Going to Coffee School
If you’re looking to make the leap from home roaster to professional, it may be worth going back to school. Coffee roasting school, that is!
There are many coffee roasting classes you can take across the United States, and across the world, that will help you learn some of in-depth science behind making coffee taste great.
If you’re not looking to go professional, these classes also offer a great way to meet other coffee fanatics like yourself. There’s no better way to sharpen your skills and learn a boatload more about what you love than to spend a few days surrounded by like-minded individuals.
And if you are looking to become a coffee professional, completing many of these courses, including the online Boot Coffee Campus, will earn you a certificate that will lend you credibility when going job-hunting.
There are several types of classes, too, beside just roasting. All of these classes will make you a better roaster, and thus more capable of impressing all of your friends and family. Because we all know that’s what home roasting is all about.
Coffee Courses Online
These courses are paid, but the value you get is excellent. Willem Boot is well known among caffeine fanatics as he’s been working as a certified Q-grader for over 25 years.
In these online courses, Boot teamed up with another monumental force in the coffee world, Valarian Hrala to help give young roasters the skills they need to land jobs, roast better coffee, or start their own roastery.
I took two of these classes throughout my career as a roaster: the first was what helped me get my job originally. And I asked my employer to sign me up for another when I started working on importing coffee from overseas. When I explained how helpful the first was, they didn’t hesitate to split the cost of the second course with me.
Coffee Courses offers several modules:
You can take these one at a time or sign up for a membership and knock them all out. Their course certificates are widely respected in the coffee community, so if you choose to go through several courses for their Coffee PRO Certification, you’ll have all the skills you need to start your own roastery, get a job as a roaster (or green coffee buyer), or just roast the best darn bean you’ve ever tasted.
By far the most established and respected courses for learning the craft of coffee are hosted by the Specialty Coffee Association.
The SCA came together as a way of trying to standardize good coffee and set some general guidelines for trading ethics and verbiage. It’s a pretty amazing organization: its members being just about all of the best commercial coffee roasters across the nation and the world.
Taking a course with the SCA will be a huge bonus if you’re ever trying look toward professional roasting, and courses are a really good idea if you’re thinking about opening up your own roastery.
I’d been roasting for five years at home, and even more time professionally before I took any classes, and despite all I learned from experience, these classes totally changed the way I roast.
The SCA offers classes in 6 different areas, and with 3 tiers.
- Introduction to coffee
- Barista Skills
- Brewing Skills
- Green Coffee
- Roasting Skills
- Sensory Skills
Which classes to take?
The most important classes for the home roaster are the roasting and sensory classes.
You might think that the green coffee class would be important, but that’s geared much more for the commercial coffee importer and distributors. It’s amazing information, but if you use a well-respected site to purchase your coffee, the buyer likely already knows his or her stuff.
The SCA Coffee Roasting Course
As per the SCA website, the roasting class covers the following:
“Learn about the roasting process, including roast cycle, roast levels, identifying defects, the physical changes that beans undergo during the roasting process, as well as workspace management and lean production.”SCA Coffee Skills Program Website
Again, some of these skills don’t apply to the home roaster, but knowing how roasters deal with workspace management is absolutely critical if you’re looking to start your own roastery. Coffee is a heavy job. If you’re not optimizing, you risk injuring your back.
In this class, you learn all about controlling things like rate of rise and the differences in roasting dense vs. soft beans. All of this information will undoubtedly make you a better home roaster.
Plus, if you’re thinking about going pro, these classes offer the chance to roast on a nice, fancy commercial roaster. If you’re used to pumping out a quarter-pound of coffee at a time, you’ll be amazed at the sheer fact that you can roast five pounds at a time.
Sensory Skills Course
I actually think that the Sensory Skills course is more important than the coffee roasting class. Having an instructor around for this course is incredibly helpful. While you can learn a ton about roasting online, it’s very difficult to truly grasp the standardized sensory bits from behind a computer screen.
The SCA defines this class as such:
“Learn about the essentials of sensory evaluation in a practical and interactive manner. Sensory Skills investigates the way we perceive what we taste, how to evaluate coffee’s natural characteristics, and implementing this knowledge in business.”SCA Coffee Skills Program Website
It’s important that you have an instructor to tell you, this cup has an overfermented defect in it. That way, you can begin to distinguish the subtle differences. These classes are set up in such a manner that is really hard to reproduce for a home roaster.
Plus, after the sensory skills course, you won’t be one of those fools who takes a sip of coffee and says, oh, wow, I can profusely taste the lemon-bark.
The flavor wheel and those taste descriptors refer to specific chemical compounds. The sensory skills course teaches you how to identify the effect those chemical compounds have on your tongue. Your friends and family might still think you sound like a tool, but you’ll have science behind you.
Other SCA Coffee Classes
The barista and brewing classes are supposedly fun, too. I would recommend signing up for some if you are opening a third-wave cafe and want some serious training on making coffee. For the home roaster, it’s definitely enough to do a quick search on the internet for how to brew coffee– maybe watch a video or two– and then make your morning cup.
Side-note, I will say that the art of pulling espresso is bewildering. I had drank maybe five or six shots of espresso in my life before becoming a professional coffee roaster. Where I work, we sell hundreds and hundreds of pounds of espresso per day. When reformulating our recipe, I had to get into espresso in a way I never had before, and to learn if I was making the right changes, I had to learn how to make espresso correctly. It was really fun, and now I feel like I need a $8,000 espresso machine for my kitchen.
Counter Culture Training
Counter Culture also offers a wide variety of classes, and they’re everywhere.
In addition to their classes, Counter Culture runs community cuppings where thirty or so people show up and do a massive cupping. It’s a great, free way to learn the basics of cupping for sensory analysis. They have an incredibly knowledgeable staff and they’re very friendly. If you live in, or near, any of the following cities, I recommend visiting one of their training centers, either for classes or for the aforementioned free cupping experience:
- Asheville, NC
- Atlanta, GA
- San Francisco, CA
- Boston, MA
- Charleston, SC
- Chicago, IL
- Durham, NC (Counter Culture HQ)
- Los Angeles, CA
- New York, NY
- Philadelphia, PA
- Seattle, WA
- Washington D.C.
They’re also about to add in training centers in Dallas and Miami. They’re taking over the globe, and the globe shall be delicious and filled with coffee-dorks.
Texas Coffee School
Texas Coffee School offers a few classes that could be beneficial to the home roaster. Namely, the cupping course, which is beneficial in many of the same ways the SCA sensory skills course is.
They also offer a three day coffee business class, which might be worth looking into if you’re thinking about selling some of that delicious coffee you roast.
Bellisimo Coffee Advisors
Bellisimo Coffee Advisors offers a workshop on all the basics of coffee roasting. They’re based in Portland, so if you’re from the area, or if you’re looking to do an intense, coffee-fueled vacation to one of the best coffee towns in the US, you should check them out.
Their roasting fundamentals course will help guide you through the differences in origins, varietals, roasting science, and will give you experience on a commercial roaster.
Plus, as I mentioned earlier, you’ll be in Portland, where even just going from shop to shop grabbing a cup here and a shot there will teach you an incredible amount about making better coffee.
There are many other courses out there, too, and there’s likely one nearby. These classes are great ways to meet new people, and can be indispensable if you’re looking to start your own business. They are also a nice resume booster if you’re looking to become a roaster with an already established company.
Coffee roasting classes give you the chance to be serious and studious about something fundamentally fun and enjoyable.
Check out some of the above courses or look into local classes. The adventure will leave you knowing more than you ever thought you’d need to and will boost your home roast credibility.
Get ready to impress everyone around you, constantly.
How do you learn to roast coffee?
To learn coffee roasting, you can take a course through either an SCA sponsored school, or you can check the resource pages of several green coffee suppliers.
Is there money in roasting coffee?
Yes, absolutely. But it takes a certain scale. Many roasters get their start trying to reduce costs in their already operating cafe. It’s always better to get a larger roaster than you currently need as an extra 50-100 pounds of coffee a day can make a huge difference on your bottom-line.
What is a coffee cupping class?
Coffee cupping classes are designed to teach students how to discern delicate flavors or off-notes in different coffee samples. Coffee-cupping is important for roasters so they can determine the quality of samples before purchasing.