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SCAA Houston 2011 Preview - Great Gear
Author: Mark Prince
Posted: April 27, 2011
Article rating: 9.1
feedback: (5) comments | read | write

The Annual SCAA Trade Show Event is kicking off this Friday in Houston, Texas and like most years, many manufacturers, coffee companies, espresso companies and inventors are showing up with some exciting new products. The problem for the serious CoffeeGeek (be them an industry pro or an interested consumer) is weeding through all the syrup, baked goods and useless gizmos that also populate the show. There's a lot of chaff at a big trade show like this, so with that in mind, here's some of the potential standout "wheat" at this year's show from a product standpoint.

Rancilio's XCelsius Project

Rancilio (booth #719) is officially unveiling their new temperature stable, temperature profiling machine technology, called XCelsius at the 2011 SCAA show.

I had the pleasure of testing this technology out in Milan last month and have some very high hopes for it. Essentially, a temperature curve can be programmed into the machine, temperatures set to exacting barista standards.

XCelsius technology is pretty much centred around a machine's grouphead, and because of this, Rancilio's new tech can be retrofitted into existing (newer) machines and be chosen as an option on their two new lines: the Classe 7 and Classe 9 machines.

Temperature profiling has a lot of potential promise for doing two things to espresso brewing. First, a declining temperature during brew (with a higher initial starting temperature) has the possibility of improving a shot. Second, a declining temperature may lead to improving mediocre shots not prepared properly by the Barista. This is because the temperature range has the potential to mellow out some of the more harsh things found in some espresso shots.

There are other benefits as well. Each group can be programmed differently, so a shop running multiple coffees or serving true singles (single baskets) alongside of doubles (this is found more in Italy than N. America) can set up each group for a unique parameter. Rancilio's technology also leads to very stable brewing temperatures: in fact, this impressed me almost more than the temperature profile. Rancilio's XCelsius technology is not PID driven, but provides extremely stable grouphead temperatures, enough so that Rancilio is considering a run at the WBC machine certification.

At the SCAA show, Rancilio is scheduled to have XCelsius operational machines for pro baristas and anyone involved in making great espresso to check out and possibly test themselves. It is still very early days on temperature profiling, so don't expect any "gee whiz" taste moments, but once we get more serious espresso tasters and makers trying out the technology, you can expect to hear a lot more platitudes about what this technology is capable of.

Also, I can tell you the XCelsius technology is versatile enough that Rancilio could, if they wanted to, build it into a new home machine. It's too big for the Silvia, but if Rancilio ever decides to do a step up machine to the Silvia, the XCelsius technology could easily work inside of a home machine, running on 110V power with just a bit of engineering finesse.

Baratza

As detailed in our exclusive preview, Baratza (booth #1825) is introducing two new weight-dosing solutions for home and light commercial use: their Esatto weight based digital dosing attachment for existing Preciso, Virtuoso and Maestro Plus grinders, and their new Vario-E grinder with the weight based dosing built in (while maintaining the same footprint as the current Vario grinders).

Weight based dosing is something that professional baristas, slow-coffee movement people, and home enthusiasts have been begging the industry to produce for years now. Baratza's system is guaranteed to be accurate to 0.5g on any dose, and can be accurate down to 0.15g for most doses, especially with finer grind selections.

The system relies on a grinds-bin to catch the ground coffee. It is not compatible with portafilters or 3rd party vessels (like cupping cups etc); however, having this kind of accuracy in dosing should open up a lot of new potential for the grinder to be used in low-mid volume commercial settings (as a grinder of choice for manual drip or press pot service, doing volumes of up to 60-80 brews a day per grinder) and of course for the home barista who is looking for an all in one solution (espresso to press pot) and more accurate dosing for their morning coffees.

Espro

Espro (booth #751), known for their Espro tamper and Toroid steaming pitcher, will be showcasing their latest product (on market for less than 8 months) - the Espro Press Pot. This is a dual-filtering press pot designed to do single coffee cup brewing using one of the best methods (full immersion brewing) but reducing one of the biggest peeves people have regarding press pots: the amount of sludge and silt that most press pot brewers produce in the cup.

The Espro Press is a tall, stainless steel, narrow 300ml brewing device that features true vacuum insulation for maintaining brewing temperatures during a 3+ minute steep time. The filtering system is two stage: on top there is a quasi-standard horizontal filter disk that is made up of a plastic spoke system, silicone outer edge (for creating a tight filter seal) and a very fine mesh as the filter - much, much finer than any existing press pot filter on market. The second stage is a basket shaped filter underneath that has a slightly coarser mesh.

The way the filter works is pretty straightforward: most solid coffee materials are blocked by the lower basket filter as the brew passes through. The upper horizontal filter stops even more of the solid particulates from passing through, resulting in a cleaner cup. Espro claims the dual filter is so efficient that it stops the brewing process once the Press' plunger is fully depressed.

We'll have a QuickShot review of the Espro Press Pot up on CoffeeGeek in a few days.

La Marzocco and VST

La Marzocco (booth #747) will have a big presence at the show and of course showing off their latest gear: the Strada machines, in both manual and electronic control versions. There will be Uber Boilers since La Marzocco USA is the distributor for this great boiler technology. They'll also have some "designed for the show" secrets and tricks, including a new custom designed machine. They even have a La Marzocco foosball table that they'll be giving away to some lucky bugger.

A bit more obscure on first impression, but possibly the most important thing they'll have at the show is new filter baskets designed by VST. These aren't just ordinary run of the mill baskets we're talking about here. These are baskets with a substantial amount of research, time and money put towards them, including high resolution imaging systems to check the baskets for consistency and a new manufacturing process to make them.

The baskets are the brainchild of Vince Fedele (of the Extract Mojo), and will come in three very specific sizes and designs: 14gram (which holds 14-16g), 17gram (holding 17-19g) and 21gram (holding 21-23g) variants. Fedele detailed a lot about these baskets in a recent Barista Magazine article (starts on page 70). Suffice to say, many of the world's top baristas have been beta testing these baskets and the results so far are sometimes staggering. Fedele says that James Hoffmann was astounded at the quality results produced by the 21g basket in particular.

These baskets are exclusive (for now) to La Marzocco and VST. They could possibly change the espresso world just a bit. In my case, I actually had to change my dosing and tamping technique, quite radically because over the years I've developed (unbeknownst) a technique that compensates for curved side walls and basket flaws. Since many of these flaws and design quirks are eliminated in the new La Marzocco baskets, my dosing and tamping had to radically alter (to a much easier way of loading up a portafilter) in order to get the most out of these baskets. I'm still working on it, but very excited by the prospects.

Make sure you drop by the booth to check them out. Also quiz Fedele about his next project: dispersion screens.

ADDENDUM: La Marzocco let it drop on Twitter just recently that they may have a built-in scale solution on display at the show - even more reason to drop by La Marzocco's booth!

Bill Crossland Projects

Bill Crossland, ex of La Marzocco (and designer of the GS/3 machine) will be at SCAA sharing a booth with Baratza (booth #1825) and has several new consumer machines to show off, and another big surprise (this is a bit of an exclusive) that will not only make consumers happy, but commercial cafe owners too.

Crossland is bringing a new espresso machine to the show, called the CC1 - the Crossland Coffee One machine. It is (unfortunately) not his 'Crossland Project' machine (the one discussed in our forums, that would centralize around a temperature profiling system), but still pretty gee-whiz, and designed to compete directly against Rancilio's Silvia.

The CC1 will be at the show (Crossland has three on display and ready to run) and has the following features: A built in PID running on a 500ml stainless steel boiler. A thermoblock for steam production. Programmable preinfusion (wow). 58mm portafilter. Three programmable shot settings that not only allow you to program shot times, but also the preinfusion amount for each independently, and if you really want extreme control, you can even program a different shot temperature for each of the programmed buttons. Of course, this machine brews and steams at the same time. The price is scheduled to be an MSRP of $750 (dealers may sell for less) and is scheduled to be on market by early summer from a few select online retailers (most centred around Seattle for now).

The real surprise that Crossland will have at the show is a new coffee brewer system designed to work with manual pourover products, including the Hario V60, Chemex and other manual brewers. Crossland's been designing this machine which essentially automates the the water delivery part of the manual brewing process. It creates a water flow pattern over the bed of coffee. It has a selectable temperature control that keeps the water temperatures very consistent during the brew. It even features variable speeds for slowing down or speeding up the water delivery to the manual pourover.

The machine should be priced substantially less than a Uber Boiler or the new Luminaire water boiler system, though this machine is more designed for home use. Crossland will have a prototype of the machine at the show for display.

Other Potential Highlights

Not much detail available, but I've been hearing rumours and such regarding other booths to check out at the SCAA - here they are compiled as "potentials"

Cosimo Libardo of Nuova Simonelli has been hinting and teasing of some new technology debuting at the SCAA show via twitter in the past few weeks. I'm a bit hesitant to include this because I'd prefer to offer you some solid information regarding what they will actually have, but Libardo has been keeping everything close to chest. He mentioned a new machine brewing technology being on display (with lots of science and statistical reports to back things up) and some new grinder technology. Stop by and see if they really do have some new gee whiz stuff to check out.

Synesso will be at booth #1036 showcasing their new look (and added features) on their Cyncra and Hydra machines. I also heard some rumour about a brand new machine they may nor may not be showing at the SCAA.

Not at the show per se, but Australia's Breville is sending two people to attend and scout for possible booth operation in 2011. I do mention them because they are bringing, for private (by appointment only) viewing of their latest and greatest home machine technology - the "9 project" machine that will go public on May 17th this year. Breville has been releasing some details on this machine: dual boiler, dual PID, programmable preinfusion, 1800W max, OPV valve, all stainless design (including the portafilters, like La Marzocco) and it is clear this is a La Marzocco GS/3 hunt and destroy machine, scheduled to be priced less than $1500 Australian dollars. We'll soon have a lot more about this machine in a feature article on CoffeeGeek.

Bunn will be at the show with two booths (#525, #531) and will be showing off and demonstrating their new single cup, full immersion brewing machine, the Bunn Trifecta. Some call this a Clover killer; others just like that a large company like Bunn is paying attention to the modern way highly-skilled baristas want to make coffee, and make it better. Definitely drop by to check it out.

Mahlkoenig will be at the show (booth #1325) and will have, among many other grinders, their new ProM grinder. It's kind of ridiculously expensive ($1300ish), but it has been described by some as a Baratza Vario on steroids. Features magnetic hold portafilter system and mag-held burrs. Also a Red Dot design winner. Check it out and see if its worth the dough.

Another new product that won't have a booth at the SCAA, but will be doing some off-site showings is Luminaire with their Uber Boiler competing Luminaire Bravo 1 (LB-1) manual pourover boiler machine. Get in touch with them for a private viewing if interested.

We'll have some continuing reports this weekend from the show, including some video reports from our good friends over at Tested so stay tuned!

Article rating: 9.1
Author: Mark Prince
Posted: April 27, 2011
feedback: (5) comments | read | write
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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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