Though coffee technicians often work in isolation behind the scenes of busy bars or in roasteries and other workshops, they do occasionally have the opportunity to congregate. Promoting a spirit of innovation and education to benefit the entire coffee industry, the Coffee Technicians Guild (CTG) held its fourth global summit this past weekend.
To understand the inner workings of the CTG itself, check out our companion piece here.
Hosted at the Wilbur Curtis headquarters in Montebello, California, the summit attracted more than 75 coffee techs reflecting virtually all levels of experience. Naturally, a wide range of automatic coffee brewers, espresso machines, grinders, cleaning supplies, and other coffee tools were available throughout the event, allowing for hands-on experience and for the practical testing of concepts.
One highlight was when summit-goers took a deep dive into the technology of the multimeter — an essential tool for technicians to use in both troubleshooting and quality control — in a session led by Amir Hashemi, director of corporate training at Wilbur Curtis. The hands-on session looked at the difference in the design and function of various multimeters, and how to utilize this tool when diagnosing coffee equipment.
Tonya Kuhl, vice chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering at University of California, Davis, provided an overview of the operation and design of coffee makers and espresso machines. Focusing on fundamental principles of engineering, Kuhl provided a demonstration of a reverse engineered Mr. Coffee machine to illustrate the concepts she discussed.
Rebecca McNelly, owner of Wichita-based Heartland Tech, led an interactive lecture on customer service and workflow. Attendees evaluated the key elements of customer service and worked together to apply these principles to different situations they would encounter in the field.
In a workshop led by Maria Cleaveland, regional sales director for the Western U.S. and Canada at Urnex, and Hylan Joseph, West Coast service manager for Minneapolis-based Espresso Partners, attendees learned about the tools and cleaning supplies available on the market, and how to use them correctly. In addition to discussing some of the facts and falsehoods around cleaning and preventive maintenance, the session reviewed the most effective investments that equipment owners can make.
Every technician knows that coffee machines can be heavily impacted by the water that runs through it. A lecture on water quality issues led by Marty Roe, owner of Kansas City, MO-based Service Call LLC, took a look at a variety of water treatment methods and tools to help techs better advise their customers and achieve the best water quality.
Roe also led an interactive workshop focused on how technicians should approach service calls, engage with customers, and prioritize multiple projects, providing a framework for structuring the troubleshooting activities in a way that saves time and frustration for both the technician and the customer.
Another highlight of the event was a hands-on workshop that provided attendees with an in-depth review of common repair procedures and preventive maintenance for different brands of espresso grinders. Manufacturer representatives were on-hand to present the latest technology being utilized in grinder market, with machines including Mahlkonig Peak, Rancilio KRYO 65 and KRYO 65 OD, and La Marzocco Swift and Mazzer grinders.
Led by Tarra Samuelson, L.A. area manager and specialty sales for San Rafael, California-based Equator Coffees & Teas, led a session all about precision grinding principles, including an exploration of how grind size affects extraction, while offering calibration methods for various types of grinders.
Coffee technicians also need to know about custom machines, as well as standard models, in order to maintain and fix them for their customers. Given the growing popularity of custom mods, the session provided a conversational overview of this specialized market, with Maciej Ostrowski of Woodridge, Illinois-based Rancilio Group North America.
To round out the summit experience, attendees were placed on teams and encouraged to work together to discover the solution to various problems throughout the event. The challenges involved “broken” machines and the parts or tools needed to repair them.
The Coffee Technicians Guild will host its next event in Europe in 2019. To keep abreast of the CTG’s latest happenings, you can sign up for the group’s e-newsletter here.