Barista: Job Description, Duties and Salary

When a customer walks into a coffee shop and orders a venti, half-caf skinny latte with no whip - or even just a simple cuppa joe - a barista is the person behind the counter who makes his or her drink. Depending on the coffee shop, baristas may receive extensive training in the intricacies of roasting and brewing coffee or just the basics of using in-house equipment. Baristas generally earn an hourly wage plus tips.

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Job Description

The primary function of a barista is to make and serve coffee drinks; in fact, 'barista' is derived from the Italian word for bartender. Baristas generally work in coffee shops, including large chain shops and local, single-location cafes. They might also be employed at coffee bars in bookstores, restaurants or clubs.

Baristas take and prepare orders and usually need to make several drinks at the same time, which requires the ability to multitask. In addition to strong customer service skills, baristas need to be able to listen carefully to customer orders and prepare drinks correctly.

Training and Education

Employers who hire baristas typically provide on-the-job training in specific processes and menus. In general, a college degree isn't required for employment, but baristas who hope to advance into management or corporate roles within a company might consider college courses in business or hospitality management. Individual employer policies vary, but some prefer employees who hold a high school diploma or GED, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Baristas who want to open their own coffee shops or desire advanced roles within the coffee industry can seek further training through specialized culinary, business or coffee education programs.


Being a barista is slightly more complicated than flipping on the automatic coffee maker. Baristas must know recipes for their employers' specialty coffee drinks, as well as how to use the equipment in a shop, such as automated espresso machines. They might need to choose and grind coffee beans or educate customers on coffee products. In some shops, baristas serve bakery items; they might also prepare food, such as sandwiches or salads.

When not serving coffee, baristas are usually responsible for keeping the shop clean and sanitary. They clean and organize preparation areas, clean tables and floors, empty garbage and maintain restrooms. Baristas also might stock supplies, both in front of and behind the counter, and monitor food safety within a shop. Baristas are often trained in principles of food storage, safety and proper food handling.


Cafeteria, food concession and coffee shop counter attendants, including baristas, earned a median wage of $8.92 per hour in May 2012, according to the BLS ( This wage data didn't include tips. The BLS reported that employment of food and beverage serving workers was expected to grow by 12 percent from 2010-2020.

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