How to Develop a Coffee Training Program: Part Four

SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
DECEMBER 2016

photos by Aaron Tran

We’ve spent the past three segments of this series figuring out how to build an effective and productive barista training program in your business. However, no matter how engaging your lesson plans, how visually-pleasing your handouts, or how focused your curriculum may be, it won’t have nearly the staying power without a culture of active learning within your barista staff.

While you can’t force anyone to want to learn, there are plenty of actions that you can take to make learning opportunities more readily available, accessible and attractive to your employees. Below is a list of ideas that could entice your staff to be more proactive in their coffee education, and some day-to-day practices that might help create greater accountability and engagement in the workplace.

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After Your Training
At the end of each training period, consider sending trainees an anonymous email survey in which they can rate their educational experience and share perspectives of their time spent with your barista trainer. This will prove to be a vital resource over time, as you’ll be able to improve not only your coffee curriculum but also help your barista trainer be a more effective educator.

While In Your Shop
Take an active role in your staff’s growth by creating coaching opportunities in your business. Here are some ideas to get your wheels turning:

  • Schedule quarterly calibration meetings where baristas can practice new milk-pouring techniques, engage in palate-development exercises, and get geeky with their co-workers in skill drills.
  • Whenever a new coffee arrives at your shop, invite your staff to a cupping so they can familiarize themselves with the new product.
  • Have your barista trainer set aside time every couple of weeks to check in with your staff and watch them work on bar to identify any potential training needs or areas for improvement.
  • Invite seasoned coffee professionals within your network: your roaster, a local latte art legend, or a regional USBC competitor to give your employees a presentation or conduct a workshop on their particular area of expertise.
  • Hang up educational coffee posters in the break room, office, or near that cubby where hungry baristas inhale their bagels between rushes.
  • Create a library of coffee, tea and hospitality books that your staff can flip through during breaks and borrow for at-home reading.

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Create Incentivized and Independent Learning
Not all learning has to be done within the four walls of your building. Below are some ideas for ways to encourage your baristas to grow their skills and knowledge while off the clock:

  • Send out weekly updates with links to blog posts, movies, articles, etc. that you find educational and relevant to their work in your shop.
  • Gift subscriptions to coffee community resources like the SCAA Chronicle, Barista Magazine, Roast Magazine, and the like to your top performers as a form of recognition and reward for a job well done.
  • Coffee subscriptions also make excellent alternative gifts for your top performers, encouraging your baristas to expand and train their palates.
  • Set up voluntary book clubs for your staff after-hours so they can explore coffee-focused materials in a more communal and informal setting.
  • Create financial incentives for baristas: offer to pay a percentage of their SCAA class fees, sponsor the cost of their exam, pay for their travel costs to take classes at a nearby SCAA campus, or create a system of paid leave for those who have to take time off in order to attend coffee classes, workshops, barista camps, etc.

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Field Trips: They’re Not Just For Middle Schoolers
Coffee farm origin trips for your entire staff might be out of the budget, but visiting your roaster’s warehouse might not be. Schedule a staff outing day where your baristas have a chance to visit the roastery, talk to their coffee roaster and learn more about the journey from seed to cup. You’d be surprised how few baristas have had the privilege of holding a green coffee bean in their hands, or watched a roaster work in-person.

Building a well-rounded and productive barista training program in your shop takes time, effort and energy, but as Ben Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”


I sincerely hope that this series empowers you and your staff to pursue a deeper understanding of this incredible industry that we have the privilege of working in. Happy learning, friends!

Was this series helpful to you? Were there any points that you felt I missed or could improve on? Feel free to email me at diana@undercurrentcoffee.com. I’d love to hear your input, anecdotes and opinions.

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