Sunday, November 16, 2008

Golden Beaches, Beans

As I alluded to last entry, I headed up to Port Macquarie for the Equal Golden Bean coffee roasters' competition and conference over the weekend, run by CafeBiz. Day one comprised a number of workshops run by various industry types and the actual competition took place on the second day.

Day One

Unfortunately, disaster struck a number of the initially scheduled speakers. My condolences and well wishes, as appropriate, go out to Toby Smith, Phil Di Bella and Scottie Bennett, whose sessions I was looking forward to. Fortunately, a number of other speakers were able to take their places and day one ran smoothly.

Session One - Visiting Origins - Ross Bright - Spinelli Coffee, Singapore

My flight arrived at around 10, so I missed Ross' session, finding out to my chagrin that it was very well researched and contained a bunch of great video footage. It was great to have a bit of a chat with Ross and Ibrahim from Bero Coffee during the weekend. There's certainly a tremendous amount of stuff happening origin-side to learn about. We agreed that developing greater understanding of what happens to coffee at both extremes of the supply chain amongst both industry consumers (ie. roasters, baristi) and industry suppliers (ie. farmers, buyers, brokers) is key to increasing the quality of specialty coffee available in the market. This is especially true for espresso, for which green coffee with different attributes to coffee bound for filter use may be desirable. Ross hopes to make some interesting origin-side video footage available to the public at some stage or other.

Session Two - Agtron Roasting - Mick Kielty - Michel's Espresso

I came in half-way through Mick's session, to a room full of engrossed roasters. Mick had brought in an Agtron abridged spectrophotometer and explained how it could be used to maintain coffee quality in a commercial roastery. I gather that the Agtron gives a reading that basically tells you what colour the coffee is, but it's actually a measure of the absorbance of some organic compounds in the coffee - Mick mentioned quinones - that correlates with the progression of the roast. When asked how much an Agtron costs, Mick said that he wasn't sure. The crowd chimed in that they thought they were around $20K, to which Mick replied "Oh, I probably shouldn't have just chucked it in the boot without a box, then."

Session Three - Global Trends in Specialty Coffee - Oliver Broster - Bero Coffee Japan and Singapore

Oliver is the MD of two subsidiaries of the Neumann Kaffee Gruppe. In 2007, NKG handled 7% of global coffee exports and 15% of global coffee imports. NKG does not operate in Australia, but supplies quite a lot of coffee in Singapore and Japan.

Oliver explained that there are a lot of difficulties in gathering information on the coffee trade, but nonetheless was able to deliver some very interesting statistics, courtesy of NKG's dedicated statistical unit. There were a number of interesting statistics, from memory, I think that Australia consumes about 0.7% of the 2008 coffee production. For reference, Nestle Japan will consume about 1.2%! The various coffee certifications represent an extremely small proportion of all coffee traded, but demand has been increasing quite a lot over the past few years. If you want more info - go to the conference!

Session Four - Installing and Maintaining Your Roaster - Greg Clubb (did I spell that right?) - Appliance Maintenance Company

Greg stepped up at the last minute to run a session instead of Scott Bennett. Greg covered a number of technicalities involved in installing and maintaining a coffee roaster, which turned out to be of great interest to the many roasters around. Topics included how to obtain the correct certification for your roaster - without which your insurance won't pay up if something goes wrong, overlooked maintenance areas and correct ventilation of roasters and afterburners. In conversation afterwards, many of the roasters attending the session mentioned that they had learned something that they were going to put into practice as soon as they get back.

Session Five - The Re-emergence of Brewed Coffee - Chris - Toby's Estate, Melbourne

With Toby unable to deliver his session, Chris jumped on the first plane in the morning, delivered his session and jumped on the next plane back! I was looking forward to hearing from Toby, but it was nice to meet our local TE dude all the same. Regular readers will recall that in my last entry on filter coffee, I queried why on earth Toby's were running this session, given that they seem to like the sort of gloopy, thick and rich ristretto shots that are about as far from a thin and delicate brewed cup as you can possibly get. I put that question to Chris and he answered that the roasters really love their filter coffee precisely because it does allow the origins to stand out in a way similar to cupping, but that their baristi will require some convincing! No doubt, customers will, too. At the moment, the only successful way that I have seen of getting cafe goers to pay for brewed coffee is to brew it through some sort of gimmicky gadget like a Clover or a Siphon. There is most definitely still a perception that all filter coffee is garbage and I very much hope that roasters work on that.

Session Six - Coffee Machine Maintenance and Cleaning - Chris Short - Cafetto

Cafetto has always been a great supporter of the coffee industry and the session delivered at the Golden Bean was no exception. Chris covered a number of topics, such as what actually builds up where in your espresso machine, the necessity for descaling and the results of a soon-to-be-released study on the effect of regular espresso machine cleaning in the cup. I had never really thought about the role of scale in backflushing the group as opposed to maintaining the boiler, but I couldn't see why it wouldn't decrease the effectiveness of espresso machine detergent in the same way that it interacts with other surfactants. Chris answered that it is probably a good idea to do an occasional backflush with a descaler; all espresso machine detergents must be alkaline, so they will not remove scale from the group.

Session Seven - Judges' Calibration - Justin Metcalf

Not much to say; just a calibration session run by Head Judge extraordinaire Justin Metcalf, of WBC fame. A definite highlight for me was the opportunity to taste the kape barako liberica coffee, brought in from Singapore by Ross. Even in milk, courtesy of Makin, it was garbage:

Day Two

The Competition

Not much to tell; a bit of a blurr, really. Heaps of time on the machines with Zoe and Makin. Tasted some coffee. That's about all I remember!

Awards Night

Well, you can see the results on the golden bean web page. As you can see, there were a gagillion medals to give away and I must admit that sitting next to Andy, who got up every few minutes to claim a total of four medals, made me think of entering something next year ;P Unfortunately, I don't think that I tasted any of the gold medal winners, so I guess I'm going to have to order some coffee! Massive props to Kamran at Fiori Coffee for being the overall winner. If you check out the pdfs, Fiori got a bronze medal for their espresso and a silver for their milk-based - wonder if some of the other silver medal winners simply didn't enter in both categories?

Sean also took the opportunity to present the Sugar Australia Cafe of the Year Awards. The overall winner was Alen's Espresso in Brisbane. A shout-out goes to my former boss Andrew Lew, as The Maling Room won the Victorian category.

You'll note the not-so-subtle positioning of sponsor ECA's banner. ECA are running a great little ad campaign for their Domobar Super machine, in which they basically get endorsements from some of Australia's top coffee dudes (check out their how-to-videos with Scottie C). I ribbed Charles a bit for being so Sydney-centric and not including any Melburnians; hopefully some will get a go on the new ad for the Giotto. Speaking of which, you've gotta admit that it's a pretty cool looking piece of kit:

Given that the Giotto is one of the few domestic machines with separate side panels like that, as opposed to having a wrap-around shell, I wonder why we haven't seen anyone with one knock up some cool mirage-style painted glass panels?

Anyhoo, looking forward to trying out some of the winners and next year's Golden Bean.

A big thankyou to Sean and Justeen for their hospitality, too.



At 9:48 PM, Blogger Steve AGI said...

Luca I am in AWe of your coverage of this event, wich I could have bean there, felt like I was afer reading your detailed rundown
Well Done to all winners and competitors alike, keep on caffeining on.
It's all about striving for espresso perfection, because life is too short to drink bad coffee

At 4:45 PM, Blogger "Grendel" said...

Great post Luca - I wish I had been there to hear some of those presentations, the Caffetto one in particular.

At 11:23 PM, Blogger framey said...

How's Lucatech Industries coming along...

At 8:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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