12 Things Your Barista Wants You to Know: Insider Secrets

I'm spilling the coffee beans on all the barista tips and secrets your favorite coffee shop employees want you to know.

Published September 5, 2023

My barista husband has kind of turned me into a coffee snob. But he's also taught me a lot about the inner workings of the coffee shop, including some industry secrets. Like did you know that ordering your drink "extra hot" actually makes it less sweet? After working in the specialty coffee industry for five years and counting, Aaron Estrada has a lot of barista tips to share, and I'm about to spill the (coffee) beans.

Ask Us About Coffee


The majority of baristas absolutely love drinking coffee, and they enjoy talking about it just as much. "If you don't know what to order and want to explore something new, ask us what our favorite drink is," Aaron shares.

Baristas are also happy to talk about the origin of the beans, the drying process, or anything else you want to know. "Most of us are willing to educate and teach people," so don't be afraid to ask questions.

Extra-Hot Drinks Aren't as Sweet


An extra-hot drink might sound like a good way to ensure your latte is still toasty when you sit down at work, but Aaron wants you to know you'll have to pay a price. "If you get your drink extra hot, you're sacrificing sweetness from the milk," he says. Over steaming breaks down the sugars in the milk, and it loses those sweet notes you love so much.

Tips Are Appreciated


"Tips are how most baristas, at least in the United States, earn their living," Aaron explains.

It's because they're considered tipped employees like servers, so baristas typically make the federal minimum wage. The general rule of thumb is to tip $1 per drink, but if your drink takes a while to make, like a matcha latte, or is exceptionally delicious, feel free to tip more.

Dogs Are More Than Welcome


If your coffee place is pet-friendly, your barista definitely wants to meet your dog.

Aaron jokes that, "We need emotional support, so please bring your puppy into the shop." Just make sure they're well-trained and won't cause a ruckus. And if they're an extra-good dog, they might even get a puppuccino.

Baristas Don't Control the Prices


If you think the prices are too high, that's your prerogative. Unfortunately, your barista can't do anything about it. They can certainly explain why it's priced that way. Maybe it's a special roasting process, or that particular drink uses local honey that's a little more expensive. Whatever the case, they can't change the price, sorry.

Dark Roast Coffees Are the Most Bitter


It's a common misconception that dark coffee is the least bitter, but Aaron really wants to clear this up because the opposite is actually true.

"People often confuse bitterness with other taste qualities like acidity, which is what you're tasting in lighter coffees." So if you want a coffee that's genuinely not as bitter, go with the lighter one.

But Light Roasts Have More Caffeine


Darker means stronger, right? Not when it comes to roasts. Light-roasted coffee contains more caffeine than the darker roasts, because they're not roasted as long.

Fast Fact

Brewed coffee has more caffeine content than espresso. If you really want a jolt to wake you up, add a shot of espresso to your coffee cup. I'm buzzing just thinking about it.

Don't Feel Pressure to Get Coffee


Specialty coffee shop menus can be a little intimidating. Single-origin what? Washed who?? Aaron promises that you don't need to feel pressured to get a coffee just because you're in a coffee shop.

"If you're not a coffee drinker, talk to your barista, and they'll recommend a non-coffee drink." Tea, hot chocolates, and spritzes are all great options that don't have that coffee taste.

We'll Remake Your Drink if You Don't Like It


Don't like what you ordered? Don't choke it down. Instead, talk to your barista.

Aaron says, "We're happy to remake your drink if you're not happy with it because we want you to have a good coffee experience." Just don't abuse this rule or do it too often.

All Coffee Shops Make Drinks Differently


If you're traveling or trying out a new coffee shop, your latte might taste a little different from what you're used to. It's not that your barista doesn't know what they're doing. It's just that coffee shops are all different. They use different beans, different equipment, and different techniques.

Aaron has a suggestion that could help. "The more detailed you are with your order, the better we can serve you."

We Don't Mind If You Hang Out


As someone who loves to set up my laptop and work at coffee shops, I'm always worried about whether that's cool with the baristas. Aaron assures me it's totally fine.

"As long as you get a drink every hour or two and tip, you can stay as long as you want," he says.

Bussing Your Dish Goes a Long Way


Dropping your empty mug in one of the bus tubs (usually set out by the creamer station or next to a trashcan) on your way out the door doesn't take a ton of effort, but it makes a huge difference to your barista.

Thank a Latte


A pit stop at your local coffee shop might just be a part of the morning to you, but for your barista, it's their whole day. Understanding a bit about what goes on behind the espresso machine can help you make your barista’s day go a little smoother. Who knows, it might even earn you some awesome latte art or an extra pastry. 

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12 Things Your Barista Wants You to Know: Insider Secrets