Getchusomegear is Making Coffee Better
Coffee gear is expensive. Chris McAuley and the Getchu team are making it accessible.
Coffee gear, you may have noticed, is expensive. Even a basic scale, brewer, kettle, and filters can cost over a hundred of your dollars, pounds, euros. At the same time, many (if not most) hourly coffee workers make minimum or close-to minimum wage. With the cost of living getting ever worse, rent and fuel and food and everything increasing, things like home coffee equipment tend to slip down the priorities list.
But brewing coffee at home is one of the small joys in life, and as a coffee professional it’s also a great way to hone your craft and learn more about the process. That’s where Getchusomegear comes in.
Chris McAuley started Getchusomegear as a way to put coffee brewing equipment in the hands of baristas and coffee professionals who hold marginalized identities. This is the very simplest summary of what the grassroots organization does—over the years they have expanded to help with job applications, gear grants for startup coffee businesses, and tickets to coffee conventions, always with the idea of mutual aid at the core.
They also occasionally raise money by selling merch: this time around a re-release of some very cool ‘Coffee is Healing’ sweatshirts that have proven popular with influencers and coffee folk around the world (I purchased two from this latest presale). Money raised will go to help three coffee pros competing in the qualifying rounds of the US Coffee Championships—the presale runs through Monday, December 11 so there’s still a bit of time to snag yourself a sweatshirt.
In an industry that can sometimes feel siloed and exclusionary, Getchusomegear is an antidote. Their goal is simple: to help coffee workers learn about their craft, and to do that McAuley has built a network of individuals, companies, and organizations to collect and disseminate both coffee gear and coffee knowledge.
Thanks for reading The Pourover! Subscribe for free to receive new posts like this one.
The More Diplomatic Origin Story
In 2019 McAuley was managing a cafe in Durham, North Carolina and heard from his staff that they were struggling to afford equipment for brewing coffee at home. “Coffee gear was not an accessible thing for me or the majority of the people I worked behind the bar with at the time,” McAuley tells me, describing this account as the “more diplomatic” version of Getchu’s origin story. “A request for gear from the ‘higher ups’ was denied, so I asked the coffee internet if they had anything to share. Oh wow, they really did!”
Early brand partnerships included Oatly, AeroPress, and Mahlkönig, and in the first year Getchu shipped out 76 gear boxes across the US while expanding to Canada with the help of equipment supplier Eight Ounce Coffee and now Rabbit Hole Roasters. “I just love Getchu and what they stand for,” Rabbit Hole’s David Lalonde says. “They are amongst the kindest, most generous and genuine people in the industry [and] embody what a coffee community should be like.”
Getchusomegear’s team of volunteers has also grown, allowing them to launch educational efforts and niche services like resume writing assistance. Durham-based coffee professional Cydni Patterson was an early gear box recipient, and now helps out with Getchu’s educational projects.
“Many of the coffee professionals in our area and around the country are just not compensated enough to upkeep the continuing education required to be great at our craft,” Patterson says. “Chris and Chelsea [Thoumsin, McAuley’s partner] continue to fill in that education gap by distributing the tools to practice and allowing professionals like myself and others to share what we have learned.”
According to the 2022 Go Fund Bean coffee wage survey, the average barista in the United States makes $14 per hour before tips and is generally scheduled for less than 30 hours per week. Not only that, but nearly half of all hourly coffee workers are not able to comfortably pay their bills each month.
The survey also found that many salaried (and thus presumably higher-level) coffee workers started out as baristas. Umeko Motoyoshi of coffee-focused kitchenware brand (and early Getchu supporter) Umeshiso points out that one of the best ways for hourly coffee workers to learn about their craft—and thus improve their chances of progressing in the industry—is through home-based learning. “Many baristas who get promoted to leadership positions possess a level of coffee knowledge that’s difficult to develop unless you’re studying and practicing outside of work,” Motoyoshi says.
“However, coffee equipment is unaffordable for many, especially those who hold marginalized identities,” Motoyoshi continues. “This creates a professional disadvantage and prevents marginalized workers from accessing key professional development.”
Across the United States, people who hold marginalized identities face discrimination and prejudice on a daily basis. They often struggle to find good jobs and move up within companies, and are also often paid less than other workers. This is certainly the case in the coffee industry, where BIPOC, disabled, and LGBTQ+ people still face enormous barriers to success.
Getchusomegear was founded with the express goal of encouraging success. “Not only does Getchu meet an important need, their gear boxes welcome, affirm, and inspire new ideas,” Motoyoshi says. “The gear box sends a message that everyone belongs and everyone is deserving of professional development in their chosen field.”
One of the key principles of mutual aid is unconditionality, in contrast to charity which so often comes with strings attached. Although it came to popular attention at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the term mutual aid was coined in the early 1900s and the practice has surely been around much longer.
A famous example is the Black Panthers’ Free Breakfast for Children Program in the late 1960s, which provided more than 20,000 kids with a meal before they went to school. This and the Panthers’ other mutual aid efforts so terrified FBI director J. Edgar Hoover that it eventually led to the expansion of the US government’s free school meal program (as well as the violent dismantling of the Panthers as an organization).
Modern mutual aid programs also exist to serve a need within a community, whether it’s directly raising funds to cover housing emergencies or sending boxes of equipment to coffee workers who need them. “One of the most important things that Chris, and the rest of the support team that compromises Getchu, teaches us by example repeatedly is that community can be an action verb,” says coffee consultant Rachel Apple. “Time and again when US-based coffee community members have expressed need Chris has tapped his network, organized, and sourced real resources to support folks who asked—and what a beautiful thing that is.”
The Fourth Wave?
In an excellent 2020 profile of McAuley for Sprudge, Nicole Taliaferro described Getchusomegear as the fourth wave of coffee: “the fourth wave of coffee stands for accessibility and inclusivity, and Chris McAuley is a major player helping lead the way.”
After waves one (big national brands like Maxwell House selling cheap coffee to the masses) and two (Starbucks and Peet’s gourmeting up the place) came the third wave, which Tony “Tonx” Konecny of Yes Plz Coffee summed up for me in an article on the subject as “about the craft of roasting, brewing, and presenting the best possible coffee in the service of the growers and mills that produce it.”
The fourth wave? That’s up for debate. Research firms like Mintel will tell you it’s all about Gen Z and iced coffee, Tik Tok influencers and home baristas. The coffee experts I spoke with for my article hoped it would look more like the one Taliaferro is referring to, a coffee industry more welcoming and equitable.
The way people speak about Getchusomegear, the number of folk who jumped at the chance to heap praise on this small scale mutual aid project doing something very simple—helping less-advantaged coffee professionals access the equipment they need to thrive—makes me hopeful that perhaps this is the fourth wave.
Getchu’s success is both something to celebrate, and a sign that the wider industry still needs to do more. McAuley estimates that they have sent out almost 700 gear boxes between the US and Canadian chapters, and says that they will continue sending them out as long as people need them.
“What we do is work in solidarity with and for coffee workers,” McAuley says. “As long as we're able to collect gear and people keep applying, it is important for us to be around. It has been nice to see a few cafes give gear to their staff and new hires! If every cafe did this we wouldn't have to exist.”