Intensive barista training: possibilities for all

Four people recently participated in our first intensive, two-day barista class. Two were coffee lovers who just wanted to improve and increase their enjoyment when brewing at home, and two were planning on starting careers in coffee in the near future. 

Considering the ongoing explosion of new progressive cafés in Montréal, one of our goals in offering this more intensive course is to increase the pool of potential hires that have a solid understanding of coffee extraction theory and the parameters that affect rate and quality of extraction, that can taste and diagnose brewing flaws, and can act accordingly to correct them. And of course, to reinforce that knowledge through more hands-on practice than is offered in our more casual classes, which means that these potential employees will also start with a stronger base in preparing espresso coffee, steaming milk for microfoam, and brewing filter coffee by hand, among other things. When starting a new hire, there’s already going to be lots of things to learn — the cash register, where things are stocked, opening and closing procedures — and the café is usually operating during training as well, so communicating the fine points of coffee theory and practice can get lost in the shuffle. Our quiet, focused training space can really facilitate the integration of this knowledge. 

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So what does the training consist of? We start with the theory of extraction. How does coffee extract, what are the factors that affect rate and quality of extraction, and how can you work with them? What in brewing affects the flavour of coffee? What water to use? And much discussion of how to taste coffee: over- vs. under-extraction, bitter vs. sour, body vs. flavour clarity, etc. 

Next is a section on terroir and a cupping (tasting). We discuss agriculture and the processing that occurs at the farm, as well as the terroir of the different origin countries; a Brazilian coffee has different terroir than a Kenyan for example, and for many reasons. We also speak a lot about the humanitarian aspect of coffee production, including a discussion of direct trade, fair trade, and how to know if your coffee was produced under positive conditions. 

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Then it’s on to the practical stuff. Learning to dose, distribute, tamp, and pull espresso, while evaluating how well we’ve done the aforementioned. Tasting and diagnosing flaws and adjusting to correct them. Milk steaming, for texture, thickness and temperature. And learning several methods of brewing filter coffee by hand, including how to evaluate and improve those brews. Lots of time is dedicated to practice, and class size is limited to a maximum of six people to ensure this. 

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Finally, we conclude with a section on cleaning machines and grinders at the end of the day, as clean equipment is key to delicious coffee. 

We think this class is a nice entryway into the complex world of progressive coffee, that will hopefully interest people that love making coffee at home, those who are considering getting into the industry, and people that already work in or own cafés or restaurants, that want to improve their knowledge and skills. Owners that are short on time to integrate new staff members into their team might also consider sending them to us for a head-start. 

The next class should be held in February, but if you can get together a group or three or more people, don’t hesitate to contact us about booking one sooner. In fact, we’re always open to hosting custom classes on any subject for individuals or groups, so don’t be shy.