SCAA Exhibition 2012
April 19 - April 21
Once again I find my way south about 90 minutes to the airport, this time I board an aircraft to fly 90 minutes north to Portland Oregon to attend and work at the 2012 edition of the Specialty Coffee Association of America's annual exhibition and conference. My duties to this website as well as my time working in the Hottop booth pretty much preclude any attendance in classes or lectures, but there is still plenty to see and do.
Some things don't change. I still dislike air travel. It's not a fear of flying or similar paranoia that bothers me. It's a general disgust of the parking, bus rides, waiting in line, partial disrobing for the security, "Yes, Mam, those are harmonicas." I can't bring nail clippers but I can bring knitting needles (and to be honest, in a fight, I'll take the knitting needles, thank you). In other words, the same old.
But this year there is a difference. I had recently purchased a Dell mini netbook (10" laptop) and after a few days of updating and adding software I have a portable e-reader, movie player, MP3 music device and most importantly, portable access to the Internet that will allow me to find and present "live" updates on what I am doing, and as in years past, to present some of the new and more interesting consumer goods I run across (as well as whatever else catches my eye).
This morning, Thursday, April 18, I made the 90 minute drive to the airport and the endless joy that is air travel began with my checked bag being three pounds overweight. I had weighed it at home, but the scales differed, and that was that.The plan was to just have my little netbook bag that went under the seat on the plane with me, but I had to unload about five pounds into my backpack and carry on two bags. The best laid plans, and so forth. After enjoying the in-flight movie which I brought with ("It's a Joke, Son"), the trip from the airport to downtown Portland was simple (and very affordable at $2.40) using their train system. I was prepared with a pair of well-oiled shoes and a rain cover for my rolling duffel though. A short walk, just after the rain had stopped (!) and I am now in my room. The view:
Let's be kind and call it unspectacular
But I'm not here for the scenery. The real excitement starts tomorrow!
Part 2 - Day One at the Show
Back in my room, and back from dinner. It's been a long day and my feet hurt, but I am typing with my hands so I should be OK for a while. It was slow at the booth for most of the day because the display roasters weren't delivered until mid-afternoon, so I had some time to walk around. More to come tomorrow, but here are some highlights from today:
Behmor Brazen Coffee Brewer
Brazen - People's Choice Award – Coffee or Tea Preparation & Serving Equipment (Consumer)
Overall, the most impressive item I have seen in terms of home coffee was the “Behmor Brazen” coffee brewer. Joe gave me “the tour” and we had a nice, long talk concerning the machine among other things. Besides being very easy on the eyes, the Brazen's design features point towards a ground-breaking home brewer. Features include all stainless steel water reservoir/heating tank, insulated stainless carafe, auto-tune that compensates for the boiling point at your altitude, user-controlled pre-soak function, non-volatile memory, advanced water distribution disk, and much more. I am very much looking forward to receiving my review unit to be able to supply you with some hands-on info. If it works as good a sit looks, Joe has another winner here. Priced at about $195.
Faema E61 Legend anyone?
There is plenty of eye candy to be seen. No surprise that this one caught my eye.
Nesco Water Kettle
I walked by the Nesco booth, the folks who make the small, screw-agitated, coffee roaster and saw they had a new cordless water kettle. While there are plenty of these on the market, many are less than dependable (check the reviews on Amazon). The Nesco has a glass vessel, removable washable water filter, and draws 1500 watts.
UPDATE: After being told I would receive one of these as a test unit, and being contacted by the VP of Sales & Marketing at the parent company who was quite obliging in asking me my needs, my E-Mails were no longer being replied to. Hopefully the kettle is more dependable than their E-Mail system.
Bodum Bistro Pour-Over Brewer
Bodum was showing their new drip brewer. Sporting a new “modern” look with a see-through back which exposes the heating unit. The brew temperature is not adjustable. Reported street price is around $250 and I did not see it selling for less when I searched after writing this article. While obviously not generally aimed at the clientele that frequents my website, I still question the price-point. To me it looks somewhat dated in design and uninspired. If seen on the shelf of any department store would seemingly lack any functional difference from $30 machines. It does feature a titanium-plated stainless steel filter (no paper filters needed), a thermal carafe with stay-closed spout except when pouring, it will only turn on when the carafe is in palce, and has a glass tube that transports the water from the heating element to the shower head. Temperature stability and consistency aside, it does not seem like a $250 coffee brewer to me. Maybe it's just me? What do you think?
Not every item at the show is high-tech bling. I found these straws interesting and so decided to share. The StirMometer straws instantly change color when immersed in liquid hotter then 150F. (65C.), and in seconds will change back when removed from the liquid. They come in a variety of colors, can be molded in shapes to order, and there is a version for cold use as well. They can also be imprinted. While aimed at commercial use, these could be handy if there are children or elderly in the home.
Steampunk - SCAA's 2012 Best New Product Award for Commercial Coffee or Tea Preparation and Serving Equipment
If steampunk is your thing, the Steampunk brewing system from Alphadominche is a real eye-catcher. The clear brewing vessels are visible from both sides of the counter. It is designed to be a siphon brewing system that is computer controlled with the ability to separately program each of the four brewing chambers for temperature, volume, agitation time, and infusion time. The total time can be as low as 30 seconds . Coffee or tea can be brewed from the PID-controlled 19.3 liter boiler, heated by a 5700 watt heating element. At the end of the extraction the rod is pulled up which extracts the filter, cleaning the chamber of spent particles a the same time. A simple rise cycle can also be done after that.
When I was there they brewed a batch of mint tea. The aroma was enticing to say the least. A visual and olfactory delight.
Loring Merlin Roaster
While it may not find its way into your garage (nor mine) the Loring coffee roaster caught my eye. This California company makes two models of drum roasters, but this is not one of them. This is their smallest model; a 15kg capacity fluid bed roaster! It would take me a week to understand all its complexities and then a couple of days to share the outline of that with you, but basically, it is an oxygen-free system with an external burner system the injects the air and heat, then recirculates that heated air so there is no smoke output. The air and gas are premixed before ignition. The representative stated that they can test them in an enclosed space and there is no smoke output (of course they do not do that as a habit).
The control system gives the roaster the ability to change virtually any part of the profile in 6 second increments with full visual display of past roasts and the current activity. It can even be remotely operated by wireless connection or through the Internet using a laptop, iPad, etc. Beyond that, most components can be easily accessed for maintenance and cleaning, many without the use of tools. Even much of the exhaust and chaff piping was connected using quick-release clamps. It was evident that a lot of thought went into these stainless steel roasters.
Part 3 - Day Two at the Show
It's Saturday evening, my feet hurt, and my head is spinning with all I saw today. So for the last time this weekend, I present to you some of the items that caught my eye or heart:
BTC Mason 800
The South Korean BTC Corporation (BTC stands for “bean to coffee”) showed their new to me coffee roaster. It is pretty basic in its operation with just pre-programmed profiles for the desired roast level. The 200 gram capacity inner, slide-out roast chamber has a stirring vane that engages when the chamber is slid into the oven. Remarkably, the roaster was running on top of the table, and they had accidentally re-roasted a batch of roasted coffee. As dark as it was when the roast ended, their was no visible smoke nor smoke odor. The aluminum chamber and the chaff collector below it were both ceramic-coated aluminum. The only plastic part of the entire roaster was the face of the machine which houses the control panel.
Hey Cafe Grinders
The Hey Cafe folks had a booth there. They recently gained quite a response on Home Barista.com concerning their Chinese made “copy” of the Mazzer Super Jolly. While not a “real” copy in the truest sense, they did state that the SJ was used to model the grinder among other features from other manufacturers. While that grinder is the one that they called their “bread and butter” they are showing some very innovative designs that we should be seeing soon.
The photo above is of the internal workings of this new grinder. It is different from any I have seen. The armature is set in bearings that ride in brass bushings. The lower burr is mounted on the motor's shaft, much like most grinders. But note the position of the adjustment mechanism. When adjusting the grind the entire armature moves. The upper burr mounts in the carrier I am holding and is removed by unscrewing three socket-head screws (tool included).
Big deal? Now imaging this entire assembly mounted upside down from the above image. Getting the idea? They will soon be marketing a grinder with that assembly, adjustment mechanism at the top, burrs at the bottom which spit out the ground coffee out the bottom with, as I was told, near-zero retention! Let's keep an eye out for that one!
Bunn Trifecta MB
The Bunn Trifecta MB is the home version of the Commercial Trifecta I reviewed from the 2010 SCAA Exhibition. The MB has five different turbulence settings and five different infusion settings for a total of twenty-five different brew cycles. This single-cup brewer creates 6 to 12 ounces at a time. It should sell for about $500.
I introduced you to Joulies in my review of the 2011 exhibition from Houston and I have finally got my hands on a set.
Watch for an in-depth review soon, right here on “Espresso! My Espresso!” My review is available.
The folks from Espro were one of the highlights of my show. I always love visiting with them and sampling coffee from the Espro Press. Here you see the new, larger press with a redesigned filter system intended to leave less liquid in teh bottom of the press. We discussed possible changes in a redesigned Torroid pitcher and my thoughts on improvements to their other products. it is so nice to deal with a company that places such a high value on the opinions of its customers, those in the know, and even me! Their are just completing the shipment of the new 30 ounce press to the Kickstarters who helped fund the project (larger press seen above next to the original 8 ounce model), and I should be receiving one soon. Watch for my review!
Tipu's Authentic Indian Chai
In the booth next to Hottop was Tipu's Chai. They have a number of Authentic Indian Chai products. The ones they were featuring are made from a dry, powder mix. One has powdered soy in it so you just add water, and the other they were serving was made with soymilk. Both were intriguingly delicious. The spices included black pepper and ginger, and the beverage really "sings" in your mouth. All their ingredients are natural, and even the soy powder is from non-GMO soybeans! A delicious REAL FOOD product! If you like Chai, check out their products!
d'ANCAP was showing a selection of their ceramics. This one caught my eye as I walked by. It made me think how good it would be to get home tomorrow evening!
Part 4 - Final Thoughts
It's Monday morning and as I recuperate from the weekend I thought I would give some final impressions and thoughts. It was yet another whirlwind trip. Between working the booth with Michael of Hottop USA (really, he literally IS Hottop USA) and walking the floor to cover the exhibition for my website as well as trying to make contacts for future reviews and graphic art work to try to milk some cash from all this, I have little time for anything else.
It was certainly great to meet up with all the folks who dropped by the booth or those whose paths I crossed during the show. Dropping by booths I get to say hello to old friends and acquaintances like Kyra and Kyle of Baratza, Bill Crossland, inventor of the much-discussed CC1 espresso machine, and as always, an extended visit (actually multiple visits) with all the folks at Espro which is always one of the highlights of the show for me. They make me want to move to Canada! Gleb Polyakov of ZPM (the much-discussed kickstart-funded espresso machine) dropped by and we were able to talk briefly about the project which, from what he told me, is moving along very nicely.
I had a very interesting talk with Alan Adler of Aerobie fame. I asked Alan if he ever imagined when he started out developing the Aeropress that there would be a World Championship Aeropress competition and he just laughed out loud and said, "Never." On an amazing journey that device has taken him!
I also got to take some time to talk to Joe Behm of Behmor. It was interesting to see his new brewer (which is offered at a price point that makes me wonder what Bodum was thinking pricing their new brewer at $250!). It was also interesting discussing "our" competing products (the Behmor roaster and the Hottop).
I missed seeing lots of folks including Stefano who left his business card in the Hottop booth when I was out walking the floor, and I didn't get to meet Barb and Doug of Orphan Espresso.
Tim Wendelboe, the 2004 World Barista Champion and 2005 World Cup Tasting Champion, stopped by the booth and we talked of Norway and other things.
And taking a bit of a detour from coffee, but just a bit, Cheri (aka "Cher" from Home Barista.com) dropped by the booth and forced me to play a few blues riffs on harmonica... Well, forced isn't really accurate.. She sort of had to make me stop. We have plans to get together some time soon and hit our nearest open mic blues jam. Should be quite a show, one way or the other!
Possibly one of the most amazing things that happens at these shows are the folks who drop by just to say "hello" and want to shake my hand. I am sure my reaction to that can read as somewhat aloof, but my response is just from being overwhelmed and even a bit shocked. I just see myself as another home enthusiast with the ability to put my thoughts in words and to share them. The gratitude shown by folks for my efforts and how they have helped them along in their journey is really heartwarming and very much appreciated. Thanks to all those who dropped by the booth just to say hello!
And for the multitudes of others I have missed or forgotten, I apologize. Three days on my feet, hours of walking and driving, and many hours of repetitive explanations eventually fogs the mind and memory fails. Maybe I will be able to keep better track next year in Boston. Probably not, but looking forward to seeing you there!