Working in a coffee shop or espresso bar is demanding. After all it is directly linked to catering but specialising in brewing coffee using various methods.

Why barista life is demanding?

It is not about the coffee and the customers but the fact to be standing for up to 9 hours and almost on the same spot.

The back is turning and bending but the feet are clearly staying in the same area for a length of time.

There are the milk and coffee deliveries. Shifting some grinders around and emptying the daily drain from the wasted water is equal to a strong physical exercise.

There is always a customer coming in when the barista is taking a couple of minutes break and hearing the phrase “working hard again” can be rather enraging. Of course, the employee is there to work but it seems that a lot of customers believe that pouring coffee ad steaming milk is a dumb job!

Barista equipment

However, there is a skill in these two tasks and without this knowledge the daily shots of espresso can be ruined and disappointing. The UKBC is a proof of the importance of a lot of details to get that perfect crema.

We could then ask: is there a kind of disrespect/misunderstanding of what the barista is actually doing? Is it that tiring and what about the hourly rate?

Starting by the latter part of the question: the wage is usually just above the NMW (if you are lucky)…so nothing exciting and glamorous about it for a start. Working in a coffee shop is about the love of craft coffee in the first place – we aren’t talking about coffee chains/corporations but speciality coffee houses.

Concerning the first part of the question: the person serving  your daily dose of caffeine knows how to set up grinder & coffee machine, ratio coffee vs water, extraction time, tamper evenly and the list goes on. When you think that some coffee drinkers aren’t even aware that coffee beans are initially green, it makes you think twice.

Being a barista can be seen as the easiest job, but it can be compared to a complex and almost scientific procedure where everything is important including the pressure of the espresso machine to the temperature of the milk which differs between a cappuccino and a flat white. To clarify,  a flat white is not a small hot cappuccino!

In general, customers are in a rush – this is their fault. Asking the barista to go faster won’t make the drink better… it will in fact, make it worse. Having a drink made to order is like going to a real restaurant (not a fast food), there is a certain allocated  time to produce that consistent quality. And the barista might prepare up to 300 hot beverages per day every day. Having a good laugh is also part of the job but certainly not putting more pressure.

It is important to be healthy and a little cold or a slight discomfort such as backache due to a false movement or tiredness can really affect the entire well-being of the employee – standing from 7.30am to 5.30pm. Yes, it happens as there is no possibility to take a deserved break because the demand is high when the quality is second-to-none.

Victim of its own success?  Certainly not. It is just how coffee culture is… people want that Continental feel of sipping their espresso whenever they feel. Therefore, if the barista is slightly slower or looks tired there is a clear reason.

At least two baristas in my entourage suffer from leg/back pains and feet too. It is not about saying that they are working harder than other professions, but just putting things right.

It is certain that some other jobs are as demanding but maybe not that physical. Office workers are in majority staring at a computer for 7 hours per day and headache can be a consequence as well – thinking of website designers or other creatives.

Staring at computer screen

There are stereotypes in most jobs –  read previous article HERE.

But what to retain from all these words?

Not everyone can be a barista. It is not just about serving customers but also having good resistance and enjoying hard work.