Specialty Coffee Expo 2019: Boston RECAP

The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center

The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center

Every year, thousands of specialty coffee professionals descend on an unsuspecting city (this year it’s Boston) to attend the Specialty Coffee Expo.  The Expo is a four-day weekend of workshops, lectures, coffee tastings, and exhibitors packing a convention hall, representing anyone from espresso machine manufacturers to oat milk providers.  It’s also the venue for the World Barista Championship and World Brewers Cup (yes that’s a thing!), where baristas represent their countries in intense competition (this documentary just came out about the world championships: http://a.co/d/6tkvcjD).

We sent our head roaster Dean, Main St. GM Norma, and CEO Andrew to check out what’s up in the world of specialty coffee.  Here’s what Dean had to say:

How was Boston? Visit any cool coffee shops?

Boston is like any other city, with its own people and rules. No one seems lost or unintentional, which made us stick out when we attempted to take the Red Line to South Station for the first time. Public transportation is abundant and effective. As long as you don't like the Yankees, the locals treat you with kindness and respect. The sea air hit our faces every morning we walked across the Summer St bridge. We knew history was all around us, without even being told. Some places just feel old. As for coffee shops, we only visited Gracenote and for good reason. Their shop consistency was defined every visit by hospitality and quality. For such a tiny shop, they sure made it feel that much more welcoming. I wasn't able to visit their shop, but Broadsheet was doing awesome things in the Roaster Village. Again, hospitality and quality of product.

Best food?

I think I might have lost weight on this trip, as I didn't eat very much. The one place that stood out was Flour Bakery. I know it's a chain and people will probably turn their noses up at it but it was nice. I could tell that it was place where people built their morning rituals around.

Any particularly good lectures?

I attended the Cropster Masterclass, a green coffee sustainability lecture, and The Science of Coffee Freshness. The freshness lecture is where my attention laid heavy. Same Smrke and his colleagues have been studying the different effects which degrade coffee's freshness. Take aways being faster roasts stale more quickly. 50% of a roasted coffee seed is composed of air/gas. Coffee loses most of its freshness once ground. Lower temperatures seem to be the best way to battle staling effects.

What’s the latest on coffee technology? Did you get to try the KB90 (La Marzocco’s new espresso machine)?

The KB90 was much more fluid in usage than I had expected. Curtis has developed a new cold brew system which brags an awesome 5 gallons in 20 minutes, directly lined into a keg! I'm pretty excited about Miir's new pour over brewer. Very simple and compact.

Did you check out any of the competitions? Any new trends? I remember last year there was a lot of talk about people partially freezing their milk.

The big take away for me was the explanation of how different parts of the world approach comp. Asia (Japan, ROK) utilizes tech, US brings the equipment, and South America brings the coffee.

How do you feel about the specialty coffee industry at-large? Where do you see it headed?

Expo is expo, there's only so much that can be done with it. What I found more exciting and promising were the conversations initiated online afterwards. I seriously think not enough people take advantage of the lectures when they go but those that do, come back spitting coffee fire everywhere and it's exciting to see that passion materialize and put towards something.