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Coffee Certifications Level Up BRCC Team

In a world where everyone aims to be the best at his craft, Black Rifle Coffee Company is upping its game and creating its own coffee master class and training. Ever heard of a sommelier or a cicerone? Well, much like in the wine and beer worlds, coffee has similar certifications, and many of them exist under the Specialty Coffee Association. 

The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) is a trade association that exists to foster and support global coffee communities — this includes everyone in the coffee industry, from farmers and roasters to baristas. In addition to offering training certifications, the SCA conducts professional research and hosts events and education programs, as well as providing Q-grading certifications.

Photo by Garrett Kidd/Black Rifle Coffee Company. 

Jennifer Montoya, manager of company training for BRCC, and Garrett Kidd, manager of market training for BRCC, recently became authorized Specialty Coffee Association Trainers (ASTs) through the SCA. Both Montoya and Kidd earned their Barista and Brewing Professional Certifications, capping the training off with the SCA Training certification that allows them to teach SCA courses for anyone in BRCC. They are the first two ASTs in the company, and according to the SCA website, there are only about 1,800 ASTs in the entire world.

“About a year ago, [Montoya and I] started out going through the foundation, intermediate, and professional courses for both brewing and barista skills,” Kidd explained. “The barista program covers workflow, how to best set up a coffee shop bar, the everyday things. Then, brewing really gets into the nitty gritty, the essential elements of brewing — everything from water quality to grind size, which boils down to how to get the best possible product out to the customer.”

Photo by Garrett Kidd/Black Rifle Coffee Company.

Before Montoya and Kidd became authorized trainers, BRCC was outsourcing this line of work. On top of that, individually, the foundation courses can run from $500 into the thousands, so by having Montoya and Kidd fully certified, the company is able to see a return on investment and a spread of information to the retail department, lead trainers, and general managers. 

“Over the next six months or so, we’re going to develop a BRCC version of, essentially, a bar master course,” Kidd said. “This way, at least one person in each shop, whether its assistant managers or general managers, will really have a level of specialty coffee knowledge that you can’t parallel at a Dutch Bros or something like that.” 

Photo by Garrett Kidd/Black Rifle Coffee Company.

Kidd and Montoya both have access to coffee trends and coffee studies that allow them to really dig into where the coffee industry is investing, and that will play a part in the internal program they’re working to create. One particular end goal for the training program is to ensure that any corporate trainer in the company, as well as retail, will have, at the very least, intermediate certifications in brewing and barista skills. 

“As far as this knowledge is concerned, inclusivity is exclusivity,” Kidd said. “Being able to grow our coffee knowledge is what sets us apart from competitors. This isn’t corporate coffee; it’s specialty coffee with a purpose.”

The BRCC bar master program gives BRCC the ability to incentivize training and create new tracks. If someone kills it as a barista but might not be interested in becoming a general manager, this training gives them the opportunity to build on their knowledge and skills. Coffee knowledge breeds coffee quality, and that’s what sets BRCC apart from its competitors. 

“We’re going to set the bar high,” Kidd explained. “I didn’t know anything about coffee before I came to work for BRCC. I spent 10 years in the Army and relied on a Keurig, where all I had to do was push a button. But I went from that to being an AST in a little under a year and a half. If you have the will to learn, we will teach you, and that continuing development will become a requirement for both operations and training.” 

This new training program allows BRCC to become self-sufficient and allows the company to level-up coffee knowledge within the organization. In addition to the training program, Kidd and Montoya are launching a full learning management system called “Brew U,” which will be free and accessible to everyone in the company.

“Really being able to diffuse that coffee culture across the company and bring us back to our roots is the whole goal here,” Kidd said. “We help veterans by making coffee, and we can help more veterans if we make better coffee.”