to around 8% in less expensive cities such as Houston.
Company – The company you’re attached to matters. According to Payscale, those who pay higher around $12 and above are Safeway Inc., Peet’s Coffee, and Target Corporation. Meanwhile, you can expect about $10 per hour working for Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks.
Experience – Needless to say, your level of experience and expertise has a direct influence on your potential earnings as well. Those who are just starting out with the lowest skillset average about $10.42 per hour and gradually goes up to $12.09 as you gain more experience.
Full-time vs Part-time – As with most jobs that pay hourly, a part-timer will generally earn less as compared to a full-time barista.
The Advantages of Working as a Barista
Flexibility – Most places allow baristas to work at flexible hours. Even though you might find yourself working very early mornings and on the weekends, you can always discuss with the manager on a working schedule that will match your availability.
If you are working part-time, you can pick up shifts that coincide with your free time and even switch shifts with a co-worker in case of anything. This type of arrangement works great for college students.
Other skills – Apart from honing your coffee and creativity skills, you get to acquire other skills as well such as team communication and customer service. The job will also teach you how to manage strenuous situations and problem-solving – two skills that are highly useful for any future job endeavors.
Customer interaction – While servicing customers, you get to interact with many different people on a daily basis. These social experiences can take away monotony and also brighten up your day when you meet with pleasant customers.
Numerous job opportunities – There are job demands for barista all the time, especially if you live in busy cities. Hence it shouldn’t be difficult to find job opportunities; just search through the online job boards nearest to your location or pop by your local coffee shop to inquire.
Free Beverages- One of the perks of making coffee for a living is that you can always pour a cup for yourself! Some companies are even generous enough to let you buy their merchandise at discounted prices or let you have the item for free.
The Disadvantages of Working as a Barista
Working Pressure- To perform effectively as a barista, you need to be able to work under stressful situations sometimes. This is due to the overly demanding situations that you are likely to find yourself in. For instance, when covering a shift during peak hours, you will have numerous orders coming in at a go. This will require you to tend to every customer, prepare the drinks as fast as is possible, and still maintain the expected quality.
Other Duties- In line with the above, making and serving espresso drinks is not the only thing that will be required of you when it comes to most barista jobs. You will find yourself having to perform other tasks such as cleaning the kitchen/work area, cleaning the washrooms, and being the cashier, etc., as well. You will have to learn to juggle several duties.
Minimum Wage- A barista job will earn you a decent pay to help you sustain yourself but at a basic level. You get more or less the same thing working part-time at McDonald’s. For this reason, it is suitable as a starter job or when in between jobs as you search for something more stable and rewarding. This is unless you are looking to become a coffee expert and fully pursue this course, professionally.
Customers- On the flip side of having to deal with customers directly is having your tolerance be put to test. This is because you will occasionally meet those who will give you a hard time. You might end up feeling worked up, but with no choice but to put up with it since the customer is always right.
So, Should You Work as a Barista?
Overall, working as a barista is a great opportunity to pick up new job skills in the service industry while expanding your social network. If you aspire to work with a particular coffee company someday or craft a career in the coffee industry, the experience will provide you with a good foundation.
However, the money you make may pay for some but not all types of bills. Practically speaking, if you’re planning to buy a house or start a family, relying on the average income of a barista isn’t a wise idea. Plus, you can’t expect to get rich either with that kind of hourly rate pay.
That’s why I’m a big advocate of diversifying one’s income stream, especially through the digital economy. In other words, you can work as a barista while growing a side business. For instance, do you know that coffee has a lucrative market online? This popular niche sees thousands of transactions every day – more than the average customers you see at Starbucks.
And here’s the good news. You don’t need to own a coffee shop or any products to start selling. There are plenty of coffee brands with affiliate programs that are more than happy to pay you for referral commission. Affiliate marketing, as the business model is called, keeps your overhead low while maximizing profit through various consumer trends.
If you don’t fancy coffee for whatever reasons, that’s fine too; there are many other niches you can join. To learn more about such opportunities and how to get started, check out my recommended training platform here.
I hope this article has given you interesting insights into working as a barista. Have something to share about the topic? Leave some comments in the space below.