Coffee Technicians Guild: How this Whole Thing Started


By Hylan Joseph

I blame Shad 100%. Normally these conversations happen over beers after the SCAA events and we lay out our grand plans on stained napkins then forget about them in the morning. The next morning, our grand plans are swept up off of some bar floor. That was really where we made our first mistake. We should have had a beer first.

Shad and I decided to share a cab to SEATAC after the SCAA Event in 2014. At the time, I was running a service company. We had a nationwide network of third party techs. Shad and his folks were one of my best subcontractors. We had started up a conversation about one of my customers that was planning on expanding into the South, The Carolinas, and Louisiana. I could not find qualified techs to service my customers. I spoke about forming a secret society, cadre, or gang of techs where I could find trained people who could do the work I needed. At the time, more than a third of the techs who worked under me were single-van techs who worked out of their garage. I whined a lot. 

This is where Shad laid out his idea. We need a guild for this. It needs to be through the SCAA.  The idea was solid, brilliant, and inspired. We talked it over and decided to contact Ric Rhinehart.  We drafted a proposal, and from there it’s history. Shad drove this idea from a cab ride conversation to the seeds of what we see today and I’m proud to have been at ground zero to help him build this.

Now is the time for this guild. As a professional who has over twenty years of experience in the coffee and restaurant business, and 10 years in the service business, I see a clear need for this. As a cafe manager, I have tons of stories of untrained techs; ones that just could not do the job, or ones that had serious issues pulling their pants up. As a service manager, I knew that most of the techs I dealt with wanted—and in some cases, needed—a place where they could go for support, learning, and accreditation. We need to build something to show techs that what we do is important and valuable, and I believe this guild will provide that.

Why we do what we do.

To get an example of why we do what we do is great, I reached out to our Linkedin group and asked if it was important to have a barista’s knowledge to be a good service tech. Julian Melbourne, Director Export, Quality Espresso SA out of Barcelona area in Spain echoed the sentiment laid out by David Merkin at our first meeting at Expo last April. Truly our trade is a global affair and shares this particular fundamental reality, despite geography:

"It is enlightening to compare what is expected of espresso machine technicians when compared to other food-service equipment technicians.

When an ice machine has been repaired, is the technician required to prepare a drink to confirm the equipment functions correctly? When an oven or cooker is repaired, is the technician required to bake or prepare a dish? As far as I am aware, the answer is generally no.

However, when a technician completes the repair of a grinder or an espresso machine, they are normally required to adjust the grinding point of the grinder, take a correct dose of ground coffee, and extract an espresso that complies with generally accepted espresso parameters.

The fact that espresso technicians are required to prepare product on the equipment they have just repaired sets them apart from all other food-service equipment technicians."