Advice for the Barista

In a new effort to document and record the many learning objectives and skills required to complete your SCA Training Certifications - we will post a series of audio and video recordings with documentation to guide you in your path to becoming an SCA Master.

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Audio Notes


  • The differences between Arabica and Robusta, including growing conditions, caffeine levels, pest & disease resistance, flavor and visual differences.

  • Recognize key differences between Arabica & Robusta

The importance of coffee freshness, including:

  • The use of a sealed bag, ideally within one month after roasting and within a maximum of three months;

  • Grinding coffee fresh (to order) within 3 minutes of preparing;

  • Identifies and describes the importance of using fresh coffee beans and how to keep them fresh

  • Avoiding the storage of beans in the hopper overnight or when not in use;

  • Keeping lids on the bean hopper and doser chamber;

  • Storing beans away from air, moisture, light and heat;

  • Maintaining a stable temperature


  • Maintains a hygienic and organized work space which minimizes waste

  • Demonstrates the appropriate position for commonly used tools, eg tamp, pitchers/jugs, cloths etc.


  • The importance of keeping the work space clean, tidy and organized at all times

  • The correct terminology to Identify correctly all key identify parts of grinder (hopper, espresso machine and adjustment collar, dosing grinder component parts chamber, fork, on/off switch) and espresso machine including switches (steam wand & tip, portafilter handle, grouphead, dispersion screen & gasket, drip tray, gauges, hot water spout, on/off switch, continuous/AV buttons)

  • The acceptable range (per definition) of coffee used in espresso, and how distribution of coffee grounds affects extraction.

  • The impact of tamping on distribution, and extraction flow

  • Describes and demonstrates the basics of dosing, distribution and tamping and their impact on extraction

  • The correct dosing action to achieve correct input with minimal waste

  • Demonstrates good dosing and distribution technique to keep dose consistent from one espresso to the next and to minimize channeling

  • Calibration of a grinder. The grinder should be calibrated to produce an espresso that falls within SCA standards. The grinder should be purged between adjustments

  • Demonstrates grind calibration, using a grinder with a dosing chamber OR an 'on-demand' grinder

  • Identification of the impact of grind size on the final shot

  • Describes how the grind affects shot times Identifies when a grind is incorrect and corrects it to produce an espresso in 20-30 seconds.

  • The correct use of a tamper to produce a flat and even surface on the tamped cake and to reduce repetitive strain injuries

  • Demonstrates a good tamping technique using a hand tamper


Espresso is a method of preparation that takes finely ground coffee, compacts it into a portafilter and forces hot water through it under pressure to make a concentrated coffee beverage

  • Sensory attributes are used to describe coffee

  • There may be regional variations to espresso and cappuccino parameters used in the SCA exams:

  • Dose: within 7g – 10g (14g – 20g double shot)

  • Brew ratio: 1 / 1.5 – 1 / 2.5 Shot time: 20 – 30 seconds

  • Recognizes the key defining parameters of an espresso used within SCA examinations

  • Tastes and describes attributes, such as aroma, body and flavor, of an espresso Chooses appropriate terms to describe flavor from the SCA Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel

  • Demonstrates awareness of regional variations in parameters

  • There are five interdependent elements to brewing espresso: The bean / The barista / The machine / The grinder / The water

  • Lists the five inter-dependent elements to brewing espresso

Preparation of the espresso machine requires:

  • Prepares the machine for use correctly and with appropriate equipment

  • Having separate cloths for steam wand, counter and portafilter

  • Checking that boiler pressure is up to 1 bar before use;

  • Warming (seasoning) group handles by pulling a minimum of 1 shot per group before dialing-in;

  • Stacking cups on cup warmer and saucers and spoons etc. next to the espresso machine

Preparation of espresso involves the following steps:

  1. Remove portafilter from grouphead and flush group

  2. Wipe basket clean and dry

  3. Dose and distribute desired grams of coffee

  4. Tamp consistently, level & ergonomically

  5. Clean loose grounds from portafilter surfaces

  6. Insert portafilter into the grouphead and start the pump immediately, as one continuous motion

  7. Observe the flow and stop pump appropriately

  8. Serve or use to make espresso-based drink

  9. Remove portafilter and knockout spent grounds

  10. Wipe basket clean and flush group (rinse optional)

  11. Return portafilter to grouphead to keep preheated

Demonstrates the correct steps for preparing espresso according to SCA standards

  • Understanding of basic sensory qualities of

  • Under-extracted espresso (thin body, unbalanced flavor with high acidity, poor crema),

  • Over-extracted espresso (unbalanced flavor with high bitterness, poor crema)

  • An acceptable espresso (good body round and smooth, well balanced flavor (acidity, sweetness, bitterness), good visual crema which covers whole espresso (in line with coffee used)

  • Recognizes by sight and tastes the differences between under-extraction, over-extraction and acceptable extraction


  • The importance of using fresh milk in maintaining foam standards:

  • Expired milk is unfit for consumption and should be discarded

  • The time milk is left out of the refrigerator should be minimized

  • Stock should be rotated (first in first out)

  • Pitchers/milk jugs should be emptied and cleaned before use

  • Pitchers/milk jugs should not be prefilled

  • Milk should not be re-steamed

  • Describes the measures required to maintain freshness of milk

  • Milk should be produced with consistently dense texture, with no visible bubbles and a shiny surface. (See SCA Foam Quality Guide).

  • Demonstrates the appropriate techniques required to produce correct milk texture (micro- foam).

  • There is a desirable range of milk temperature: 55c-65c (131- 149F) (Maximum temperature 70c/158F, Minimum of 50c/122F).

  • Demonstrates the appropriate techniques for producing the correct milk temperature

  • All temperatures are measured in the cup, not the pitcher/jug

The correct steps in foaming milk are:

  • Empty and clean pitcher before use

  • Purge steam wand before foaming

  • Wipe steam wand immediately after use

  • Purge steam wand after wiping

  • Minimize milk waste

  • Demonstrates hygienic and efficient steps when foaming milk

  • Drinks should be prepared to the required composition and visual requirements

  • Performs the techniques required to produce a cappuccino and caffe latte


  • An espresso should be served to the specified size, taste and visual parameters (as per SCA exam requirements)

  • Demonstrates good techniques for preparing and serving an espresso

  • A cappuccino should be served to the specified size, taste and visual parameters (as per SCA exam requirements)

  • Demonstrates good techniques for preparing and serving a cappuccino


  • Risks related to safety and hygiene should be minimized and in accordance with local laws.

  • Demonstrates basic understanding of the local laws that apply to safety and hygiene when using espresso equipment and cleaning chemicals

The use of safe and hygienic work practices including:

  • Washing hands before preparing espresso and after eating, drinking, smoking etc

  • Keeping body and clothing (including apron) clean and hygienic

  • Using and cleaning machines safely – according to manufacturer's instructions and local laws

  • Using cleaning chemicals safely – according to manufacturer's instructions and local laws

  • Serving drinks safely and hygienically (Avoiding handling lip of the cup; aware of dangers of hot liquids/spillages)

  • Demonstrates safe and hygienic work practices when preparing and serving espresso beverages


The role of the barista is:

  • To prepare beverages correctly

  • To communicate information to customers

  • To represent the industry and the work of other coffee professionals

  • Defines the role of the barista in the customer experience and specialty coffee industry

  • The principles of customer service cover products, atmosphere, work environment and service

  • Lists the 4 aspects of customer service


  • Regularly cleaning the machine creates beverages that taste good, protects the long-term health of the equipment, and maintains a positive image to customers

  • Describes the importance of and demonstrates good techniques for daily cleaning of the grinder and espresso machine

Good practice for daily cleaning of equipment includes:

  • Thorough cleaning of the steam wand

  • Wiping drying the bean hopper.

  • Emptying the doser chamber and brushing out all excess ground coffee beans thoroughly.

  • Wiping splashes and spills on outside of grinder and machine.

  • Back flushing the espresso machine with coffee detergent at least once a day.

  • Brushing and cleaning group heads of all excess coffee beans and oils.

  • Flushing and cleaning steam wands.

  • Removing and cleaning drip tray.

  • Lists or describes the hygiene implications and operation issues (eg blockages) resulting from not properly purging and wiping the steam wand