Listen, I don’t work in the coffee industry. I don’t grow it, roast it, or brew it for customers.
And that should not take away from how much I love coffee, and how much I enjoy being around the people that fuel it.
So, as a coffee obsessor and follower of community, I looked for a trade show to attend. As I scoured the interwebs, I found nothing I liked. A coffee festival for baristas? Cool. But I’m not interested in learning about the next best espresso machine. A coffee festival for shop owners? Even cooler. But at the moment, I don’t care to learn about new coffee shop trends. I already see them everyday.
Then, I found Coffee-Con. It sold itself as a different type of coffee festival. One that is consumer-facing that caters to people like myself, coffee lovers and café frequenters. Perfect!
As I read up, I realized that it was actually started by Kevin Sinnott, a legend in the coffee blogging game. If you don’t know him already, he’s known for his reviews on coffee brewing equipment. He’s written books on coffee, been on 20/20, the Food Network and even talked coffee with Oprah. As I said, legend. Check out some of his reviews on his website, Coffee Companion.
So that was it. I found a legitimately run, well-sponsored coffee convention where I could do everything I wanted without much sacrifice. So here’s my recap on what I liked most, what I liked least, and why I think this can become a convention I attend annually for years to come. Cheers!
FAVORITE HOT COFFEE
Because I brewed it myself, I’d say Galahad Coffee’s Guatemala El Zapote Geisha via the Chemex was my favorite hot coffee.
Considering this Geisha’s luxurious, delicate, black tea-like body that was sweet with subtle cocoa notes and finished with a bright red-cherry taste, this coffee was a steal. Not only did they less us brew our own cup during the Chemex lab, they also gave us samples to take home. Apparently, there weren't many other exhibitors feeling as generous.
- Café/Roaster: Galahad Coffee
- Location: NYC
- Region: Acatenango, Guatemala
- Farm: El Zapote
- Varietal: Geisha
- Process: Fully washed, patio dried
FAVORITE COLD COFFEE
Uh, Panther Coffee’s Cold Brew on Nitro. Hands down the best at Coffee-Con.
I’m a huge advocate of drinking cold brew on nitro. As a craft beer geek that often enjoys a good stout pumped out with nitro, any time I have the opportunity to try a cold brew on nitro from an established roaster like Panther, I take it. Boy was I satisfied. This cold brew was in a league of its own not just because its rich, decadent, chocolate milkshake-like mouthfeel and taste, this cold brew was actually brewed in under 20 minutes! Crazy right?
You can thank the new partnership with BKON technology, that allows them to maintain the same flavors that you get in your hot pour over coffee, in your cold brew. In under 20 minutes. Full bodied, full flavored, lossless cold brew on nitro. A coffee and beer geek’s dream.
For all of the science, release dates and hype, visit coldbrewproject.com.
FAVORITE BREWING METHOD
If you geek out when watching a siphon brew coffee, then The Steampunk will leave you wanting to pull up a chair and get comfortable.
From what I understand, The Steampunk is a very expensive, very scientific brewer that is fully controlled by an Android app, and uses steam and a full immersion water chamber to brew its coffee. The computerization and steam-powered mechanisms make for insane manipulation and precision, leaving you with an incredibly clean and robust cup.
Also, The Steampunk can brew tea as well! Click here to see this glorious piece of machinery in action.
Chemex wins this one. The famed glass-brewing masters who were celebrating their 75th anniversary, featured a pop-up museum as well as a pretty straightforward lab that allowed attendees to get their hands dirty and brew a batch of their own. It was my first time brewing on a Chemex. It was a cinch! Looked cool going in, and looked even cooler coming out. Definitely considered buying one. Or rigging the raffle to win one, at least!
I also caught a bit of the Identifying Taste: Palate Development class. The star ladies at Brooklyn institution, Café Grumpy, led the class. Actually, what I remember most about this lab was that the hazelnuts, cranberries and chocolate-covered raisins they had accompanying the coffee were the only thing I ate that afternoon. 100 cups of coffee, and zero food. That’s healthy, right?
But to be honest, I was so caught up in talking to all of the cool café people there that I didn’t get to participate in as many labs as I could have. Sorry Coffee-Con! Got a webinar version?
Other labs I wish I participated in included:
- Grinding: Demystifying Home Brewing’s Missing Link
- George Howell: Tasting Like an Expert
This one goes to the Sustainability Coffee panel. This very website is heavily dependent on coffee lasting a lifetime. And that’s what this panel covered, making coffee last forever and ever. Isn’t it great!? Read on.
It featured the legendary Kenneth Davids, co-founder of the world’s most widely read and influential coffee buying guide, Coffee Review. CR also pioneered the 100-point scale rating system that industry leaders like The Speciality Coffee Associate of America and Cup of Excellence use to rank the globe’s best coffees.
The panel touched on Growth Modifying Organisms (GMO) versus bio-tech in coffee, and the immediate actions the industry should be taking to develop a more sustainable model in speciality coffee.
But what made this panel great was the audience. Some of them included coffee fanatics like myself, and some industry professionals like the Colombian coffee grower who so emphatically asked the panel, “What are you doing now, for us?”
Other than supporting the fair/direct trade model, the panel did not have much to offer as a response. She brought up a good point in saying that all of this talk it great, but that’s all it is to the mid-size coffee grower like her. Just talk. They’re not seeing any action, and she clearly made it a point to let the panel know.
The panel also reinforced educating the consumer on sustainability. That’s a start, but that’s a long, slow-moving process that the coffee grower may not see for years, or ever.
Click here to read more about what the coffee industry is doing to manage sustainability in coffee.
Other panels I wish I sat in on included:
- Home Roasting: The Final Frontier
- Speciality Coffee Association of America: Contributed to Sustainability of Coffee panel
VENUE, LOCATION AND CULTURE
A lot to say here, but I’ll keep it short.
Brooklyn has become f****** cool. From it’s restaurants, to its food truck scene, to its coffee shops, Brooklyn has it all. You never have to leave.
Now, with tech hubs like venue host Industry City, you really don’t have to leave. Live, work, play is what they say, right? Yeah, that’s an understatement. In from out of town, I hardly left.
Coffee, donuts, fried chicken, trees, parks, markets and music venues…all some of the best in the country. Worthy of a separate blog post, I’d say. Stay tuned for that, y’all!
Did you visit Coffee-Con NY? Or have you visited another one of their events before? Let us know in the comments below!