Coffee Cup
"Espresso! My Espresso!"
An Ongoing Internet Novelette
by Randy Glass - Copyright 2011 - All rights reserved

Coffee Cup
SCAA 2011
23rd Annual Exposition
Houston, Texas
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 claim that they are the world's largest such organization was relfected in the vast number of folks I spoke to from all over the world. Of course, there was lots of folks from Brazil, the sponsoring country this year, but also from all over South and Central America, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Jamica, numerous African countries, Canada, Germany, and Sweden just to name a few from memory.
      My flight was the usual bag of joy that air travel has become with the added bonus of having my checked bag opened by the security forces. They opened my kit bag and then opened a bottle of sunscreen to check its contents. I have no problem with that. I do wish they had closed the bottle after opening it so that it would not have leaked, ruining the travel bag for my electric razor. After an hour wait for my shuttle to take me from the airport to downtown, I checked into my room late Thursday evening and relaxed after a long day of travel, looking forward to three full days at the show.

      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.
      The show started out on a very positive note. While setting up teh Hottop booth before the official opening time, a representative from dropped by. Very convenient for me as I handed her a check in the amount of $54.00 which I had already made out to CoffeeKids! They were so very appreciative that they returned later in the show to take my photograph. The $54 represented the profit from the sale of the "I made an Espresso Today..." T-shirts and other goods in my FRCN Digital Imaging CafePress store. These items are still for sale there, and I will continue to send the profits to as the money comes in.
      Part of my time at the show allows me to meet old friends as well as meet folks who know me but I have never met. Such is the nature of the Internet. This year, much more than in previous years, I was meeting many folks who knew me from my online presence in the many forums I frequent and from my website. I started talking to a young woman who lives close to where I lived in the S.F. Valley. We discovered that her Mom graduated eight years before I did from the high school my wife and I attended! I met two young men who had been friends for most of their lives, who worked together and that all three of us were Eagle Scouts, and that their boss was an Eagle Scout. And among the new acquaintances were plenty of old ones including Barry J., Marshall F., and Dan from Home
      I don't get the opportunity to take any of the seminars or classes available at the exhibition but there are still plenty of learning opportunities right on the exhibition floor. One of note was a talk I had with a representative from Claris, the water treatment folks. I wanted to learn a bit about the softening system I had employed, and whether or not this sort of system was really effective on prevention of scaling. We talked about testing general hardness and alkalinity hardness, and I learned that both have to be present for scaling to occur. This came out of the information I presented to him that the ion exchange I was using (the "low acid" type which can be recharged using salt) lowered the general hardness but had little effect on the alkalinity. Their system used a high-acid exchange treatment which lowers alkalinity as well. Water, considering that you can see through it, is a very complicated item when it comes to coffee.
      As in previous years, I wore two hats this weekend - One for Espresso! My Espresso! and one for Hottop. So I split my time between working behind the Hottop table and walking the show floor, meeting up with old friends, making new ones, and looking for items and services that might be of interest to my readers and possibly not as well covered in other media venues.
      My work at the Hottop booth can be a challenge. I speak a little Spanish, and to say "little" is an exaggeration to be sure. It is always a challenge to communicate with the many folks at the show who come from South and Central America and Mexico. There were about 1,000 from Brazil alone, the sponsor country of the show this year. Tryng to speak a second language can be a humbling experience. I know of no Spanish speaking members of my community and so do not get a chance to practice or improve my vocabulary during the year.
      When I peruse the show floor I mainly look for things that interest or excite me as a home barista and roaster and then share them with you. Let's take a look at what caught my eye and intterest.
      Each year I try to find the one item that I would name my personal "Best of Show." This year I found two, so lets say it was a tie and take a look. In alphabetical order:


      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 to fully fund their project, successfully raising their goal of $300,000.
      So what are Joulies? They are larger-than-life, hollow stainless steel coffee beans. Inside is a wax-like substance that is very good at absorbing heat energy.
      Not only is this product the work of these two friends, they have found a factory right here in the USA to produce this product. The factory in the East at one time produced hollow, stainless steel knife handles. It has been hired as well as the out-of-work employees who are using the existing machinery, experience, and knowledge to create the Joulies.
      So what do Joulies do? They are a bit misunderstood. I was educated by Dave and Dave at the show, so learned that they are best used in insulated or vacuum mugs, carafes, or thermos bottles. You place the Joulies right into the vessel and then fill the vessel with coffee as you normally would. Properly prepared coffee will be in the 190 degree range- too hot to drink. The Joulies immediately go to work, absorbing thermal energy, quickly dropping the temperature of the coffee. Within minutes they bring the temperature down to around a drinkable 130-140 degrees. When the temperature of the coffee begins to drop below the temperature of the Joulies, the silver beans release their stored heat energy keeping the coffee drinkably warm for many hours depending on the efficiency of the your storage container. They do not work as well in containers that either absorb heat on their own (like ceramic cups) or are open to the air which also removes heat energy.
      I will soon be receiving a sample set of Joulies, so watch for a review hewree on Espresso! My

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.
      This very simple brewing device has two functional parts (and a total of just three parts!). The outer vessel (the "pot") and its lid are made of glazed porcelain with a very smooth surface. Inside is a thin, stainless steel open-top cylinder which serves as a filter. Approximately 95% of the lower portion of the cylinder is laser perforated with very fine holes. Very, very fine holes. From arm's-length, the metal appears to just be a different tone than the polished, upper, un-perforated area. The pattern is so fine that when the filter is viewed at even a slight angle the transparency disappears.

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.
      I sampled coffee from the Sowden SoftBrew twice and it was quite tasty both times. It is very much a simplification and improvement of cowboy coffee, giving full immersion brewing without the use of a sock. Add the elegant, simple, and ergonomic design of the porcelain vessel and you have my second choice in this tie for show favorite. It is available in 2, 4, 8, and 12 cup versions (13, 27, 44, and 61 ounce capacities).
      I will be receiving a Soft Brew so watch for a review here on Espresso! My

      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 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 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.
      Anyone who loves pour-over coffee and who has sat there, slowly pouring water over their coffee and lamenting that the water is losing heat energy, or who has cleaned up the mess after their Bunn brewer blooms the coffee grounds all over the counter will be watching this one with anticipation. While great for home use, this may also prove to be an excellent cupping or lab device for coffee testing.


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.
      It still features all the quality and adjustment of the original Vario with micro grind adjustment and quality grinding burrs. It is rated at about two pounds a day making it suitable in just about any home and even for small shop use, for decaf for example.
      Affordable, small footprint, and backed by Baratza factory support which has the well-earned reputation for being the very best in the industry.

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.
      Both devices also have three memory locations to pre-program three different dose weights which can be used for different basket sizes or different brewing methods as you choose.


      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.
      Upon arriving home I read the information therein:
      "Breaking with the traditional methods of roasting, the PRE—50 is a machine that roasts coffee using heat blast technology. Hot blast roasting sends heated air into the roasting chamber and instantaneously roasts the coffee beans uniformly. This uniform roasting is possible because the beans are suspended in the chamber and heated from all directions simultaneously. Additionally, you can alter the settings of the PRE—50 to achieve any roast. The hot—blast roasting system allows for roasting times of less than 5 minutes. This shorter roasting method can expand coffee flavor scope while maintaining the quality and uniformity of other roasting methods."
      There was more, and I will not dwell on the translation and syntax of other parts of the brochure (other than saying they could use my services). I was not able to sample coffee from this roaster, but a roast of less than five minutes? I obviously can't comment on the quality of that roast, but would be hesitant to taste test a sample of a roast that completed in that short of time. I am not knowledgeable enough to say that a five minute espresso roast is impossible, but that seems a very short time to expect full development of the inside of the beans.

      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 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).

Earnest Eats

      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.
      I opened the Pomegranate Walnut Crisp granola plank, and the wonderfully, fresh aroma was quite enticing. The flavor was was very fresh as well, and it tastes the same - simple. These crunchy planks can be crumbled, over ice cream for instance, or just eaten as is.
      The Whole Food Bar I tried was the "cran lemon zest." These are soft bars, chewy in texture. I can say the same for the aroma and fresh flavor. Both taste as if they were made at home just a short time ago.
      If that sounds interesting, head over to their website and click on the "OUR FOODS" tab. Clicking on each product will bring up the entire contents and nutrition information for each of the bars and planks. Their website states, "We make all our products in small batches using only high quality ingredients to ensure that Earnest Eats taste and smell just like homemade." As I finish my last bites of my two samples, I will say that this in an understatement. They should brag just a bit more. Delicious and nutritious foods, they are indeed! It was only with great restraint I left half of each for my wife to sample. She took them to work the next day, and after a morning-long meeting she stated that her stomach was grumbling when she returned to her office and ate the halves of each bar I had left her. In a testiment as to how satisfying these bars are, she said that near the time to leave for home at the end of the day she realized that she had forgotten to eat lunch, but never felt hungry after eating the bars.

      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.

Coffee Cup
  -   -   - Silvia
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