My journey towards becoming a Coffee Technician all started with my first experience as a barista. That experience, combined with my primary technical profession of Aviation Maintenance Technician (Airframe & Powerplant or “A&P” mechanic), has evolved into what I do today.
Growing up, I became a rather capable fixer and tinkerer of all kinds of things. That mostly grew out of need, but quickly became an interest, nonetheless. It is said, “Necessity breeds ingenuity," and I had plenty of opportunities to validate that claim. From bicycles to automobiles, mowers to appliances, I had to make all manner of contraptions continue to perform or re-purpose them altogether. Solving problems was always in the cards for me. Luckily, I got to do that most often with hand tools.
The best way I can think of to weave this story is to first mention my start in aviation. Quite simply, it came from the events on September 11, 2001. On that day, I felt the call into service down to my bones and the responsibility to defend my family and friends. The next afternoon, once my college classes had dismissed, I headed down to the local military recruiter. After this, that, and the other, I decided on U.S. Air Force (with a strong push from the aviation side of the family). Shortly thereafter, I was on my way to a career as a Crew Chief on the Lockheed Martin C-130 airplane (so much for heading to film school!). And so began the indoctrination into my first technical passion and the aviation profession.
A couple of years into that, I decided to take on a part-time job in the evenings as a barista working a La San Marco 2-group espresso machine in the café at a Barnes & Noble Bookstore. This was a happy accident, as my hopes were to work the book floor (I was a geek-mechanic before it was cool...ha). There I learned and enjoyed the crafting of drinks as well as the culture and community found in a coffee shop. Providing a service that made people happy was something I very much enjoyed. The energizing feeling and inspiration I got from an atmosphere which innately fosters discussion, imagination, conversation, and expression… a place where artists, engineers, and inventors all belonged together, is a feeling I still have today each time I visit a coffee house.
When I relocated away from that first coffee gig close to the area I am now, I was able to again work at another B&N location. Later on, I was approached to help start and manage what ended up being two separate coffee shops. There I utilized the SCAA’s guidance from resources to play the roles of store setter, lead barista, trainer, resident technician , and manager. The 3rd Wave coffee scene was new to our region and I was all about it. During the day, I wore an Airman’s uniform; at night, an apron and my favorite hat. The dualism eventually ended with the coffee world taking a back seat.
After cultural adventures from traveling all over the world and an Honorable Discharge, I decided to stick with the civilian aviation industry for the stability and for the financial security. Although, I continued to stay close to or involved with the coffee scene and those in it.
Flash forward to now, I’ve gained much experience, numerous accolades, and technical certificates in aviation. It’s how I earn my daily bread. I’ve mixed that in with my coffee experience and for the past 2 years I’ve slowly been working away on activities and future plans that derived from the realization that I could still be a mechanic and engineer, AND work in the coffee industry – doing so in environments where I feel most at home (outside of a book store or hangar with airplanes in it). The idea that I could be of service, be instrumental to the success of such a community, by doing things which I love to do, was outstanding and is quite a satisfying one to have.
The experience I have in the coffee industry coupled with my skills as an aircraft mechanic, I had found, translated brilliantly to those skills, concepts, and peripheral awareness needed to be a successful or accomplished coffee technician. I’ve studied, learned, and done what wrenching or troubleshooting I could over this time. I’ve planned and strategized my business profile, continued to make the connections, network, seek out and increase my knowledge, training or certification wherever possible. When I’m learning something I need, I’m a wolf with a bone.
I am still relatively new to the noble trade of coffee technician, however my interest and desire to excel in this craft only continue to grow (thanks in no small part to the CTG). For the moment, I’m just keeping things under control by operating as an independent coffee technician servicing the local specialty coffee shops and home equipment while also staying busy as an Aircraft Inspector. The priority right now is preparing for the expansion of services to catch up to the exponential demand for folks like us and what we provide. Staying current on technology and industry best practices are a must. That being said, in my experience, manufacturer’s trainings are essential to a more intimate understanding for better troubleshooting – so I’m headed back to Seattle for a coffee work trip to sharpen my knowledge and skills. The coming year is going to be a big one.
Things are moving fast and there is still much more work to do, but it’s the kind that I welcome. Even in these early stages, our Coffee Technicians Guild provides the fellowship and resources I have utilized to become a better tech, provide quality services, and facilitate a higher standard of work. Helping people, tinkering away, solving problems, and getting to do it in a community which I so enjoy, all while drinking fine coffee… who could ask for better?
Owner/Operator atVenturi Dynamic Works
Greater Nashville Tennessee Area