Boston Strong: Specialty Coffee Expo 2019 wrap-up

Specialty Coffee Expo

The 31st Specialty Coffee Expo was a celebration of all things new, shiny and unique. BeanScene relives the show highlights as more than 14,000 guests attended the industry’s annual family reunion.

Boston may be the most populous city of the Massachusetts state, but on the week of 9 April it could be argued it also hosted the most international guests. One only had to look at Airbnb and hotel booking websites to learn the city was brimming with visitors. Not only was the US city hosting the Boston Marathon that week, one of the world’s most iconic annual races, but the Specialty Coffee Expo, North America’s biggest coffee event and one of the most prominent fixtures on the global coffee calendar, was being held there too. 

A brief tour of the historic city’s main streets quickly identifies that Boston is home to the iconic Dunkin’ Donuts chain, founded by William Rosenberg in the neighbouring city of Quincy, Massachusetts in 1950. Dunkin’, as it’s now formally known, is prominently scattered throughout city’s streets, among Starbucks stores and the classic four-kilometre red brick path known as the Freedom Trail. Dig a bit deeper however, and specialty coffee shops such as George Howell’s, PS Gourmet, and Gracenote quickly became destination venues with the baristas behind the counters picking up on the different accents and asking: “You here for the SCA (Specialty Coffee Association)?”

Most were. Some arrived early for the introduction event, the Re:Co Symposium, this year highlighting the significance of the global coffee crisis, necessary action and the future of the specialty coffee industry. For others, their time in Boston wasn’t only to catch a Red Sox game at the iconic Fenway Park or Boston Celtics at the TD Garden, it was to celebrate North America’s annual coffee trade show and the World Barista and Brewers Cup Championships.

Specialty Coffee Expo
Bellwether Coffee is the 2019 SCA
Best New Product Award-winner for its electric, zero emission coffee roaster.

Day one of the show commenced with the traditional ribbon cutting and opening remarks from SCA Executive Director Yannis Apostolopoulos. Then, it was a matter of bolt or stand still as swarms of expo visitors made a beeline through the glass doors, as though they were headed to purchase the latest Apple iPhone release. Those not fussed by being the first through the doors were happy to pose for a selfie in front of the giant SCA promotion wall or enjoy a milk-based coffee at the Slayer pop-up stand outside the expo entrance. 

On the outskirts of the expo venue, a record number of 35 educational classes were on offer, as were 88 lectures, including Australia’s own Sasa Sestic of Ona Coffee and Project Origin who spoke about how innovations in processing can change perceptions of specialty coffee, and Adam Carr of Seven Miles Coffee who also presented a talk on empowering coffee enthusiasts to make sense of complex chemistry.

Inside the expo ware representations of the industry’s biggest brands, with more than 600 exhibitors representing everything from roasters to green beans, and equipment manufacturers to packaging. In the competition hall, heats for the 20th World Barista Championship (WBC) and World Brewers Cup (WBrC) were underway while exhibitors walked through the endless laneways of exhibitors scouring the newest and coolest technology and innovations on display. 

On the Nuova Simonelli stand, ambassador and former Swiss Barista Champion Andre Eiermann ran demonstrations of the Aurelia Wave, highlighting its patented pulse jet technology.

“The pulse jet helps create different cup profiles with different water pressure during the dispensing phase. This greatly improves efficiency and the result is a more complex espresso flavour profile,” he says. 

On the adjoining stand, Victoria Arduino displayed is 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 the supports the growth and promotion of sustainable building. Victoria Arudino also launched its new #iamone social media campaign, asking supporters to share a photo that describes their passion and dream for the chance to win an exclusive Victoria Arudino experience, and participate at a product launch event.

Specialty Coffee Expo
Acaia released its new Pearl Model S scale.

Over on the La Marzocco stand, the popular espresso machine manufacturer was buzzing with a swarm of visitors sampling coffees at the True Artisan Café, where guest roasters served their best roasts on Modbar equipment, but the real attention was on the KB90, the company’s ‘straight in’ portafilter machine. The new model makes espresso preparation easier with less strain on high-volume cafés and busy baristas. It was America’s first look at the new machine, with LM Board Chairman Kent Bakke, who the KB90 is named after, on hand to talk through the stunning new design.

New releases were a topic of conversation throughout the show, 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 asked expo visitors for their direct feedback on its new-release prototype, the Marco Friia, a minimalist font tap that distributes hot, cold, and sparkling water at the touch of a button. The overwhelming response was “terrific”, Operations Director Paul Stack says, with the boiler, carbonated chiller, and three-litre water delivery system housed under-counter, making the new system ideal for high-volume cafés and office spaces 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,” Paul says. “Cold brew is still building momentum and I believe this is a better option than shipping cold coffee concentrate, which is not sustainable. The Friia is the next step.”

When it came to scales, Acaia also brought a new launch to the table with its new three-kilogram Pearl Model S scale, designed for the serious home brewers and roasters. It features a built-in interactive brewing guide. Roasters can input recommended recipes and home brewers can transfer them into the scales. The scale measures the weight, time, and flow rate of a pour over brew. All the user has to do is follow the specific brew recipe and step-by-step instructions.

“Home brewers can create pour overs and share their recipe online to help improve the quality of their brews,” Acaia President and Co-Founder Rex Tseng says. 

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

This article appears in FULL in the June 2019 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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