Over the past four days, I've had several deep and interesting discussions with several SCAA board members and committee members about SCAA Tech Standards, and the creation of new published standards for various brewing methods.
The conversations where with Skip Finlay, who's an extremely active Technical Standards committee member, Board Director Marty Curtis, who is literally "Mr. Tech Standards", Board Director and next year's 2nd Vice President Peter Guliano, and even briefly with current President of the SCAA Board, Mark Inman. I'd say the conversations were all quite positive overall, and especially in the case of Finlay, quite informative.
I pitched almost all of these guys the idea that the SCAA has to start moving towards publishing more authoritative technical standards papers, to add to the one they already have for consumer devices: the drip brewer standard. I talked about how both professionals and consumers would benefit greatly from a Press Pot standard, a Siphon Coffee standard, a Manual Drip standard (which employs different methodologies than auto drip, to a point) and yes, the granddaddy of them all, an Espresso Brewing Standard.
I say almost all of these guys because out of all of them, Marty Curtis is the only one who already wants to see all these things done. Er... let me rephrase that. They all find great interest in these standards-pursuits, but Curtis is already thinking about how to get them done.
So what exactly would these things be? Well, on one hand, they'd be a technical certification that appliance makers could use to submit their products into the SCAA for testing, and get them officially certified, a la Technivorm's rather famous SCAA Certification for their drip brewers. The SCAA could come up with a series of parameters, materials, operational circumstances, etc etc for these various brewing methods and their machinery / devices, and manufacturers, if they meet all the requirements, could then sell their products with SCAA branding.
That's a huge win / win for both the .org and the manufacturers. It gives the SCAA well-needed "credibility" in being a standards-creating and pushing organization, and it gives the vendors and manufacturers a marketing tool, a standard to pursue and build, and a certain credence on their own that they've built a product that independent coffee experts are stating is 'good'.
But that's not all the standard would be - certification of an appliance is part of it. Another huge part is that we (well, anyone who's a coffee educator out there) would have additional tools in our arsenal to help the general public learn how to make great coffee. If there were a Press Pot Standard and Certification program, part of it would be SCAA-recommended method(s) (there could be more than one) on how to use a press pot. The SCAA would have recommended temperatures, recommended grind particle sizes, recommended steep times, the works. It'd be a valuable document to all SCAA members, and a guideline on making great coffee with this method.
We already have this for drip, and it's time for other methods.
Skip Finlay was the one who opened my eyes the most about this. He told me the process to get the ball rolling. Not only is the initial proposal (someone would have to submit it, and that might be me for press pots and siphon brewers) process pretty deep and involved, but a lot of things have to happen, not the least of which is a sensory panel to really determine if the standards-writers got their shit together or not.
I'm excited by the process. So much so that I'd definitely volunteer for SCAA work again to help hammer these things out. I hope, over the summer, to get the ball rolling, and not just type words to you, the reader and say "they should do this, and do that", but instead, go through the process of initiating the standards request. That means doing a helluva lot of research, and filling out the rather complex forms the SCAA has for this very thing.
It's also got me scared for the golden cow one I want the most - the Espresso Brewing Standard. I already have visions of how difficult the Press Pot standard's going to be: by comparison, it should be childplay when put up against espresso. Baby steps... baby steps (even if the baby's an elephant!).
Anyone want to get involved in drafting the initial submission?