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Reports From the Road
CoffeeFest Seattle 2003, Day One
Author: Mark Prince
Posted: November 14, 2003
Article rating: 8.2
feedback: (4) comments | read | write
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Seattle, a coffee city. So it's natural that one of the small variety of annual coffee trade shows take place there... and one did. CoffeeFest, the thrice-yearly trade show that goes to Los Vegas and Washington (or Atlantic City) makes it's third stop in Seattle. CoffeeGeek had several reporters at the show for the weekend.

Before I get into our Day One report, here's a short note on the author's thoughts about this show. I will readily admit that last year I didn't like the vibe of CoffeeFest 2002 Seattle. I got a total "used car salesman" feel from many of the vendors; I found the seminars I attended were lacking and devoid of much passion for how good coffee can be (they seemed to be only concerned with the mighty dollar - at least the ones I attended); my attempts to get a short interview with the main organizer of the show were blown off; and overall I just didn't enjoy the show. This is why CoffeeGeek didn't file a report last year - it would have been a major downer piece, and I didn't feel like writing it.

This year I decided to approach the show with optimism, but at times leading up to the show it was tough. I also decided to change my approach somewhat. I would cover the three days in Seattle and the social events that came with it, and I got the services of three others as CoffeeGeek reporters: John Hornall from Hines Public Market Coffee, Aaron DeLazzer, a consultant with Coffee Missionary, and Jeanette Chan, CoffeeGeek's News Editor to help round out the corners. And I decided not to attempt any requests for interviews this year from show organizers.

This year around, I enjoyed my time in Seattle more - I saw some nifty things at the show itself, found the seminars to be more entertaining this time around and I felt the Latte Art competition was a tad more serious and professional (though improvements can certainly be made).

So with that said, let's git it on, and get into Day One from the 2003 Seattle CoffeeFest show.

CoffeeFest, Day One

A short roadtrip from Vancouver, BC, all the way down to Seattle, with a pit stop at a Krispe Kreme, and we were at the show. Held in Seattle's Washington State Convention Center, CoffeeFest is smack dab in the heart of downtown, and was only a few blocks' walk from the hotel.

We got to the show at late on the first day, and unfortunately missed most of the first round of the Latte Art competition. Getting my press creds wasn't hard, but Aaron DeLazzer, one of my fellow CoffeeGeek representatives and information-collectors, decided to get a normal visitor pass so he could hawk his consulting services (instead of promoting CoffeeGeek).

Here's the day one top five from the latte art competition.


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I had a seat at the tail end of the Friday competition and scoped the show guide and press guide. I quickly mapped out the rest of my weekend's duties and schedule. Since I missed most of the first day lectures and seminars, I decided to hit the trade show floor running.

La Spaziale

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La Spaziale Booth
They had a small booth, but it was busy and they provided me with a wealth of info.

My first stop on the floor was at the La Spaziale booth. I got my first gander at the new La Spaziale S1 machine, a very high end home, small office, and very small commercial machine. The specs and features of this product are a bit revolutionary. It runs on 15 or 20 amps (user selectable), and 110/120 power.

What makes it really special is that it is a double boiler system, with a 1.5liter (may be 2.5litres - I have conflicting information from a vendor and from La Spaziale) steaming boiler and a 455ml brewing boiler.

A lot of smarts have gone into this machine, but there also may be room for improvement, at least from what I saw. For instance, the user can actually program in the temperatures of the brewing boiler and the steam boiler. That's awesome. But the programming steps are in 5 Celsius increments, from 80C to 120C for the brew boiler. That's bad. The only usable settings as far as I'm concerned would be 95C and 100C. I'd like to see a tighter control on the temps for the brewing boiler - maybe 1C is too much to ask for, but a 2C jump (eg, 94C, 96C, 98C, 100C, 102C etc) would be near ideal.

Another surprise in the machine - a rotary, Procon pump, built right into the small machine. That impressed me. The portafilter is 53mm in size (same as most other La Spaziale machines), which isn't as good in my eyes. The baskets are deep, and can hold as much as 17grams or more in the double, but I'm not convinced that a narrow, deep filter is better, or even as good as the traditional 58mm basket design. But I won't know the impact of this (and all the other features) until I get to test a machine.

You should be seeing one or more vendors stocking this line soon, so keep an eye out for the La Spaziale S1 machine. The price should be less than $1,800, maybe even a hundred or two less when it hits retail. There's not much on the market that can touch that... on paper at least.

While I was at the La Spaziale booth, I got a chance to talk to the Mauro Maccagnani, the owner of the company. It was a great pleasure and fun - we conversed in a combination of English, Italian, and French. I got a first hand report about the rather unique heat exchanger system that La Spaziale uses in their machines (except the new S1, which doesn't need a heat exchanger).

La Spaziale uses a unique system that actually removes the entire "heat exchanging" thing to the outside of the boiler - it's a secondary container, shaped like a piston and attached to the top of the main boiler. There's a large, open path between the main boiler and this large secondary area and steam populates both parts of the machine. The cold water supply is drawn through a tube that gets flash heated in this secondary chamber. Also, frothing steam is drawn from here, giving ultra-dry steam. It looks pretty cool.

The guy heading up the new La Spaziale USA venture, Assaad Benabid has a lot of respect from people in the business, including Joe Monaghan. Monaghan knows Benabid from when he was heading up Faema's US operations, and thought he did an excellent job with Faema; now Monaghan thinks he'll do great things with La Spaziale.

And I think it's already happening. La Spaziale has had a bigger presence at the last two trade shows I attended - CoffeeFest and SCAA Boston. Already there's a buzz about the company with a couple of the top tier Internet vendors, so it looks like good things are ahead of us with this company, from a consumer standpoint, but I think also from a commercial standpoint.

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Latte Art Crowd
The latte art competition was well attended.
La Spaziale S3
The S3 (and S1) line from La Spaziale represents their new 21rst century look.
La Spaziale S1
This is the new prosumer / light commercial machine with dual boilers. This is a prototype.
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S1 Controls
This is an automatic machine, but the control panel allows programming of temperatures and more.
Cut Out Boiler
This is a (dented) cutout of the La Spaziale special boiler. All the action takes place in the secondary tube on top.
Heat Exchanger
La Spaziale has removed the heat exchanger into this secondary chamber - brew water, hot water tap, and steam all comes from here.

The rest of day one

After a long an enjoyable time at the La Spaziale booth, I stopped briefly next door at Fidalgo Bay Coffee. I didn't get an opportunity to speak with these folks, who are mainly in the biz of selling roasted coffee; my interest was mainly in the Ibertal commercial machines they were displaying. I have not seen an Ibertal commercial machine before, and it was interesting to check out this Spanish made line. I thought I might have the opportunity to stop by their booth again to ask more questions, but I didn't get the chance the rest of the weekend.

I ambled on through the floor, briefly stopping to chat with Terry Davis of Ambex Coffee Roasters, to talk about an upcoming SCAA cMember event and find out if Davis had any plans for new roasters, especially small sample roasters (read: high end consumer roaster). Davis' wheels were churning in his brain over the concept, but nothing concrete yet is on the drawing board.

Next stop was the Rancilio booth, where I met Glenn Surlett, who heads up Rancilio North America. Surlett's always a friendly, fun guy to chat with, but I noticed a distinct lack of new stuff in the Rancilio booth and also noticed the scaled down size. I questioned Surlett on both.

He wasn't immediately forthcoming, but don't read anything into the small booth size - there's nothing wrong with Rancilio. In fact, they're gearing up for some major, major news at the Milano Expo, which is going on in mid November.

I'll break the news here. There's two new machines of note. Milano will see the debut of the Class 6 and Class 8 line from Rancilio.

Details are very sketchy and I had to really ask around a few things with Surlett, but what I gleaned was the Class 6 is essentially replacing the Rancilio S series. This will bring a new prosumer / light commercial machine to the marketplace very soon, and it's exciting stuff. Again, nothing's confirmed but I hope it's what it could be - finally Rancilio is offering a logical "step up" from the Silvia - a true commercial quality machine that can see duty in the home, and is priced competitively (ie, in the $1,200 to $1,800 range retail).

The Class 8 I got even less details on but it sounds like it will be a more mechanical, "dumbed down", yet rock solid low end line for Rancilio's commercial clients. The Class 10 will be their premier traditional automatic machine and the Class 8 will be the low-frills, bulletproof, fits into the Asian Market kind of machine.

My next stop was over at the Zoka Coffee Roaster booth where I got to scope out the latest incarnation of their excellent Home Espresso Aficionado DVD. A while ago, they asked me my opinions on it and for some advice on how to make the DVD better, so I gave them my advice and the latest version has the changes - good to see.

I also queried them on the new UZ café they are opening in the University district of Seattle - latest word is, within a month or two. Things are progressing quickly with Zoka - they are expanding and doing well as a company. I wish them lots of success with it but I do hope they never forget what brought them to the game in the first place... other Seattle cafes and roasters have fallen into that trap.

By this time, it was near the end of the Show Floor day, so I headed over to Visions Espresso Supply to see if I could speak to the owner, Dawn Loraas, about her getting involved in our CoffeeGeek Meet N' Greet on the eve of Day Two at CoffeeFest (more on this great event in our Day Two report). Unfortunately, Loraas wasn't at the booth but I did get to scope out some of Visions' wares.

I did like the fact that they seemed to have all sorts of replacement parts for a lot of things the typical CoffeeGeek owns and uses, including parts for most types of press pots, moka pots, grinders, and even espresso machines.

A couple of things stood out for me in my first look at their booth. I really liked the Londres glass cups and they have a very nifty looking frothing thermometer - their own brand - with a big 2 inch face and a green "safe" area for frothing temps.

Next stop for me was the ESI booth, the US importers and distributors of La Marzocco products. It was towards the end of the show, and I wanted to see what Joe Monaghan, Kent Bakke and Bill Crossland were up to. I also got the always-great pleasure of being able to tinker with a Mazzer Robur grinder, and a La Marzocco FB70 3 grouper machine. They had three types of beans available - Caffe Vita, Zoka Paladino, and Batdorf and Bronson's espresso blend.. I sampled all three, and give the nod to Zoka's blend - it was totally on at the show (in fact, it was on all weekend long, every time I tried it). Batdorf's was pretty good as well, but I wasn't doing well with the Vita blend - a trend I've been suffering the last few times I've tried their coffee.

I tried to query the boys from ESI about plans for new machines, and again, lips were tight all over the place. But I do know this.

First, a new machine from La Marzocco is debuting in Milan in mid November. It's going to feature some fairly gee-whiz things, and will definitely feature a PID temperature control system.

Second... La Marzocco and the elusive "home" prosumer machine. It's coming. But not in Milan. I saw a working prototype at their Seattle Factory earlier in the day. I can't say anything about it other than I saw it, it is fairly compact, it runs on 110V, and features both innovative, never before seen stuff, and some of La Marzocco's trademark stuff. Exciting days are ahead, I can tell you that.

I did get one ego-boosting bit of news. The fact that I have a La Marzocco Linea in the basement of my home has caused a bit of a sales boost for the one group machine, normally not a big seller for the company. I was told that several purchases were made recently by people specifically stating they got it because they read my La Marzocco commentary over on CoffeeKid.com. And, one fellow even came up to me at the show on day one and talked in depth about his La Marzocco Linea, and he bought it based on my good words about the product.

Should I ask for commissions soon? :)

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Fidalgo Bay
These forlks mainly spec roasted coffee, but had lots of Ibertal machines on display
2 Group Ibertal
This Spanish made machine looks interesting, and has E61 technology.
Terry Davis
Davis heads up Ambex Coffee Roasters, and is an enthusiastic show attendee. He was up at the Canadian Coffee and Tea Expo as well.
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Torani Booth
Torani always has cool booths.
Glenn Surlett
Surlett heads up Rancilio North America, and he's standing next to their Class 12 super auto.
Green!
Rancilio has shifted all their "plastic" in grinders, from the Rocky up to the MD80 to this new green material.
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Zoka Booth
Zoka's booth at the show... I took this picture after the show floor closed.
Kelly Traw, ESI
Traw is ESI's Marketing Director - he's making me a shot on a 2 group La Marzocco Linea.
Judges
The Judges in the Latte Art competition.

After Show, Day One

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Joe and Denise Monaghan
Joe and Denise were my gracious hosts for the first evening.

I wanted to hang with the Baristi (they party the best) but I had certain obligations after the trade show floor closed. There was a welcome party for show attendees and booth operators, and I also wanted to go have a drink with Terry and crew from Doma Coffee. I also got to meet Lloyd Bernhardt from Ethical Bean a new Vancouver based roaster who does 100% Fair Trade coffee. I'll be writing more about Bernhardt's new venture at a later date on the CoffeeGeek website.

The after show party was fun; it was held at an Elephant and Castle pub. I had some good conversations with Tim Schulze from Guittard Chocolate Company, one of the diehard allied companies heavily involved in the specialty coffee industry. I also met quite a few folks who had lots of interesting things to say about quality coffee, but I also was pounding back the Guinness pints by this time, and I can't remember any names. I do remember talking in depth about coffee in Venezuela with a few folks, including Tito Schuessler of Ambex Coffee Roasters. I've never had Venezuelan coffee before, but Schuessler promised to send me some samples.

My evening was rounded out with a late dinner spent with Joe Monaghan and his wife Denise, who is a riot and a half. It was a great ending to a good first day at CoffeeFest 2003 Seattle.

Article rating: 8.2
Author: Mark Prince
Posted: November 14, 2003
feedback: (4) comments | read | write
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