Barista Magazine

DEC 2017-JAN 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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attention and how the system works, you're likely to run circles around a problem. By fi rst assessing the machine as a concept, fi guring out conceptually what needs to be happening for the machine to be working properly, and then creating a few hypotheses about what could be mal- functioning, you maintain control of the situation. Once you understand the concepts that are allowing the machine to operate as intended, you understand which components you need to investigate when the ma- chine is not behaving properly. (Thanks to Mike Sabol of La Marzocco for really driving this point home!) In interviewing technicians from around the country for this article, one consistent theme is how gratifying the work can be. Shad put it really well: "[There's] relatively immediate gratifi cation. You go from a world of unknowns to some data, a strategy, affecting the strategy, and hopefully a successful result in an hour or so," he says. "Very good for the ego, and very fulfi lling when you have genuinely helped a custom- er get back on track to achieving their goals." The work defi nitely has its less-glamorous side, too. I have the luxury of working for a company that has built duplication into all of its stores at almost every level, which means if one piece of equipment goes down, there's a backup to use. We keep an inventory of loaner equipment so that when a machine does go down there are still options to keep the coffee fl owing while waiting for parts to arrive. A lots of techs, however, aren't so lucky. As Xan of New Orleans Espresso told me, dealing with downed equipment can be one of the more diffi cult parts of tech work. "[A] big thing is staying calm on a job site with a lot of stress," he says. "If a busy coffee shop's espresso machine is down, there is usually stress involved—they can't provide product, and their customers likely take it out on them. You have to be the one to stay calm and quickly get everything back to where it should be. It is a short, uphill battle to show customers you're there to help, and not just write them bills." As I slowly gained more experience—both in the actual work of making it through a dicey repair, and in recognizing when a repair wasn't actually possible for reasons outside of my control—I built more confi dence in my abilities as a technician. "The hardest part of technician work is having to deliver bad news to someone [such as], 'I need to wait on this part to arrive to fi x your machine,'" says Tim. And he's right: I've learned that it's important to come to terms with the fact that delivering bad news is an unfortunate reality of certain situations. I love my job, but there were a few months when I wasn't sure I could truly be an effective technician. One of the things I've come to love about tech work is that every day is different, and having the opportunity to learn something new day in and day out is incredible— but that process took a while for me to get used to. It can be exhaust- ing to constantly confront new repairs, research new topics, and build a unique service schedule route every day. There was a learning curve to the mentality of, "I'm not sure what I'm walking into on this service call, I might not have repaired anything quite like it, but that's OK and I'll fi gure it out eventually." Things defi nitely still get dicey and confusing, but that's part of the job, and learning how to be OK with that and proceed with confi dence has been part of the process. Unlike working as a barista where you improve at your craft by making hundreds of drinks per day, a technician may only get to work on certain repairs once every couple of months. I get better every time, but there is defi nitely an increased learning curve due to limited exposure. So how does one learn about tech? "Take an apprenticeship, sweep the fl oors, whatever it takes to get your foot in the door and start your education," says Shad. "Take education seriously. This is a profession and it deserves your full attention. Lift with your legs not your back, The author (in top photo at le , and above) got his feet wet in coff ee-equipment repair and maintenance as an apprentice, and he continues to champion peer-to- peer education today as a mentor himself. 89 www.baristamagazine.com

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