Grinders Coffee assembles the A-Team of coffee specialists


As one of Australia’s leading coffee roasters, Grinders Coffee prides itself on the extensive crop to cup coffee education and training program it offers to its customers.

A passion for the coffee industry, a wealth of knowledge, and the drive to see their customers succeed are all elements that bind Grinders Coffee and their team of specialists.

The bespoke program offers a tiered training that meets the needs of their customers, from building their confidence and knowledge with equipment to helping create recipes and latte art that impress and amaze. 

The customer is at the heart of Grinders’ training specialists who focus on building strong and lasting partnerships with customers and are commited to delivering the highest quality coffee with passion and expertise. The course is centred around engaging and connecting through the language of coffee, while doing better for the planet. 

The team of specialists include Grinders Coffee Brand Ambassador, Jonathan ‘Jono’ Goldthorpe, Senior coffee specialist Glenn Bailey, Alec Zeta, and Dale Pollard, who all bring a wealth of knowledge and industry experience to the new program. 

“In early 2020, we evaluated our training program based on customer feedback and input from our sales team and our baristas,” says Glenn Bailey, Senior Coffee Specialist for South Australia, Northern Territory, and Western Australia. 

“We wanted to really maximise the time we, as coffee specialists, have with each client, and meet our customers’ and cafes’ current demands.” 

Grinders’ new training program offers in class or in venue training and features shorter sessions that are broken down into Fundamental, Intermediate, and Advanced levels. When hosted at each Grinders’ state training centre, the classes are aligned to each state government COVID rules and restrictions. 

Lasting four hours, the Fundamental session focuses on building the customer’s confidence, covering the crop to cup journey, different areas of the coffee station, and the process behind making coffee. 

The 2.5-hour Intermediate session looks at honing attendees’ skills, focusing more in-depth on the coffee station, managing orders in a busy café, and latte art training.  

“We also added training for workflow and operational speed, which makes the session also suited for shift leaders, supervisors, and head baristas, who have the fundamental skills set and the ability to coach others,” says Glenn. 

The Advanced session, which is also 2.5 hours, aims to polish the barista’s skills, examining the science behind coffee flavour, perfecting latte art, and machine maintenance.

Each class is designed for only four pupils, ensuring trainers can tailor the session and focus on each barista.    

Grinders now offers an Onsite Training, which are 45 minutes to one-hour sessions at a customer’s venue, focusing on refining core skill sets in a limited class of three baristas. 

“Being in the industry for 18 years, you realise the impact a single barista can have on a cup of coffee and the overall café experience. My passion in this industry is seeing people grow their cafés and sustain their business,” says Glenn. 

“I enjoy teaching venues how to maximise revenue out of a bag of coffee and I particularly love onsite training and getting into someone’s space, improving the way they function and playing around with their equipment.” 

Another coffee specialist who shares the love for on-site training is Alec Zeta, Grinders’ Coffee Specialist of Victoria. 

“Coffee is one of those things where hands-on training is so beneficial. I had the same experience many baristas had during COVID, where they were trying to learn about coffee online. This is how I started when I first moved to Australia from the Philippines,” says Alec. 

When Alec first arrived, he says he was amazed by the coffee culture, coming from a place where a Starbucks Frappe was the pinnacle of coffee culture. Since then, Alec’s career has exploded, having worked in almost every area of the coffee supply chain from head barista to roasting and quality control to green bean buying, which saw him travel to India to visit one of the world’s best Robusta producers. 

Alec then progressed to a Director of Coffee at Red Star Company, tying his coffee knowledge with learning the logistics of transporting coffee globally. 

“And after learning all of this, I realised I wanted to pass this industry knowledge on. In 2018 I found an opportunity at Grinders to really influence the way people make coffee,” says Alec.

“Coming from a place where English wasn’t my first language, it was hard to understand coffee right away. I’ve kept this in mind with my teaching, making sure it’s relatable and accessible.” 

As such, Grinders’ training sessions are a minimum 70 per cent practical to ensure a hands-on learning experience. Alec says he often has latte art smackdowns at the end of his Intermediate and Advanced classes to add a bit of fun. 

“For me, the most rewarding aspect is seeing my customers progress. I’ve had students who used to just wait tables, and because of their interest and investment into coffee, their coffee career has taken off,” says Alec. 

Further up the coast in New South Wales, State Coffee Specialist and Grinders Coffee Ambassador Jonathan Goldthorpe says the long-term relationship he achieves with his clients is why he is passionate about training. 

“I’m very social and love the connections you build and being able to help people and businesses succeed. I really love when I visit their cafés and get so much positive feedback on how they’ve improved their quality,” says Jono. 

“With our new program, the smaller classes mean I can build a strong connection with each person, and really tailor it to them.” 

Before joining Grinders, Jono worked at cafés across Sydney, London, Venice, and Warsaw, which he says helped develop his strong love for the industry. 

After returning to Sydney, Jono heard about the position at Grinders and hasn’t looked back. 

“Over the past several years I’ve also done a lot of work with the Australian Specialty Coffee Association (ASCA), managing staff on that platform and being involved in the competition,” he says. 

“I believe being on the ‘frontline’ really allows you to see the best coffee standards and see how people are pushing the boundaries, which translates into what I teach.”

For Dale Pollard, Grinders’ Queensland Coffee Specialist, the ability to be what he describes as a “social chameleon” is crucial when it comes to coffee training. 

“You need to be able to gauge people and know how to interact with them to get the best results. I’ve trained lots of different age brackets and personalities across different regions, and with the limited time, you really want to help them get the best results,” he says. 

“Having all worked in hospitality roles, our team is able to do this, personalising each experience and helping our customers get the best out of their coffee.” 

Dale says his analytical approach has helped elevate his coffee skills.

“I really liked the depth of the industry and the feeling of trying to crack a code. I’m passionate about the science side of coffee, of controlling the brew and roasting times down to a tee,” he says. 

Dale’s teaching journey began with Grinders. He was working for a café that used Grinders’ beans and attended a class where an old Grinders’ trainer exposed him to specialty coffee. 

“It was like she handed me thread to pull on and it has never stopped going. For me it was like my moment of ‘genesis’. I still have the sticky note on the homework she gave me along with the task to check out Barista Hustle, which is a fantastic website by Matt Perger.” 

After continuing his journey in the specialty coffee industry, working across countless cafés in Queensland’s CBD, Dale returned to Grinders, splitting his time between coaching, and making coffee before taking the position as Coffee Specialist. 

“I really like the idea of coming full circle and returning to the place which ignited my love for coffee,” says Dale. 

“This is what makes training so meaningful for me; when I see people that come in with an appetite to sink their teeth into the industry. I love the idea that I can be the one to push them to have their genesis.” 

With the past 24 months a struggle for many cafés across Australia, Grinders’ training specialists are looking forward to equipping and elevating staff capabilities with Grinders’ new training program that ultimately aims to build a stronger industry together. 

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This article appears in the December 2021 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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