I'm curious about folks' experiences with these training schools. How does it compare to the on-the-job training you get? (I gotta say, I've got a great resource at my shop!) Are they pricey, and worth the money? What school would you recommend, and how far have you traveled to attend one?

Let's discuss!

(I hope I'm not completely rehashing another discussion).

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I attended American Barista and Coffee school in Portland and feel it was well worth every penny. You get a chance to learn on several different brands of espresso machines and equipment. They take you on cafe tours and a tour of a roaster. You get a chance to learn from some of the top leaders in the industry. http://www.coffeeschool.org/
I concur ABCs is a great school! Well worth the money. We timed it so we could go to Coffee Fest right after attending. It was a wonderful combination that let us learn first then see and meet the products and companies we had just learned about.
Were you folks fairly new to the profession, or had you worked as a barista for a while?
Typically you need both.
Training at a school and training on the job. I liken it to the culinary schools who will not just train you and expect you to know all you need to know to be a chef but will place you in restaurants in between semesters to solidify all that you learned.
The price of a school is worth its cost based on how you use the info and training you receive...if you plan on working hard to really get those skills working for you in stead of you working to get the skills then you will never worry so much about price.
That's my two cents.

-Chris Deferio
The Coffee Institute
I'd highly recommend the American Barista & Coffee School ("ABC"). Their facility is kick-ass. Their training facility has tons of equipment so it gives you chance to see how each piece of equipment works. Furthermore, it gives you a chance to ask tons of questions of industry experts. I'd highly recommend you stay for the additional day of latte art training - it's a perfect way to end a fun week.
I attended the ABC school 5 years ago. Although my expertise is in the planning & design of restaurants and Specialty Coffee Retail shops, I found that the experience and hands on focused training was exceptional at ABC.
The skills you learn in this School are easily transferred in a cafe environment if you are passionate and committed to be excellent. As for the staff, nobody beats Ed Arvidson in marketing and business training; Matt Milletto is a creative Barista with an understanding for what is current in the Cafe scene today from design to equipment selection. When I was there David Haddock was co-training with Matt and the balance between David's technical expertise and Matt's creativity was by far the best school session I could have hoped for. I do know a few other schools, and they have their benefits. Take what you learn at ABC and stick to it and you will be successful as a Barista; a cafe owner or even as an aficionado.
Good point, Ed...
Taking what you learn and sticking to it is key.
Whenever we set about learning something new in coffee we are not only teaching our minds to think in new ways but to make our bodies move in new ways.
Muscle memory is a result of time and discipline.

-Chris Deferio


Ed Viser said:
I attended the ABC school 5 years ago. Although my expertise is in the planning & design of restaurants and Specialty Coffee Retail shops, I found that the experience and hands on focused training was exceptional at ABC.
The skills you learn in this School are easily transferred in a cafe environment if you are passionate and committed to be excellent. As for the staff, nobody beats Ed Arvidson in marketing and business training; Matt Milletto is a creative Barista with an understanding for what is current in the Cafe scene today from design to equipment selection. When I was there David Haddock was co-training with Matt and the balance between David's technical expertise and Matt's creativity was by far the best school session I could have hoped for. I do know a few other schools, and they have their benefits. Take what you learn at ABC and stick to it and you will be successful as a Barista; a cafe owner or even as an aficionado.
I agree with Ed. While I was training at ABC, Matt was there along with Jared Mockli. These guys have a passion for what they do and are, like Ed said, current on everything (roasters, design, equipment, etc.).

Deferio said:
Good point, Ed...
Taking what you learn and sticking to it is key.
Whenever we set about learning something new in coffee we are not only teaching our minds to think in new ways but to make our bodies move in new ways.
Muscle memory is a result of time and discipline.

-Chris Deferio


Ed Viser said:
I attended the ABC school 5 years ago. Although my expertise is in the planning & design of restaurants and Specialty Coffee Retail shops, I found that the experience and hands on focused training was exceptional at ABC.
The skills you learn in this School are easily transferred in a cafe environment if you are passionate and committed to be excellent. As for the staff, nobody beats Ed Arvidson in marketing and business training; Matt Milletto is a creative Barista with an understanding for what is current in the Cafe scene today from design to equipment selection. When I was there David Haddock was co-training with Matt and the balance between David's technical expertise and Matt's creativity was by far the best school session I could have hoped for. I do know a few other schools, and they have their benefits. Take what you learn at ABC and stick to it and you will be successful as a Barista; a cafe owner or even as an aficionado.
Samantha,
More directly to the point of your question.
The difference between on the job training and school training is the luxury of time.
Going to school gives you and advantage in that you have chosen to not only learn about coffee but to do that one thing exclusively. Learning on the job is great...but it takes longer to instill the foundational lessons in a barista when there are many distractions on the bar.
Once you have a solid foundation you can then start building on it and what might have been distractions during the training on the bar are now new levels of responsibility held up by your confidence in the essentials.
If you do not end up going to a training school, of which there are many, the next best thing would be for the retailer to provide each barista with a good chunk of time devoted ONLY to training...after which the barista would be introduced to "live bar" training.
Hope that helps.

-Chris Deferio
The Coffee Institute
Muncie, IN
On the job training is valuable, as long as you are receiving training from someone who is passionate about their product and business. The downfall can be that you may learn "their way" and you can easily absorb bad habits that may not be concurrent with your management style.

I have found that the optimal time a person can come thru a business and barista training school is when they are in the early stages of planning (if considering opening a retail business). The comprehensive business training is extremely valuable, as many people can teach you how to pour a beautiful latte but can they teach you how to run a business. Ideally one will want to work with those who have assisted with the hands on opening and full consultation (not just selling them a piece of equipment) of hundreds of coffee bars all over the world. This experience will ensure that what you are learning is not bias to one or two coffee bars, or a certain regional area's perspective, but will work no matter where you are located.

I feel when considering a school, it is important to also learn from a school without any agendas outside of pure training and consultation. While intentions may be good, does it make sense to pay for training from someone who is also trying to sell you equipment? Or who may take kick-backs on equipment bought through their school?

Remember that you as an owner or manager will be training your employees and developing a solid training methodology within your business. It is important to learn in a train the trainer type of environment, about a full range of menu items too. Everything you offer in your cafe must be top notch, even beyond your espresso and coffee beverages.

There is also value in the location/city of where you go to learn, if you do attend a school. What can you learn from the surrounding area? In depth coffee shop tours, meeting with coffee shop owners and touring a coffee roaster can be a great learning experience.

-Matt Milletto
American Barista & Coffee School
Portland, OR
Matt said
"This experience will ensure that what you are learning is not bias to one or two coffee bars, or a certain regional area's perspective, but will work no matter where you are located."

I agree!
Training must be applicable to a large variety of situations not just one regions ideals.
You have to find a school that addresses the specific needs you have. You may not need to know about business as a barista but you need to step up your game on the bar. You may not be behind the bar but will need to learn how to effectively market your company.
All in all, as Matt said, you want to be a part of a pure training and consulting environment. The focus should ALWAYS be on you and your being trained effectively to understand the material. Nobody likes to be pressured into buying this or that. The schools job is to let you see, use, and understand your choices that will affect you business.
Matt said:
"Remember that you as an owner or manager will be training your employees and developing a solid training methodology within your business. It is important to learn in a train the trainer type of environment, about a full range of menu items too. Everything you offer in your cafe must be top notch, even beyond your espresso and coffee beverages."


Very well said! (BTW...Matt, is someone you should listen too...he IS the passion he speaks of)

The world has seen too much apathy in coffee bar operations. In order to create a sustainable business in specialty coffee you need to raise the bar, we, as Coffee Trainers need to raise our bar...so that we can best represent the quality in our coffee that we first fell in love with.

No matter who you are in this business...once you stop learning...you're through.

Blessings to you and your endeavors,

-Chris Deferio
The Coffee Institute
Muncie, IN
Matt,
Thank you for your synopsis. This was my consideration when looking for roaster training. At the time I searched schools of roasting I found only two that were independent of selling roasters. One on the east coast and one on the west coast. This is what I like about your school. Devoted to bringing an independent broad business picture as well as top technical training.
Joe Robertson
--
Ambassador for Specialty Coffee and palate reform.

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