It was a whirlwind of a trip this year to the 2019 Specialty Coffee Expo held in the beautiful Boston Convention Center. Coffee professionals and enthusiasts gathered in force to connect, taste, compare, and seek out all that is new within the coffee industry. For me, there were many highlights.
In the equipment category, roasters of course take the spotlight as these machines are the heart and soul of any coffee roasting business. I enjoyed learning about the latest technologies in software and how incorporating them into the roasting process is increasing consistency and repeatability from roast to roast.
It does make me wonder then, with more and more automation being brought into the small batch, artisanal roasting model - will it open a market for the more sensory driven roasting process? One of the beauties of coffee roasting for me has always been the "feel" of the roast - knowing the perfect moment to dial the heat back because my ears and nose have told me it's time. There's a deep satisfaction that comes from the craft when it's done 100% manually.
While all of this is true, if I'm perfectly honest, I think that adding the tech to the roasting process can create a more consistent product, cup to cup, and even a better product if our work in developing the roast is done effectively in the pre-production stages.
When it comes to the coffee itself, the most interesting thing in the last few years for me has been the multitude of ways the coffee is being processed at the farm and coop level. Of the many different styles, the one that's been catching most of my attention is the anaerobic process.
The anaerobic process is a type of fermentation where the coffee cherries are laid in a tank (before or after pulping) and covered in water, essentially limiting the bean's exposure to air. I was fortunate to have tried a few different coffees - 2 washed and 1 natural - that underwent this process and, by far, the natural, anaerobic processed coffee was the most interesting. It definitely provided a richer cup that was more complex, full-bodied, and every bit as sweet as a traditional natural coffee.
To wrap up the weekend, we attended a couple of after-parties hosted by Royal Coffee NY and Dark Matter Coffee (Chicago, IL) where stories of coffee, art, music, and life were shared in dingy basement bars of South Boston. Friendships were started and a genuine sense of shared humanity reminded me that we're all in this game of life together. And that together, in the Specialty Coffee world, we can do more than just survive, we can thrive - for a rising tide raises all ships.
- Trevor Lewis