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Barista Hell: Making Sense Of The Starbucks System

Barista beansFrom: Chica_Maria

Okay, here’s a tip from a certified barista for those of you who are confused about the whole drink-calling order thing. The order generally goes: Decaf, Iced, Number of Espresso Shots, Size, Number of Pumps and Type of Syrup, Milk, Other options (like extra hot, no whip, two Splendas, etc), and finally type of drink.

Obviously, if you’re ordering a “default” drink, like a tall latte, you would just call it a “Tall Latte.” If you want it nonfat, it’s a “Tall nonfat latte.” If you want it decaf and nonfat, it’s a “decaf tall nonfat latte.” So, a “complicated” drink (and the kind that makes the baristas grind their teeth) would be something like, “decaf iced quad grande two-pump raspberry two percent no whip one raw sugar white mocha.”

If you think this is asinine…you’re probably right, but look at it this way... Even new baristas loathe this precise method as they struggle to learn it. Sbux trainers have special “dice” with the modifiers on them that you can practice rolling and arranging in the correct order. It usually takes weeks to months for a barista to become confident in “correct drink calling.”

Freddy crosseyedAnd while some baristas will get all smug as they correct you, most use the “system” simply because their co-workers or bosses will politely get on their case if they don’t. However, even seasoned baristas will occasionally (or frequently!) call a complicated drink incorrectly.

And since you’re probably wondering if there’s even a pretense of a reason for the “system,” here’s the idea behind it: better communication between the barista at the register and the barista at the bar. Say you order a decaf tall caramel nonfat extra whip mocha. When the barista makes the drink, they will first “pull” the espresso shots, (hence the importance of specifying decaf first), and while the shots are grinding they will select the correct cup (size second), pump the syrup into it (flavor third) and add the shots, then add the steamed milk (milk fourth), and top with plenty of whipped cream (misc. modifiers fifth).

It’s not a perfect system, but if the way drinks are called is standardized, there’s much less chance of forgetting a modifier, or disappointing the customer. As a barista punches in a grande nonfat mocha, he will mentally run down the “list” and when he gets to the misc modifiers “box” he will remember to ask the customer (who is obviously calorie conscious) if they still want the whipped cream. Or if the person at the bar has had a drink called to them, they will repeat the modifiers in the same order, which makes it easier to tell if they missed something.

Carolanne Argh 2So yeah, it’s obnoxious, but if it helps keep your drink order accurate, I think you can suffer a smug smile from an obnoxious barista. Just remember to tip the ones who *do* do an excellent job.

And as far as the whole short/tall/grande/venti thing goes, I worked at Starbucks and I still think it’s rather dumb. But, I tried to call the drinks correctly simply because I knew I would be chided if I didn’t.

Yeah, I basically sold my soul for a paycheck.





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If a barista got smug at me for not knowing his workplace's mandatory system (which is not my concern, as a customer) I'd tell him I don't care if I gave him the wrong order as long as the drink ended up correctly cause he sorted it into the right order upon entry.
May sound mean, but seriously. I do not take kindly to be smugged.


That's why I drink nothing but an ordinary cuppa joe, black no sugar, preferably brewed at home.

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