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SCAA Houston 2011 First Two Days
Author: CoffeeGeek Team
Posted: April 30, 2011
Article rating: 7.6
feedback: (1) comments | read | write

The SCAA Trade Show (now called The Specialty Coffee Event) is the biggest specialty coffee show in the world and every year it takes place in some part of the United States. This year is Houston's chance to showcase some of the great things about specialty coffee and espresso.

We have a varied number of contributors this year, including Will Smith from Tested, our very own Jon Rosenthal, Richard Ottenhof of Coffeeco (and the Coffeekings Blog), Jeff Taylor of PT's Coffee and a few surprises. They'll be hitting the show floor, visiting seminars, checking out exhibits and competitions and finding some of the best things this show has to offer.

This is our first two days of coverage, so enjoy!


Discussion with Kyle Anderson, co-owner of Baratza
Posted by Jon Rosenthal, 10:15am Permalink to this blog entry

I met Kyle Anderson in the Baratza booth this morning at 0900, well before the show opened up to the public at noon.  He was one of the earliest on the floor and he greeted my warmly.  He was preparing to make some coffee with a small V60 pourover and (of course) the new Baratza Vario-E, the product I came to discuss with him.

Kyle is a friendly guy with an easy smile, but his eyes give away his intensity.  It is clear to me that his brain is always working overtime, so he is in good company sharing a booth with Bill Crossland and Vince Fedele.  His responses were genuine, and always crisp and clear.

I asked him about his experience of the show so far, having already exhibited for a full day before, and he replied that there was a "huge interest" in the new products from both shop owners and home enthusiast types so the booth was busy and crowded all day.  Both Esatto and the Vario E have been popular with booth visitors, but it seems that the Esatto has had a bit more attention... probably because it looks so different from anything we have ever seen before.

When asked if there had been any input from SCAA visitors about possible improvements for the scale or accessories he responded that there really had been no unsolicited inquiries of this type at this show so far.  He also mentioned that nobody had yet commented on the fact that the scale systems do not yet support portafilter holders.

But he did indicate that there have already been a few shop owners who expressed interest in using this scale system in their shops.  in fact, it seems that one shop in Oregon (named Noble Coffee) already uses the Virtuoso and the shop owner was a big proponent to develop the weight based grinding technology and so they are already using the product commercially.

We talked about the possibility of having a grinder that could grind using either a timer or a scale for control so that a user could choose how they wanted to run the machine, but he indicated that the current processor they were using already had all of it's functions utilized and so the entire control circuit would need to be redesigned around an upgraded brain chip to allow for that multiple capability.

Finally, I asked him if he has anything planned for new development coming up. He didn't give any direct answers, but his face did light up and he said that he had something truly revolutionary that he's starting on that he thinks will take 2 to 3 years to come to fruition.  he believes that this next development will alter some of the paradigms that grinder manufacturers hold now... so watch out!!

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At the Booth
Baratza's booth was busy the whole show. Here Kyle Anderson (with jacket) and Kyra Kennedy (hand on chin, other co-owner) are listening to some attendees.
The two grinders
The two weight-based grinders at the pourover station - the Esatto attached to a Preciso on left, and the Vario-E in the middle.
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The Two Grinders
The two new grinders: notice the Vario-E has different markings on it as compared to the standard Vario
Pourover Station
Notice the one grinder with an extended hopper design! I wonder if Baratza will be selling that as an accessory.
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Baratza's Booth
At the booth, the posters show off the great technology.
Other Baratza Grinders
Of course, Baratza has other grinders besides the Vario-E and Esatto.
Plans for the Show, Visiting La Marzocco
Posted by Will Smith, 12:30pm Permalink to this blog entry

Today, I have a heavy schedule planned, covering the show for Tested and for CoffeeGeek. I plan to see the Uber Boiler, the La Marzocco Strada, Hario's booth, the Rancilio XCelsius, the Espro Press Pot and probably a lot of other stuff I know I'm forgetting. I just spoke with Bill Crossland over at Crossland Project about his automated pourover prototypes and managed to get a peek at the products Baratza is offering, including their new Esatto Grinder Attachment that adds weight-based dosing to their existing grinders, and their new Vario-E grinder, which does weight based dosing right inside the same silhouette of the standard Vario grinder model. My meeting with both Baratza and Crossland are for tomorrow, but it is interesting stuff.

In fact, two big stories for me at the SCAA show are the automated pourover  devices (including offerings from Uber, Crossland and others), and temperature and pressure profiling technologies for espresso (unfortunately, not in the same machine).

I'll start with the La Marcozzo and their Strada commercial espresso machine: one of the new breed of pressure profiling espresso brewers. Unfortunately, I didn't actually get to taste coffee out of the Strada, because while I was getting briefed on the machine, James Hoffmann (2007 World Barista Champion) came by to check it out, and it got a little crazy in the booth. I'm planning on revisiting La Marcozzo before the show opens Saturday morning and hopefully shooting a video of it, so if that happens, the video will be up on Tested and on CoffeeGeek.

La Marzocco's briefing was really interesting though, and the Strada's variable pressure profiles seemed pretty exciting to all the baristas in the booth. Pressure is controlled using the paddle on the grouphead, but it's all fly-by-wire. Once you've figured out what pressure curve you want, you can save it on the machine to call back later. You can even save the profile to a USB thumbdrive and move it to any other Stradas you or your caffeinated buddies happen to own.

Additionally, there'll be a new option available on the Strada soon from La Marzocco, something that many professional baristas have been begging for: built in scales that are right in the drip tray! At the show, La Marzocco had a preproduction version of the scale (designed by Marco of Uber Boiler fame) at the show built into one Strada, showing one scale on the multi-group machine).

Everything about the Strada seems designed to help with consistency, which is especially important since pressure profiling is new to most baristas.

Next up for me is the Rancilio booth, where I'll get to try out the other espresso highlight technology: temperature profiling.

Will Smith is one of the guys you see all the time at Tested. In addition to loving technology, Smith is a die hard coffee and espresso fanatic. Videos are reposted with permission from Tested.

Rancilio XCelsius: Will Smith's View
Posted by Will Smith, 12:55pm Permalink to this blog entry

Even though I didn't get a chance in my first visit to taste espresso from the La Marzocco Strada machine, I did get to taste coffee from Rancilio's new XCelcius equipped machine. This is a machine that is unique to the industry: it can not only brew espresso at a stable temperature (many machines can do that these days), but it can control the temperature up or down during the shot brew.

Rancilio set up several shots for me, all pulled on the same XCelsius enabled machine, but some at a flat temperature, some at a temperature profiled curve. The flavor differences on the temperature profiled shots were stunning and immediately noticeable, even to my relatively untrained palette.

My first tasting shot was one was pulled at a straight 201F, while the second was a 201-193F shot. The flat 201F shot was very bright, with like floral notes, and I could have probably been described as borderline sour. In contrast, the temperature profiled shot brought a completely different set of flavor notes, a thicker consistency, and absolutely no brightness. This was an eye-opener for me.

Rancilio is hoping to have pro machines with the XCelsius technology on the market by late summer, but said they had no plans for consumer-level products using the new tech right now. Their representative, Glenn Surlet mentioned to me that if XCelsius did make its way to a consumer machine it would be very expensive. He also told me that Mark Prince of CoffeeGeek had been pushing them to do a consumer version pretty hard.

What do you think? Would you like to see this technology in a super charged Rancilio Silvia? How much would you be willing to pay for a big brother (sister?) machine to the Silvia that was more closer to a commercial machine than a consumer one, with XCelsius inside?

Will Smith is one of the guys you see all the time at Tested.com. In addition to loving technology, Smith is a die hard coffee and espresso fanatic.

I Need to Know More About Espresso
Posted by Will Smith, 1:30pm Permalink to this blog entry

This show has also taught me that I really need to learn a lot more about espresso if we're going to cover it at Tested. I'm going to investigate classes in San Francisco, or maybe beg one of our local coffee shops to give me advice.

Any suggestions?

Uber Boilers: Will Smith's Perspective
Posted by Will Smith, 2:05pm Permalink to this blog entry

The automated pourover stuff at the SCAA is very exciting. The Uber Boiler from Marco (represented by La Marzocco in the US) basically puts everything water related under a baristas control, in an unobtrusive device that would fit nicely on a counter in any high-end coffeeshop I've been in.

On the surface, the device seems pretty simple -- there's a boiler installed under the counter with what they're calling a grouphead protruding about 24 inches out of the counter. There's a scale beneath the grouphead's spout, and everything is digitally controlled from a panel just in front of the scale. The water temperature is measured in both the grouphead and in the boiler, and the machine is designed to ensure you get the proper temperature water in your coffee at all times.

When you're ready to make coffee, you put the machine into "boost mode", which tells it to hold the current target water temperature. When it's in boost, the cold water input is turned off, so there's no risk that the machine will let cold water into the boiler and drop the overall water temperature while you're brewing. The grouphead spout is also articulated, so you can agitate the slurry however you want. The volume of water you add to the coffee bed is controlled with a big knob on the side of the device -- so you have very precise control over the water.

With all this control over the water and the scale and timer built into the control panel, the barista really has control over everything needed to make a really great cup of coffee. This isn't a fire and forget machine like Bill Crossland's promises to be (covered later), but it puts pretty much every variable that can result in inconsistent pourovers firmly under the control of the barista.

Action at the Uber Booth
Things were moving very quickly at the Uber Booth in La Marzocco's space at the show. Lots of crowds!

Will Smith is one of the guys you see all the time at Tested.com. In addition to loving technology, Smith is a die hard coffee and espresso fanatic.

Bill Crossland and the Crossland Project Machines
Posted by Jon Rosenthal, 2:20pm Permalink to this blog entry

While I was at the Baratza Booth interviewing Kyle Anderson, Bill Crossland of Crossland Project came into the booth.

As an engineer (and tinkerer) myself, I really appreciate Bill professionally. He's very sharp and he has a trait that only the very best designers have: he grasps mechanical relationships in a very natural way. His innate understanding of mechanics allows him to quickly visualize solutions to problems. In short, he's an engineer's engineer.

I did an impromptu interview with Bill about the two new products he was showcasing at the SCAA: a new espresso machine called the CC1 (which features programmable preinfusion, a PID controlled boiler and a thermoblock for steam) and a new manual pourover water tower.

CG: How's the response been from the show so far?
BC: Very positive so far. Very happy!

CG: Out of your two products, which do you think has generated the most interest at the show?
BC: It seems that the new manual pourover water tower for coffee is getting more attention than the espresso machine, but maybe that's because we have it sitting out front in the booth, and also it has a very different look to it.

CG: Can you give me more detailed specs about the water tower for manual drip coffee makers?
BC: This is basically a new type of pourover brewing system. After watching so many people using the Chemex and V60 type brewers as well as French presses, I decided to make something that automates the pouring process. The system has 3 preset brewing profiles, and it can also be user-programmed to create additional profiles.

It has a variable flow rate pump, so water can be dispensed fast or slow. The water dispensing head rotates on two axis, so it can swirl in a circular motion or a spiral motion or any combination of those two.

For example, there is a preset for French Press that pre-wets the grounds and then pauses for a few seconds and then uses a high flow in a small circular motion to fill the presspot while mixing the grounds.

The preset for V60 brewing also pre-wets the grounds and pauses, and then uses a gentle flow in a spiral motion to dispense some more of the water, then pauses again, then dispenses again in a soft spiral motion. You get the idea: it mimics a barista using a pourover.

CG: When will the CC1 espresso machine be on market?
BC: I have 60 units ready right now, waiting on the final ETL certification. We expect to get the certification within the next couple of months, but you never know exactly how long they will take to complete the process and issue our cert. number.

CG: How's feedback so far on the CC1 at the show? Learn anything?
BC: A number of distributors seem very interested, and we believe we have a good price point for this machine. (it is planned to be less than $750 when it hits the market).

CG: Given it is the CC1, will there be a CC2 or other machines?
BC: Of course, but I'm not sure what the CC2 will be yet. I have the temperature and pressure profiling machine prototype but it's hard to say if there is a viable market yet.

CG: I'm sure more than a few people like me would love to see pressure and temperature profile capability in one machine! Does that constitute a market?
BC: I know a few folks who would like it, but I'm just sure there would be enough volume to justify going to production.

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Bill Crossland
At the show in the morning, getting ready for the second day!
Crossland Project Water Towers
These are serious looking machines that could really change how we do press pot, manual pourover and other manual brewing methods.
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Crossland CC1
The Crossland CC1 Machines are designed to directly compete with the Silvia and kind of slay it.
Control Panel
A very digitized espresso machine with a standard portafilter, PID, preinfusion and automated controls. Steam is still manual!
Hario's SCAA Booth
Posted by Will Smith, 3:25pm Permalink to this blog entry

seems to be leaning hard into the V60 manual pourover for 2011. While there aren't any substantial changes to the filter cone, there are tons of accessories coming for V60 users -- including stands, carafes, wraps for the carafes, you name it. Hario was also showing their new cold brew kit, which I've used to make a couple of fabulous batches of iced coffee. Expect a quick look of the cold brewer at Tested very soon.

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Dizzying Array of Wares
Hario's booth had no shortage in glassware and accessories for their manual pourover system, the V60.

Will Smith is one of the guys you see all the time at Tested.com. In addition to loving technology, Smith is a die hard coffee and espresso fanatic.

Espro Booth
Posted by Will Smith, 3:55pm Permalink to this blog entry

I bumped into the folks at Espro who are starting to get into brewed coffee as well. Their latest product, the Espro Press Pot, is a double-walled,  vaccuum-insulated press pot designed to make coffee with the rich texture and mouthfeel that you expect from a French Press, while solving the number one complaint most people have with press pots--the sludge that's left in the bottom of each cup.

To accomplish that, the Espro has dual, fine-mesh filters, instead of the more traditional screen. The Espro comes in one size, designed to make a single 10oz serving of coffee, but Espro is planning to launch a larger model with capacity in the 30oz range later this year. My initial tasting on the show floor was impressive, and the folks at Espro actually had tester units on the floor, so we're taking one back to San Francisco with us. Expect to see a quick look of this soon.

Will Smith is one of the guys you see all the time at Tested.com. In addition to loving technology, Smith is a die hard coffee and espresso fanatic.

Interview with Paul Stack of Marco
Posted by Richard Ottenhof, 4:10pm Permalink to this blog entry

I have posted several times on the subjects of manual brewing and equipment purchasing on my blog Coffeekings as they apply to financial statements and profitability modelling. As a special feature heading into the Specialty Coffee Association of America annual trade show and conference in Houston Texas, I have posed some questions to Paul Stack of Marco located in Dublin Ireland. Marco is on the leading edge of technical innovations in hot water delivery systems suited to shops and roasters alike.

Coffeekings: Marco and Uber project may be something unknown to many in the North American coffee business. What core business was the company founded on?
Paul Stack: Marco is 30 years old this year, which is surprising to some. The core business is the design and manufacture of hot water delivery systems for the food and beverage industry. This is embodied in the design and production of both hot water systems and automatic filter (drip) coffee machines. However we only sell hot water systems in North America for now.

Coffeekings: Innovation, research and development, and entrepreneurship are extremely challenging at the best of times. Do you perceive Marco in an R&D/building phase or approaching a marketing/management phase of the business cycle?
Paul Stack: Both, to be honest. Innovation and R&D is incessant in Marco. It is our future. Parts of our business are very much on the marketing/management side but probably more so in the more traditional mature Marco markets.

Coffeekings: There are plenty of examples within the coffee industry that support the notion that great talent is attracted to great companies. Marco is also blessed with some knowledgeable and skilled staff. Tell me about some key staff and what they contribute to the company?
Paul Stack: People are attracted to companies which will offer them an experience aligned with their own personal and professional ambitions. To be part of something they believe in. We have a lot of great people and I am loathe to single any out. An exception -- Drewry Pearson, our Managing Director is something of a visionary and singular in the drive for innovative product offerings with an underlining belief in continuous education.

We have very knowledgable and caring people looking after customer service including after sales care. To use sporting parlance, they play in a position to which they are suited. They give the business a solid spine. Our R&D team is a great mix of abilities from mechanical engineering to software design to industrial design to innovation and research into market need. I could go on but it's a bit trumpet-blowing. In short, we have a good team.

Coffeekings: Ireland is undergoing a very challenging time for businesses and finance due largely to banking and real estate collapses. Describe for me the sentiment among Irish businesses regarding access to needed credit, availability of willing buyers for your products, and prospects for the future.
Paul Stack: Ireland has been gorging in the greedy trough for too long and it's payback time. As always with these things, those who gorged and those who pay are misaligned. Established businesses like our own are lucky to have cash strength and a strong banking history, allowing us to continue to invest in our chosen strategic direction even in the face of market uncertainty and revenue dips in our home market in '09/'10. Newer companies with great opportunities are being hamstrung by the lack of credit available. Some banks in Ireland are money collection bureaux rather than financing institutions.

Thus, the gears of Irish recovery are sticking as the lubricant that is fluid financial structures is lacking.The core economy in Ireland is strong. A stupid decision to make bank debt sovereign debt is the millstone we carry as a nation. For that, business sentiment is a mixture of simmering anger tinged with embarrassment as brand Ireland has taken a blow.

Coffeekings: Ireland is a touchstone for millions of Diaspora generations removed from the Island, and in many ways has always influenced the world well beyond their population. On my first visit I was struck by how advanced Bewleys on Grafton Street was compared to North American counterparts in terms of quality and traceability. To what do you credit the incredible depth of coffee talent in such a small population?
Paul Stack: I'm not sure the coffee talent in Ireland is that deep, loud maybe... Regarding coffee and Ireland, Patrick Bewley was at the forefront of a lot of what has become the Irish speciality coffee scene. He invested heavily in the SCAE, both personally and professionally. He was a founder member and is a past president of SCAE. In his own company he invested heavily in the training and education of his staff. Most of the coffee companies in Ireland with speciality leanings have either a founder or some of their team who is ex-Bewleys, including Marco. In the last five or so years Drewry Pearson has taken up the baton, more so from a patron viewpoint nationally while being at the forefront internationally, being a board member of the SCAE and WBC (now WCE). Nationally, he was the prodding stick behind 'internationalising' the Irish Coffee Championships, the SCAE Gold Cup and a strong education content in the Irish industry.

Coffeekings: I had been following the progress of Uber boiler online for some time before marveling in Anaheim at its beauty, advanced technology and logical solution to problems faced in manual brew methods. Please describe the problem it was designed to solve and some technological barriers to achieving success.
Paul Stack: As most know, the Uber Boiler was the result of a one off project with a nascent London coffee company called Square Mile Coffee Roasters in 2008/2009, at the time comprising the impressive trio of James Hoffmann, Anette Moldvaer and Stephen Morrissey. Our challenge was to produce one under counter water delivery system with counter top font to deliver water to within 1 degree Celcius of a chosen temperature, which could pour directly onto a weighing platform. This would allow James et al cup coffees with accuracy allowing them highlight nuances. While we already had undercounter systems, their accuracy was approx +/-2.5C and there was no weighing platform. Tightening the accuracy was the key challenge. The rest was packaging and having a will to do it.

Coffeekings:Where are the uber boiler manufactured and how much time is required to take one from shop drawing to tabletop? Have you considered licensing the technology to larger manufacturers and focusing on marketing and distribution?
Paul Stack: Uber Boilers are manufactured in our production facility in Dublin, about 7 miles from the city centre. We build four Ubers per run. Build time from punching steel to boxed Uber is 4 days. As the Uber Boiler is a constant work in progress I haven't considered licensing the technology. Is someone interested ?

Coffeekings: It seems to me that the past 5 years or so have become a period where companies are applying increasingly advanced technologies to address problems posed by increasingly simpler brewing techniques. One of the problems I see with manual brewing is the increased labour and wait time. How has the uberboiler addressed these problems?
Paul Stack: It has and it hasn't. That's a bit Irish, eh? It has by giving the Barista a workstation from which (s)he need not move and can engage with a customer, thus maximising efficiencies and customer service. More importantly, it hasn't as it is not designed to decrease wait time. The ECOBOILER & ECOSMART series do that.

Coffeekings: The most visible elements of the high-end coffee market communicate at length about the subtle nuances and characteristics of their coffees cupping profiles. This sort of customer interaction can pay big dividends but only if the customer can distinguish the traits too. What about the uberboiler increases the chances of successfully brewing coffee to reveal the desired profiles.
Paul Stack: Precision. At its heart is the UberBoiler's capability to allow the Barista change every brew variable, from coffee to water ratio (+/-0.5g) to contact time (+/-1s) to temperature (+/-0.1C) to turbulence (via flow rate and flow direction).

Coffeekings: Marketing and distribution are for me big black holes for profits and cash flow. What is the marketing strategy for Marco and how are you addressing distribution in North America?
Paul Stack: Never a truer word spoken. We never targeted North America. The uber project dragged us there. It would have been too big a step for us to set up Marco USA when that opportunity presented. La Marzocco USA handle our brand and our product in North America, exclusively in the US. The alignment of both companies' brand positioning, strategic intent and vision coupled with the simple fact that we get on well made it an easy decision.

Coffeekings: One thing I like to repeat to staff is we don’t get to choose our customers, they choose you. Are there any customers using Marco’s products and services that surprise you by not fitting the target customer profile. Is anyone using the uber boiler for products other than coffee and do you market to any other industries?
Paul Stack: It's a great question to which I am unsure how to answer. Our products are used widely in catering institutions where the need is often basic regarding brewing but crucial regarding reliability, ease of use and service. Cost of ownership and our products' energy-saving credentials are fast becoming as big a decision factor as the customary features of well-designed, well-made kit which do the job. Regarding Uber Boiler, it's main and happiest home is the cupping room or the Barista-driven brew bar. It is also used in gourmet tea shops.

Richard Ottenhof is the President of Coffeeco and blogs at the Coffeekings Blog. This interview is a reprint, by permission, from his blog.

Day Wrapup from Will Smith
Posted by Will Smith, 6:50pm Permalink to this blog entry

The lecture I was planning on attending this morning was cancelled, so the Tested crew had more time to watch the early rounds of the barista championship and quite a lot of the Brewers Cup.

Unfortunately, I had absolutely no idea who I was watching, most of the time. As an outsider, I have to say the announcers didn't do a particularly good job introducing people during the Brewer's Cup.

In that competition, there were a stunning variety of techniques on display -- the Clever Cone filter device was very popular as were Hario V60s, but I also saw press pots, one of those Hario things with the cloth filter in a glass orb hanging above a carafe (no idea what it's called), and even a siphon pot. No Aeropresses though.

While the Barista Championship is very exciting and focuses on showmanship and knowledge, the Brewer's Cup is singularly focused on simply making a great cup of coffee (or three) for the judges, which is very appealing to me. The innovation happening in brewed coffee is very exciting, and evident in the fact that I saw 5 different techniques used in the first five rounds of the Brewer's Cup I watched.

It was a great first day. I drank a ton of fantastic coffee, met some very interesting folks, and am just generally stoked to be here.

Will Smith is one of the guys you see all the time at Tested.com. In addition to loving technology, Smith is a die hard coffee and espresso fanatic.

Article rating: 7.6
Author: CoffeeGeek Team
Posted: April 30, 2011
feedback: (1) comments | read | write
Reports From the Road Column Archives  
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One of the more popular pieces of content on the CoffeeGeek website are the reports from major trade shows. We cover shows like no other media source does - giving first hand intimate and frank reports that give you the real scoop on what's going on, from a consumer and a coffee lover's true perspective.

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