Virgin barista panicking over total info overwhelm! Please help!


New member
Sep 4, 2012
Hi, I just started working as a barista last week at a great local coffeehouse that I've loved as a customer for years. Despite my lack of experience in actually making (versus drinking vast quantities of) coffee, the owner quickly hired me, saying I'm a good fit. I'm great at customer service, I make people smile, and I'm a hard worker.

Anyway, a week in, I've kinda learned the cash register, had a few short one-on-one "drink workshops" with the local maestro, and got thrown into the mix to pull shots and prep drinks a few times when things got busy.

Everybody's been really kind, welcoming, and helpful.

Tomorrow night's my first real shift behind the counter with another barista, and I'm actually nervous! WTF?:decaf: After all, it's only coffee, right?:coffeemug:

My question is: How come it seems like the customer is speaking Arabic when they order if it's something besides "small coffee for here," "iced tea to go," or something simple like that? I've been having to ask 2-3 times, because my brain processes the orders like this: "Short" (uh, that means 12 ounce, picturing where the right cup is behind me), single (one shot of espresso, I gotta remember that tamper dealio), caramel (OK, I know where that is, 1 pump), latte (Oh, shit, steamed milk! Noooooooooo! Which pitcher again? Did he say nonfat???) And then I still haven't found out his name and whether it's for here or to go.

And then I end up way behind the customer, because as he's finishing giving me his order, I'm still identifying what the first word of it meant! And my bright and highly experienced coworker asks me, "What did he want?" and I'm like, "Uh, hold on, I'm still figuring it out."

And this is without even having to really MAKE the drinks yet! That's just taking the orders and running the cash register! I'm seriously having insomnia over this, not even counting all the coffee I've been tasting. I have learned to ring the order in and then print out the receipt to work off, which helps, IF I get it wrung in properly.

Assuming that I'll eventually be able to get my head out of my ass in a few weeks' time, can anyone tell me if they've suffered through similar circumstances, or should I just quit now and put myself out of their misery?

Sigh. I know I'm being a perfectionist and expecting a lot of myself, but seriously, I feel like a frickin' spazz! SO not having fun yet. Please, any thoughts?:heart: Thanks!


Super Moderator
Staff member
Aug 14, 2003
Boca Raton
It will come with time. Sometimes I think the customer makes up their own lingo to sound cool. They usually get made fun of after they leave. Sounds like your co workers are pretty cool. Ask them for pointers...they were in your shoes once as well. Good luck ;-)


Super Moderator
Staff member
Feb 28, 2008
Near Philadelphia, PA
Hello "secretbird"

First of all, welcome to the Coffee Forums website! You've come to the right place. You will find a lot of experienced and understanding people here!

I'm glad you posted such an honest account of what you're going through. Believe me, you are not alone! Everyone who starts out in a new career has to learn the ropes, and the fact that you're so wound up about it shows that you care, which means you'll work hard to succeed.

You'll look back at today's post in a few months and laugh because, by that time, things will be going smoothly for you and you'll wonder why you got so upset.

It sounds like you work for a great bunch of people. You already have the basics: You're great at customer service, you make people smile, and you're a hard worker. Learning the names and quantities of the coffee drinks will come with time and repetition. The more you do it, the better you'll get at it, and you'll feel much better and more confident as time goes on.

Blame Starbucks for the crazy names for coffee drinks and sizes! People have been trained like puppies to order coffee like that. They need to be weaned! It makes me crazy! I often hold up the cups and let people pick the sizes. It saves me time and aggravation!

I remember the days when my head would spin as I stood at the counter taking people's orders. I also remember finding excuses to go into the back room to unpack boxes or rearrange shelves, so I wouldn't have to do it. Eventually you have to face it head on, which is what you're doing. Believe me, it gets better.

It's only's not heart surgery. If you mess up someone's drink, you can always do it over. Each time you make a mistake, you'll learn from it, and you most likely won't make the same mistake again.

Being nervous is a good thing. It means you care. I would much rather train someone like you than someone who pretends to know it all, or someone who really doesn't give a hoot.

I'm in the process of training someone who is a newbe, and she has been extremely nervous and uptight. This one has been a challenge, but I'm enjoying working with her and watching her "get it." I love to see the little lightbulb go off when her face lights up, especially when something comes out right for the first time. She's into her third week, and she seems much more confident. She was ready to quit after the third day.

Right now, you may feel like a spazz......but you're not. Don't give up. I'm sure the little light bulb in your head is flashing, and you're so busy fretting about everything that you're not noticing it.

Just a reminder, if your hands shake, set the hot liquid down! I've had nervous employees spill hot liquid on me (by accident) and that certainly takes the fun out of training them.

Just take it one step at a time. You'll be fine.

Let us know how it goes.



New member
Apr 25, 2012
SF Bay Area
Hey Secret Bird,
You're not alone. When my wife and I opened our coffeehouse, we were tea drinkers! For some reason, we thought it would be fun to start an espresso business. I don't think I'd even had a cappuccino before we launched!

Luckily, our espresso machine vendor showed us the basics, and we took it from there. The customers were wonderful - the very best part of the business.

Question; Any reason you can't grab a little notepad and jot down your customers' order in shorthand?

NFL = nonfat latte
dc = double cappuccino
HMF = high maintenance female (don't let the customer see that one)

If you're enjoying the customers as you learn the drinks, you'll be fine.


New member
Sep 26, 2011
Totally agree with Dave. Even Starbucks has a "cheat sheet" on their coffee cups... It'd also be easier to confirm the orders since they are written down. I agree with everyone above, sounds like you have great co-workers and you're good with the customers, so that is a plus.


Super Moderator
Staff member
Aug 14, 2003
Boca Raton
Calling out the order works for me...not sure what is kosher in your place though
NFL NO SCORE =decaf non fat latte
Why bother = decaf skinny mocha....
the list goes on and on!

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