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SCAA Day 0 Report - USBC and Intensives!
Author: Mark Prince
Posted: April 7, 2006
Article rating: 9.5
feedback: (3) comments | read | write

So on Day 0 of the SCAA (Friday is Day 0, since there are intensives and seminars, but no trade show floor yet) is underway, and this is usually the big set up and networking day for many folks. The USBC starts, the big Welcome reception takes place, and many people are stopping and chatting in the halls.

The morning notes
Posted by Mark Prince, 7:45am Permalink to this blog entry

Up really early this morning because I don't know if I'm judging today or not (found out I wasn't today, but am tomorrow). When I walked to the show, the first people I ran into were Instaurator, who was there with Andrew from Mountain Top Coffee in Australia - said my hellos and found out that Inny has a bunch of new articles for me (very cool!).

The trade show floor is a mess, not even worth photographing again (though I did snap a few pics). USBC is ready to go full swing, and Brent Fortune is Mr. Intensity, worrying if everything is done right. No worries Brent - looks like again, you did a fantastic job.

I hung around to watch the first couple of competitors, including Stephen Rogers from Intelligentsia who had the unenviable position of going first, and Shannon Rice from PT's Coffee, who looked very good at what she was doing.

I feel overwhelmed a bit by this year's USBC. Maybe it's the fact that I'm going to be very hands on involved in this year's CNBC in Canada, but I'm getting my own case of the worries, about how we're going to pull it off. I have really high goals for what I would like to see at our competition, and seeing the hoops that Brent Fortune, Michelle Campbell, Marcus Bonny and others are going through gives me the willies.

Here's some flickr goodness.

USBC 2006 Day 1 CoffeeGeek's USBC 2006 Day 1 photoset

Walking the hallways...
Posted by Mark Prince, 9:15am Permalink to this blog entry
Click for larger image
Chris: Networker
Chris Deferio, networking on the steps.

Out in the hallways, I ran into David Griswold, a past president of the SCAA, and we chatted briefly about what he's doing at the show. He's chairing a discussion of ICO type countries about coffee, and possibly a move back to some kind of quota or more favourable distribution system to help farmers get a better wage for their coffees. The hope is, lessons learned from the last quota system will be applied here, and devastating floods of the coffee market, like what Vietnam did in the 1990s, can be avoided. If it's good for farmers, I'm all for it. David owns a company called Sustainable Harvest, so if he's involved, I have high hopes.

I had some discussions with Stephen Schulman of Dallis Coffee about where their product was going. They are a big roaster (in terms of our specialty coffee market) and they have a 4 bagger (600lb) roaster, but are doing interesting things in the New York market. They aren't a Stumptown or Ecco Cafe or even a Counter Culture, but they are definitely one of the good guys and pushing the quality envelope for the hotel and restaurant trade.

Also had a quick chance to say hi to Chris Deferio, latte art whiz, and one of the best in the world at it.

Interview with Fresh Cup Magazine
Posted by Mark Prince, 10:20am Permalink to this blog entry

The biggest part of my morning was a series of interviews I did for Julie Beals of Fresh Cup Magazine. The interview was supposed to be about home roasting, but we ended up talking about a variety of subjects, including one of my pet missions these days... how the SCAA can become a year round organization serving all its members.

My chief criticism of the org lately has been about their "all eggs in one basket" mentality that doesn't serve the .org well or its membership. I am talking about the event I'm at - conference and the trade show. Great event, lots of fun, lots of info and educational opportunities.

But the show is also a hardship to many smaller players in the industry because it costs so much to attend. And the show is a hardship to the .org itself because, if they have a bad conference year (like they did in Miami), it could sink the SCAA battleship. That's not good.

I floated an idea to Beals that I've been talking about in my "circles" for some time. Why isn't the SCAA capitalizing on a golden egg they have sitting right in their paws - Regional Barista Championships.

They have six or seven active right now, and there's supposed to be ten events around the country each year. Why not turn these regionals into a 3 or 4 day Regional SCAA event, complete with seminars, hands on training, and the competitions. Start the event off with a Barista Jam, then go into two days of educationals (including the cupping workshops, brewing workshops, roasting workshops, yada yada) then roll into a one or two day regional barista competition to end it off.

I further expanded on the concept. Almost all the workshops the SCAA is famous for have multiple levels. A beginner level, intermediate, and sometimes a master level.

Further, the SCAA has some real brand recognition with regards to its seminars and workshops. Whereas other trade shows involving coffee pay little heed to educational events at their shows (and when they do, they tend to be more profit driven for the seminar presenter, and not necessarily educational), the SCAA's educational tracks are consider the gold standard in this industry.

So the concept I came up with was pretty obvious once vocalized... do the beginner and maybe even the intermediate seminars at these regional events throughout the year. Then save the intermediates and masters programs for the annual conference. A feeder system to get more people to conference for the upper tier training.

Money... always talked about. Who's going to pay for it. Well, one would hope that a well organized structure of regional workshops and seminars, tied in with regional barista competitions and a jam will become not only self-supporting, but add to the coffers of the SCAA so that they are no longer solely tied to membership dues and the annual conference to fund them throughout the year.

Big thinking, and even bigger effort to get it rolling, but I can't think of a better way for the SCAA to

  • stop membership churn, especially in the retailers sector
  • better address its membership needs and wants
  • achieve the SCAA's own stated misson statements and goals
  • diversify the stranglehold that conference has on the .org's overall health.

Than do move to a yea round, regionally focused trade organization.

The Elusive One
Posted by Mark Prince, 1:25pm Permalink to this blog entry

So, ever wonder why there is no photo of Jim Piccinich, of 1st Line, on the web? It's because Jim likes it that way.

But since I'm on a scoopage tear today (and very soon, you'll find out what I'm talking about), I managed to score one photo of the elusive Jim. It's a shocker. And I swear, this is really him (though I should have gotten him to lift up his conference badge to confirm)

Jim Piccinich

SCOOP! The La Marzocco GS/3... with paddle group
Posted by Mark Prince, 2:00pm Permalink to this blog entry
Click for larger image
GS3 Logo
Click for larger image
Paddle Group
Click for larger image
GS/3 Woot!

Huge scoop!!!!
Here's your first look at the La Marzocco GS/3 - nearing production ready, and one model at this year's show features the 21rst century version of La Marzocco's venerable Paddle Group!

Let me tell you, the action is sweet on this. This required some serious re-engineering by Bill Crossland over the original paddle group. I'll try to explain it best I can (I don't know all the details).

The original and much lusted after paddle group was all mechanical. They were installed on machines without much in the way of electronics, volumetric controls, automatic controls, you name it. It was a fairly complex design for its time, but mechanical and no problems that an automatic machine would pose to such a group today.

This machine is an automatic machine. Meaning you can preprogram in fairly precise volumes for each of the four brewing buttons. Press, it brews, then stops when done.

This machine is also a "manual control" machine. Via the paddle group, you can move the paddle on its axis somewhat, and open up the path between brew boiler and group for water flow. But the water flows at normal pressure. Water will saturate the puck, and you, as the Barista, control that saturation timing. Move the paddle further on its axis, and you engage the pump. Move the paddle back to its original position, and the pump shuts down, the path between group and boiler closes, and the solenoid bypass relief kicks in.

But ahah. This machine is also a manual automatic. Let me explain. You can move the paddle a portion on its axis, and you'll control the preinfusion. then hit any of the preprogrammed brew switches, and the auto functions "take over" and engage the pump, brew your predetermined volume, and close everything afterwards. Sweet.

There's many other improvements in this machine. New water reservoir. New side panels (gone, unfortunately are the alum billets - but the new sides look great, and weigh a lot less). The control panel - all new. The steam wand is now on a ball valve for much better angle of use. Ditto for the hot water wand. The drip tray is expanded. So much to talk about. If you're at the show, this is a must see.

More Scoopage! Clover Inside!
Posted by Mark Prince, 3:10pm Permalink to this blog entry

More scoopage for you.

I took some secret snaps of the Clover 1s.... the INSIDE of the Clover 1s.

This one's at Intelligentsia's booth. Lots of photos. A little blurry. I was afraid of the hall cops arresting me. I shot and I ran.

The fotos are at flickr (along with additional scoop photos of the GS3). Enjoy!

SCAA 2006 Scoops! CoffeeGeek's SCAA 2006 Scoops! photoset
Oh PS. I did ask Zander first for permission. He's awesome.

Sneak Preview - Machines of Interest.
Posted by Mark Prince, 4:30pm Permalink to this blog entry

So finally, on this day before the trade show floor open, machines are showing up on the floor. I figured you'd like a look at some of these. Some commercial, some consumer, some new surprises. The Gaggia Achille looks awesome... except for the froth aider.

CoffeeGeek's photos tagged with sneak preview More of CoffeeGeek's photos tagged with sneak preview

Personalities at the SCAA
Posted by Mark Prince, 9:45pm Permalink to this blog entry

My last post of the night folks. Busy eve... wish I could write more, but I have to get up in six hours.

Thanks to Inny though for making me run all over the city of Charlotte to try and find my camera. ;)

Here's some personalities at the SCAA so far - courtesy of flickr. I'll be updating this set on Flickr throughout the weekend.

Oh, one more thing... how about some feedback folks! I mean, all these posts today, and not one single comment (so far) in the forums on this day's blog? Sheesh! Vacuum over here ;)

SCAA 2006 Personalities CoffeeGeek's SCAA 2006 Personalities photoset

Article rating: 9.5
Author: Mark Prince
Posted: April 7, 2006
feedback: (3) comments | read | write
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