How to become a Specialty Coffee Certified Lab

How to become a Specialty Coffee Certified Lab

(And why you should be glad we already did it for you!)

By: Charles Kemp, Certified AST

In the last month, the BD Barista School became a specialty coffee certified lab. What this entails is the ability to teach and train fellow coffee aficionados, both in and out of the industry, in the ways of specialty coffee. It is an exciting endeavor, especially since we are currently one of the only certified specialty labs in the state of Michigan and the greater Midwest.

The process of becoming a certified lab has been six months of enlightenment, excitement, and challenge. Here’s how it all happened ...

A long time ago in a café far, far away

Actually, it wasn’t that long ago and the shop is pretty close by. Three years ago, we started an internal coffee training program at Black Diesel Coffee (our café in Ann Arbor). We set out to create a program specific to our vision that would produce well-rounded, educated baristas. We had so much success in training our own baristas, we decided to found BD Barista School in 2017!

School is in session!

To make the school as great as it could be, we added onto our original café training, designing a more in-depth education platform. We made this platform available to internal staff, external candidates, and other interested coffee consumers. Thus, BD Barista School was born!

Upon establishing BDBS, the next logical step for us was to become an SCA coffee lab. We wanted to make SCA certifications and coffee education available to our midwestern friends and neighbors. Our journey to becoming an SCA lab started in August of 2017.

AST, SCA, CSP, oh my!

Our first step was to become Authorized Specialty Coffee Trainers (ASTs). This meant intense education in our focus disciplines: Introduction to Coffee, Barista Skills, Brewing, and Sensory Skills - all of which are a part of the Coffee Skills Program (CSP) available through the Barista School.

To get AST-certified we traveled to Kansas City for in-person classes at an approved SCA lab, took practical and hands-on exams in each skill-discipline, completed online courses, and traveled some more! Finally, feeling exhausted (but prepared) we took and passed our final exams in December.

Come hell or high water

The next step was to get the BD Barista School training center prepared for SCA Premier Campus approval. This process included going through SCA lab equipment checklists, approved water specs, and more.

A fun (or not-so-fun) fact: Water ended up being a much more difficult process than anticipated.  Ann Arbor city water is very hard (calcium rich), and has a track record of high total dissolved soluble (TDS) readings of 300 plus.  In order to get between the approved SCA parameters of 75-225 TDS, we installed a reverse osmosis (RO) system that included a calcium re-mineralization component.

Once our equipment and parameters were covered, we invited a certified SCA consultant to come in and make a record of everything in our center. This specialist provided any course corrections we needed to make before getting our official SCA lab approval.  

In conclusion

We can’t wait to show you all the work we’ve done! If you have any questions pertaining to the AST certification or SCA lab approval process, please contact us. We are happy to help and make this path as clear as possible for you.

Special thanks to Ben Helt for ensuring our lab met the high standards of the Specialty Coffee Association!