• Elon Bar-Lev

Top 6 tips for designing an effective online barista program

Updated: Aug 31, 2021

As most coffee professionals around the world struggle with the new restrictions introduced to us due to Covid-19, some have found ingenious ways to overcome them. Our decorated barista champion, Daria Pinchuk, who has previously won the Belarus Barista Champion title twice (2018 & 2019) in addition to her latest achievement of Minsk Brewers Cup champion in 2021 just this past June, has joined us to share her experiences during these difficult times as a barista instructor. Below is a list of 6 top tips for any coffee professional thinking about creating their own online barista program.

Online courses are becoming the new norm

1. Plan Ahead

It’s evident that online teaching might have more restrictions than face to face teaching, however planning ahead can help overcome these challenges.

When it comes to the difference in equipment a student and an instructor have, this can be easily solved by including the equipment as part of the course content. When purchasing the online content, a student receives access to the course content in addition to a set of equipment provided by the course provider. This bundle can include the basic gear needed to participate in the course, including coffee beans as well.

Send out coffee grind examples. This method can minimize the difference in coffee grind size when the student tries to grind the coffee themselves at home. A sample grind may provide a great example and a template of what the student should strive for when grinding themselves.

Suggest using a smart coffee scale at home. A smart coffee sale can enable a much more efficient learning process and reduce the gap between the student’s and the instructor’s taste in a cup. As smart scales can allow for data sharing and brew tracking, a student could brew at home and later share their brew print with the instructor. This can give an insightful presentation of flow rate, brew time and brew weight to the instructor, who could then follow up with tips and suggestions to improve the student’s brewing method.

2. Set Learning Expectations

As part of your planning process, make sure your students are aware of the benefits your course will give them. The world of coffee is vast and contains lots of different topics to learn about. Whether it’s farming coffee plants to extracting espresso, coffee has a lot to offer to someone who is interested in learning about it.

The tastes and aromas chart of coffee - only one part of coffee studies

Having mentioned the vast scale of coffee, as an instructor it’s important to narrow down your student’s expectations of what they will learn from your course. It’s nearly impossible to learn everything there is to know about coffee in a simple online course. Coffee professionals often have years of experience under their belts before they call themselves “professionals”. Therefore, when designing online courses, an instructor can choose what course to teach based on their personal skills. This will allow the student to select the best suitable course for them, and hopefully fulfill their learning expectations.

3. Design a Balanced Curriculum

When asked about her course curriculum, Daria explained how she constructed her courses for an offline format in the form of 3 steps:

First, it’s important to understand taste. Especially in coffee, where each coffee farmer and roaster have different techniques and therefore have small nuances that differ from cup to cup. To calibrate the taste among her students, to make sure everyone is at the same starting point, Daria starts off with a brief description of coffee flavors and what the students might expect from the tasting, including sweetness to bitterness levels, acidity and sourness levels and even fruity notes. After the brief theoretical explanation, the class starts a Cupping session, during which Daria brews different coffees in cups for the students to taste the differences, without any technical brewing technique.

Second, after the cupping session follows an extended theory session. During this part Daria introduces and goes into more depth about the world of coffee to the students, discussing origins, roasting techniques, brewing methods and more. This theory section allows the students to understand how coffee is different, and why it tastes different when using particular techniques. Extraction times and bloom intervals are things the average coffee drinker isn’t really familiar with.

Third, comes the final section which includes technique. In this section Daria teaches the students how to brew coffee by using different techniques. Daria personally prefers the manual brewing method, however she also teaches espresso extraction, latte art and more advanced theory. This is the crucial part, where all the previous knowledge comes into play, from grind sizes, brewing time and flow rate.

Daria mentioned that her courses are formed with a 50:50 ratio in mind when balancing theory and technical skills. Becoming a barista requires more than these 2 factors, however these are the essentials.

4. Communicate Equipment List

As baristas need more tools whe