The only quality rating that REALLY matters is the one the consumer gives as they put the cup to their lips. The rest of our quality controls are just milestones on the way to this moment. Our industry follows the coffee cherry from the farmers hand until it gets into the bag. We even rate the way a professional barista produces the final product. But we miss the being able to control the majority of the consumed final product – the brewed cup.
It has long been said that you have to do the best work you can to preserve the integrity of the ‘quality supply chain’. If you don’t do your job well, then it eliminates all of the hard work that came before your interaction with the coffee. This is only half-true; your responsibility should include one step before your job and one step after. Here are a couple of examples:
• If you are an exporter of coffee, you should reach backward to your suppliers and teach quality practices. The more you can tell them what quality means to you, the more likely it is that they will produce it for you. Especially if you pay them more for it! If you are paying more for it then you certainly want to look forward and ensure that the shipping companies and importers you are dealing with understand how to care for the coffee to preserve that quality.
• If you are a coffee house owner, you want to let your roaster know what they are doing both right and wrong to affect quality. After all, you are probably paying a premium for getting the blend that is just right for your shop and style. You will also make darn sure that the barista pulls a great shot every time or does not serve it.
But who is responsible for those other end users; the consumers who just grab a cup of coffee and make the judgment of ‘this is great’ or ‘this sucks’ that will stick with your brand for a long time? In order to answer that we should examine who they are and then assign responsibility.
|Independent Restaurants||Drip coffee – Quality important|
|Chain Restaurants||Drip coffee –Quality somewhat important|
|Coffee Houses (that don’t roast)||Some Drip, some Hand Pour – Quality important|
|Office Break Rooms||Drip coffee – Price most important|
|Gas Stations||Drip coffee – Price most important|
|Convenience Stores||Drip coffee – Price most important|
|Hotels||Drip coffee – Quality somewhat important|
|People at home||Some drip, some single serve, Value important|
There are obviously other niches but one can get the idea from this chart how to categorize the customer type and the quality expected. The important question for them is this: Who is in charge of making sure they brew the coffee correctly?
In most cases the company roasting the coffee will have a direct relationship to the end user. Other times a broker could be used to sell the coffee and service the account. Either way, if you are selling the coffee, YOU have the obligation to help your customer produce the best product possible. You have two areas in which to deal with quality at this level: Training and Equipment.
Training your customer to brew correctly is often a difficult task. For most of the groups listed above there is not a professional on staff that is in charge of brewing coffee. It could be an office assistant, waiter, or mechanic. You still have to get them to do the basics of proper throw weight of coffee, cleanliness, and freshness. Often this person is in a high turnover position and the person you train today could be gone tomorrow. This is where you need to get some help from your equipment.
Equipment that is used in these installations is crucial to success. If you are dealing with a subtle aroma, high acid, single varietal you want a brewer that will extract the coffee differently than just the ‘office blend’. If you have a coffee house that brews something different every day, you should get a brewer that can adjust brewing styles to match the coffee.
Many times, the company that is selling the coffee is also supplying the equipment to brew it. But whether you supplied the equipment or not, the customer will look to you when something goes wrong. You need to be prepared to not only keep it running, but operating properly to extract the brew that you will not be around to supervise. Otherwise you may find yourself saying, “The coffee maker made me look bad!”
GOOD NEWS! The B.E.S.T. program is back! That is the Beverage Equipment Service Technician training program designed to put qualified, certified technicians in the field to repair the ever increasingly complex brewers. It was started as a joint project of El Camino College and the SCAA over a decade ago to put service professionals in the field that would understand the importance of a properly functioning coffee brewer. (And water tower, and espresso machine…)
Due to several reasons, including the economy, the class has not been offered for a while. That is until now! Apffels Beverage Academy in conjunction with Cerritos College is revamping the classes and updating some of the materials. Amir Hashemi, Director of Training and Support for Wilbur Curtis Company, will be teaching the week long course. He says, “The specialty Industry often neglects education about brewing equipment. Brewing equipment classes often say nothing about proper extraction. In this class the two worlds intersect. The technicians get the basics of coffee brewing and how that affects taste in the cup. They can then understand the importance of the new pulse brewers and programmable recipes in machines.”
Darryl Blunk, CEO at Apffels Beverage Academy looks at it this way, “In a perfect world all the outside service company’s technicians that work on coffee, tea, cocoa, and espresso machines would be certified much like any other contractor to provide quality service. As part of the process the technician is entrusted with calibrating the machine to deliver the appropriate recipe or flavor profile. However, in many cases this technician has limited education in the product. So much labor and love is put into the coffee supply chain process from farm to client why wouldn’t you insure the beverage is correctly brewed at the final stage? This is where the B.E.S.T program fits in. Making sure specialty coffee remains special, even if we are not around to serve the end product.”
Even if you have your own experienced technicians, this would be a smart course for them to attend because they will gain a richness and depth in the training that makes them not only machine techs, but coffee professionals.
Now you can extend your reach of quality control a little further to the end users that make the coffee without your supervision. The right equipment, running properly, should get that user to declare’
“This is Great Coffee”.
Upcoming B.E.S.T. Classes
Mon-Fri, 10/22 – 10/26, 8:00am-5:00pm
Mon-Fri, 11/12 – 11/16, 8:00am-5:00pm
Location: Apffels Beverage Academy
12115 Pacific Street, Santa Fe Springs,
CA 90670 (Free parking at Apffels)
Instructor: Amir Hashemi, Director Technical
Training & Support, Wilbur Curtis Co. Inc.
Sign up: www.cerritoscommunityed.com
or 562-860-2451 x 2521