Responding to Change: One Year of Online Barista Training

Part one of a two-part story

BY JON SHADEL
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE

Last year, one of the world’s leading coffee schools, the American Barista and Coffee School (ABCS), launched Online Barista Training, their first-ever online coffee course. In part, the launch was ABCS’ natural response to the demands of café owners operating with limited budgets and far removed from major coffee hubs. But even more, the online school indicates the changing nature of barista training in an industry being transformed by evolving consumer preferences.

The visionaries behind ABCS are no strangers to change. Since being founded in 2004 by Bellissimo Coffee Advisors, one of the industry’s foremost consulting companies, the school has witnessed explosive growth in the industry. Along with this growth, cofounders Bruce Milletto, president, and Matt Milletto, vice president, have seen a greater demand for training resources.

Matt Milletto in Water Avenue. Matt is the Director of the American Barista & Coffee School, a world-renowned coffee education institute that now offers online training.
Matt Milletto in Water Avenue Coffee, which he co-owns with his father, Bruce. Matt is the Director of the American Barista & Coffee School, a world-renowned coffee education institute that now offers online training.

œAs educators, we have seen education in our industry go from being nearly nonexistent 20 years ago, to being the buzz word of the industry,  says Matt Milletto. œNow, everyone from coffee roasters, associations, to equipment dealers offer their own educational resources. 

Bellissimo has been at the forefront of specialty coffee training for decades, beginning more than 25 years ago by offering training books and videos. But Milletto has never witnessed the current rate of change. Consumer interest in specialty coffee has been transforming the coffee industry everywhere; and in recent years, ABCS had found that their excellent hands-on classes were just not meeting the demands of the café owners they intended to serve.

One of the education centers at the American Barista & Coffee School, where students try out different equipment, learn how to pour latte art, and myriad other skills they will need as cafe owners.
One of the education centers at the American Barista & Coffee School, where students try out different equipment, learn how to pour latte art, and myriad other skills they will need as cafe owners. But what about those folks who can’t get to the Portland, Ore. based school for classes? Read on.

Aiming to supplement training in the café, the online course schools students on the basics of espresso preparation to roasting fundamentals. But it’s not just for baristas. Café owners benefit from lessons on menu planning and marketing to employee relations and beverage cost analysis.

œWe really wanted to create a comprehensive, yet inexpensive and easy to use training resource for the industry,  Milletto explains. With the Online Barista Training, they have been able to target untapped segments of the educational market. The affordable online lessons meets the needs of café owners with limited budgets, and also those who can’t easily send their baristas to hands-on training courses in major cities.

Screenshot from one of the American Barista & Coffee School's online training courses.
Screenshot from one of the American Barista & Coffee School’s online training courses.

Rural and international markets are some of the most difficult ones to reach for coffee educators; the Online Barista Training has been surprisingly successful in reaching this group of baristas and café owners. œWe have clients from all over the world and the users range from high-end specialty coffee bars in large cities to small rural coffee shops who do not have a lot of resources for ongoing education or training,  Milletto says. And clients everywhere from major Chinese cities to small Argentine villages have been able to benefit from the course.

œIt’s our goal to take an independent approach to help improve quality and make on-going training part of every successful coffee shop,  says Milletto. And in the first year of operation, the reception from café owners seems to indicate that ABCS is on to something good with Online Barista Training. But, as we’ll see in the second part of this series, challenges still remain for online barista education, and ABCS have been taking a number of steps to address these shortcomings.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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Jon Shadel  is a Portland-based writer and lover of fine coffees. He writes for  Oregon Business  and  Oregon Home  magazines. He’s also the founder of  Rusty Bike Media, a storytelling agency helping startups, lifestyle brands and nonprofits engage their target audience. With years of experience as a barista, he loves coffee culture and is often found furiously typing in a cozy cafe.

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