Report - Day Two (Saturday, 16 April)

For me the second day of the show was really the first day of the show. As you could tell from the previous report - Friday was a bit of a wash.

Saturday began for me with the Beginning Espresso Lab, where I was a station instructor. In many ways this was a great experience. The highlight came when, after tasting some correctly steamed milk, two people in my group realized they had never been served a proper Latte in their lives. As many of the people in this session are owners of coffee bars or are soon-to-be owners... it's an amazing opportunity to influence coffee in the US. I only wish that more of the serious baristas and espresso "thinkers" would get involved in these courses. Seeing folks like Aaron de Lazzer there was great - but honestly there were far too many people teaching who simply didn't know what they were doing.

On a negative note, one of the folks in my group managed to give herself second degree burns on her hand mishandling the steam wand. A scary and traumatic experience.

I have some general suggestions in regards to these courses for the future.
1 - the machines need to be set up more carefully. My machine initially had a misplaced steam boiler probe that resulted in the boiler being entirely full. In addition, the pump was set to provide 10.5BAR of pressure. The good news was that I arrived early enough that I noticed both problems and we managed to fix them. The bad news was that my machine was far from the only one not calibrated well.
2 - three hours is simply not enough time to cover everything from espresso to equipment to milk to drinks to cleaning and maintaining equipment. Not even close. This results in a very rushed experience and likely limited retention. I'd suggest either more time or a less broad curriculum.
3 - the BGA should own these courses.

Anyway... from here I ran through the show floor quickly and then to the WBC.

Some initial impressions from the floor...

1 - the vast majority of the booths were showing product that was either total crap or incredibly uninteresting. Thousands of different blended drink mixes, syrups, baked goods and non-coffee beverages combined with cafe roasters that don't roast and espresso machines that make bad coffee and knicknacks and wifi for your cafe. Bleh.
2 - there was no break-through product in the one area where we need a breakthrough. All the new espresso grinders were either just variants on the same types of design (with the same inherited flaws) or were slight evolutions (with a combination of some of the old flaws and newly introduced ones). More on this later.
3 - The Probat products are awesome.
4 - for the first time ever I was able to get good coffee at the show (from multiple sources). I was served some good espresso at the BGA booth, at the Intelligentsia booth and at the Vivace booth. I cupped some lovely coffee at the Bolivia booth.
5 - some of the producer booths were great (Bolivia for example) and others were really lame.
6 - Terry at Espresso Parts had the only two products at the show that I'm going to buy.

Anyway... the floor was what it was. Too big, very strange... I honestly think that a show with none of the crap would be a far superior show (albeit less impressive).

So on to the WBC... what can I say?
It was a barista competition - but on a larger scale with the best baristas being far superior to what you normally see. On the other hand, the weak baristas were really weak by comparison. It was clear that there were about a dozen really amazing baristas (truly the best in the world when it comes to competitions) but that the drop off in talent from there was enormous.

Rushed about some more... (on a side note, being on crutches at the SCAA show is a nightmare)

Then there was the BGA meeting... I have one quick negative... all of you BGA members who didn't bother to show up (and there were probably at least 100 of you)... you have officially given up any right to complain about anything the BGA does for the next year. Seriously. I mean, what the fuck? Other than the board and the chapter reps, there were like 5 people there. This is a volunteer organization - if you aren't going to be involved you won't get anything out of it.
Now that that is done... the meeting was OK. We covered what's been done, the election results and what is being done next. Shrug.

Then off to dinner with some folks from Transfair (another side note... trying to find somewhere to eat on Capital Hill on a Saturday night when the SCAA show is in town is very difficult to say the least). I had a really nice cask-conditioned ESB at Elysian. Actually... I had several (grin).
Talking with the Transfair folks was an interesting experience. It was the beginning of a trend that extended through the show. I came to realize that Stumptown really is different and that our needs, issues, goals and methods are not common to the vast majority of the industry.

It gets a bit blurry at that point but eventually I went to bed.

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