Pedagogy and training new baristas

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Pedagogy and training new baristas

Postby Jimmy Oneschuk on Sat Jun 02, 2007 10:01 pm

It's been about 2 months since I've started Museo, and one the surprisingly rewarding things I've discovered is the joys which come with training new staff. [some rambling might follow, be warned!]

I'm curious to hear from others about their experiences training new baristas.

How long do you find it takes before a new barista gets the hang of pulling good espresso shots? And how about milk - going from basics to mastering cappuccino and latte art?

I've found I've been able to take people with no prior experience to be pulling good shots in a few days, and mastery of milk in 2-3 weeks. Not that latte art is the be all and end all of training, but it seems to be a common high point for a new barista, when many critical things come together (ie latte art usually comes after being able to deconstruct a shot).

Are any of you using props, videos, diagrams, etc in your training process? Some of the things I've found useful is shooting video of a baristas latte pour, and showing it back to them, or 'spotting' a pour - having them hold the pitcher and cup help guide their pour by moving their hand for them (ie raising/lowering the height of the pitcher, when to start the wiggle, etc).

One interesting thing I've discovered, I think was from James H's blog, was a training program that asked baristas to intentionally overextract and underextract a shot using two different methods, and I think this highlights a cool thing about training itself, where it can take on elements of pedagogy (when teaching itself transcend instruction and becomes art and science). Learning about and developing a more advanced pedagogical approach is possibly one of the things that excites me most about coming into the shop... (of course, its always important to renew your challenges).

It's kind of a cool thing to take someone with the aptitude and desire to learn about coffee, especially when they have a developing palate, and work with them over the course of a few weeks nurturing their understanding of coffee into something that empowers them and becomes an integral part of their identity.

Of course, I love those AHA! moments, where a barista nails a rosetta, or pulls a true god shot - or discovers a flavour in drip coffee they never thought possible before. Even better is when your barista drops a better cappuccino than what you usually pour!

And possibly my favorite thing is to be working in the backroom, and hear the sound of milk being steamed properly!!! A few slight rips, you hear the wand sink, then the whir of milk rising to termination temperature, and finally the grumble of the vacuum breaker as milk finishes. Nothing makes me writhe in pain more than the sound of milk being utterly destroyed; thus hearing it done well is symphonic!

Surely there are other out there who too find training new staff immensely rewarding?
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Postby Jason Haeger on Sun Jun 03, 2007 3:57 pm

I find it rewarding as well.

Unfortunately, I don't really have any tips for you.

I don't have a staff to train. For me, I'm in their shop for a few days, I teach them how to pull shots, froth milk, build drinks, communicate with customers, do basic maintenance, and them I'm out.

I've never had one of those moments of being in the back room and hearing the milk being done... properly!

It sounds nice, though, and one day hopefully I'll have that chance.

For now, I train because there's no-one else in my area who will.

It's the best means I have of trying to improve the coffee here.

It's slow. Really slow. But still better than nothing.

I like the idea of shooting video and replaying it for them, though.

I'll have to try that. (if that's okay)
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Postby Jimmy Oneschuk on Sun Jun 03, 2007 5:18 pm

Hey Jason,

Your situation sounds similar to mine before I started my own shop: trying to teach half-hearted baristas to care is pretty impossible - I think half the battle is hand picking the right people to bestow your knowledge upon! I never got the same thrill of training caffe sola baristas when I was there, as I do now... sort of like a proud papa duck teaching his kids to swim LOL

Shooting video is totally cool... and highly recommended... it lets them see in slow motion what they're doing, plus you can replay and give feedback. I just use but I think the best is to get hands on, and help them move the pitcher at various stages of the pour... telling them how to pour is one thing, having them feel the sensations in their hand seems to speed up their progress - lots.

Best of luck
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Postby Mike Yung on Mon Jun 04, 2007 9:52 pm

Working with a three-person bar team during peak times at Artigiano means that trainees (usually on grind or on steam) must perfect their station before they can advance on to steaming, and finally to pouring. I find that most baristi are self-motivated enough (they wanna pour!) so they are quite attentive and welcome to coaching. I've trained two or three in the last month and a half and now they're pulling awesome shots, steaming alright milk (most times it's silk, maybe one in ten is burlap), but haven't had any exposure to pouring yet. Timelines are always tough because training is so often tailored to the individual being trained.

Interestingly, skill on bar is only one facet of the training process that we focus on. Communication, organization, and presentation are all incredibly important as well, and sometimes these traits take longer to develop than pulling a perfect 24-second extraction or getting the prettiest 16-ounce soy decaf extra hot to-go. With drink orders coming up every 30 seconds during our busiest times, all Artigiano barisi must be able to work cohesively under pressure while answering customers' questions about where to find "x," if their latte is coming, or if something isn't right...

Anyone wanna come to Vancouver? :-)
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Postby Jimmy Oneschuk on Mon Jun 04, 2007 10:14 pm

Mike, interesting point about teamwork and probably totally essential in an environment like artigiano (case in point: Barrett's cup handle drink order system!).

Interesting what you mentioned though about professionalism and communication, and something I didn't consider - it's one thing to train someone to be quality focused, but there are aspects to this that are outside the cup, which will inevitably come to reflect what's in the cup.

Very interesting, thanks for sharing!

(beautiful blog btw - i have some reading to do)
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Postby Mike Yung on Sun Jun 17, 2007 9:10 pm

One very smart barista we (half-) trained is in Saskatoon right now! She pulls a mean ristretto!
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Re: Pedagogy and training new baristas

Postby Jimmy Oneschuk on Mon Aug 11, 2008 6:51 pm

:P So I heard! She dropped by with a resume, but sadly has been allured to the restaurant biz!
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company: Museo
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