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Pursuing Perfection: Barista Training at Kaldi's Coffee

You may know Kaldi's Coffee just as much for the familiar barista behind the counter as our signature Cafe Kaldi blend. After all, it wouldn’t be a Kaldi’s Coffee cafe experience without the barista’s warm greeting and dedicated crafting of your favorite espresso beverages. 

Just like the effort that goes into our sourcing and roasting only the best specialty coffee, our barista training is a rigorous program designed to cultivate only the best baristas, for they are a cornerstone of Kaldi’s Coffee’s mission: chasing quality and serving people.

Behind at the Bar at our Clayton Coffee Shop, the Crescent in St. Louis, MO

Here, we’ll shine a light on the training that all Kaldi’s Coffee baristas go through in order to best serve our coffee and our guests. By the end, we think you’ll not only better appreciate just what goes into the delicious espresso that carries you through the day, but you’ll also have some new ideas on how you can make better coffee at home!

SPECIALTY COFFEE, SPECIALTY TRAINING 

Our team of baristas goes through a tried-and-true training program to develop an extensive technical skill set and deep knowledge of coffee origins and extraction (extraction is the the art and science of understanding water’s ability to take the tiny, tasty particles out of the ground coffee bean). 

In order to become a certified barista at Kaldi’s Coffee, a trainee must be able to bring together this knowledge of coffee’s creation, and their skill at manipulating the elements of grind, temperature, and time, with their passion for great coffee, guest service, attention to detail, and communication. Together, these skills are what it takes to bring you a truly excellent drink to meet your unique tastes, day in and day out, and to fulfill our mission of creating a memorable coffee experience. 

...a trainee must be able to bring together... knowledge of coffee’s creation, and their skill at manipulating the elements of grind, temperature, and time, with their passion for great coffee, guest service, attention to detail, and communication.

We’re confident in our specialty coffees not just because of our excellent sourcing and roasting, but because of our fantastic baristas who ensure the final, perfect transformation of that coffee into the lattes, mochas, and cappuccinos that you have come to love. Our training program has been honed to create baristas up to the task. 

SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCK(BOXES)

The Kaldi’s Coffee barista training program is broken down into two sections: Apprentice Barista training, and Certified Barista training. The overall training is a long road, but Kaldi’s Coffee is proud to have a passionate team of certified baristas, and many more who are eager to learn the ropes as well. 

An apprentice barista learns basic techniques to make espresso and filter coffee, as well as touching upon the chemistry of these processes on a deeper level. An apprentice also starts their never-ending journey of learning about the sourcing and classification of specialty coffee, and the history of this exceptional fruit. This not only deepens the barista’s understanding for their technique, but better prepares them to talk to you about where your specialty coffee comes from, why it’s unique, and how to better appreciate its nuances of flavor and body.

[Our training] not only deepens the barista’s understanding for their technique, but better prepares them to talk to you about where your specialty coffee comes from, why it’s unique, and how to better appreciate its nuances of flavor and body.

For pour overs--a diverse suite of specialty coffee brewing methods we’re proud to offer in all of our cafes--we start with the essentials: how your filter (paper or metal) changes the flavor in your cup, and how much coffee and water should one use to brew. An apprentice barista spends much of their training acquiring and perfecting these skills, learning the ins and outs of pouring, agitation, and dialing in different varieties from different origins to ensure you're always getting the coffee the best it can be.

From hand-brewing, we move on to the ever difficult process of making espresso. Pulling a shot of espresso, and building a beverage around that shot, requires a complex set of skills. These can be difficult to master because the coffee is so concentrated that the slightest variation in technique or process will change the flavor of the final cup. The focus here is on simply mastering the basic techniques of making espresso, such as changing the grind when necessary, and the proper form and pressure when tamping--the deceptively simple-looking act of pressing the espresso grounds down before brewing. Espresso isn’t about grand gestures like throwing a pizza dough, or even the acrobatics of cocktail mixing, but about incredibly small, precise, calculated movements, working with very small but powerful doses of ground coffee and especially hot, pressurized steam.

Espresso isn’t about grand gestures like throwing a pizza dough, or even the acrobatics of cocktail mixing, but about incredibly small, precise, calculated movements

Shot of Espresso Coffee Being Made
GO BIG OR GO FOAM

In order to serve as a fully-qualified, or certified barista in our cafes, one learns even more about the chemistry of coffee extraction, as well as mastering the science of milk steaming: an essential part of espresso beverages.

Milk steaming is all about achieving that silky, rich, and oh-so-good microfoam that sits on top of almost every latte, cappuccino, mocha or seasonal beverage we offer. Not only does a barista learn to create this delicate microfoam, they will also learn to manipulate different temperatures and foam depths depending on the type of drink a guest would like.

Foamed Milk Being Put into an Espresso Coffee Beverage

Now more than ever, there is a wealth of options available to guests for their milk of choice, from several varieties of cow’s milk, to numerous plant-based alternatives, all with different tastes, textures, and thermal reactions. A skilled barista needs to know all of this information, stay up to date on new milks, and be prepared to adjust their methodology to suit a customer’s specific needs at any time. It takes a lot of patience, practice, and the utmost passion for their craft.

Once Kaldi’s baristas have mastered consistently achieving the right temperature and consistency of microfoam the next step is latte art. Latte art is not at all indicative of the quality of your latte or cappuccino but it absolutely enhances the overall presentation and experience.

Latte Art Picture from Barista Training at Kaldi's Coffee

Latte Art with an Espresso Beverage from Kaldi's Coffee Barista Training

Finally, a Certified Barista will develop the sensory and technical expertise to adjust the details of their espresso making as needed. As a coffee ages, even by a few days, its optimal espresso method can change. A Kaldi’s Coffee barista has to be passionate, attentive, and adaptive, able to tease out the ideal espresso from a coffee throughout its shelf life. 

A Kaldi’s Coffee barista has to be passionate, attentive, and adaptive, able to tease out the ideal espresso from a coffee throughout its shelf life. 

BEYOND THE COUNTER

Baristas at Kaldi’s Coffee compete annually in World Barista Championship events, earning accolades and building strong industry relationships in the specialty coffee world, and even in our sister-industry of specialty bartending and cocktail crafting. And that camaraderie reflects the Kaldi’s Coffee philosophy: specialty coffee is a quality product, like a top-shelf liquor or a fine wine, and requires the best production methods and guest service to fully create the experience in which it is best highlighted.

Kaldi’s Coffee also takes pride in offering in-depth barista training to our wholesale customers, along with specialty coffee, espresso and coffee equipment, and allied coffee shop products. A barista trained by Kaldi’s Coffee can be confident they’ll learn the very best pour-over techniques and espresso mastery, along with an astonishing depth of coffee origins knowledge to better deliver that top-shelf, quality experience.

Kaldi's Coffee Barista Making a Pour Over Coffee In A Coffee Shop

EQUAL PARTS PASSION AND HUMILITY

When you want a freshly made espresso beverage, whether it’s the perfect cappuccino or latte, or that sinfully chocolate-kissed mocha, Kaldi’s Coffee’s baristas can take care of you. When you want an Americano or a macchiato, and want to know and understand the coffee in them, our baristas are there to guide and serve you.

In short, a barista is the bridge from you to our roasters, and on back to our producer-partners, with pathways through all of our Core Values. We wouldn’t be the company we are today without our baristas, and their passion and hard work. They are your friendly guide on your journey to better specialty coffee: passionate, patient, understanding, knowledgeable, and welcoming. They take a very technical thing and make it approachable - and delicious - to anyone.

To accomplish this task, we’ve made our time-tested barista training centered around our core values, especially passion, continual improvement, and humility. And it is humility that ultimately drives our interaction with you, the guest, so that you can have the best specialty coffee experience possible.

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