10 Ways You're Annoying Your Barista Without Realizing It

Whether you're at Starbucks or an independent local coffee shop, don't make these mistakes.

Didn't think Aggravation City was a real place? Geographically speaking, it's the capital of every coffee shop, located across the coffee bar, at the epicenter of customer transactions. Take it from me, a barista who's encountered both unpredictable and lovely patrons during my four-plus years of experience: Some customer habits have a special way of hitting the nerves.

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But fear not, for I have seen the ugliest side of humanity in the coffee world—empty-eyed, uncaffeinated zombies cosplaying as people who've lost all their manners, thirsting for their oat milk antidote—and I still believe there's a path to redemption. Before you fall into the worst kinds of patterns, read on for a list of 10 ways you're annoying your barista without realizing it, then reflect on how you might do a tiny bit better.

Throwing liquid-filled cups in the trash

Even if you're the most pleasant of customers, here's a quick way to turn to the dark side: throwing your cup filled with coffee straight into the garbage. It doesn't take a scientist to explain why this behavior is simply putrid: If a cup of liquid is tossed into a garbage bag, there's a 100% chance it'll be annoying to clean up. For one, garbage bags get filled to capacity and can often rip, especially during a busy coffee hour. If the liquid is hot, it can melt the bag and make it even more likely to tear. At the end of a long shift, there's nothing worse than taking out a soaking garbage bag and creating a wet trail of coffee as you head to the dumpster. Many customers might not realize it, but you can always hand your barista the unfinished drink and have them empty it out for you instead.

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Doctoring your own espresso

If your karma points are in question, here's one way to ensure you lose them all: buying a shot of espresso in a large cup and filling it up with milk at the self serve station. Though we hesitated placing this one on the list for fear of giving annoying people another way to be themselves, hear us out when we baristas say "we already see you." Customers aren't fooling anyone when they try to get more than what they paid for, and while it's morally incorrect that a latte can cost upwards of $7, you're not going down in cool customer history if you pull this irritating, super obvious move. No one will be upset if you bring the espresso home and use your own milk, however.

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Not specifying your preferred milk

Though a great barista will ask what kind of milk you'd like in your drink before making it, the customer shares the responsibility of knowing what they'd like in their coffee and making it known first, not last, in the ordering process. If the type of milk isn't specified, the typical default is whole milk. Although occasional mistakes are to be expected on both sides of these transactions, mentioning the milk upfront just makes everything easier, since baristas are hearing dozens upon dozens of drink orders daily and might forget to ask. A thorough customer is the best customer, and will always end up being the happiest one, too.

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Changing up your order at the wrong time

If you've confidently stated what you want to order, then that's what you can expect. One way to earn the Annoying Customer Of The Day award is to change up your order after it's been made and entered into the system. This wastes precious barista minutes to fix, especially in busy morning hours, and since things move quickly, it's often a misuse of ingredients, since we've likely already started on the order by the time you change your mind. However, if you've changed your mind before your order has been processed, then go ahead and shoot your shot, and remember that being patient will result in a smoother experience.

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Asking to reheat espresso drinks

There's nothing wrong with asking your barista to alter your drink, as long as you do it politely. Kindness is always remembered, and most baristas want you to have a positive experience. However, certain special requests just aren't cool to harp on, because sometimes they're just not an option. Insisting that a barista reheat your espresso drink once it's cooled off isn't productive, since most coffee shops only have a toaster oven for pastries and not a microwave. Even if a microwave is present, many paper cups aren't microwavable. Reheating a drink using a steamer is possible, but it'll cause milk to fall flat. And it's certainly not an option for hot coffee since it's mostly composed of water and steamed water burns quickly. Instead, if you can't stomach a lukewarm latte, have the drink remade and leave an extra tip.

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Holding up the line with a phone call

Here's one way to graduate to a new level of annoying: holding up a line with a phone call. Yes, even if you're trying to reach your friend to field their coffee order. There are already enough ways to inadvertently cause a bottleneck at a cafe, and this one just isn't necessary. Instead, let customers go ahead of you while you collect drink orders. We've all had to be the designated coffee runner, whether among friends or coworkers, and it's a much more pleasant experience when the customer comes to the register equipped with all the proper info.

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Grabbing the wrong drink

It happens to the best of us: Our minds are often elsewhere when we stop into a coffee shop for a pick-me-up. But one symptom of not paying attention is grabbing the wrong drink at the counter, and that's the best way to ensure time is wasted during a buzzing rush. Mistakes happen, and that's all right, but once you've placed your order, do your best to keep track of when it might be ready. For example, if a latte hits the bar 10 seconds after you finish paying, that one probably isn't yours to take. When you accidentally grab someone else's drink, it usually has to be remade for health and safety reasons, so now you and the intended recipient are both left waiting. If you're ever unsure, ask your barista for clarification. If you're beginning a large order, state your name at the beginning—it'll save time on both ends.

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Disappearing after placing your order

Whether or not you believe in ghosts, it's very inconvenient to become one after you've placed your coffee order. While a barista's vocal cords are equipped to yell out drink orders across the loud environment of a coffee shop, it simply doesn't help for a customer to wander far from the counter or disappear entirely when the drink will typically only take a couple minutes to prepare. Unclaimed drinks, if left out for a while, will usually be given away or discarded. They also don't hold up very well, especially if they started hot, so it's best to keep tabs on your order until it's complete, then proceed with your day.

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Not leaving a tip

Many people who haven't worked in food service may not be aware of how baristas make a living. Here's the answer: It's mostly through tips. More often than a flat rate, a tip is a percentage of the total amount of money you spent on your order. In today's world, leaving a 20% tip is customary. If you buy a cappuccino for $5, a 20% tip would be $1. If you don't feel like doing math, leaving one dollar for every drink ordered usually works out to a good tip. And it's not just a kind gesture to a barista, or a reward for exceptional service; tips form the bulk of a barista's income, and remembering to leave one keeps you from getting blacklisted at the coffee shop. Minimum wage or lower is typically what service workers make, so think of your barista as your morning bartender and tip accordingly.

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Disregarding store hours

Here's some common sense: If a barista caves and serves a drink to one customer past closing time, that means they have to be fair and cater to everyone else who still wants a drink. This doesn't quite capture the essence of what it means for a business to be closed, and anyone looking for an exception makes baristas seethe. It's not just because they want to stick to the rules, either: By the end of the night, the espresso machine will usually be cleaned and shut down, making it literally impossible to comply with after-hours requests. If you're cool about it, however, there's a chance a barista will serve you some leftover drip coffee for free. Remember, kindness goes a long way in the chaotic world of food service.

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