SCAA Seattle: Winners and Losers at the Big Coffee Show

by | Apr 19, 2015 | Coffee | 2 comments

Eleven years have passed since my first trip to the Big Show that is SCAA’s conference and expo. So much has changed! So much hasn’t.

In the change column, La Marzocco is building the Linea Mini, a commercially-inspired espresso machine for home espresso bars!

Linea Mini (Image: La Marzocco)

The Linea Mini — I’d like mine in white, please. (Image: La Marzocco)

The Linea Mini’s lineage (sorry, had to) lends it an austerity of line and succinctness of purpose that’s not present in the GS/3… and I’ll stop there lest I veer into lame and largely unsuitable automotive-inspired analogies.

In the no-change column, folks who build commercial roasting machines and who are now making tiny ones for sample roasting clearly do not want to make them attractive to home roasters. The sottovoiced explanation is, of course, that such roasters are a pain in the ass to support, which parallels the argument made by folks like La Marzocco eleven years ago. Maybe you can have your Diedrich or Probat home roaster in another eleven years, when they’ve run some calculus to square  customer service costs and market size. More likely, folks like Aillio will fill the void with their adorable 1 kilo roaster due out this summer.

Greg Scace poses at the Barista ‘zine booth. I take liberties with the result.

So many changes are incredibly encouraging: Improved packaging to protect coffee quality all the way from tree to cup. The stellar rise of the barista as a critical actor in the performance art of coffee preparation, strongly evidenced by the World Barista Championship. An increased immediacy of relationships between coffee farmer and coffee roaster, an effect, I should imagine, of maturing Direct Trade and similarly inspired buying models.

I came away from the conference renewed, which is no surprise — I dearly love spending time with my specialty coffee family. More that that, though, I also sensed a current of optimism and of collaboration in the community at large. That’s critical, of course. There remain lots of problems to solve. Old challenges like food security (still!), and equitable margins for producers; new challenges like the devastating coffee plant disease, La Roya, and the impact of global climate change.

I love you, specialty coffee. You’re perfect. Now change!

Note: Very real thanks go to the folks at Barista Magazine who offered such a fitting backdrop for this portrait of fellow alt.coffee alum, Greg Scace, who has arguably deserved his cover photo moment for a very long time.

Feature image: Gregory at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, Seattle. He’s a winner.

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