When Developer Becomes Barista

Coffee making for real in the past 10 months

I quitted my engineering full-time job, joined a local coffee shop, working 3 days a week, to pursue my hobby on coffee making.

I didn’t really get into part-time jobs or internship back when I was still studying, and never imagined to do that after working a few years after graduate. Until I became my own boss, I figured there’s nothing stopping me to do it anyway if I wanted.

The more I drink coffee, the more I am into it. I tried attending a few coffee making classes to know whats the proper way of making coffee, to practice my latte art skills.

I’m lucky that I’m in a coworking space that provides a business-class espresso machine for members, while is still not usual to find that else where. Making two-cups of coffee daily, my friends already named me the “coffee master”. But I knew that able to randomly make simple patterns, is still far from where I wanted.

I knew that working in a coffee shop was the only way to go.

As a developer, we sit in front of a computer screen and type on the keyboard all day. We have much time to think about the requirements, design the architecture, and produce the code the way we wanted. Typo? Just undo, no worries. Things suddenly not working? Easy, discard the changes. We can always write code that produce exact results with the exact input, everything is in control.

Not quite the same as a barista. Consistency is the biggest challenge of all. Everything has variables — the dose of the coffee, the grind size, tamping pressure, the amount of froth for the milk, the temperature, all that affects the taste and the experience, no two cups can be exactly the same.

A lot of things can go wrong as well, especially in peak hours. Delivering a wrong sequence to customer, making a wrong order, sometimes stock supplies might come late and need a contingency plan. The worse is probably be spilling a cup over by accident, everyone is gonna be mad and frightened, including the boss, cleaning up gonna take time as well. Just thinking made me sweat.

So, what did I learn after all?

My latte art 10 months ago comparing to what I can do now.

Making good latte art was my main goal. My pour are still far from perfect, but at least somewhat presentable now, big improvements, right?

Most customers, like myself before, might not quite understand the difference between Latte, Flat White, Cappuccino, Piccolo, Mocha, etc. Now I knows, as well as the way to make it.

Coffee shop served food besides coffee, some are being cooked in-house. We have Toasts, Muesli, Bagels, Croissants, etc. I can now make my own tasty breakfast.


Me, Gary at Nutsy, Dritan Alsela

Chances of meeting some coffee making star is not big. I’m lucky enough to meet Barista Dritan Alsela and take a selfie with him during his visit to Hong Kong.

A few friends of mine knew that I became a barista and came over to simply get a coffee.

Making friends with customers, and knowing their preferences. Sometimes we discuss topics around or besides coffee, and I enjoyed every moment when we start to knew more about each other.

New skills and connections brings me new job offers, investments opportunities, which I never have thought before.


Coffee making still takes up a lot of time even it’s part-time. I had to keep my projects going while pursuing my hobby. I have to setup a company and hired people to help when I’m not available at work. Learning to delegate is one of the most precious skill.

I also proved to myself switching career without experience is not something that’s impossible. I no longer brand myself as a “focused” iOS engineer, I knew I can do something else, and be good at it.

Thanks to this job, I have a better understanding of myself. I know what I wanted to do, and what I am capable at, and what my core values are.

Falling Back To Where I Started

There’re still much thing in coffee making that I haven’t yet learn, but I’d consider I’ve fulfilled my milestone for now. It’s time to look back at my company and products, take better care of them, set higher goals and bring them to the next level.

Sketch Plugins and iOS UX Engineer. Opensource projects contributor, share on Twitter. @jamztang

Sketch Plugins and iOS UX Engineer. Opensource projects contributor, share on Twitter. @jamztang