Food Service & Agriculture, Higher Education, and Lakeshore

Barista school has a pleasing blend

Coffeehouse’s classes cover technical, training and ownership matters.

April 25, 2014
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The Midwest Barista School, housed in JP’s Coffee and Espresso, draws clients from throughout the country and around the world. Photo by Rachel Weick

(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Using the success of its coffeehouse, a lakeshore-based barista school is using business knowledge and experience to train future coffee shop business owners.

JP’s Coffee & Espresso bar, a coffeehouse in downtown Holland, has served the West Michigan community for more than 20 years, with signature espresso drinks, whole bean coffees and loose-leaf tea.

Founded in 1993, JP’s Coffee & Espresso expanded its services in 2007 with the opening of the Midwest Barista School, which provides comprehensive training for individuals interesting in opening a coffee shop.

Sherry White, operations manager at JP’s Coffee & Espresso, said the decision to start a training program was a result of meeting the demand for consulting work by owner Jack Groot, and also to use the large space at the coffeehouse more effectively.

“He could save people money by actually having them come here (to train),” said White.

Converting extra space in the downtown Holland facility into a training bar, the Midwest Barista School’s classes take place within JP’s Coffee & Espresso shop. According to White, having the school housed in an operating coffeehouse appeals to people, since they are able to see techniques and practices implemented in the context of the real world.

“We bring people in usually 10 months out of the year to learn what we do because we do it every day of the week, and we can teach you what we’ve learned,” said White.

MBS offers complete training in barista techniques and business financing, as well as classes in espresso and coffee bar systems.

Using JP’s Coffee & Espresso bar as the business model, methods taught at the school are meant to educate and train people in coffee and its industry, according to its website.

The school offers a five-day new business owner course for $1,875, an advanced barista class lasting four days at $1,575, and a two-day technical repair and maintenance workshop for $995. Other options include: private training at JP’s Coffee & Espresso for $800, customized corporate or supplemental classes, and a four-hour home barista training course for $200.

According to the business owner course description, the five-day class incorporates topics such as business planning, daily operations and systems, customer service, equipment maintenance, marketing and selecting proper equipment. The course is offered in the upcoming months of May, June, August, September, October and November. With a one-to-two trainer/student ratio, class size is limited to eight individuals in an effort to provide as much hands-on experience as possible and individual attention from the professional barista trainers.

“Most people (who attend the classes) have a dream to open their own coffee shop. We have people literally come from all over the world and the United States,” said White. “It’s very much a hands-on, intensive, week-long course teaching people how to be successful.”

MBS has had students from Kentucky, Texas, California and Maine — and from South Korea, Denmark, Nepal, Tibet and the Philippines. White said having students from outside the Midwest was a pleasant surprise.

“Our expectation was that the majority of our students would come out of the Midwest,” said White. “It would appeal to people who would drive in from Chicago, who might not have the wherewithal or the time to travel to the other side of the country.”

The most significant difference in the advanced barista class and the new business-owner class is that issues specific to launching and opening a new business are not addressed in the four-day advanced barista classes, which are offered during the same weeks as the five-day business owner courses.

The technical repair and maintenance workshops are targeted to individuals seeking to learn or improve their machine service skills. In the technical classes, the focus is on espresso machines, preventive maintenance and repair, and basic training and information on water diagnosis and refrigeration service.

The workshop usually takes place the weekend following the new business owner class and is taught by Brice Greer, technical manager at Rancilio Group North America Inc., and by Groot. Rancilio Group is a manufacturer and seller of professional machines and equipment for espresso drinks, and is based in Illinois.

Using the successful foundation of JP’s Coffee & Espresso bar, MBS operates with a commitment to serving customers quality products and services in a welcoming atmosphere.

“Jack’s thing is giving back to the community — either the local or greater coffee communities,” said White. “That is what we feel our biggest strength is: the focus of being a community gathering place.”

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