"Espresso! My Espresso!"
An Ongoing Internet Novelette
by Randy Glass - Copyright 2011 - All rights reserved
E-mail me at EspressoMyEspresso@gmail.com
23rd Annual Exposition
April 29 through May 1
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
For the eighth time I had the opportunity and good fortune to attend the Specialty Coffee Association of America's (SCAA) annual exhibition. The SCAA is the world’s coffee authority and largest coffee trade association with nearly 3,000 member companies. SCAA members are located in more than 40 countries and represent every segment of the specialty coffee industry, including producers, roasters, importers/exporters, retailers, manufacturers, baristas and coffee enthusiasts. SCAA is dedicated to creating a vibrant specialty coffee community, recognizing, developing and promoting specialty coffee by setting and maintaining quality standards for the industry; conducting research on coffee, equipment and perfection of craft; and providing education, training, resources and business services for its members.
The George R. Brown Convention Center on the edge of the downtown area afforded plenty of room for the convention and was conveniently located as well. What made it an even more valuable was that the downtown area had numerous shopping and dining possibilities. Minute Maid Field was within walking distance and those who wanted to see a ball game were afforded discount tickets, and on the other side of the hotel was The Toyota Center Arena where Bob Seegar played Saturday night! Glad I didn't know ahead of time as I would have been very tempted to go which would have left me physically spent for Sunday.
Joulies is a product that is a great representation of grassroots development; possibly the best I have seen in quite a while. Dave and Dave were neighbors and classmates in college, and while living on opposite coasts, created Joulies. Now, working on the East coast, they have used Kickstarter.com to fully fund their project, successfully raising their goal of $300,000.
Sowden Design SoftBrew Coffee Maker
I have never hidden the fact that I am lured by simplicity. Low tech, good design which does what it is intended to do with the fewest number of parts and lowest amount of technology involved in the product whenever possible. I am not anti-technology, but at the same time I love finding simple, easy-to-use devices which do their intended job. Sowden Design's Soft Brew coffee maker is an excellent example of this.
Photo from Soden advertising literature
The metal filter is dropped into the pot. Ground coffee goes inside the filter (1) from the top. The desired amount of hot water is poured into the pot through the filter. The metal filter allows just the brewed coffee through and allows a very small amount of fines through.
My support of this small company is well known, and I am proud to say that the first official review of the Espro Press was here on Espresso! My Espresso.com. Why so supportive? No, I do not make anything from it, but they make excellent goods which are, for the most part, well designed, and very useful (one exception may be the Dillenger Tamper which will be redesigned shortly. It did not at all fit my hand comfortably). The Espro Press was my favorite device from a past SCAA Exhibition. Nothing new from Espro to share from this year's show, but there is news.
My only complaint about the Espro press was that, like a French Press, it was a bit of a mess to clean and that it only made one cup at a time. There is a new Espro Press on the horizon! Easier to clean? No. Did the little light over your head just illuminate? On the very-near horizon is a three cup version which will have a capacity of 27 to 30 ounces (the current version is about 8 ounces)! Great news! The nature of the Espro Press allows one to leave the coffee in the press after depressing the plunger without fear of over-extraction as happens in the "traditional," (old-fashioned) press, and the stainless-steel vacuum vessel keeps the coffee hot. So soon there will be more coffee to enjoy right there in front of you!
Watch for a review of the new, larger Espro Press right here on Espresso! My Espresso.com as soon as they are available. There are other new items coming as well, but information on these was not ready for release at this time.
I didn't get much time to talk to Bill Crossland, but his new espresso machine, based on the Gee but with many internal design changes from Bill himself is now for sale in limited quantities. It is a single, 500ml stainless steel brew boiler with PID temperature control, programmable pre-infusion, and a separate thermoblock for steaming. The pre-infusion is programmable for length of time, and the "dwell time" between pre-infusion and extraction is also programmable. Extraction time is also programmable. All functions and programming are easily accessed though the two knobs on the face of the machine with functions and settings displayed on the easy-to-read, LCD display panel. Other features include commercial size 58mm portafilter basket, 3-way valve, and swivel steam wand.
Bill refers to this machine as "entry level," but I think that sells it short. If it performs as well as the specifications indicate, it should place it at the very top of the list of entry level machines. Bill showed me how quickly the steam function initiated, and while I did not get to test the steam power with a jug of milk, the elimination of the usual ritual involved in going from brew to steam and back to brew with SBDU machines makes the Crossland machine worth a serious look. Reviews should start popping up soon.
Units are already in the hands of some users for testing feedback (I am not one, unfortunately). If this machine performs as advertised, I see it as the definite choice over a PID'd Silvia.
Bill was also showing his new Crossland Coffee Brewer. While still in development and searching for a niche, this PID controlled drip machine is flexible enough to be used with most pour-over methods including Chemex and cones. Beyond the simple PID-controlled water temperature, the user can program the brewhead positioning for such things as center rotation, spiral rotation, or pulsed rotation. Water pulsing is programmable, volume is programmable, pre-wetting is.. well, you get the picture by now.
WINNER of "Best New Product: Coffee or Tea Preparation & Serving Equipment (Commercial)"
As many of you have seen on the various forums, talk has been voluminous over the two new additions to the Baratza line. Kyle has once again jumped to the forefront with two new items. The first, seen above is the Vario-E. The updated Vario (and updated barely seems to cover it), has an integral digital scale which electronically controls the grinder. Thew user can program a mass of coffee, and the grinder automatically stops when that amount has been ground into the hopper. Accuracy is stated in the literature as +/- 0.2 grams, with a display resolution of .1 gram.
WINNER of "Best New Product: Coffee or Tea Preparation & Serving Equipment (Consumer)"
Also available is the Estatto. This add-on base can be added to the Maestro Plus, Virtuoso, or Preciso giving them the digital mass dosing that the Vario-E has. Your grinder is plugged into the inside to the Estatto base, then the grinder is locked into place with a bar locating the timer switch on the side of the grinder in the on position. The grinder is now controlled by the digital scale in the base and functionally programmed by the buttons on the base. It gives your grinder the same +/- 0.2 gram accuracy by weighing the dose and then turning off the grinder when that does has been reached.
Another favorite of mine is the MyPressi Twist. Here is the special red model which features polished stainless frame, very nicely displayed in their booth. They also have a couple of new accessories soon to be available. One is a user rechargeable device that will give two double extractions when you run out of chargers. An interesting concept that might make the MyPressi even more travel friendly and economical to use. I should be receiving one as soon as they are available, so once again, watch for a review here on my website.
If it is big, shiny, or sophisticated, or any combination of the three, there was plenty to be seen on the exhibition floor. How about this:
Make room in the garage for what Diedrich was showing. A roaster with an LCD display. This interfaces with a very sophisticated control system for their roasters. With roast control over every fifteen-second segment of a profile it offers tremendous control over your roasting goals. No, I did not ask how much it was!
LaSpaz had this machine on display. According to the representative there it had enough bells and whistles to make your head spin. Programmable everything from preheating of the water before it goes into the boiler, adjustable flow rates, to programmable brew temperature, to programmable dosing, and evidently just about everything in between.
For the mechanically minded, I saw this machine in the Wega booth. Stainless steel boiler, fittings, and piping throughout. Descale to your heart's delight. Also catching my eye in this machine was the well thought out and sanitary layout.
Here's one that caught my eye then later raised an eyebrow:
You may remember the roster I showed last year that looked like a steam locomotive? That one is theirs as well, but the Proaster PRE-50f is the one that caught my eye as I walked down the aisle. One of the largest air roasters around, with one exception that comes to mind, but the clean, simple design of this one looked interesting to me. The display material stated that this roaster would handle 100 grams (less than four ounces) to a full kilo (2.2 pounds). My interest was in how the control system of their air roaster handled that wide of a range of mass. Quite a design feat I thought. The gentlemen at the booth had limited ability to communicate in English (not criticizing, mind you. They did make a genuine effort to answer my questions), but they were kind enough to recognize my technical interest and handed me one of their brochures.
But it's not always about big shiny blinking things that weigh a lot and cost a lot and lead to a lot of alimony payments if purchased.
This booth was not being attended by any representatives, but I took this photo of one of their examples on display. Beautiful and understated design.
from LoTech Sales
And a nice simple juxtaposition from the high-tech bling were these coffee measuring spoons from ImprintedCoffeeScoops.com a specialty area of LoTech Sales. They showed some standard designs at their booth which they do sell, but you can also get you own custom design imprinted on them. The spoons are a lot tougher than they appear, and have a long, straight handle that easily reaches down to the bottom of a quart jar. To get spoons with your own custom design a one-time, and very reasonable die fee is $45, and the spoons then cost $.57 each with a minimum order of 100 pieces. The standard designs mentioned above come in packs of 8 for $6.40 ($.80 each).
I have long been a user and supporter of simple foods, without artificial additives of any kind, gently processed, and as fresh as possible. Here at home we have been eating a diet virtually free of trans fats before they were even called trans fats. I can honestly say that our dogs and cats eat a higher quality diet than almost all the people we know. Earnest Eats is a good example from the show that fits into that category. They make two products. One is Granola Planks that come in three flavors, the other being Baked Whole Food Bars in four flavors. I brought home a sample of each.
So as the sun sets (I apologetically show a rising sun here since my room was on the wrong side of the building to catch a sunset), we say goodbye to Houston and Texas, and I am already looking forward to being in Portland, Oregon in 2012.