The Counterbalanced Barista

It’s early.

You sleepily approach the door and fumble for the keys to the shop knowing that you have 30 seconds to run across the place and turn off the alarm before it goes off. That weird mix of fogginess and urgency is the first thing every opener feels going in and last thing every closer feels leaving. In these moments and in many times in-between we are living in two worlds:

1. Our personal feelings, goals, and desires

2. The needs of the shop, its customers, and its mission

The line between those two areas is where the road to becoming a mature professional lies.   Setting aside by an act of your will the things we all drag into the shift enables us to take on the mantel of responsibility that the job requires. When practiced over time this creates character in the flashy and the seemingly mundane parts of our jobs . These are the first steps toward finding joy in the work that, at first, seemed more like necessary evils than value adding elements.

I like to think of it in this way:

We all tend toward the path of least resistance and, much like the nature of water pressed through a bed of coffee, the key is to create an environmnet that will prevent paths of least resistance from being taken.

For espresso we do this by distributing the coffee evenly and applying equal pressure in anticipation of the greater pressure soon to be delivered. In life and specifically with barista work we do this by distributing our expectations for, and applying even pressure (read”Discipline”) to, all facets of the job.

Wanting to focus on only the flashy parts of the job is natural in the beginning, but over time it will rob you of the greater lessons of the craft found in the seemingly mundane tasks that fill the majority of the work day. If you only focus on the things that give you a quick boost of confidence it’s like tamping one side harder because you like that side better. As the day’s work and demands put pressure on you, you will find the results to be rather unpleasant; over extracted in one place and under extracted in the next.

Next time you find yourself battling in your mind between your desire in the moment and the minutiae of the job at hand try leaning into the work to create and draw  joy from those things you usually would not. The more you find satisfaction in a well mopped floor, a shiny sink, a fully stocked bar, or a newly cleaned front-door window the more you will like the result of what is extracted from you over the course of the day by it’s pressures. Recognizing the need to counterbalance our default to the path of least resistance opens up the road ahead for a very satisfying career in coffee that you and the people you serve will enjoy.




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