Are Barista Training Classes Worth the Money?

Beginner or pro barista, all are invited to share.
stevendouglas
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Postby stevendouglas » Fri Jan 04, 2008 4:12 pm

I looked up Heather's class. The classes are $495 for one day or $1,795 for three days. I could never justify that much for a three day class even though I think I would enjoy it. For the one-day class, I'm afraid that the too much time would be taken up with the basics (you need a good grinder, always use freshly roasted coffee, etc.) that most people on HB probably already know.

I'm curious if anyone has taken any barista classes (from Heather or otherwise) and what your thoughts are on them. For example:

- As a starter what skill level were you at when you took the class (new to espresso, 2 years experience with good equipment)?

- Did it dramatically improve your espresso, caps, latte art?

- Was it worth the investment, or would you have been better off using the money for a better grinder or other equipment?
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Marshall
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Postby Marshall » Fri Jan 04, 2008 4:19 pm

stevendouglas wrote:I looked up Heather's class. The classes are $495 for one day or $1,795 for three days. I could never justify that much for a three day class even though I think I would enjoy it. For the one-day class, I'm afraid that the too much time would be taken up with the basics (you need a good grinder, always use freshly roasted coffee, etc.) that most people on HB probably already know.

I'm curious if anyone has taken any barista classes (from Heather or otherwise) and what your thoughts are on them. For example:

- As a starter what skill level were you at when you took the class (new to espresso, 2 years experience with good equipment)?

- Did it dramatically improve your espresso, caps, latte art?

- Was it worth the investment, or would you have been better off using the money for a better grinder or other equipment?

Your concerns are very reasonable. Why don't you e-mail Heather and ask her how much time will be devoted to basics? As a side note, any good barista trainer working with experienced baristas spends some time "unlearning" their bad habits. It's one reason some shops prefer not to hire experienced baristas at all.
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Postby bobdc » Fri Jan 04, 2008 4:35 pm

Those prices sound over-the-top. I took a beginners course at Murky in the Washington DC Metro area this past summer and the cost, as I recall was between $100 and $150 which included a pound of beans from Counter Culture.

As to its worth, I am a real fan. The class was run by two of Murky's top staff, lasted a full day and included a great deal of personal, hands-on practice with supervision. What I gained is knowledge and confidence. Now I generallly turn out a pretty satisfactory pull and, if a bad one hits, I usually know why. Not an expert, but I can hardly imagine any one-day course being more through, even with 4 times the cost. With the costs you quote, one could almost do a RT to our area, take the Murky one day session and have some change left to jingle on your way home.
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Postby cannonfodder » Fri Jan 04, 2008 10:18 pm

You can command those prices when you are a multi time US champ and the highest placed US competitor in the world championship. Only you can decide if it is worth the cost to you.
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Postby HB » Fri Jan 04, 2008 10:53 pm

stevendouglas wrote:Did it dramatically improve your espresso, caps, latte art?

The value of quality hands-on instruction cannot be overstated. A good instructor can compress into a few hours what is equivalent to several months of self-study, especially for the beginner to intermediate level. For the advantage barista, I'm less confident that general courses will prove helpful. It would depend on the class size and the willingness of the instructor to address students' specific questions. My barista education has been a combination of self-study, online forums, volunteering as competition judge, and the regular espresso labs at Counter Culture Coffee (now going on my fourth year there every Friday (!)).

One of my biggest "ah ha" moments was at EspressoFest 2004, sponsored by Counter Culture Coffee. Five minutes of hands-on instruction with Chris Deferio broke through my latte art barrier. The next EspressoFest 2006 eclipsed the first in terms of the depth and breath of the topics covered. It was my highlight of the SCAA show. Maybe it's time for EspressoFest 2008?

The threads Professional training for the non-professional and Barista training needed offer other suggestions. What may work best for you is local roasters who have facilities and staff willing to work with consumers on an adhoc basis like Counter Culture, vendors offering classes (e.g., Great Infusions has home barista classes), or organizing your own barista jams. CoffeeGeek has regional forums that are good for hooking up with locals.

Image
Advertisement for Great Infusions' home barista class
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Postby hed1117 » Sat Jan 05, 2008 2:03 am

With regard to what constitutes a "reasonable" cost for a training class, I was thrilled to discover an upcoming 3-day event here at the convention center on Miami Beach called the "Tea & Coffee World Cup Americas" (http://www.tcworldcup.com/miami/) at which "The Seattle Barista Academy" is offering 3-hour classes in "Barista Fundamentals" and/or "Advanced Barista Training" for $395.00 (each class). "Latte Art, Etching and Milk Steaming" - 3 hours, $295.00.

I realize that Barista training is a specialized field... but those prices seem quite daunting.

BTW, does anyone know anything about the "Tea & Coffee World Cup Americas"?

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Postby luca » Sat Jan 05, 2008 2:39 am

Interesting. I thought I'd look up the price for training with some of the Australian guys. Converted to $USD, it works out to be:

Hazel De Los Reyes
2005 Australian Barista Champ
3hrs as part of a class (8 max, I think)
$70

David Makin
2006 Australian Barista Champ
3hrs as part of a class (5 or 6 max)
$87

Scott Callaghan
2007 Australian Barista Champ
2006 World Latte Art Champ
Minimum 2hrs at your home, max 6 people
$87/hour (seems to be for the group)

For some reason, the same training courses conducted by people without competition experience can cost almost twice as much!

I'm sure that Heather's class would be great, but the price seems absolutely stratospheric judged against my frame of reference. Perhaps it's partly a consequence of espresso being ubiquitous in Australia, but, even so, $500 a day strikes me as a hell of a lot of coin. For that price, surely we're talking about a 1-on-1 class, right?

I think that without exception, everyone who has talked to me after taking a training session has been very happy with the results. The story tends to be that the instructors spot the one or two basic mistakes that they are making and everything after that is a lot easier. To get the best value for money, it's probably worthwhile doing a bunch of experimentation for a few weeks beforehand. That said, you'd probably want to actually taste coffee made by the instructor; if it isn't better than yours, I doubt they're going to be able to help you. I guess this is where having a trainer who has done well at barista comps gives you some peace of mind.

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Luca

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Postby erics » Sat Jan 05, 2008 9:53 am

With all due respect to Ms. Perry, I kinda think her classes are tuned towards the barista in a cafe-like setting whereas you, me, and lots of this forum's participants might benefit more from a, well, home barista class(es).

I think a company called Great Infusions, which advertises on this site, offers classes and they too are in California. Certainly Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago (possibly a fun trip) offers classes but there too, you would need to scrutinize the course outline.
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Postby King Seven » Sat Jan 05, 2008 11:57 am

I once did a course, early last year I think, created specifically for home-baristas and it was a lot of fun and an unusual challenge as a trainer.

What makes it so enjoyable compared to most barista training (talking in the very general sense) is the high level of interest in all the detail and the obvious pleasure in a great shot that sadly many working baristas don't display. For the group I had the 6 hour day was kind of split in two with dosing technique and brew recipes for different coffees dominating and of course latte art being the fun for the end of the day. As Dan notes above for many home baristas latte art is often a lot closer than they think and it just takes a quick breakdown and readjustment of one or two parts of the technique before people start to pour nice rosettas.

As for pricing - the enthusiastic home barista is a difficult one to price. They want all the same information and skills that a pro barista would want but has no way of profiting from that information. What makes Australia different is a high saturation of trainers/courses offered to the interested consumer which drives prices down. I hope that the pricing for commercially geared training is higher.

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Postby Randii » Sat Jan 05, 2008 11:58 am

I took Heather's one day Home Barista class. In my case it was one on one. It was a full day of training on my own machine at Coffee Klatch Roasting. We compared the differences between the professional equipment and the home equipment. Everything I was taught was tailored to work on my own home machine. Heather stripped away every superfluous thing I was doing and simplified my process. She taught me how to make perfect froth in only two tries - and I had been unable to do it successfully at all on my own. I didn't mind the cost, because I knew I was getting training from one of the very best. The 3 day Barista class is for professional baristas, and therefore is designed to train those who work in a cafe. I have said before, Heather is an exceptional and enthusiastic teacher, and the money was worth it.