Our classes have changed – the content hasn’t changed too much, but the structure of them definitely has. Information these days is pretty much free, so long as you’re willing to spend the time looking for it. There are a few people out there in the specialty coffee industry who have sifted through all this information and have consolidated the good stuff, sorting out the defects and leaving behind nothing but quality. The value for a coffee school is the hands on aspect, being able to put theory into practice and conduct sensory training with someone with an educated and articulate palate. Many classes out there in Coffee Land blend theory and practice together, which works really well. The problem is that in order to become a competent barista, you need hours upon hours building your muscle memory, flavour memory and intuition before you’re comfortable behind a machine, adjusting the settings while serving customers. What you don’t want to have to do is come back and listen to the theory over and over again, just to gain experience behind the machine.
A new coffee class format
Our classes have changed to accommodate this. You can now attend one short theory module, and then come and do three short practical modules with different outcomes, as many times as you feel you need before you throw yourself in front of the general public. This helps to allow a brand new student to have the skills to get a job. It’s important to recognize that by attending only one or two classes, you will only gain a feeling of what you will need to do, and insight into the techniques required to achieve the products. You would then just have to hope that someone will train you on the job to become proficient. This may not be ideal, as many café owners and baristas may not be up to date with the ever-changing best practice and current industry trends. Even worse, many baristas haven’t had formal education. Their skills have come from different people over the years, and everyone knows the effect of Chinese whispers.
Sensory training to establish a benchmark of coffee quality
Another challenge with coffee education comes from the transient nature of the hospitality worker. Travellers, University students, people in various artistic disciplines getting by before they can make it in their industry, and many students focus their attention towards preparation and service, rather than building their sensory skills. A lot of them don’t even drink coffee! That’s like a chef who doesn’t taste their food. A well experienced barista working in specialty coffee, who deals with new products every week, will have undergone a large amount of sensory training, giving them the ability to articulate flavour like a sommelier. You need to know what quality is, have your own experience of how good or bad your product can be, and learn what leads to this. Without the sensory feedback, you are literally flying blind. Sensory training takes time… A lot of time. For us, these classes are not in high demand either. You wouldn’t invest a lot of time and energy into something that isn’t your profession. Because of this, it is important for a café owner to invest in a head barista. A coffee champion of sorts. This may be the owner themselves. This ensures that if people come and go, there is still a benchmark for quality within the business.
The sensory training we offer is called the ‘espresso masterclass’, and is six hours long. This is a blend of theory, taste modulations and practice. This type of training isn’t split up, and the theory can definitely be repeated a few times, as there’s a lot to take in. This is like our foundations class, but for flavour. The sensory modulations from this class can be repeated too, at no cost. This is something we are starting now, and is advertised on our social media channels. These education sessions are entirely free. Along with the flavour modulations, we will hold public coffee cuppings, alternate brew demonstrations, and a few one and a half hour interactive classes called the ‘Coffee Pro Series’. This can be anything from acidity in coffee, to customer service, or manipulating water for coffee.
Barista classes for the coffee aficionado
The classes and standards we teach come from the latest industry information that our trainers are always engaged with, and also our own experiments by our R&D team. They are adapted to suit the Australian café industry and meet these expectations. These classes aren’t broad enough to hold international recognition. For this, we are introducing the detailed structure of the SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) in the coming months. This provides a much more in-depth study into many aspects of the coffee industry – from barista skills, green coffee quality analysis and roasting. This is necessary for people who are choosing coffee as a long term career.
For public cuppings and coffee pro classes, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
Also, visit our blog for more great information on all things coffee.