A portion of downtown Atlanta, Georgia, as seen from the 26th floor
"Those ants down there look like coffee grounds!"
I attended my first SCAA Exhibition back in 2002 in Anaheim. Back then I just attended on Saturday as a media person. The show in Atlanta this year is my twelfth, and it certainly makes for an interesting juxtaposition between then and now in terms of my experience. What was once a home enthusiast who was fairly well overwhelmed by what he saw is now a professional in the coffee industry who has made a name for himself. I could go on an on, and in the past I have, but let's leave it at that for now.
My Attendance Record
2002 - 14th - Anaheim
2005 - 17th - Seattle
2006 - 18th - Charlotte
2007 - 19th - Long Beach
2008 - 20th - Minneapolis
2009 - 21st - Atlanta
2010 - 22nd - Anaheim
2011 - 23rd - Houston
2012 - 24th - Portland
2013 - 25th - Boston
2014 - 26th - Seattle
2016 - 28th - Atlanta
As you may very well know by now, I am the Hottop USA customer service representative as well as their graphic artist having created their website and owners manuals among other related tasks. Because of that I spend most of my time in the Hottop booth and so have limited opportunity to walk the floor for review purposes as well as to find items to review here on my website. The solution was to enlist the assistance of a reporter for the Seattle 2014 show to help me cover the show, and that worked out brilliantly.
I did not attend in 2015, but I tried to gain her assistance this year as well, but a the last minute she was unable to attend so my coverage here in this chapter will be somewhat limited, unfortunately. But lets see what we can do.
I flew in on Thursday. I had an early afternoon flight which left close to an hour late, and combining the four hour flight time with the time change it was around 10PM by the time I got to my room. I think I was able to finally able to get to sleep at around 1AM or so, and I overslept on Friday morning, not getting up until around 9:15. The jet lag had me in a fog, but I hurriedly got ready, had what was left of the hotel's breakfast spread (which was not much), and because I did not know about the free shuttle buses, I walked to the show.
You know you are in a luxury hotel when you can phone family and friends from the throne
Feeling late (which is a real negative fixation with me), and not seeing any cabs out front, I walked to the show. The distance was shown as about .8 miles on Google Earth, and I thought it would help me wake up and clear the fog. I did not know that the show was in the furthest building, and the walk ended up being about two miles. I then got into the badge pickup line which I did not need to do, then walked back to the other end of the hall (which I had already passed) to get my press pass. All this time I thought I was about 30 minutes late, but as it turned out, The doors to the show floor were just opening as I arrived at the entrance. I picked up my exhibitor's pass from the Boss and at the same time found out I could have used the free, air conditioned, luxury shuttle bus provided by the SCAA which stopped right across the street from the hotel. It's just no way to start a day.
I wish I could recall all the great folks I spoke with. Some past friends, some folks I have helped through either Hottop or though this website, and some through my presence on the various coffee forums. Of all the people I saw only one looked at me askance and that has to be a personal record of some sort. Doug and Barb from Orphan Espresso, all the great folks from Espro, Dr. Joseph John of the Josuma Coffee Company, Kyle and Kyra of Baratza, Joe Behm of Behmor, Burc who is the owner of Kaffette (Beko Turkish coffee maker), Marshall Fuss, Barry Jarrett, Carlos Gonzalez from Mexico whom I met in 2009 at my first Atlanta show, Garry Burman of Burman Coffee Traders, Rob Jason who had more good things to say about me than I will ever deserve, the-son-in law of a local coffee shop owner whom I recently befriended, and one man who was daring enough to take a selfie with me, my first and last hopefully, Steve Rolon.
A guy whose face was made for radio... and Steve Rolon
If nothing else the photo proves to my wife I was really in Atlanta, and have a witness whose testimony will stand up in a court of law... maybe.
There were so many more folks I met, and it is with no small amount of shame and embarrassment that I am sure that I have left some folks out. So if I have forgotten to mention anyone I should have, please be kind to a man who would have virtually no memory whatsoever if it weren't for the invention of paper and pencil.
Working the Hottop booth is a lot of fun for me. Being a home enthusiast who has been roasting on Hottops for more years than anyone else in the USA, it gives me the opportunity to talk to many folks, not only about our roasters, but about roasting in general. Our newest model allows computer control as well as temperature-priority roasting, so for the first time we can create roast profiles very accurately and run them with very good repeatability. I mention that, not in bragging but in preface to explaining that I recently bought Scott Rao's book and have used his theories on profiling to create profiles and advance my knowledge in the field.
Whenever a serious amateur came by the booth I would ask them about what Scott wrote, and I also asked the opinion of the professionals. The responses were quite polarized. The amateurs said that they found it quite helpful while the pros sort of smiled and gave a bit of eye roll. If I may generalize, the amateurs did say that it gave them a better idea as to what a profile can look like and how to achieve it. The pros said that assuming that the thought of having one profile that is best was fairly well absurd.
One roaster who stated he had written a review of the book and stated that, among other factors, he did not like Scott's use of the word, “Commandments.” We discussed this and I mentioned that Scott did state that his findings were based on his experience and research into the common factors of all of his best roasts.
After fifteen years of home roasting it was nice to be able to carry on a reasonably intelligent discussion about coffee roasting with a number of professional coffee roasters. And beyond Scott's book, the one universal data point which reinforced what I have learned is that if you get to the point that you think you know it all, or even enough, and you feel you have a real handle on coffee roasting, it is time to quit roasting and start buying your beans from someone who knows what they are doing.
Speaking Of (and To) Coffee Roasting Professionals
I had taken a break in by busy day on the floor, walked to a far wall away from the bustling crowds, and called my wife, just to say hello. We spoke for a bit I mentioned some of the folks I had spoken to, and she asked if I had seen “the fudge people” (June, Barry's wife use to sell her homemade fudge on the Riley's coffee website).
I said, “You mean Barry Jarrett.” At the instant I was telling her I had not seen them, I looked up and not thirty feet away, walking towards me, was Barry! I immediately said good by to my wife and walked over to greet Barry. Ya, it was a moment!
Barry and I have history together in the world of coffee. Those who know don't need to hear it again, and those who do not know have no use for old historical facts, but we had a wonderful, albeit short visit. Barry had joined a commercial coffee roasting startup the beginning of last year and is now roasting in a week more coffee than most of use will likely see in a lifetime. He told me he had just come from working on a deal for a two-bag (around 220 pound capacity) roaster. I lament that I did not get to see June or Maddie, but asked Barry to give my best wishes to them both.
I also got to sit and talk over breakfast on Saturday and Sunday Mornings with Dr. Joseph John. We share that same bit of history I share with Barry, and so these two old guys (the Doctor and I) spoke about that, about our professional retirements in the coming years, and of roasting in general. On the show floor I got to meet with the Doctor's son who is now working in the business (Josuma Coffee Company) with the Doctor. The Doctor and I have shared some important (and dramatic) moments in the past, so I always look forward to visiting with him.
Products Which Caught My Eye
With less free time than required, and the additional burden of not having a reporter, my movement through the floor area was more hurried than I would have liked. It didn't help that my copy of “Coffee Talk” with advertising links to booth numbers did not arrive until after I had left home, but life has its sense of humor as well as I. But no sense to cry over spilled beans, green or roasted. Here are a few items I found personally interesting:
Beko Automatic Turkish Coffee Maker
Burc, from Kafette, recognized me immediately even after my two year absence, and he smiled which is always a good sign. He was more than happy to make me a cup of Turkish on their soon to be available automatic Turkish coffee maker.
The back portion is a pour-over water reservoir. Fill that, lift the top of the brewing chamber, and put in the desired amount of finely ground coffee, and if you so desire, sugar and spices. I asked for just sugar since that is the way we use the original Beko brewer at home. Close the lid and press a button for the desired brew size. There is also a choice of “ember” (slow) brew or fast brew. The brewer pumps the correct amount of water into the brewing chamber, “cooks” the coffee in a manner to resemble brewing in a Cezve, and the finished coffee is dispensed into your cup (or cups).
It gets better. Press another button and the machine automatically flushes out the brewing chamber and the waste goes into a “drip drawer” in the base of the machine. I hope to have a review sample of the machine as soon as they are available. Watch for the review which will be linked on my home page of this website.
Cafflano Klassic All-In-One Pour-over Coffee Maker
This caught my eye and at first it looked a bit gimmicky, but something made me stop and check it out, and I am glad I did. When assembled for transport, this five-piece device looks like a large travel mug or small thermos bottle, but it disassembles into a portable, and complete, pour-over coffee maker.
Top to bottom, the parts are:
1 – The first section serves are a regulating water dispenser for the pour over function. Remove its lid, attach to the filter cone portion, and pour in hot water. It can possibly be moved over the filter cone portion coffee manually.
When the Cafflano Klassic is being transported this section can also be used for storage of beans.
2 – The coffee grinder appeared to be well designer for its purpose. The handle folds away and is easily deployed. The ceramic burrs have an ingenious adjustment mechanism that looked well thought out. With the filter attached to the grinder the coffee is ground into the filter eliminating further handling.
3 – The third section is the stainless steel filter dripper into which the ground coffee resides to be brewed. You grind directly into filter section.
4 – A 450ml ( oz.) Tumbler. Coffee is brewed into the tumbler and consumed directly from that once the filter section is removed.
It all assembles into an easy to carry and store unit, great for travel, RV use, and possibly camping, if not backpacking. Just add hot water and beans.
Watch for my review of the Cafflano Klassic!
I think this is the most stylish grinder that Baratza has ever offered
It would be difficult to remember a show where Kyle and company did not have some amazing new grinder to exhibit, but I think the Sette outdoes them all. I have been lusting over a number of grinders with a straight-through path over the years. For single-dosing for espresso there are a lot of grinders that work, but they all seem to either be temperamental or expensive. Don't get me wrong, my Kony is amazing, but not meant for home use and even less suited for single dosing. It is also a behemoth.
The Sette is not only compact enough for any counter space but it achieves a near-zero retention with a straight through design accomplished by holding the center burr and rotating the outer burr so that there is nothing but the burrs between the beans and your portafilter, or cup, or cone. One version grinds by time and the other has the Acaia scale strain gauge and electronics (under license) built in for grinding accuracy that is as I was told, +/- 0.1 grams.
The inner workings of the Baratza Sette
As you can see, the engineering and design of the drive mechanism is nothing short of extraordinary. The motor contains a planetary gear set to reduce speed. In the upper right is the outer burr, and its mount has the teeth that mesh directly to the motor's gear. The quality of the plastic was immediately apparent upon handling. I should be seeing this grinder when they are available, and I think it should make for a very interesting review. Watch for it!
The new Orphan Espresso pour over pitcher is going into production
very soon and I think that they are going to be a huge hit.
By now, Orphan Espresso” is a well known brand by nearly all my readers. You likely have read my review of the OE Dosing Funnel. It has been used for every dose I have done since it arrived and will continue to be. And their hand grinders are virtually legendary. I had the wonderful luck of hitting their booth during a slight lull in the crowd and had a long talk with Doug. What a pleasure to talk to these folks.
The silicone is slightly textured on the outside but smooth and shiny on the inside. Pick it up and you instinctively give it a squeeze. The spout is well designed and even the flow rate can be regulated by a stainless steel triad piece (indicated by the blue arrow above) that slips securely into a slot molded into the silicone, just above the spout's exit. It has three different size holes and you remove it and rotate to the size which regulates the flow based on the device you are brewing in, and then just slip it back into place. The prototype shown here is in a "State Highway Department safety green." The final product will be black I believe (thankfully). |
I received a review example of this scale from the folks at Brewista and have been using it for the last five days (as of the writing of this sentence). It certainly has a lot going for it beyond its very competitive street price. Waterproof to the point that the battery compartment comes with a silicone gasket (and two spares are included). You can even rinse it off under running water in the sink. It has a lot of modes which I will cover in the review. I really like the auto-tare function. Set the scale on the drip tray and place your cup on it and the scale tares itself. One mode will tare and then start the timer when the cup is placed on the scale, another does not start the scale. Compact in size and easy to read. Watch for my review coming soon.
The "Notneutral Lino line of tableware"
Years ago I had bought four of the ACF cappuccino cup and saucer sets from Great Infusions. Through morning dish washing incidents we are down to two (I still love her). ACF went under a few years ago and so I have been shopping around for the replacements we will soon need. I had seen the “Notneutral” cups online. While they appeared to be quite beautiful in the photos I had seen, looking is not the same as touching.
Picking up one of the cappuccino cups from the Lino line of coffee service I was immediately impressed. The quality of the glazing is stunning, and even the bottom of the cups were artistically finished as compared to the ACF cups which left part of the base so rough they would scratch the table so had to be used with the saucers.
To paraphrase Julius Caesar, “Veni. Tetigi. Emi.” I have not actually Emi, errr... bought them yet, but these are on the top of my list. The ACF cups were nice restaurant quality, the Notneutral cups are fine-dining quality that would be right at home on the tables of restaurants so fine of class that they likely would not admit me. The fine porcelain of the Lino with their beautifully designed handles, the handle-less Mino line, and for those with steadier hands around the sink they also offer the Fina “new bone china” line.
Handground Hand Coffee Grinder
The Handground hand coffee grinder is a good example of a successful Kickstarter project, and it is just now going into production according to the representative at the show. I should expect one for review purposes very soon, and I am excited about that. The ergonomic design puts the crank on the side and it rotates perpendicular to the table top. This allows one to place their hand on the flat top of the grinder to hold it in place. Very nice! Ceramic burrs as well.
It will be available in white, black, and nickel plate. The nickel costs a bit more, but is quite elegant. The white makes the grind setting numerals stand out very nicely. I look forward to reviewing this grinder!
The newest offerings from Espro - Their travel press and the "full size" glass press
For me, no SCAA Exhibition would be complete without three or four stops at the Espro booth. The coffee their products produce is always a delight to sip, but even that pales in comparison to the folks that work there. You may remember that I wrote the first official review of their first Espro Press a whole chunk of years ago. How time flies. At their first SCAA show they occupied a tiny little booth in an area that is the exhibition equivalent to the kid's table at Thanksgiving. They now fill a double booth with a beautiful, professional display. Way to go, folks! I should have moved to Canada and gone to work for you back then!
Seen here are two of their newest offerings, not photographed at the show but here in my home (Southeast Asian Catfish, aka Black Shark, not included). The white press is a travel mug. As I have said many times, their filter system is so efficient that you can press and leave the grounds in the vessel and extraction is virtually stopped upon pressing. The travel mug puts that to use. Brew in the cup, press screw on the lid, and hit the road. The double wall stainless steel vessel is a vacuum bottle, so the coffee will stay warm and delicious. I sipped the last few drops about three hours after I brewed a cup in the travel press, and even with the cover off the press the coffee was still pleasantly warm and only by holding the cup above mouth level and allowing the last few dribbles into my mouth could a bit of over extraction to be sensed.
The larger press is their new glass press, again with their filter basket that, as I have said so many time, makes the “traditional” press pot obsolete. There are a number of features that make this press very special, but one noteworthy feature is a locking design that keeps the vessel from falling out of the frame yet makes it very easy to remove it for washing up.
And, yes, you can expect to see reviews of both these items in the future right here on “Espresso! My Espresso!”
There was so much more, but so little time for me. Still, I managed to walk around and take some eye-candy photos of whatever caught my eye...
Here you go - Page 2