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Boston’s home run

From the July 2019 issue.

GCR relives show highlights as more than 14,000 guests attend the 31st Specialty Coffee Expo.

Boston is a town renowned for its cold weather, annual marathon, and nine-time world series baseball champions the Red Sox, but in April it was coffee that commanded the city’s attention when it hosted North America’s biggest coffee event.

For many, the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Expo is an annual global reunion of industry members, but this year the expo had the added bonus of hosting the World Barista and Brewers Cup Championships, and a number of ‘new releases’ usually reserved for Europe’s biannual trade expo Host, held later in the year.

Once the official cutting of the ribbon was complete, the glass doors to the Boston Convention Centre opened to reveal a birds eye view of more than 600 exhibitors representing everything from roasters to green beans, and equipment manufacturers to packaging. Meanwhile on the outskirts of the expo venue, a record number of 35 educational classes took place simultaneously, as did 88 lectures.

On the Victoria Arduino stand, passersby could see their reflection in the ruby red VA388 Black Eagle, the official 2019 WBC machine and the first professional coffee machine to gain lifecycle certification and join Victoria Arudino’s new ongreening platform. This is a new green building rating system that supports the growth and promotion of sustainable building. On the adjoining Nuova Simonelli stand, ambassador and former Swiss Barista Champion Andre Eiermann ran demonstrations of the Aurelia Wave, highlighting its patented pulse jet technology, which helps create different cup profiles with different water pressure during the dispensing phase.

Popular espresso machine manufacturer La Marzocco had visitors crouching down and looking up at what was the first glimpse for many of the new KB90 ‘straight in’ portafilter machine. The new model makes espresso preparation easier with less strain on high-volume cafés and busy baristas. Even LM Board Chairman Kent Bakke, who the KB90 is named after, was on hand to talk through the stunning new design.

And the new inventions kept coming, including coffee preparation methods. None got more attention than the AeroPress Go, a new model of its signature filter coffee brewing device, optimised for portability. Not since 2005 had AeroPress made a change to its product, and order forms for its August release were quickly snapped up.

On the Marco Beverage Systems stand, the company displayed its new-release prototype, the Marco Friia, a minimalist font tap that distributes hot, cold, and sparkling water at the touch of a button. Operations Director Paul Stack says with the boiler, carbonated chiller, and three-litre water delivery system housed under-counter, Friia is ideal for high-volume cafés and offices with limited space. “No longer are coffee machines the only way to dispense coffee. We’re changing the game with beverage stations that dispense multiple beverage options from one font,” Stack says.

Automation was a big feature at this year’s SCA Expo, signalling the continued demand for convenience paired with quality and consistent output. Eversys introduced its new Cameo c’2 1.5 step that allows milk to be automatically frothed in one of three ways, each catering to a different level of control and ability, while Japanese company Tree Field explored flavour possibilities with its new automated filter brewing machine. Yoshikazu Iwase, 2014, 2015 and 2016 Japan Barista Champion and 2016 WBC second place competitor, was one of many stars on hand helping demonstrate the prototype, which is “super focused on replicating consistent recipes through controlled agitation and adjustable pressure increases”.

Elemental Beverage Co showed off its Snapchiller that turns hot coffee into cold in less than one minute. This machine combines thermodynamics, engineering, and artistry to transform hot beverages into cold drinks on demand. Eyes fixated on the machine as hot brewed coffee was poured into the top chamber of the Snapchiller before the liquid filtered down the magnetic coils and extracted into a cup at -10°C.

Ryan McDonnell, Chief Coffee and Tea Officer of Elemental Beverage Company says snapchilling preserves all the flavours of a hot coffee, unlike any other method for making cold coffee.

“From the moment coffee is brewed, it starts to chemically break down. By Snapchilling the coffee, flavours can be experienced at more drinkable temperature, without them dissipating into the air,” McDonnell says. “There’s no ice, no dilution, and no oxidisation, so the product doesn’t become stale.”

On the roasting front, it was Bellwether Coffee that had heads turning for its entirely electric, fully automated, zero emission coffee roaster. This machine won the electrical category of the 2019 SCA Best New Product Awards, just one of 11 awards handed out for products embracing quality and value to the specialty coffee industry. Mostly convective with a hint of conduction roasting, Bellwether’s automatic roaster has no gas lines or ventilation, therefore no exhaust or emissions. The air is filtered and recycled through a closed loop system.

“The idea is to make coffee more accessible and bring the cost of roasting down in a sustainable way,” Bellwether Coffee Operations Coordinator Marissa Parkes says. “People who begin roasting for the first time need a starting point, and this machine is a great reference for that. “

Just went you thought you’d seen it all, the Cometeer Coffee Capsule, winner of the Best New Product open class category, had fans flocking to the product like seagulls to a chip. These new-format capsules feature frozen brewed coffee in ‘peak state’ that can be melted whenever you want. Served hot or cold, the capsule is 100 per cent recyclable and compatible with or without a K-Cup machine. Even George Howell, US-based coffee roaster, was on hand to endorse his own brewed coffee concealed in the new-look capsule.

While there was plenty of gadgets and gizmos to swoon over, from the producer end, many origin countries were represented from Brazil to Honduras, Ethiopia to Colombia, with a large presence from this year’s Portrait Country Burundi, a designation given to a different producing countries every year.

Dr Déo-Guide Rurema, Minister of Environment, Agriculture and Livestock at Café Du Burundi, told the press that now was the time to “discover the undiscovered flavours of Burundi coffee”.

As the expo days dwindled, so too did the number of competitors left in the WBC and WBrC. With the lights dimmed and strobe lighting to set the tone, resident emcee Stephen Leighton in his bright red shoes read the honours, announcing Jia Ning Du of China the 2019 World Brewers Cup Champion and Jooyeon Jeon of South Korea the 2019 WBC winner, signalling the end to what was another family union of grand proportions.

The Specialty Coffee Expo returns to Portland in 2020, from 23 to 26 April 2020, at the Oregon Convention Center.

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