Training for Common Goals

Every day the coffee trainers at Stockton Graham & Co. are working with our wholesale and distributor customers. They are training for common goals, which means providing the knowledge and expertise required to deliver an outstanding coffee experience with every cup.

And that means that our coffee trainers are very busy people. They are the team our wholesale and distributor customers count on to teach café managers, baristas and employees the essentials of coffee and espresso.

While converting coffee enthusiasts to budding coffee professionals in six hours flat is rewarding, it’s also a very big task. Interest from large multi-unit foodservice organizations now means they’re taking our Coffee College 101 course on the road too.

Between reviewing the anatomy of coffee fruit (skin, pulp, parchment, seed) and practicing proper milk steaming (and why a latte is different from a cappuccino) – we seldom have time to talk about WHY coffee training is important anyway.

But it is very important. Here’s why.

Quality & Service

Primary to any coffee business is the reality that there are literally millions of places that serve coffee, and every day consumers make a choice. Do they have time in the morning to park the car and walk into a coffee shop for a latte? Are they driving through for a 32oz cup of brew? Did they put a pod in their home brewer, or did they take the time to grind their own beans for a French Press?

With so many choices, the coffee business that provides the best quality product and service is sure to win. In a recent survey of out-of-house coffee drinkers, the most important consideration when choosing a place to buy their coffee beverages was consistent service or quality (86%).

But what does that mean?

When we asked coffee shop patrons to break it down for us, a few words kept coming to the top: “knowledge,” “friendliness,” “confidence,” “competency” and “consistency.”

When it comes right down to it, consumers will bypass places that sell inexpensive or speedy coffee in favor of the comfort of knowing that their favorite coffee beverage will be prepared properly and served with a smile.

In short, what’s best for the consumer is best for the business. The most successful coffee businesses know that training is the key to achieving these common goals.

Training for Common Goals

Whatever level of service your business provides — from wholesale distribution to serving prepared beverages — Stockton Graham & Co. believes all coffee professionals should be aware of these fundamentals:

  1. The path of coffee from seed to cup
  2. Taste characteristics of different coffee and roast levels
  3. The seven essentials of coffee brewing
  4. How to pull an espresso shot and steam milk
  5. Basic food safety, cleaning and maintenance

With the guidance of a professional coffee trainer, these five essential coffee topics are best introduced and explored in a hands-on lab setting. In this type of setting, conventional book training is reinforced by hands-on practice in basic coffee and espresso skills. The biggest benefit of this dual-approach is the opportunity for repeated practice with expert guidance. It doesn’t matter how much natural talent a participant has, they can still improve in a skill by practicing.

The common goal, of course, is that every training participant is “on the same page” when they return to the business, confident in their understanding of the skills learned in training. This knowledge and confidence will translate into the friendliness, consistency and service quality that will drive repeat business and long-term coffee profits.

Training for common goals is important. To explore coffee training options for your business, please call our Authorized Specialty Coffee Association Trainer, Brady Butler, at 800 835 5943 or email us at

Roaster’s Views on the Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel

Coffee Taster's Flavor Wheel Stockton Graham & Co. Roasted CoffeeIn January, for the first time in 21 years, the original Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel published by the Specialty Coffee Association of America was updated and refined. The new flavor wheel is a groundbreaking tool that is already shifting the way coffee lovers think and talk about coffee.

“The new Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel is a great collaborative tool,” explained Stockton Graham & Co. and Dilworth Coffee roastmaster Brandon Riggs. “Although the original Flavor Wheel was a breakthrough, this new wheel is more approachable to the general public because it describes flavors in a way that is more common and accessible to everyday coffee drinkers.”

For example, Brandon notes that the old flavor wheel identified Nippy and Piquant as subgroups in the Sweet flavor group. The new flavor wheel, instead, uses more common words like Honey, Maple Syrup and Molasses. Brandon points out that industry veterans and coffee patrons alike can more easily recognize the tastes of honey or molasses than nippy or piquant.

In addition to more common language, the new flavor wheel introduced gradients in the outer flavor groupings to accommodate more subtlety of tastes. For example, with the addition of gradients, the flavor of blueberry can range from sugary jam-like blueberry to tangy freshly-picked-off-the-bush blueberry.

“By adding gradients to the flavor group, it provides more possibilities in taste and more ways to explore flavor in coffee,” Brandon said.

New Flavor Wheel Facilitates Collaboration

As an instructor of Stockton Graham & Co.’s Coffee College, Brandon also appreciates that the more accessible flavor wheel makes it easier to communicate about coffee.Improve Customer Service At Your Store

“It facilitates communication at the cupping table, whether the cupping is an internal one among roasters or whether roasters come together at a cupping table with customers to discuss coffee,” Brandon said. “The new Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel helps us talk to our customers and others who enjoy coffee about their flavor experience.”

Here at Stockton Graham & Co., the iconic Flavor Wheel is a key discussion tool we use during our internal cupping sessions, as well as when we talk to customers about coffee.

“We’ve spent a few weeks working with the new flavor wheel at our Raleigh coffee roasting facility, and we are speaking with customers about using it to guide the way they talk about coffee,” said Brandon said. “Our customers are finding the wheel to be a very helpful tool, whether they are thinking about adding a new coffee or simply talking to their patrons about the coffees they already serve.”

New Flavor Wheel Improves Training Experience

Coffee College 2016 from Stockton Graham & Co.At Stockton Graham & Co. we have begun incorporating the new tasting wheel into our regular internal training sessions, as we grow the expertise of our junior roasters and customer service teams. We will also begin incorporating it into our monthly Coffee College program designed for coffee customers and operators.

“This new wheel is an opportunity to unite all around the cupping table, and to facilitate learning,” Brandon said. “Whether you are a coffee industry expert or you have never cupped before, the new Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel is a valuable contribution to any coffee tasting experience.”

Click here for a copy of the new Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel and call a customer care associate at 800 835 5943 to explore how you can use the flavor wheel in your store.

Stockton Graham & Co. Re-Launches Barista Certification

Basic Barista CertificationSome operators believe the only specialized training that a barista needs is how to operate an espresso machine. But think about it: Is proper operation of an oven the only specialized training a baker needs? Of course not. Excellent baristas, like excellent bakers, need to know the fundamentals of the ingredients they work with, how to measure and combine ingredients, as well as preparation and serving techniques for an optimal product.

To help operators provide the training their baristas need to deliver consistently superior beverages and great customer service, Stockton Graham & Co. recently updated our Barista Certification Program. The three-day course conducted at our Raleigh, NC facility focuses on espresso education and preparation of espresso-based beverages.

2015_Final_Coffee and Espresso BasicsThe course begins with Coffee College 101. Certified baristas are trained in the history of coffee, coffee processing and taste characteristics. They learn Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) standards for espresso extraction and milk texturizing, as well as best practices for drip or airpot coffee.

Lead by our roastmaster Brandon Riggs and our SCAA-certified barista Alex Jeans, the Barista Certification Program includes classroom training, interactive presentations, film, hands-on training, written tests and practical performance evaluations. Just like in the SCAA barista training programs, participants are required to demonstrate proficiency in pulling a perfect espresso shot and preparing several espresso-based drinks for a panel of judges.

As part of the program, our head roaster Brad Kirby and business development teammate Brady Butler run a session on equipment cleaning and maintenance. Both are factory-trained equipment technicians for makers like Nuova Simonelli, La Marzocco, Franke, Astoria, Rancillo, Fetco and Bunnomatic. Brady also serves as Chair of the Brewing Pathway Committee for the SCAA.

2015_Basic Certification Study Guide_071515-1Our Director of Business Development for the Northeast Region, Debra Dolan, provides one-on-one consultations on menu planning, customer service and maintaining quality standards. The goal is to ensure that Certified Baristas are fully equipped to deliver an enhanced coffee experience to customers.

“Barista certification is important because it instills a solid basis of coffee knowledge in trainees as well as confidence,” said instructor Alex Jeans. “Certified baristas should leave confident that they are competent to tackle any beverage that comes across their bar. This confidence will in turn lead to consistently great drinks and customer service.”

First District Barista Training

Michah Behan of First District Coffee practices texturizing milk at Stockton Graham & Co. Basic Barista Training in Raleigh.

First District Coffee Co. Completes Barista Certification

Micah and Elizabeth Behan, owners and operators of First District Coffee Co., were the first students to participate in our updated Barista Certification Program in July. First District, located in Fairview, Tennessee, is located in a renovated building that used to be a Farm Depot. Scheduled to open in the Fall of 2015, the Behans plan to serve espresso, tea, sandwiches, pastries and other light snacks. The building will also include a full catering kitchen and can be rented for group events such as wedding receptions or birthday parties.

The Behan’s two teenage children, Adonijah and Teagen, were also certified, as they will be working behind the coffee bar as business takes off.

Elizabeth Behan said that the entire family enjoyed the certification program. “There was lots of good info,” she said.

“The team was fully engaged, and we felt well educated and supported,” said Elizabeth Behan. ”We really feel much more prepared for where we are headed as a business.”

Barista Certification Training at Stockton Graham & Co.

Our resident barista Alex Jeans teaches Basic Barista Certification course participant Adonijah Behan about preparing espresso.

Skill, Practice and Understanding

Barista training is about skill, practice and understanding of preparation techniques. But it is also important for a barista to be conversant in the origins and processing of coffee. That’s because part of the barista’s job is educating customers on the differences between high-quality, craft-roasted coffee and mass-market quality coffee and helping them become smart consumers of quality coffee.

“The journey that the bean takes from seed to cup—that is, where the coffee grows, how the seed is removed from the fruit, how the coffee is roasted and how it is prepared—makes a profound difference in overall quality,” said instructor Brandon Riggs. “A really good barista will have the knowledge to translate the hard work that everyone else in the value chain contributes to an enjoyable and high-quality cup.”

Stockton Graham & Co. offers a range of training courses in addition to Barista Certification. Our Coffee & Espresso Basics, or Coffee College 101 is a fundamental course designed for any coffee business operator or team member. Brewing Fundamentals is our foundational class for coffee brewing and extraction. We also offer specialized courses on equipment cleaning and maintenance, as well as blending and cupping coffee.

For more information on our training courses, contact a Customer Care Associate at 800 835 5943.