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Reports From the Road
A Look Back at SCAA Portland 2012
Author: Mark Prince
Posted: April 8, 2013
Article rating: 9.6
feedback: (1) comments | read | write

Last year, the SCAA show went to what is arguably one of the best coffee cities in the US - Portland, Oregon. Here's a look back at some of the highlights of last year's show.

It's been a while since CoffeeGeek went to a SCAA Trade Show and Convention - two years in fact. In that time, the SCAA changed the annual happening's name: it is now called "The Event". In 2010, the show was in Houston, and in 2011 it visited Atlanta. But last year, it was back in a true coffee town - Portland which was a fantastic venue for the SCAA to hold its annual show. The crowd agreed: Portland SCAA 2012 did break some recent SCAA attendance records according to a few of the organizers we spoke to.

The Event is a lot of things. A series of seminars. Educational courses on everything from being a barista to roasting coffee. A massive networking event where there world's specialty coffee community can come together to meet, greet and make deals. In recent years, a variety of competitions, including (but not limited to) the United States Barista Championship, the Cup Tasting competition (PDF file), Roaster's Choice competition, Brewers' Cup, and new last year, the World Aeropress Championship. It is also a massive trade show with 100s of exhibitors showing off a lot of syrups, plastic and paper cups, lids, smoothies, teas and... oh yes, an occasional innovative product of great interest to the specialty coffee scene!

The Event is so big that there's even a second event hosted each year: the SCAA Symposium Series, which occurs in the immediate days before The Event takes place. Covering the breadth and scope of all these things is a challenge. In past years, I'd go ragged trying to cover the USBC, seminars, educationals and the show floor. In past years, I'd bring an entire team to the show (we had six people covering the 2005 SCAA in Seattle!). Last year in Portland, I went with two goals in mind: to cover the show floor and tell you about the really innovative and intriguing products that both consumers and professionals interested in specialty coffee might want to know about; and I wanted to find interesting stories from the world of specialty coffee to share with you. These things were covered a few times during and right after the show, and here, to refresh your memory, is a compendium of all the coverage from last year in one spot.

From the Trade Show Floor

The trade show floor at the SCAA is both exciting for the specialty coffee (and espresso) enthusiast, but also depressing. You have to remember this trade show is for the commercial side of coffee and espresso - farmers, brokers, buyers, roasters, and retailers. As such, for every cool booth like La Marzocco or Baratza (for us here on CoffeeGeek), there's ten syrup and biscotti booths. They have the place and definitely fill a niche that retailers and other commercial companies need to be a profitable business, so I try to avoid any further disparagement of them. But with that said, there were some great booths of big time interest to the CoffeeGeeker in your life.

Northwest Glass - Yama Products

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Prototype Immersion Brewers
Here's two of the prototype immersion brewers Northwest Glass had on display last year.
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Akira Halogen Burner
This is a $270 (wholesale) halogen burner that works great with most siphon brewers.

Yama (along with Hario, covered below) had a decent presence at last year's Portland show by their main importer Northwest Glass. On display was a good assortment of Yama's coffee and tea making equipment, including a wide variety of siphon coffee brewers, an even larger assortment of ice drip brewers, various manual drip brewers, and one or two really standout items.

Ice Drip Brewers - On display was the gamut of Japanese style ice brewers, from full blown commercial grade dual boilers on down to cute small home models. One really good thing about these Yama brewers were the prices - across the board, they're as much as 25% cheaper than similar Hario products. Northwest Glass had on display a giant 25-cup brewer that wholesales for around $270 (nb, that's if you buy cases; if you want one, they sell it retail for $395); they mentioned that double glass brewers were also available on order. There's also a smaller model - suitable for home use or very light cafe use, which wholesales for under $170. There were also true consumer tabletop models that were small and looked pretty decent. The one I clued in on, with a matching wood mid handle and stand had a wholesale price of $38; retail should be under $60 and it looked functional.

Siphon Brewers
The booth was resplendent with very well priced (for wholesale purchases) siphon brewers of all sizes. Yama is really stepping up their range of siphons, and they include the super fancy old-school models and the very basic stovetop versions. Some people whispered here and there that Yama just steals Hario's designs for siphons. To me, that is a shortsighted because while Yama may take inspiration from Hario's siphon designs, Hario themselves are just copying historical siphon designs with most of their models. The only one that was really original from Hario was perhaps their Nouveau siphon brewer; all the other models by Hario are just loose replicas of old French and German siphon designs.

That said, there is one siphon in particular that is very much Yama's design - the CNT-5 Model - it has a flowing, almost wide-petal flower like base in black with gold flake patterns, and the siphon sits into a three-column stand. I guess the design has some appeal (it is very Asian in its look), but at least to my Western eye, it is not appealing (and I own the white one in this design!). Also, the YCA-5K model had a bit of appeal to me - the glass shape is reminiscent of Hario's Nouveau without being an outright copy, and the handle has an interesting shape.

I'd love to see Yama come a truly original, modern art style siphon design something either modern art deco or modern geometric. Or even modern Italian design (I don't recall ever seeing a siphon with what I'd call "Italian design" elements). The glassware business seems to be doing well for them, perhaps they should throw a few bucks at an International (not Asian specific) design company to come up with something unique. Heck, I'd throw my own design skills into the hat for them.

Manual Drip Brewers
Northwest Glass had on display a variety of manual drip brewers, and again, some noted that a lot of the designs seemed to copy Hario's designs - especially with the cloth dripper. But the thing is, the cloth dripper from Hario itself copies the Chemex brewer design, so you can't harsh on one company and let the other company be the victim here. Interestingly enough, I saw more manual drip brewers at Northwest Glass' booth than I see either on their website or on Yama's website.

The Cool Stuff
Okay - there were two things at the Northwest Glass Booth that I quite loved, so much so that I actually bought one of them right off the show floor, and the other I have in my plans for the CoffeeGeek Lab if I ever get it open again. It was a stop-flow, immersion capable manual brewer and a halogen light siphon stove!

First the manual drip pourover with stop-flow. At last year's show I saw the late prototype (and bought one), but now Northwest is selling the production model on their website and it is called the Silverton. Retail is $99 though there may be a better wholesale price. It may look familiar to some of you - two years ago, Coava coffee put out photographs of a similar looking device for their Coava (now Able) Kone. But the Coava manual pourover machine with flow stop was ultimately vaporware; Yama has an immersion, manual pourover brewer they are now selling globally. Though clearly a copy of the reference brewer that Coava showed off in 2011, Yama's brewer is different from Coava's design in a few aspects. First, Yama has developed their own fine-mesh cone filter that is not nearly as angled as the Able Kone, and the glass that holds the filter is similarly shaped (so the Able Kone won't fit this brewer). Second, the Coava Brewing Stand was height adjustable - this one is not. Third, Yama has a pretty cool carafe as part of this set - it's cool because in a way it acts like a Turkish Coffee brewer and does a good job of trapping most fines that make it through the mesh metal filter when you pour your coffee.

Next, Northwest had a new Halogen Light Siphon Heater (burner? stove?) for sale, and the wholesale price is awesome - $270! Even more awesome - it is 110V and has safety ratings for North America! The brand name was Akira, and yes, it's pretty much a direct clone to Hario's discontinued Halogen Beam Heater, in look, style, and function. But the Hario model cost $450 minimum when it was for sale on the grey market a few years ago in N. America. This one wholesales for $270 and there's no need for step down transformer boxes. I expect Northwest Glass will be selling more than a few of these.

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Ice Drip Tower
One of several ice drip towers made by Yama - this one is a high volume brewer.
Ice Brewer
Ice Brewing was popular in Portland last year, including several home units.
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Manual Brewer with Filter
This is a prototype of a home manual brewer with a metal mesh filter.
Silverton Prototype
Another view of the Silverton prototype infusion brewer.

Hario Booth

My writeup for Hario is going to be shorter because I blew my opportunity to really investigate the booth for every possible goodie last year. I heard there was a new Buono electric kettle. And a new siphon. I missed them all. Why?

Because of this thing:

Hario Drip Stand

To me, this was one of the coolest things at the entire show for pour over freaks. What you see here is a prototype (in fact, these two in the pics below are the only ones in existence at least during the show) It's actually two items Hario plans to sell separately - a new 0.1g accurate scale and a new pourover stand.

In retrospect though, I probably should have asked more questions about this stand and scale. I was so in love with the design and the function that longevity, attention to wear and tear weren't on my mind. I ended up buying the stand and scale when they were available retail a few months ago, and the scale broke after about a month of use. Since I bought it via US mail order, I just junked it - getting a refund is too much of a hassle. I can't, at this time recommend the scale, but we'll see after the show this year in Boston if Hario has upgraded it.

Now the stand. After a couple of years ago, when Hario showed over some knockoff stands, it was amazing to see these original designs in Portland. What I really liked was the incorporated drip tray - it just looked completely slick and these photographs do not do it justice. Hario plans on doing several pourover stand designs in wood, plexiglass pictured here) and metal. All will be similarly designed and will slot in perfectly with the new scale they designed.

Hario also had a variety of other brewers, siphons and the like, but again, my bad reporting meant I was fixated on the brewing stand and scale.

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Hario Brewing Stand and Scale
A prototype of Hario's manual pourover stand and scale.
Two Prototypes
Great design - though the unit I eventually bought broke after a month.
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Scale closeup
A closeup view of the scale and its soft-touch controls.
Hario Siphons
Hario's booth also had many siphons and other brewers.

The Rancilio X-Celsius Machine

Debuting at last year's show was a full production machine from Rancilio featuring their new X-Celsius technology. We've covered X-Celsius before, but that was in the prototype stage and it's good to see they've worked on some issues the technology had, and now have it in a great production machine, the Classe 9 Models.

In case you are unaware, the X-Celsius technology builds on something that may be the next big leap in espresso quality: temperature profiling during a shot pull. There's been a lot of work done on pressure profiling (changing the water pressure during a shot of espresso) by Slayer and La Marzocco, but it almost seems that pressure profiling is throwing a lot of money at technology for perhaps too little a boost in taste - of course, the jury is still out on that.

We do know that water temperatures themselves affect the taste of espresso greatly. We also know that in stable temperature machines, you get a better tasting extraction yield from those high temperatures early on in the shot, and increasingly bitter tastes the longer you pull the shot at the same temperature. Drop the temperature, and bitter characteristics in the latter stages of the shot fade. This isn't theory or guesswork - it's proven scientifically by the Illy coffee labs and other sources.

It's been theorized (and somewhat proven) that if you can decline the brewing water's temperature during a shot pull, you can create a better tasting shot; problem is, the declines in temperature are often achieved in a haphazard way: as an example, about five years ago I ran a series of tests on an Elektra Micro Casa lever machine, seeing how much I could reduce the temperature of the brewing water during a shot pull. I did this by wrapping the exposed grouphead with a frozen water cloth and was able to acheive a semi-controlled drop of about 8F during the shot pull - starting at around 202F, declining to 194F. My taste tests showed the decline shot (which I should note is also tied in with a declining pressure, since the spring pushing the water loses its tension through the shot pull) did taste better.

Until two years ago, no machine could do this in an automated fashion, but Rancilio changed that. The X-Celsius allows for a significant, programmed temperature drop (or climb, if you prefer) during the shot pull. And now, with the Classe 9 machine, they are selling the machine around the world.

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XCelsius Classe 9
Glenn Surlet from Rancilio NA Shows off the production XCelsius machine
The panel on the XCelsius machine shows temperature ranges through the shot pull, as programmed.
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The area where you get a basic programming chart for the machine; also the grouphead is massive.
Andrew Barnett and Glenn Surlet
Andrew Barnett finds out more about the XCelsius machine.

Crossland CC1 and Water System

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Crossland Hot Water System
This is the only photo I took of Bill Crossland's hot water manual drip brewer station system - my bad. Here though you can see it is designed to do a variety of water "patterns".

Bill Crossland is a bit of a legend in the espresso business. He was one of the leaders in the design of the La Marzocco GS/3 machine which in turn really influenced a lot of espresso machine design in the 21rst century so far. He left La Marzocco several years ago, and has been working as a consultant and also on his own machine designs.

At Portland, Crossland had the latest version of his Crossland CC1 machine (the 1.5 machine) and was also showing an early prototype of a new hot water delivery system for manual brewing devices (which I guess would make them automatic brewing devices).

The CC1 is quite brilliant in many ways. It has a a PID inside and Bill Crossland has worked hard to bring a lot of the innovations and ideas of the GS/3 into a sub $1,000 espresso machine (it retails for around $700). There's also a thermoblock inside for steam and steam happens very quickly on this machine.

The most important thing about this machine is consistent temperatures are really precise temperature controls. For a single shot pull, this machine is rock steady on temperature - almost on par with the GS/3 in fact in side by side tests I've done with a Scace Device hooked up to it. Recovery time is obviously longer than a GS/3, but for $700, you're getting a machine that in many ways puts the Rancilio Silvia to shame.

We will eventually have a first look at the CC1 online, but I'm also looking forward to seeing if there's any progression in Crossland's manual brew water station at this year's show.

La Marzocco

Easily the busiest booth at last year's SCAA in Portland was the La Marzocco booth. Just jam-packed with baristas, owners, roasters, farmers, everyone; so much so it was tough to get a decent conversation in at the booth about La Marzocco's newest offerings.

The showcases of their booth were the Strada machine in its multiple configurations, the "Shot Puller" GS/3 without a steaming option, and the Uber Boiler system they are bringing in from Ireland. The VST baskets also were a big hit here - La Marzocco commissioned their initial design and they work exceptionally well with their machines.

Not much else to say about the LM booth, but enjoy this photo extravaganza!

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There's a lot of old school pride in a company that embraces modern day technology
Phuong Tran and Kent Bakke
Phuong Tran, a former USBC Champion, with Kent Bakke, one of the owners of La Marzocco
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Bakke with Japanese Champion
Mr. Bakke talking with a Japanese barista champion.
Former Champions
Carl Sara, a multiple-time New Zealand Champion, talking with Dismas Smith, the 2002 North American Barista Champion at LM's Booth.
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The Shot Brewer
This is the espresso only GS/3 Variant.
Uber Boiler
The Uber Boiler in action, with a Kalitta brewer.
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The Stradas were in full effect at the LM Booth
Danger Dan!
Many popular baristas were manning LM's booth, including one known affectionally as Danger Dan.

Show Odds and Ends

There was a lot more on the show floor that was pretty cool to see and learn a bit about. These things included a bicycle-based espresso cart, Espro's new (then) press pot design, a $1,400 roaster that somehow was meant for home use (I don't think they sold any), UCC, the company that first brought halogen siphon burners to the world was there, and even Bunn's Trifecta home brewing machine. We'll leave you with an additional photo montage of the show from Portland last year.

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Clive Coffee in Portland
Clive Coffee hosted a party at the SCAA in their showroom - it was quite nicely decked out.
Bill Crossland
Bill Crossland talks to Mark Helwig of Clive Coffee
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Kent Bakke, Kyle and Carole Anderson
Kent Bakke of La Marzocco and Kyle and Carole Anderson of Baratza
Erna Knutsen
Knutsen is credited with creating the term "Specialty Coffee"
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UCC Booth
UCC was at the Portland show with their own halogen brewing stand.
UCC Pouring Demo
UCC demonstrated how their kettle (on right) pours better than the Hario Buono Kettle.
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Glass Spiral
Purely for show, the intricate glass spirals of ice coffee brewers were all over the show floor.
David Schomer
David Schomer, a pioneer in espresso and latte art, was working as a barista at the show!
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Bonmac Ice Towers
At UCC booth, Bonmac ice towers.
Vivace Espresso cups
Vivace Espresso Cups at David Schomer's Booth
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Reg Barber!
The SCAA wouldn't be what it is without Reg Barber walking around!
Alpha Dominche
One of the highlights of the show. We wrote a feature article on this machine.
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Bodum's machines
I wanted to find out more about Bodum's new machines but no one was at the booth!
Bicycle Cart
A bicycle-based espresso cart.
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Bicycle Cart
Another view of the custom made bicycle cart.
Vintage Retro
Some companies were really bringing back a vintage 1950s style to their machines. I'd like to see more of this!
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Porlex Grinder
The first time I saw the Porlex grinder. I liked it so much, I bought one from the show floor.
Mason 800 roaster
This is a home roaster (of sorts) but at over $1,000 ($1,400 quoted) it's not realistic.
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Mason 800 coffee roaster
The price was out there, but the technology was pretty cool.
Coffee everywhere
All over the show floor are coffee displays like this.
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The Slayer
The Slayer espresso machine
Jason Prefontaine
Here's Jason at the Slayer booth, pulling great shots.
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Alpha Dominche
This was the best new product at the show.
Gwilym Davies
Gwilym was working the Nuova Simonelli booth and doing a great job holding court!
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Bicycle Cart
Another view, in colour of the bicycle cart.
Bunn's Trifecta Home
This is the Trifecta Home machine. I couldn't find anyone at the booth to tell me much about the product.
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Trifecta Commercial
This is the Trifecta commercial machine, designed for single cup brewing, high volume use.
Water boiling in the home Trifecta machine.

2013 SCAA in Boston

This year, the SCAA Event is in Boston, and we're sending two people to cover it this year. Again, our focus is going to be mainly on the trade show floor and things of interest to coffee enthusiasts and pros who love great tasting coffee and the technology that makes it. We'll be covering a few seminars and social events as well. This is the first time the SCAA has been in Boston since 2003, and since the city has a storied history with coffee, a great choice. We'll see you there!

Article rating: 9.6
Author: Mark Prince
Posted: April 8, 2013
feedback: (1) comments | read | write
Reports From the Road Column Archives  
Column Description
One of the more popular pieces of content on the CoffeeGeek website are the reports from major trade shows. We cover shows like no other media source does - giving first hand intimate and frank reports that give you the real scoop on what's going on, from a consumer and a coffee lover's true perspective.

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