Adventures of a Coffee Trainer by Emma Haines

Adventures of a Coffee Trainer by Emma Haines

During my training sessions, I always ensure we make space for an ‘open forum’ style discussion. Something that has proved popular and interesting and always helps to reduce that division between students from a specialty background and those from commercial.

One question I often hear, is “how do we increase speed and maintain quality?’ and this is where open discussion proves very fruitful.

I’m lucky that many of my training sessions will have a mix of people from different work environments. There will be those that work in super busy high street (sometimes chain) stores where speed is of the essence and those that work in smaller independents, who maintain that quality rather than quantity is key.

So, during our ‘open forum’ style discussions, when this question pops-up, we look for inspiration across the board and nearly always narrow it down to the following:

Layout is Crucial: Ensure your baristas have the most positive workflow. A simple thing such as facing the espresso machine towards the customer to avoid having your back to them during service can result in faster, more positive interactions. Where you position the grinder (close to ordering) and ensuring the milk fridge is located under the machine, will all help reduce the number of steps a barista has to take in order to produce that drink, not to mention the reduction in the risk of RSI or similar work related issues.

Get the Right Kit: An on-demand grinder and a volumetric espresso machine can speed up service whilst maintaining consistency. However, it is vital to ensure that you regularly dial in, as things such as humidity and heat of grinder burrs can affect extraction throughout service. I always suggest getting the scales out in the morning, pre-lunch rush, post lunch rush etc, even on a busy site. If you keep your eye on grind size, you’ll only need small tweaks and keeping on top of your perfect shot will be easy!

Train Your Staff: I know this seems obvious, coming from a trainer, but confident staff will fly through a busy service. They’ll also have a greater understanding of potential pitfalls and how to avoid them. Plus, practice on working together, splitting roles such as ‘espresso barista’ and ‘milk barista’ should leave them brimming with ideas on how to improve the final cup quality and the overall customer experience.

Embrace the Batch Brew: Gone are the days of nasty, weak filter coffee (well, we’re trying). There’s simply no excuse for a poor quality batch brew coffee anymore. With some simple guidance, you can halve that morning queue, offering customers a true ‘grab and go’ option, that tastes incredible. If you sit and watch the morning rush in a site that has a ‘filter coffee’ offering, you’ll see people head in, grab their coffee, pay and leave the shop at lightening speed. In fact, morning commuters barely miss a stride and manage to add in a delicious filter on their route to work as part of the morning ritual, without getting stressed in a queue behind those wanting flat whites, warmed croissants and bacon baps!

Sit and Watch: It sounds silly, but it’s true. One of the first things I do if consulting on a café project, is sit and observe the current flow. Does something hold them up? Are tables getting cleared quickly enough? Can customers stand somewhere out of the way whilst waiting for their drink? If you take some time to put yourself into the customers perspective, you may find you learn a thing or two. There may also be simple steps that can reduce the time it takes to do something. Is the cleaning spray stored with the cloths in an easy to grab location? Can we quickly and efficiently sweep the floor under the table?

Overall, I do know that we can all learn from each other and should actively encourage staff to think outside of the box and trial new things. An increase in quality, plus an increase in sales, is perfectly achievable. You just have to plan to succeed. 


  • Emma has worked in hospitality and catering training for the last 10 years. For the last five years, she has focused on coffee training, in particular specialty coffee training, and how to incorporate specialty elements into commercial environments. She works all over Europe and beyond, and is a resident trainer at London School of Coffee.

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