Columbus Coffee Guide: Interacting with your barista

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly
Barista Erik Fenstermacher at Boston Stoker

Customers new to third-wave coffee shops are often intimidated by the layout, the menu, the types of drinks available or the baristas behind the counter. But don't confuse their intensity with rudeness. We asked Columbus coffee experts what they wish their customers knew.

Ask questions.

It's important to communicate your questions or confusions. "The first thing is not to be afraid to show your ignorance," says Fenstermacher of Boston Stoker in Victorian Village. "To be a barista of our caliber, you have to be knowledgeable, and we're happy to share that." Ask about different drinks and how the shop prepares them. There's no such thing as a dumb question.

Share your preferences.

"Start with what you like," Brioso's Justice says. "Articulate your personal preferences." Do you prefer sweetness? Bitterness? Do you take milk in your coffee? Ask the barista what they think is best, he says. By communicating what you're familiar with, the barista can choose the perfect drink for you.

They won't be intimidating.

"I'm not going to be mean to you!" Fenstermacher assures. Your barista is also always interested in hearing what you have to say. "An experienced barista will not be condescending," adds Luck Bros.' Andy Luck. "If you get any of that pushback, go somewhere else."

Pull up a chair.

Ultimately, Justice says, drinkability is the goal. Your barista is like a bartender. His job is to help identify something you'd like and then make it properly. He compares a novice coffee drinker to a 21-year-old first tasting alcohol. "We all started with Long Island iced teas," he says, before graduating to more sophisticated drinks.