Matthias Zechner is 29 years old barista from Southern Austria who works at BUNA Kaffee in Graz. He works with coffee for seven years, yet he keeps the barista job as a part-time occupation. Matthias studies philosophy and trains to become a psychotherapist one day.
In 2017, we witnessed his victory at the Austrian AeroPress Championship at Coffee Pirates in Vienna. Later that year, Matthias represented his country at World AeroPress Championship in Seoul.
Matthias, what is your first memory with coffee?
That goes back to when I was a kid. The thick layer of foam on cappuccinos my parents would have on vacations with an equally heavy layer of sugar and eating that away as quickly as possible.
Could you describe the moment or situation that made you decide to become a barista?
I was doing a year abroad for my studies and actually wanted to start a philosophical cafe. As I did not know anything about coffee back then, I decided to attend a barista training. In order to practice what I had learned, I started to work at BUNA Kaffee. That sparked my interest beyond expectations and down I went the rabbit hole of coffee.
What is the funniest thing that you have experienced behind the bar? Can you recall any embarrassing moment?
I once forgot to discard the water I rinsed the paper filter of a V60 with, kept on brewing, served it, thought it looked a bit light but did not think anything of it. I was just surprised that the guest found it very watery. Took me some time to realise what went wrong.
The guest took it with a lot of sportsmanship (and of course, got proper coffee too). That happened years ago but still makes me feel a mixture of fun and embarrassment from time to time.
A good barista is passionate about coffee, a great barista makes others feel good about it.Matthias Zechner
Do you have an unusual habit or hobby that you love?
Amongst other things, I do enjoy to juggle and perform card magic.
What is your piece of advice for anybody starting a career as a barista?
My advice is to stay curious and open. Keep challenging assumptions about the things you do and experience. And do your best to have fun along the way.
What qualities set a good and a great barista apart?
A good barista is passionate about coffee, a great barista makes others feel good about it.
What helps you to handle a bad day at the cafe and to provide good customer service?
Putting on uplifting music on our record player. Something like surf guitar or similar.
What is the one thing that you would miss the most if you could not work as a barista anymore?
Brewing tasty espresso every day without having an espresso machine at home.
What has been the best experience you have had in the speciality coffee industry so far?
Attending the World AeroPress Championship in Seoul in 2017. That felt quite surreal but in a very pleasing way.
Rapid Fire Questions for Matthias Zechner
Would you serve filter coffee with milk, if asked for it?
Do you ever take sugar with your coffee?
Espresso or Filter coffee?
Do you aim for Sweetness, Acidity, or Body?
Milky or Black?
Slurp or Spit?
Slurp until I start to tremble.
Sit in or Take Away?
Cake or Pastry with your coffee?
Pastry with espresso, cake with filter coffee.
What is the wifi password at your cafe?
We don’t have one, hello world!