(this is the third part of a 3 part review of the SCAA. See Day 0 and 1 here, or see Day 2 here).
My radar bearings were definitely beat by day three, and while I did feel like I was getting my second wind, my feet were hurting muchly, and for some reason, I thought the show started at 9:30, so when I got to the front at 9:20, I thought I had screwed myself because I wouldn't have time for some morning meetings before the crowds came in. Fortunately, the gates didn't open till 10:30am. I did stop to admire the Birds of Paradise flowers one last time though before I went in the Conference centre (photo to the right).
On my way up to the convention building, I ran into Doug Zell, from Intelligentsia roasters, and we chatted a bit outside. Doug's a "young lion" as they say - a young guy (relative), full of energy and passion for the biz, and heavily involved in the SCAA and his own business as a roaster in Chicago (website). Doug hit me up for some quick thoughts on getting more of the online coffee crowd involved in the SCAA, and we promised to follow up on the talk in a few weeks. I'm already brainstorming some ideas.
Inside, I dropped by Rancilio again (easy to do - they're close to the entrance) and this time I got Glenn to stop long enough to get a good shot of him with Rancilio's new pride and joy, the Class 10 machine. And they have reason to be proud of the machine - I got a second primer on the machine from Brian Pearson on my last day, and every single word out of his mouth impressed me - it isn't marketing fluff or the like - this machine is a serious innovator.
My next stop was over at Royal Coffee and David Kastle. David gave me a short primer on their Ethiopian and Yemen beans and promised me them at the end of the show. We also briefly talked about David writing for the website, something he was receptive to. I'd sure like to have a broker's viewpoint on the website, I think it would be cool.
By the time I left David, the crowds were in and milling about the floor. I walked over to Elektra's booth once again to speak with Federico and also with Owen Doorly of Bristot. Owen has one of the coolest accents you'll ever hear - a mix of Irish and Italian. Federico and I discussed the Micro Casa line again, and they educated me on a few things I didn't know about the machines. For example, the Micro Casa Semi Automatica is full blown heat exchanger machine with over 2 litres in the boiler, delivering ample steam and power to spare, and is one of the most unique heat exchanging machines you'll ever see for the home. The "bulb" sitting over the grouphead ensures good extraction rates and temperature stabilities by setting a "waypoint" for the water that travels from the top reservoir to the grouphead.
Owen was kind enough to give me a bag of the whole bean Bristot coffee, and I'll be trying it out in the next week or two and posting the comments on the CoffeeKid site. I then said my goodbyes to the Elektra folks. One thing I'll say about all the Elektra guys, but especially Dr. Federico Frednan - they are true gentlemen, all of them. Class acts all the way. And I appreciate Federico's passion for the artistry component of espresso. Others may believe that espresso is 100% technical, but I never will, and I think that's what I like about Elektra so much.
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| Registration desk for SCAA on last day. Not too busy at this point, but this is about 1 hour before the gates open. Click to make big. |
| This place saw a lot of people. A lot over the 3 days. Click to enlarge. |
| This is the old Pavoni they had up at the Crossroads Espresso Booth. Well preserved. Click to Big Size. |
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| The Expobar machine spotted over at the Balestra Roasters booth. Kinda dull, but functional. Click it. |
| The Balestra small roaster. This was a nifty machine, but I didn't have much time to stop and chat, and I thik the Balestra people were kinda burned out by the third day. Click to enlarge. |
| Magister machine. Well, hey, maybe the price is right. Click it! |
Early Afternoon, Last Day
I must admit, I was getting a bit mushy misty about SCAA winding down by this point. But I'm also like a hellcat, running to and fro, trying to get "everything" done that I wanted to get done. Along the way, I'm sure I missed meeting a lot of folks I wanted to meet (or who wanted to meet me), and I'm going to regret that. I know, for instance, a lot of alties got Monday passes to the show, and I didn't meet very many of them. That sucks.
I also haven't spent enough time with my sponsors, the folks from Baratza, helping them out in the booth. I tried my best when I was there, showing off the SL series machines, the grinder, and the HotTop, but I really didn't spend as much time in the booth as I should have.
But, the show went on, and I went about the floor. I stopped by the Fair Trade pavilion once again, and this time I met Kenya Lewis, the PR Manager for TransFair USA (website) and we briefly discussed Fair Trade coffee and its impact on farmers' lives. Now, I'm one who believes the Fair Trade Certification process is far from perfect, but it's the best the industry has, and I'm sure the folks involved in it want it to be as good as possible, because the real mission is simple - give farmers a living wage for the product we enjoy so much. Kenya is a wonderful person, and I could tell from our brief conversation she's a concerned activist for this cause. I told her briefly about Terry Montague's efforts with the various coops and such, and she wanted to know more, so I pointed her to this site. I also asked that she write a few articles for us, and she was very receptive.
The Fair Trade pavilion was close to the Kona Council booth, so I dropped in again to say my goodbye to Cea and Bob Smith and snap a better photo of the couple. Cea promised me a hat (I'm holding you to that, Cea! :)).
I hooked up with David Lewis on the floor (Dave's from alt.coffee), and he expressed an interest in the Grinta grinder, so I walked him over to Nuova Simonelli and introduced him to Roberto Bresciani. I left the two of them. A few minutes later, David called me to say he worked a deal with Roberto to buy the floor model Grinta for $125, or some $175 to $200 cheaper than retail. He thanked me for it, but to be honest, Roberto is the guy to be thanked - Roberto would have probably sold it to him even if I didn't handle the intros.
The afternoon was actually a continue thing like this - me introducing party A to party B. I ran into Aaron De Lazzar again ;) and walked him over to the Thermos Nissan booth where I did a follow-up with Laura and also showed Aaron some of the new products they're coming out with in a few months, ones that would benefit JJ Bean. Next up was back at the Supreme Bean booth. By the way - people have asked me via email for Supreme's contact info - they don't have a website, but are at 5734 Tujunga Avenue, N. Hollywood, CA, and can be phoned at 888-288-JAVA. Give them a call if you want some seriously good beans (more commercial orders than consumer though), and ask for Jeff or Phil.
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| I thought this was one really cool looking machine and grinder by San Marco, though notice it's one of the few without an ergo PF handle. Click to enlarge. |
| San Marco single group machine. These guys like the muted colours but their machines do stand out. Nice job. Not sure how they perform though, as they weren't set up to actually do shots. Click to big size. |
| Got a closeup of the Giotto over at Burgess. This one was given away at the end of the show to some lucky SCAA person! ClicMe! |
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| In my first picture of Bob and Cea Smith (see day one), Cea was looking away. This is a much better photo! Click to enlarge. |
| This is the Fresh Roast Dialamatic (my word) roaster. I was very impressed by the technology, to tell the truth. This is a nifty turnkey, self-contained money maker. Click to enlarge. |
| I was shown how easy it is to customize for any roast profile or style, but also how easy it was to get repetitive results. Click it. |
I ran into Doug Zell again, and we both walked over to Mazzer's booth. This time around I had better luck with them - the Italian rep, Cristian (I didn't get his last name) was much more receptive to me and we discussed the Mini E at length. The scoop on this is that it is a long way off from UL approval, and may not be manufactured in bulk until November of this year.
The Mini E isn't as technically advanced as I thought. It is unique in many ways, but mechanically. Basically it has a smooth-bore cone where the coffee is "shot" from the grind burrs, eliminating most waste. There are two soft-pad buttons on a top metal disk on the cone, one for single, one for double. They activate a timer - mechanical timer, not volume timer. You have to dial in your single and double via two dial adjuster screws near where the portafilter goes. It's a nice concept and one I don't think has been seen before, but I expected some kind of high tech, laser and light show optical volume sensor or something inside that metal cone. Nope, it's mechanical. But don't let this dissuade potential Mini E buyers - it works as advertised, and is innovative and unique.
I also spotted a way cool Mazzer "skin" for a "Mazzer" (their medium-size) grinder, see the pictures below.
Next person I hooked up with was Terry Z, and he brought me over to Astoria for a further look see and handled introductions with the head of CMA, the company that is probably the biggest single espresso and grinder maker on the planet (they distribute under several names, including Astoria, Wega, and others). I got Terry to pose by a Wega, and then went over to the Isomac booth again.
This time Gianni Casaliggi and I spoke in depth about the products, and I have to say, Isomac is a machine to watch - most definitely a machine to watch. I mean, the Zaffiro model is a 3 litre heat exchanger machine, with a true E61 grouphead design, and can retail for around $950 or less. That's a killer price for that package. The Isomac Millenium is a powerhouse at around $1400 or less, and the Isomac Hexagon is approaching art star status for not too much more. I think I want one... to review, that is. These are machines to watch for. Even the non E61 machines look awesome - the Brio, Venus, Giada and other machines seriously impress.
Terry quickly grabbed me at the Isomac booth to say he put in the good word with the CMA guy and it looks like they want to send me as many as 4 machines in the next year for reviews. Thanks Terry!
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| These two nice guys educated me a bit on the coffee situation in El Salvadore these days. Click to enlarge. |
| One of Terry's Wega Machines. Solid performers. They need to hire someone out of Elektra to add some style and panache to the design of the chasis though :) Click it. |
| Terry Z, stylin' and profilin', doing his best Barista'in skill set for the camera. Awwww, who am I kidding... Click to enlarge. |
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| The Isomac Brio machine and Macino Prof. grinder next to it. Nice machine for possibly $700 or less retail. I think it has a 3l boiler inside, but I'm probably wrong for this one. Click to enlarge. |
| The Isomac Giada competes in price with the Silvia. I'd like to put one through its paces one day to see if it competes in ability. Diminutive but good Granmacinino grinder also seen. Click to enlarge. |
| This is one beaut machine - the Isomac Hexagon. Smashing design, all Inox polished steel, 3l heat exchanger boiler, E61 group, about $2K. The Venus is next to it. Click to Big Size. |
Show Winds Down
The day was getting late. I had a few last business meetings to get to, and I did so. Jeff Malkasian from Bodum asked me to stop by at around 3:30, for a short chat. I did so. It wasn't a chat he wanted. He handed over one of the new baby eSantos brewers (in my fave colour as well - the anthracite steel blue colour). Very cool. I'm actually drinking a coffee made from it as I type this. Jeff wanted private thoughts on it. I'll give some public ones... it's a near perfect shape brewer for people who want a few cups FAST. It essentially packs the power of the 12 cupper (1500ml) version, in a 750ml brewer. It's small, it's sexy, and so far, none of the balance problems I had with its older brother. Look for a first look and detailed review on both units on the site sometime down the road.
I knew my time was ending when I heard the Barista Competition finalists were starting. I headed over, but had to stop one more time at the Supreme Bean booth to say my goodbyes to the guys. I think Phil Hand is going to write for this website. I'm very jazzed by that.
I managed to get to the competition in time to catch the last guy (incidentally, he won). Joe Monaghan was judging, and I desperately wanted to say goodbye to him (my plane departure was vastly approaching, plus I had to help knock down Baratza's booth), but of course, I couldn't interrupt the proceedings, so I watched until the last guy finished. A quick shout to Joe to get his attention, a handshake, and some very kind words from him sent me on my way. Joe is one class act.
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| The Astoria version of the Lyra machine. I didn't catch the name of it. Click to SuperSize. |
| The Astoria Liberty (Wega Hexagon). They gotta ditch that Statue of Liberty, otherwise, nice! Click to Enlarge. |
| Here's that beautiful custom Mazzer. The Mini (in black) is to the left of it. Click to big size. |
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| Another look at the Bodum eSantos and eSantos Jr. Models. See the one in the lower left? That's on my test counter at the moment! Click it. |
| Another view at the (tentative) $80 all steel Bodum Antigua grinder. It's heavy to. Nice look and feel. Click to enlarge. |
| The Bodum Thermia insulated press pot. Bodum also makes a stainless steel version, which I forgot to picture (doh!). Click it. |
SCAA Last Day Tidbits
- Stopped by Balestra booth, they had a roaster, Expobar and Magister espresso machines, kinda run of the mill. The small Balestra roaster was cool. Seemed to be a lack of energy around the booth.
- Saw a nifty old Pavoni espresso machine at Crossroads Espresso.
- Burgess Enterprises is the place these days for Giotto. They aren't bringing in the Giotto II, they told me. Someone on the show floor won it.
- Fresh Roast Systems had this very intriguing mall roaster with a self contained air purification system - not an afterburner, but a multi-stage air cleansing system for the roaster, and this automated dial-a-green bean system with LCD panel display and roast on demand. One of their lead clients was there and waxed poetic about the machine. I was impressed as well.
- Dropped by the El-Salvador booth and chatted up the fellows there for a bit, finding out some more about the growing El Salvadore coffee market, and how there's a lot of briming confidence there, even with Vietnamese flooding of the coffee market.
- Dropped by the San Marco importer booth, scoped out some nifty looking machines, but they were busy with legit customers to talk much.
- I had further discussions with Nisha at Alpenrost. I think I convinced them CoffeeGeek is a decent site to have their product evaluated on.
- Gave the Brasilian booth one more try. As snobbish as they were on Day 2. But they have a pretty impressive booth nonetheless.
- I spotted a way cool "custom" Mazzer there too - wow.
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| Themos Nissan booth, with Laura off to the left, speaking to a client. They had lots of way cool products. We'll be evaluating a stack of them soon. Click to enlarge. |
| Some of the Thermos product line. See the Ti briefcase bottle? Now that is one serious piece of engineering. Click to enlarge. |
| Cafe Rosto Pro roaster, up close. This looks like a great product for very small cafes looking to custom roast for their own use or for customers. Click it to big it. |
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| Another view of the talked-about Mazzer Mini E model. Click! |
| Took that cap off to take the pic. Note at the bottom the screw adjusters for timing. Click to enlarge. |
| End of show, this fellow won the Barista competition (I think - I was told it was "the last guy in the finals". He built an amazing custom drink. Click to enlarge. |
Get to that Airport, Boy!
In my extremely limited time left at the show after saying by to Joe (see above), I got back to Baratza's booth. I tried my best to help knock down and pack away the booth, and in the process I broke the reservoir on the SL 90 machine. Damn. I got the feeling deep in the pit of my stomach I didn't do nearly enough to help Kyle and Kyra with this show or show my appreciation for their amazing help in getting me to SCAA. I suck. And I was also late for leaving. I still had to go and buy a duffle bag at a Target or something for all my show schwag (Schwag report can be found over at my CoffeeKid Cafetalk page).
I was harried, and I was rushed as I walked back to my car rental at the hotel with about 40+ lbs of coffee and an assortment of other stuff in 5 bags (plus my backpack, camera, etc). And sweaty too. I was harried and rushed as I struggled to find a Target in a town I didn't know (I got lucky on this - I found one not too far on the main street I was driving on, Harbor Blvd). I was harried and rushed as I packed the duffel to overflowing in the Target parking lot. I was harried and rushed as I drove like a madman on the LA Freeway system (I felt like a guilt-free OJ, and looked for helicopters charting my progress).
But no matter how harried and rushed I was, that entire time from when I left the Baratza booth, to the time I got through airport security, to the time I sardined into my flight(s), to the time I got to Seattle and met my ride back to Vancouver, I felt pretty down - it was over. My adventure to SCAA was over. So many great people. So many great products. Such a great time. Over.
Until next year, at least.