Teaching Coffee Technicians to be Expert Brewers

Brady Butler at Coffee Technicians GuildOn July 20-22, the Coffee Technicians Guild Summit, an event dedicated to educating coffee technicians from around the world, was held in Greensboro, NC. One of the instructors at this important coffee industry gathering was our very own Brady Butler.

Brady, field liaison for Stockton Graham/Dilworth Coffee is a passionate member of the coffee community. He has helped plan and run coffee events for the local barista community and served as a former Chapter Representative for the Barista Guild Association (BGA). He enjoys teaching others about coffee and earned his Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Lead Instructor Certificate in 2011, followed by his Golden Cup Technician Certificate in 2012. Brady began volunteering as a Lead Instructor at SCAA Expo in 2013. As past Chair of the SCA’s “Brew Crew,” he has played a key role in developing the new SCA Professional Brewing curriculum.

At the CTG Summit, Brady taught the course entitled Brewing: Foundation Level, which was designed to introduce the novice to the core skills and equipment required to produce outstanding brewed coffee.

“After a year’s worth of hard work and multiple trips across the Atlantic, the global SCA Brew Crew was finally ready to present our new and improved Brewing Foundation course” says Brady. “We combined the best elements of the SCAA’s Brewing and Extraction Principles class and the SCAE’s Brewing Foundation course, and created some great new elements as well. This is an excellent starting point for understanding the brewing process, and the first step towards the Brewing Professional Certificate. Since so much of our work was done here in North Carolina, I’m thrilled that this first offering of the class was in Greensboro.”

“We had 50 people from all over the country and even a couple from Europe,” continued Brady. “There were a lot of great events, a mix of fun and educational, including team challenges. My favorite had teams race to see who could fix an intentionally-broken espresso machine the quickest.”

“Since our audience was mostly equipment techs, we did a deeper dive into equipment-related aspects of brewing. These folks already know how to fix brewing equipment. We wanted to help them go beyond that to understand how to make coffee that tastes great. That’s the most important thing.”

The Coffee Technicians Guild (CTG) is an official trade guild of the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) dedicated to supporting the coffee industry through the development of professional technicians. The CTG was created to build a community of technicians who can provide mutual support and knowledge, as well as provide opportunities to develop skills and learn best practices. In order to bring together the coffee industry’s most knowledgeable and inspiring professional technicians, the Guild strives to offer events year-round. For more information, please visit: https://coffeetechniciansguild.org/.

For more information about coffee or how to brew it properly, please call 800 835 5943 or email customerservice@stocktongraham.com

A Report from the SCA Global Specialty Coffee Expo

Stockton Graham's Brady Butler at the Specialty Coffee ExpoLate last month, our Brady Butler attended the Global Specialty Coffee Expo (SCA) in Seattle. While his focus was on teaching Golden Cup Brewing classes, he did have an opportunity to walk the floor. We were glad he had the chance to cast his eye around the displays and report back on a few of the sights.

Says Brady:

“As an equipment guy, this was an interesting show. From custom machines to new brewers to gadgets, there was a lot to see.

From the SCA Global ExpoEspresso machine customization was on full display, with most of the roaster and café booths featuring beautiful signature espresso machines. My favorite was the custom Victoria Arduino Black Eagle that they’d made to celebrate Gianni’s 80th birthday. It was great to see some options for grinders too – the hand-blown glass hoppers at the EspressoParts booth were a welcome alternative to the usual plastic.

The trend of low-profile and small footprint espresso machines also continued this year. There was lots of buzz about the new under-counter espresso machine by MAVAM, with good reason. Even traditional machines manufacturers like Synesso had prototypes designed to lower the visible barrier between barista and customer.

From the SCA Global ExpoScales continue to show up in new places as well. Acai debuted a new automatic bean portioning system for café’s tired of weighing out little tins for their pour-over bars. Compak showed an espresso grinder which precisely grinds a specified amount of coffee into the portafilter, hands free. Of course, the Baratza Sette was back with their excellent grind-by-weight prosumer grinder for espresso or drip brewing.

Coldbrew was once again a major theme. BKON was back to show off their Storm, a superfast-supersized system to produce 100 gallons of coldbrew in 15 minutes. Several of our allied-products friends were sampling sweet and refreshing coldbrew-based drinks perfect for summer. Even cleaner specialists Urnex joined the party with a two-part complete coldbrew system cleaner – just the thing for nitro coffee systems.

To get a bit of a break from the middle of the show floor, I had a chance to stroll down the Design Lab wall of coffee packaging. This gallery of brightly-patterned, fully printed bags and uniquely-shaped printed cardboard containers is always a highlight. Our new Dilworth bag design would have looked right at home.

As always, there were so many great things to see and sample at this specialty coffee show. I can’t wait to share some of my favorites with our customers!”

With questions or to learn more about what might work best in your store or coffee shop, call 800 835 5943 or email orders@stocktongraham.com.

It All Begins With a Good Espresso Machine

1920s espresso machine

A 1920s espresso machine in action.

The SCAA gives the definition of espresso as “a 25-35mL (.85-1.2oz [x2 for double]) beverage prepared from 7-9 grams (14-18 grams for a double) of coffee through which clean water of 195-205 degrees F has been forced at 9-10 atmospheres of pressure, and where the grind of the coffee is such that the brew time is 20-30 seconds.”

Espresso is the name used for all components of this beverage: From the beans to the brewing process, equipment, cups, accessories and served beverage. Heavily bodied coffee served in small cups has been around for centuries. There is evidence that it was served in Cairo as far back as the early fifteenth century. As the popularity of drinking coffee spread across cultures and throughout the world, new brewing methods and equipment began to spring up. French and Italian inventors began first experimenting with steam powered coffee brewing in the nineteenth century. It wasn’t until the twentieth century, however, that Italian inventors developed machines that could produce the drinks we today call espresso.

Espresso has become the foundation for numerous kinds of drinks. Some of these drinks include milk, such as lattes, mochas and cappuccinos. More recently, espresso has become the foundation for carbonated beverages and mixed drinks including alcohol. Regardless of the finished beverage, the espresso component should always be made according to Specialty Coffee Association of America preparation guidelines.

espresso pouringPulling the Perfect Shot
Baristas refer to the extraction process as “pulling” a shot. Most baristas primarily pull 2 oz. double espressos, which is what we recommend. Pulling the perfect shot will require an adequate espresso machine, quality coffee used, a proper grind, and a well-trained barista.

The Machine
Choose an espresso machine that can maintain a constant brewing temperature of 195° to 205ºF. Your machine should also be capable of delivering water to the ground espresso at a pressure of 9-10 atmospheres.

The Coffee
Any coffee can be used to make espresso, but for best results use a coffee that was selected or blended specifically for espresso.

The Dose
The dose refers to the amount of ground beans that are dispensed into the portafilter. The word “dosing” refers to the process of grinding coffee into the portafilter basket.  Be sure your dose uses the correct amount of ground beans.  There is no hard-and fast rule for dosing, but consistency is key to maintaining shot time and flavor.  The SCAA recommends these dosing weights:

Singles: 7-9 grams ground espresso
Doubles: 14-18 grams ground espresso
Triples: 21-24 grams ground espresso (usually only used for certain size milk-based drinks)

The Grinder
Coffee must be ground just before use for best freshness and flavor. The grinder should be adjusted by the barista as needed in order to maintain the timing of their espresso shots.

The Time
Extraction begins the moment your ground coffee comes in contact with water. The SCAA
recommends a brewing time of 20-30 seconds as a general guideline. This applies whether pulling one or two shots. We recommend grind adjustment if you find your shots are pulling too slowly or quickly.

The 20-30 second guideline should be used as a starting point, since different coffees taste best at different times.  The ultimate test is in the taste. Let the taste and appearance be your markers for a good espresso.

Tamping espressoProper Tamping

  • Elbow at 90° angle
  • 30-40 lbs. of pressure (Use a floor scale to practice pressure application)
  • To ensure proper extraction of entire dose, tamp coffee in the portafilter so it is even and level.

These are just a few words of advice and we can happily provide more. For exceptional espresso, it is essential to maintain correct and consistent preparation cup after cup, customer after customer. The ultimate test is in the taste so the real secret is a simple one: practice!

Your espresso machine area should be equipped with at least three clean cloths. Each cloth should only be used for its intended purpose in order to avoid cross-contamination:

  1. Steamwand cloth: a damp cloth used only to clean the steamwand. Change several times per shift. Check local health department requirements regarding use of sanitizer.
  2. Portafilter cloth: a dry cloth used only to clean and dry portafilter baskets and spouts before dosing freshly ground coffee.
  3. Bench cloth: a damp cloth or bar mop used for cleaning up spills and ground coffee from the countertop. Change often. Check local health department requirements regarding use of sanitizer.

From more information about proper methods for making espresso, just call 800-835-5943 or email orders@stocktongraham.com.

Dear Joe,

I came into my cafe today to find no water flowing to my espresso machine. What’s going on?

Let me know,


Dear Brian,

I am so sorry to hear that! My guess is the culprit is the deep chill we are getting right now!

With the cold weather lately, customers have been seeking out drinks to ease the chill, but what happens in your shop after you’ve closed and gone home?  We got another call like this from a customer this morning with an espresso machine issue.  They couldn’t get any water and the all the lights were flashing.  She told me that she can brew coffee and wash dishes, but no water was getting to the espresso machine.  We went through some of the usual troubleshooting questions with no obvious answer.  It turns out that her shop, which is in an office building, sits right above the parking garage.  The water line for her espresso machine is actually exposed, and had frozen solid.  This raised the question: how many of our other customers might have the same issue?

 Much like your homes, you will want to ensure that your pipes are well-insulated. Simple measures such as insulation batting should be enough to get most of us through this cold snap.  This is a fairly inexpensive solution that can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in repair bills and lost sales.

Yours in coffee,

Josephius A. Graham