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In choosing a barista manual, it is important to look for instruction in coffee and tea preparation, brewing methods, cold drink preparation methods, milk steaming techniques, drink recipes and necessary equipment applications and maintenance—to start. A really good barista manual will offer much more.
The term barista comes from Italian, meaning bartender. In American English, the term usually refers to a person who works in a coffeehouse preparing espresso, coffee and tea drinks. Since the barista title generally indicates a person has received training or achieved a high level of skill in the art of coffee and tea preparation, the choice of a good barista manual is an important one.
Make sure the barista manual you choose covers the basics, at minimum. You should find instruction about the differences between coffee roasts. Focus not only on the differences in taste, but also regions, growing environments, price, quality and roasting methods. Make sure your barista manual includes instructions on tea as well. You should find proper brewing techniques; methods for making hot, iced and blended tea drinks; tea latte instruction; and other serving options.
Espresso should have a separate section of its own. After studying a good barista manual, you should know the process of brewing espresso, how to choose a quality espresso roast, how to pull shots and know what the terms dosing, leveling and tamping mean.
Milk also should have its own section. The fundamentals of steaming and the difference between steaming 2% and skim milk should be covered. Additionally, you should receive clear guidance on proper temperature control, proper frothing methods and how to use milk in coffee and tea drink preparations.
A good barista manual will offer a menu section as well. This section should include coffee and tea drink recipes, coffee terms and slang and proper drink preparation descriptions. Look for a menu section on smoothies, including preparation techniques, the difference between using whole fruit and blended fruit and smoothie product options.
You also should find a section on equipment. In this section, you should learn about the different types of equipment and their uses, as well as the differences among manufacturers. A good barista manual also will instruct on proper cleaning and sanitation methods, proper maintenance and offer simple repair techniques.
Coffee history is also an important section of a good barista manual. Look for information on the history of coffee and tea, including etymology. A discussion of biology and cultivation is an important part of barista training, and a key facts section about coffee and tea is important. A good barista manual also will include information on the social and health aspects of coffee and tea and discuss proper storage techniques.
You might not be qualified to compete in a world barista competition after studying a good barista manual, but you should feel comfortable around most any coffee or tea drink preparation or discussion.
A manual is probably sufficient, but watching and learning from the pros would probably add an edge to a prospective barista.
I think if I was to look for a job as a barista, I would visit Italy, and work in a real Italian coffee shop. The Italians really know how to make a good espresso, cappuccino, or any other cup of coffee.
Yes, the manual would be also very valuable to have in addition to some hands on training.
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