By David W. Mendez
Coffee Takes A Village
Who does the general public typically deem the “hero” in producing their cups of coffee? Well I’d say 9 out of 10 times people credit the roaster or the barista. You know the roasters… they’re the people you see in interviews discussing how they balanced out the coffee roaster’s core temperature and achieve the perfect heat over time curve. This pairing of their uniquely sourced bean to the roast curve achieves the perfect taste profile which was intended. Meanwhile, the baristas are the visible “artist,” pouring the latte art, and physically serving the cup of coffee to the caffeine-craved consumer. But who calibrated the barista’s equipment to produce that perfect cup of coffee that the roaster had intended? Or who helps retailers fix their machine when it breaks down to serve the consumers day after day? Just who is this man/woman behind the metaphorical curtain? The coffee service technician, of course!
If you’re a retailer you probably have an exceptional coffee, roasted to perfection, from which you brew mouthwatering cups of coffee. But what happens if your brewer/grinder isn’t operating perfectly? If your equipment can’t deliver the cup of coffee you want to serve, then, as a result, you’re stuck with upset and potentially lost customers. Most well trained baristas have a limited skill set to adjust the grinder or volume/time on the espresso machines and drip brewers. So many times they can avoid a disaster. But what happens when the machine won’t heat up or even turn on!?
………….(insert Ghostbusters theme) Who you gonna call?
My company, WB Law Coffee, has been in business since 1909. Traditional coffee companies like ours, have always had equipment to loan out to customers. We rounded out the equipment with coffee technicians to install/repair them. During the emergence of the third wave, many startup roasters didn’t include techs in their companies. They relied on non-traditional equipment companies to install the equipment instead of roasters with a coffee background, and that BLEW MY MIND!
How do they repair a machine? What happens if the tech doesn’t know what great coffee tastes like? How does a retailer choose a roaster that can’t fully support them!? It dawned on me that their equipment is new and thus easier to install than repair. These coffee shops are so new that they haven’t brewed enough coffee to experience malfunctioning brewers and espresso machines…yet.
The Coffee Equipment Hero
The hefty growth in coffee shops and the reality of equipment’s’ life cycles results in a huge demand for service professionals. These men and women can install the machines easily. But over time, as the machines break down, these techs can quickly diagnose an equipment problem and resolve the issue. These techs are individuals who need to have the proper tools, equipment, spare parts and most importantly, training. A background in electrical, plumbing, and coffee is essential. These skill sets don’t come overnight; they require years of drinking coffee and experience on a variety of coffee equipment.
A few years back we started a private service company called Java Techs to help these retailers in need. Its purpose was to help New Yorkers and New Jerseyans get their daily ritual cups of coffee. There isn’t anything much worse than going to your favorite coffee shop only to find out their coffee machine isbroken. And there you are; disappointed, borderline angry that you have no coffee. And now you’re left to venture out of your comfort zone to find another coffee shop, or continue on your journey without your precious cup o’ joe.
When I speak to retailers at food and beverage trade events, a common topic of conversation is our service. They rave about the service they’ve received from our techs who have either gotten their machines back up and running or performed a routine preventative maintenance call. I guess it’s true, not all heroes wear capes. Some just carry toolboxes and help local coffee shop owners in need. These men and women operate under the radar and are many times some of the last people to get credit where credit is due in the coffee industry. I was thrilled when I heard that The Specialty Coffee Association created a Guild called the Coffee Tech Guild. It’s purpose is to help build up the coffee technician skills while teaching best practices. Sharing this info will continue to help the U.S. Coffee Industry flourish. So next time you see a tech out on the front lines, tell them thank you for playing a vital role in making your cup of coffee!