Have you ever walked into a specialty coffee shop and ordered your favorite drink—say, a latte or cappuccino— and you were underwhelmed, to say the least?
Maybe you’ve watched a barista make your drink and observed a stumbling, fumbling, and inconsistent workflow.
What you’re witnessing is a direct result of one avoidable thing: improper barista training.
Training your baristas properly is so essential to your café. Excellent education is one of the three core values at Baba Java Coffee. We believe that excellent education works from the top down—starting with education on the farm and ending with the final cup, even further, interacting with the customer about this entire process.
As the Head Barista & Trainer, I always say we are aiming for “competence and confidence” in everything we learn. For example, you can’t have good latte art if you don’t understand how to properly steam milk. You can’t conduct excellent customer service if you don’t know your menu and coffees. These aspects must be competently understood and confidently conveyed.
Here are a few key guidelines to follow to help you create a better training program for your baristas.
Implementing a Training Manual
Having a written document with all the information of your behind-the-bar elements is vital for your team.
Compile everything your baristas should know about understanding your coffees/menu, brewing the coffee, and everything in between. As one with the responsibility of training our staff at Baba Java, I ensure baristas know exactly what coffees they’re working with, the equipment they use to brew said coffees, and everything else that the job entails.
Creating A Certification Process
Something I have intentionally created for my baristas-in-training is a certification program.
What this means is that there are specific and intentional steps that must be taken consecutively in order to be cleared to work the bar.
The trainees begin with the all-important training manual, then work their way into proper customer service at the POS (point of sale) and everything that is non-espresso related. (Non-espresso means food, pour overs, drip coffee, Turkish, cold brew, etc.)
Once these are down pat and both competently and confidently able to be executed, we move on to the espresso machine. We start with understanding how to dial in the espresso—learning how to properly adjust the recipe and grind size in order to produce consistent, delicious shots of espresso. This takes time, so don’t rush into things. Make sure this is understood first and foremost before jumping straight into steaming milk and latte art.
What is also key during the certification process is workflow, cleanliness, and efficiency. Help your baristas master the art of workflow, which includes tidiness and consistency. Workflow means exactly how it sounds—the flow of your work. This means knowing how to cleanly and efficiently conduct each step of making a drink in a timely fashion. Order of operation must reach a level of proficiency that allows for workflow behind the bar to run smoothly and thoroughly. This means learning how to prepare your latte cups, pulling your shots, steaming milk while the espresso is brewing, and so on.
Conduct a test, maybe even both written and practical/hands-on. Have your baristas dial in espresso and make a series of drinks that can then tell you where they are in their proficiency and learning.
Success is about gaining experience and repetition, repetition, repetition. Certify your baristas once they’ve proven their capabilities, competence, and confidence.
Ensure Your Baristas Know What They’re Talking About
One thing that must be said is the importance of instilling your company’s values in your team.
At Baba Java, these values are excellent coffee, excellent customer service, and excellent education. These all work in tandem with one another and correlate seamlessly. Excellent coffee and customer service cannot be done well if the education side is not also excellent.
Instill the proper skills as well. This must include an understanding of all aspects of coffee, from farm to cup. If your baristas do not have competence and confidence in the coffees they brew and serve, the information behind them, how to brew them, and how to explain and serve it to customers, they can never work with efficiency and excellence!
Train your baristas well. Take the time necessary to implement proper expectations for your team. I strongly suggest not throwing them out and into the wild on their first day. Walk through the journey with them. Learn how they pick up things and conduct themselves. This starts at the interview initiation and ends with a certification process.
From farm to cup, your baristas will be able to thrive in their working environment, as well as help the industry continue to flourish.