By Jeremy Martin
The exhibition hall at the 2014 SCAA event opened Friday morning and greeted attendees with the usual dose of innovative machinery, gimmicky product pitches, corporate jargon, and caffeinated hyper awareness—which is to say an overwhelming amount.
In some regards, the show floor is more of a popularity contest than an actual convention. While local favorites such as La Marzocco and Nuova Simonelli were inundated with curious and adoring onlookers, other lesser known brands and presenters who are merely existing on the fringe of the industry could be seen playing on lonely cell phones, only half expecting someone to drop by.
Amid the buzz of hoppers and the tamping of shots, above the laughter of reunited friends and somewhere past the sales pitches from credit card companies and massage parlors, a few displays stood out.
A nine-group espresso machine here, a hand-made peppermill style grinder there, and a curious, carbonated, and fermented cold brewed coffee brought up from Austin, Texas by a company which didn’t even exist twenty four hours ago—these were among the coolest products I encountered on my first day at the show.
“We’ve been sitting on this for the last six months. The idea was to plant our flag here today at SCAA, it’s been an amazing response so far. You have so much doubt when you first start a product and sit on it for six months, but to see the response from industry leaders who are shaking their heads with impressed looks on their faces, it’s pretty cool,” said David Salinas, the creative director for Coffer, a wholesale cold brew company that quite literally made its world debut on today’s show room floor.
Coffer, a portmanteau of coffee and fermentation, is unlike normal cold brew in texture, appearance, and flavor. The glass bottled beverage has a soda like consistency with bright, nearly citric tasting notes and a semi sweet finish.
“We were talking about different ways of bottling it and one thing that kept coming up in our conversations was it looked like a malty bourbon or sarsaparilla so we wanted to go with an old world motif, a 1920s aesthetic. We went with hand drawn typography and a minimalistic color palate,” Salinas said.
Coffer wasn’t the only company on the floor showcasing a product that could have existed in an early age. Orphan Espresso was showcasing a line of portable, hand cranked grinders that more closely resembled industrial revolution era peppermills than a modern coffee appliance.
The Northern Idaho company crafts rustic, metallic products that seem to embody the harshness and desolation of the very landscape from which they were made.
The grinders themselves come in a verity of sizes and with their heavy brushed steel exterior and visible mechanisms cranking away on a pile of helpless coffee beans they can make even the palest, most fragile among us feel like ball busting factory rats for a couple of minutes each morning.
Now if hyper masculine coffee grinders aren’t your cup of tea, that’s ok, there were plenty of other stand-out products to be viewed and tested.
For example, if you’re looking for something, oh just a touch more extravagant the good folks at Synesso debuted a nine group espresso machine today.
The fully ‘functional’, and I don’t use this term lightly, sexy as hell showpiece played host to a verity of roasters who were all too eager to serve up a piece of history to an endless stream of wide eyed gawkers and cell phone photogs.
Onyx Coffee Lab of Springdale, Arkansas was one of those companies. The Razorback State’s newest, (and only?) micro roaster made its SCAA debut with a couple different espresso options including its signature ‘Ozark Copper Espresso.’
“We mainly focus on our own shops and have just recently gotten into wholesale,” company co-founder Andrea Allen said. “Our plan is to grow our wholesale business.”
Allen, a lead instructor for SCAA has been teaching classes for a while but has just recently gotten involved with roasting.
“Our area is full of coffee drinkers but there’s not a whole lot of third wave stuff going on so it’s really great that we’ve been able to get involved with specialty coffee,” Allen said. “When I work in the shop I do tons of explaining (to customers) about roasting, brewing, people are really starting to get interested in what is craft coffee, what is small batch coffee.”
There’s a whole lot info on all of that here at SCAA, and hopefully Allen can take some lessons home to Arkansas, I know I’ll continue to search for more innovative and unique products tomorrow when I hit the floor once again.
Oh, I also saw a roaster shaped like a train today….that was pretty cool.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeremy Martin is a freelance writer and photographer who has reported on coffee, craft beer, college sports, and business for a variety of publications over the past six years. A veteran of the café industry and graduate of Western Michigan University, Jeremy lives in Seattle where can often be found making sandwiches from whatever is left in the fridge and cracking wise for the amusement of his adoring wife Amanda.