The Big World of Coffee Learning: Barista Schools

We look at two coffee learning outlets and examine whether or not you need to do things in-person to become a master barista.


Cover photo by Marvin Meyer for Unsplash

In our first article about digital coffee education, we discussed the current state of online coffee learning. We know that millions of coffee enthusiasts are learning online how to buy better coffee, acquire good gear, brew coffee better at home, and even improve their latte art skills.

Becoming a coffee professional and starting a coffee business, however, are entirely different stories. Putting reputation and money in play requires expertise, and before the pandemic, it wasn’t so common to find people trusting online training for high-stakes decisions.

Now, as we navigate through our second year fighting the pandemic, the foodservice sector is becoming increasingly more professionalized, using all the resources available—even if that means Zoom coffee-brewing classes.

Online training in coffee has become much more widely acceptable these days. Photo by Samantha Borges for Unsplash.

Can You Study Online To Become a Coffee Professional?

Barista training has evolved substantially over the past 30 years. While the Specialty Coffee Association’s courses remain the most globally recognized, there is growing competition in the learning field.

Online training in general became more available and sensible during the pandemic, and coffee learning is no exception. For instance, the Simonelli Group launched the Coffee Knowledge Hub in late March 2021. Along with newcomers, the American Barista & Coffee School launched its online offer in 2015, and is still among the most regarded both in the U.S. and internationally.

The Coffee Knowledge Hub has a generous set of offerings, including business, technical, and scientific training courses specialized in coffee. To do so, it has partnered with companies, research centers, the Specialty Coffee Association, and the Coffee Quality Institute.

Some roles in coffee require obtaining a certification from the Specialty Coffee Association or the Coffee Quality Institute in many countries. This is most likely for the quality assessment, roasting, and green coffee buying roles. As premium niche coffee roasters and coffee shops grow, however, the barista role becomes more demanding.

Since a few years ago, the barista role has become the first step in pursuing a professional coffee career. Online training can thus be instrumental for developing crucial skills to advance without depending exclusively on employers’ training resources and knowledge.

Starting a Coffee Business: Learning Entrepreneurship Skills Online

In the past couple of years, dozens of coffee businesses have launched and expanded their operations. To do so, it’s crucial to learn more than professional skills, but to develop business acumen, managerial knowledge, and leadership skills.

For instance, opening a coffee shop requires developing the business concept and considering branding, budget, and funding.

Matt Milletto, Bellissimo Coffee Advisors CEO, says that running a coffee business takes building partnerships and leveraging its community. So, from defining the business concept to organizing effective teams and engaging customers daily, a successful business needs hard work and expertise to be successful—something that may require more than a simple online course.

Although online programs may be a good first step, direct experience is also extremely helpful. Photo by Rizky Subagja for Unsplash.

Is It Worth Paying for Online Training?

Course credentials alone might not be as appealing as top certifications from the above mentioned sources, but learning crucial skills, advanced vocabulary, and procedures is still essential. From an international perspective, many traditional companies wouldn’t take certification seriously without relevant working experience. Still, as competition is getting stiffer, online training can prove to be a starting advantage.

When starting a coffee business, paying for online training can work pretty well. Although many programs offer sound content, however, it’s crucial to assess if education providers offer support after finishing the program, and for how long, so that you’re more confident and can get answers when needed.


Yker Valerio (he/him) is a freelance content creator. After more than 10 years of working as a management consultant, he started the blog Bon Vivant Caffè to share his passion for specialty coffee.

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Barista Magazine is the leading trade magazine in the world for the professional coffee community.