Day in the life of a Barista in Melbourne Australia - Realistic Barista Expectations Coffee Scene Specialty Coffee Melbourne Australia Cafe

Day in a life of a Melbourne Barista

Working in a Melbourne cafe isn't always as glamorous as it seems, while you may think that practicing latte art and meeting new people is the extent of the role there is a lot more to it that goes on behind the scenes.

The Set Up

Most cafes open early, around 6-7 and even earlier in some locations. This early start isn't always gloomy especially as you typically get most of the afternoon off. But if you're like me, and early starts aren't your forte then it can be challenging on the daily.

Setting up a cafe will look quite different from each venue, but for a reference at my last barista job this is what had to be done:

  • Chairs taken off the table and positioned
  • Outdoor sun umbrellas installed and opened
  • Tables set with menus and cutlery 
  • Water station replenished 
  • Bins lined with new bag liner

And then for the coffee bar, you will have your own set of tasks:

  • Turn on the coffee grinders
  • Pull some preliminary shots to remove any residual cleaning chemicals
  • Dial in the coffees for the day
  • Set your milk jugs and prepare your alternative milks
  • Make yourself a coffee to start the day

At this point when opening you may even have some desperate early bird customers walk through looking for a fix. So in between setting up you may have to jump in and serve them.

While this may seem a lot to get done, you may be starting with another person who can look after one section while you look after the coffee bar.

The Morning Rush 

The café slowly transitions from silence to the soft sounds of morning: The sun starts to rise and your first rush of customers start to appear.

By 7am, the day officially begins. Each customer brings a story, a preference, and a moment of connection. There's the regular who barely needs to nod before his usual order is being prepared, the tourist with wide eyes asking for recommendations, and the student, headphones in, who's here for the Wi-Fi but stays for the atmosphere. These interactions, are what makes working in a cafe so rewarding and meaningful, While you do get a Karen or two you still do your best to be as hospitable as possible and make everyone feel welcomed.

The Daily Grind

As more and more customers come through you get busier and busier, your dockets start to gather up and your cups, lids, straws all start to get frightening low. Remembering orders, using the correct milk and being stared down by customers can get intimidating but by working through one coffee at a time and thinking ahead is your only way of getting out to the other side. At points like this I remember that the only way I could do it was to slow down, by slowing down and making more careful decisions you avoid making costly mistakes that waste time.

Before you know it you are on your last coffee order and you've made it out to the other side. But before you get too excited, make sure to restock and prepare yourself for the next coffee rush.

End of Day

As the day winds down, less and less customers will come through. This is when you start to pack down.

By preemptively packing down you can go from 6 milk jugs to 2, close 1 grinder and start cleaning components of the coffee machine to help make pack up more streamlined.

When it's time to close, pack down everything else and only leave 1 group of the coffee machine open. This allows you to still serve the remaining late customers who will come in and famously ask "Is the machine still on?". While you pack down everything else it's also important to restock everything so that yourself or the morning barista doesn't have a harder opening.

Depending on the venue, you may have to also help on floor. Cleaning tables and putting the chairs up, sweeping and mopping the floors.

What makes a great Barista?

While most people think of the flashy latte art and trendy fit, what I think really makes a great barista is their personality and work ethic. Being able to come in every day and serve customers is not always easy.

While challenges do come up and some customers can be soooo mean, you really do have to feel empathetic for them, showing kindness and being hospitable is the key to great success. Remembering why you chose this industry and what you get from it helps. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my article, I hope this has helped to give you some insight into working in a cafe. If you're interested in learning more about coffee (particularly pour over and specialty coffee) I invite you to join our community on Instagram

If you are looking to explore the Melbourne coffee scene definitely check out our Guide to the Best Cafes in Melbourne CBD.

Happy Brewing

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