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Barista Basics - Articles

How to be a Gun Barista - Bean Scene, Issue 5, 2004

Saturday, March 26, 2005



How to be a Gun Barista

Baristas vary in ability but few can claim to be a “Gun Barista”. You have to be energetic, technically proficient, creative and multi-skilled as well, explain Matthew Gee and David Gee. Here's their guide to being the best of the best…

We took over four espresso bars in Brisbane a few years ago. One of them had several staff members who had been working there for the past year. They were lazy, scruffy-looking people who were more interested in chatting about rave parties than making coffee for customers. They pleaded with us to keep them on - said they were “gun baristas”. We decided to put them to the test and asked them to prepare some coffees for us. Mmmmm. We figured that Ordinary Coffee with Bad Attitude didn't look good on the menu board so we “released” them and enlisted a new, largely inexperienced group who would later develop into our “gun baristas.”

It's an oft-asked question - “What is it that makes a gun barista?” - because some are great, some are just OK and others would be better off pumping petrol than working an espresso machine.

So over the years we have compiled a list of essentials that we think go into making a “gun bartista”.

Proper Training
All gun baristas have had proper training and have become technically proficient. You don't just develop the skills naturally. And don't listen to people who think coffee is some sort of “artisan craft” that takes decades to master. It's not rocket science but in some ways it should be treated as a science. You need to know about the 30ml shot and that it should come out at or very close to 30 seconds. You need to know that milk should be heated at or very close to 65 degrees Celsius. You need to know about water temperature, overextraction, underextraction and water pressure. It's like learning to drive -better to learn from an accomplished teacher than from Uncle Ted who is likely to pass on decades of bad habits.

Gun baristas will have a heightened sense of awareness. There are several key areas of concern for the barista standing at the espresso machine as the order is being placed .These include milk type, the need for chocolate powder if a hot chocolate or caffe mocha has been ordered, the need for decaf coffee grinds if a decaf has been ordered or the need for syrup if a syrup has been ordered. The gun barista should have prepared all of these things even before the official order has been passed to them by the cash register operator.

A gun barista will also be aware of his or her fellow workers and will have developed a clear delineation between the various roles in the cafe. They will not try to do everyone else's jobs as well as their own but nor will a gun barista be slack and never leave the espresso machine at the expense of the overall efficient running of the café. A gun barista doesn't only make superb coffee, he or she also knows how to load the dishwasher and mop the floor.



A Love of Coffee
You have to love coffee to be a truly great barista. We don't know about you but we've never met a successful salesman who hated selling, a successful mum who hated children, an award-winning author who hated writing or a top rock band that hated performing. So too with coffee - you have to drink the stuff and love it to&


Effective Barista Training, Tea and Coffee Asia, first quarter 2006
Coffee The Australian Way, Tea and Coffee Asia, fourth quarter 2005
In the End, It's All in the Blend, Bean Scene, Issue 10, 2005
Tools of the Trade, Bean Scene, Issue 10, 2005
The Starters Guide To Coffee, Bean Scene, Issue 9, 2005
Cutting Edge Espresso - Bean Scene Magazine, Issue 8, 2005
Postcards from Seattle - Bean Scene Magazine, Issue 8, 2005
Making Great Coffee At Home - Loreal's Club Matrix Magazine, Issue 2, 2004
Buying a Home Espresso Machine - Loreal's Club Matrix Magazine, Issue 3, 2005
Australians v Italians: Who Makes Better Coffee? - Bean Scene Magazine, Issue 6, 2004
The Decline of Tea and the Dethroning of the Flat White - Bean Scene Magazine, Issue 7, 2005
Coffee Indulgence - Loreals' Club Matrix Magazine, Issue 4, 2005
Coffee Appreciation
How to be a Gun Barista - Bean Scene, Issue 5, 2004
Affogato with a twist of Mocha - Australian Table, May 2004
Hygiene in the Café Environment - Bean Scene, Issue 3, 2004
Grind It, Baby - Eat Drink Magazine, May 2004
Coffee Myths, Dispelled!, Bean Scene, Issue 4, 2004
Coffee Art - Eatdrink Magazine, June 2004
Questions: Hospitality Magazine, May 2004


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