Barista training with Graham Hepburn


With Graham Hepburn 

I’m Graham Hepburn, Head of Coffee for 200 Degrees Coffee and have worked in the industry on and off for around 14 years. I spent many years as a barista, then 4 years as a Head Barista before stepping in to my current role in 2018.

I have always been passionate about training and coaching people as the coffee world can be overwhelming at times. The main thing I have learned is that the better trained your team are, the easier everyone’s life becomes!


New team? It's even more important. 

A common mistake is opening your doors and hoping for a team to ‘pick it up’ as they go. First impressions can be brutal to a coffee business. Have the team trained and practiced well in advance of opening to make sure your first customers are ones you still see 4 years later. Most importantly, get the basics right. It’s all good and well having barista’s that can pour triple swans and inverted tulips, but if they can’t dial in a recipe for the espresso it becomes meaningless.


I always start less experienced team members pulling shots.

Learning all there is to learn about the coffee itself and how it works. The importance of proper tamping and distribution and how this affects extraction and flavour. Once they have mastered the core principles they can move on to milk steaming and latte art.


Milk is a big area where a lot of places can get it wrong.

Steaming milk to the right temperature with the perfect amount of texture can be tricky for some to begin with. Water with a drop of washing up liquid can be a great exercise for novices to practice getting the perfect amount of microfoam but doesn’t allow for pouring techniques.


Top tips

When they are ready to practice some latte art, use cheap cocoa powder or loose coffee grounds in the cup as espresso shots quickly ramp up the cost of training. And start with basics; hearts and tulips can still look very good when done well.


Simple and clean

When latte art training, bear in mind that it doesn’t make the drink taste any better! I would rather have a simple design that is executed well and clean, than a sloppy attempt at some ridiculousness you can witness on Instagram. Latte art is a skill that improves over time with practice and patience. Customers in general will appreciate this as well. Again, start with the basics and do those well before moving on to more challenging designs.


Good training gives good job satisfaction

Not only does it give the trainer/manager a sense of pride seeing someone progress their skill set, but the individual feels valued someone is taking the time and effort to further them and will provide loyalty in return.


Last thought

Last thing to remember; there is always more! You are never finished training or being trained. The coffee world evolves and changes constantly so the need to adapt is one of the strongest skills any barista can possess.

Learn more about Graham's classes;