BLOG // // 15.2.2018

What Happens in a Barista Training: Trainer's My Day

Have you ever wondered what happens in a barista course? Training Manager Ulla gives a sneak peak into her day when she organises a SCA Barista Skills Foundation course. So here you go: This is Barista Trainer's my day!

Today I have a SCA Barista Skills Foundation course. I´m expecting four students to attend the course. The course is held in Helsinki (Finland), at Paulig Kulma coffee house. We (Paulig Barista Institute) have two training facilities in Helsinki: on is located in our Roastery, in the eastern Helsinki, and the other one is in the middle of the city center; on the second floor of Paulig Kulma coffee house. By the way, if you are planning a trip to Helsinki, check Jori´s blog Helsinki Café Guide where you can find also Paulig Kulma´s address among many others. Before we start, I just want to make sure that certain expressions are familiar to you.

What is SCA?
SCA = Speciality Coffee Association. The Specialty Coffee Association is a membership-based organization that represents thousands of coffee professionals, from producers to baristas all over the world. SCA has an education program known as the SCA Coffee Skills Program. Students can take advantage of learning through three stages of knowledge and skills in each module: Foundation, Intermediate and Professional. And today the course I´m giving is Barista Skills and the level is the basic level = Foundation.

What is AST?
AST = Authorized SCA Trainer. SCA courses are taught by hundreds of Authorized SCA Trainers (ASTs) in locations around the globe. Want to become an AST?

Okay, ready? Let me guide you through my day and you can see how the day is built through trainer´s eyes. Welcome onboard!

6:30 AM
My alarm clock wakes me up. Coffee is definitely my best friend early in the morning so I´ll start the day by making a cup of Colombian coffee from Buesaco, Narino. This morning my choice of weapon is Aeropress. We serve breakfast to our students in our courses and that means that I can also have it. Yippee :) I noticed that I immediately start thinking what kind of breakfast to choose today: a delicious smoothie or chia pudding or… oh so many good options.


7:30 AM
I leave for work. It´s not raining so I decide to walk. I try to walk as often as possible. For me it is the best way to start the day: I listen to morning radio and breathe fresh air. The distance from home to Paulig Kulma is perfect: it takes about 25 minutes (by foot). This day has a good start.

7:55 AM
I arrive to Paulig Kulma. It is still pretty quiet here. Only few customers are enjoying their morning coffees and breakfast. I get my keys from my backpack and open Barista Institute doors. It smells neutral here, but I know that in few hours this room will be packed with coffee scent. First thing on my agenda is to update our flip chart. We tend to write “today's course” on the flip chart and place it so that the café´s customers also get the information what is happening. Our training room has glass doors so you can imagine how much attention we get when the course is running. Some people are brave enough to knock on our glass door and ask what is going on. We are always more than happy to answer those questions. But that flip chart also helps!


08:00 AM
I have 45 minutes before my students arrive. I have asked them to come 08:45 so we have time to enjoy breakfast before we start :) Perfect way to start the day, right?

First tasks to do: 

  • Print exams; theory and practical. Place them in the closet, we will need them at the end of the day.
  • Print the course presentations to attendees.
  • Print diplomas and sign them: we give diplomas right after the course as a memory (or a proof to your supervisor that you did attend to the course :)) In addition customers will get the SCA Diploma if they pass both theory and practical exams. SCA headquarters sends those diplomas after exams are checked by me.
  • Open the slide show and set up the machinery.

08:15 AM 
Now I will put the seats ready around the table. Every attendee gets their copy of the presentation and a notebook + a pen. There is important information in the presentation that they need to know in the exams so it is wise to take notes. Also many of these students will continue to Intermediate level at some point. It´s a good idea to save your notes and go them through before you come to the next level. 

What else? Water jugs, glasses and name stickers :) We want to talk to people with their own names instead of “hey you”. Now it´s also time to fill in the refrigerator with milk. I ordered milk already 2 days ago and those arrived yesterday.  I also ordered coffees beforehand. I called to Tomi (our roaster at Paulig Kulma, check his blog about roasting coffee at home) 2 weeks ago and asked washed Arabica and natural Arabica to this course. This time I got natural from Brazil and washed from Kenya. My plan is that two students use the washed Kenyan coffee and others use the Natural Brazilian coffee. I will make sure that everybody has the opportunity to taste both. This is a good learning point even on Foundation level. Especially if the barista aims higher and wants to become a pro.

08:40 AM
First student arrives. “Hi and welcome! There is a stand for jackets at the back of the room. Have a seat and let´s wait for the others to arrive”. 


08:45 AM
Everybody has arrived. They seem really excited and that makes me suuuuper exited as well :) I will make morning coffee with Chemex and we have breakfast together. Coffee chosen is washed Caturra from Nicaragua (roasted in Paulig Kulma by Tomi). It is relaxed way to start the day and the course and good way to get to know the attendees because it is not (yet) official. I love to ask questions such 
as what is your name, do you already work with coffee, have you worked with coffee before, have you attended to a barista course before, what was your motivation to attend this course and so on.

Often there is one student at every basic barista course who has not worked with coffee ever before but would like to someday. SCA Barista Skills Foundation is perfect for beginners because you don´t have to have previous experience. For me as the trainer it is extremely important to find out my students' coffee knowledge and skills before we start, so I can modify my way of training according to my audience. 

09:10 AM
Chatty group. Time flies, time to start the course! I start this course by telling about SCA and its' training system. I also tell them what is needed if they want to become an AST´s themselves. After SCA facts it is time to go through day´s agenda, which is roughly: 

  • (Breakfast & Welcome)
  • Arabica & Robusta
  • Espresso theory (machine, technique, grinder, cupping)
  • Espresso practice
  • Milk theory (chemistry, foaming, pouring)
  • Milk practice
  • Machine maintenance (espresso machine & grinder)
  • Exams
  • Thanks :)

12:00 PM
Lunch!  We have been talking about Arabica and Robusta and the differences between them. They learned how to adjust the grinder, make an excellent espresso and keep their working space clean as you go. We have talked about how to store your coffee correctly, what happens when you open your coffee package etc.  And we practiced a lot! Everyone has made dozens of espressos already. Now, let's have 45 min brake and enjoy lunch. 

Time to learn how to prepare milk. This level does not require latte art skills but usually my students want to practice them anyway. I´ll start by going through basic milk knowledge and then we move to the espresso machine and I´ll show how the frothing is done. When they can do proper milk, I´ll show how to pour “the brown cup”, base needed for all latte art patterns. When brown cup goes well, we move on to the hearts. Usually on this level I don´t need to show any other latte art pattern but this particular group is more advanced so we have time to practice also tulips and rosettas.


Before we end the course and move on to exams, we go through machine maintenance: espresso machine & grinder + daily cleaning and weekly cleaning needs. My opinion is that one of the most important learnings in this course are the reasons behind things: not just what to do - but WHY to do it! It is crucial to a barista to also understand the reasons behind the things they need to do: why do you clean your machine daily? What happens if you don’t do it?

15:00 PM
Theory exams!  Last task on our agenda is the theory exam. Students have 45 minutes to do it (60 minutes if it´s not their first language). We have translated the exams to Finnish so they´ll have the 45 minutes. Good luck!


15:45 PM
Time is up! Students return the tests to me. Feedback, questions, comments and thanks! We at Barista Institute ask for feedback after our courses. It is super important to us to be able to develop our trainings and understand what is working and what is not. We are thankful that most of our students are willing to give feedback. 

Before we say goodbye, I give students their Paulig Barista Institute diploma and a pack of delicious coffee to take home with.

16:10 PM
Students have left the building. I´m alone. I want to clean the training room quickly. It´s not my favorite task…  Fortunately there is not much to clean (students clean their grinders, machines and work spaces themselves. It´s part of the learning process). I´ll just do the rest of the dishes and empty the dish washer. Now it´s time for emails. 

17:00 PM
I´m ready to go home. Although I just remembered that I was supposed to take pictures for social media today but it was so hectic that I forgot! Oh well, tomorrow is another day. I will put a reminder for tomorrow about that. Another task for tomorrow is to check today´s exams. That I need to do first thing in the morning so that my students’ don´t need to wait too long for their results. If they pass, then I´ll contact SCA HQ and request for the certificates. If somebody does not pass, I´ll contact them and we need to agree a new time for taking the test again. 

Oh wow, that was it folks! That was one example of my very versatile job. Thanks for reading :) If you have any questions about our barista courses, you can contact your local trainer. You can find us all from here :)