You're Ordering Your Coffee Wrong: Baristas Spill the Beans

Get on your barista's good side, and you might get rewarded.

ByABC News
September 3, 2014, 4:30 PM

— -- intro: Coffee is the most valuable traded commodity in the world, second only to oil. But while the average American worker spends $1,000 on coffee every year, there’s a chance they might not be ordering from their barista correctly.

“I think that there is an inaccurate perception of the negativity and bitterness of the barista,” barista Max Reid told ABC News’ “20/20.” “I think one of the big frustrations is that the baristas and the customers aren’t speaking the same language.”

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On average, coffee shop baristas get paid $8.66 an hour to serve coffee while dealing with both polite and rude customers.

“Baristas are basically drug dealers,” former barista Hayley Brown told “20/20.” So when the, you know, junkie comes to get his fix, he’s not going to be super polite. He’s just really focused on getting what he’s there for.”

Inspired by their unpleasant customer experiences, Reid and Brown formed Les MiseraBaristas, singing about their lives in a coffee shop set to the music of Les Misérables in a YouTube video.

“It was all my pent up sadness and frustration. And I took it to a creative outlet,” said Brown.

To help you get on your barista’s good side and leave with the perfect cup of coffee, the former baristas offered these tips below.

quicklist:1title:Find a barista who takes their time making your drinktext:Many baristas take pride in creating your coffee concoction.

“When I craft a drink, like, it has to have a certain quality or else I feel bad because I’m an artist,” Reid said. “I take pride in what I do, and I don’t want to do anything subpar.”

But you might even be missing out by going to a big box chain coffee shop.

Jennifer Garden, an instructor at the Ivy League Barista Academy Coffee School and operations manager at Better Buzz Coffee in San Diego, California, compared ordering coffee from a chain coffee shop to ordering a burger from a fast food restaurant rather than a local burger joint.

“You can go to somewhere where somebody actually does have a passion, and they do care about what they're preparing for the customer,” Garden told “20/20.” “I feel like that’s the big difference, is when you're really putting effort into what you're preparing for the customer.”

quicklist:2title: Don’t be rude to your barista, or they might steal your buzz away from youtext:“For instance, if someone’s being particularly rude, you can add little extra charges,” Reid said.

A barista could charge you once for asking for caramel, vanilla and chocolate, or they might charge you three times if you’re unpleasant.

Reid said he’s even given decaf to rude customers who wanted extra caffeine.

quicklist:3title: Be aware of other customers.text:“Know what you want before you get to the register,” Brown said.

If there’s a line behind you, you might be wasting everyone’s time with your uncertainty.

quicklist:4title: Tipping helpstext:“If you put in that dollar, we will remember you,” said Reid.

A barista might give you a reward for your tip, such as putting extra whipped cream in your drink.

“Or, ‘Whoops, I accidentally made you a large one. Here you go, my mistake. Hope you don’t mind,’” Reid said.

quicklist:4title: Trust your baristatext:You might be frustrating your barista if you add too many substitutions to your drink order.

“I think that the reason that baristas are irritated with the customers sometimes is because customers are very particular about their drinks,” said Garden.

“It’s really frustrating because the barista might have this set idea of what a drink should be like, should taste like, the milk that’s being used in it. And somebody comes in and just changes your entire recipe.”

According to Garden, if a barista is properly trained, they should know what to do with a drink and how a latte should really be served.

quicklist:5title: Engage your baristatext:“Saying, ‘How are you?’ back is really nice,” said Brown.

When customers were nice to her, Brown said she would go the extra mile for their drink.

“People I liked, I would reward, like give them a little extra whipped cream or, you know, draw a little smiley face on their cup,” she said.

quicklist:6title: Become a regular customertext:According to Reid, baristas pick favorites when it comes to their customers.

“Being a regular does pay off,” Reid said. “We’ll give you, like, little free samples of things. You’ll be the first to try a new concoction we’re making.”

ABC News’ Nick Watt contributed to this report.