April 16, 2019

Insights From SCA Coffee Expo 2019, Boston


Boston may bring tea to mind, but from April 11th to 14th, it was host to all things coffee. This year’s SCA Coffee Expo was held at the Boston Conference and Exhibition Center and hundreds of roasters, retailers, and coffee enthusiasts turned out for the event.

Don’t worry if you weren’t able to attend this year – here’s an overview of the key themes and insights from some of the industry professionals I met at the expo.

You may also like Taking a Look at Brazil’s Specialty Coffee Industry During ICW

The 2019 SCA Specialty Coffee Expo in Boston. Credit: Ana Valencia

The Increasing Role of Technology In Coffee Production

With a global oversupply of coffee and the connected uncertainty for producers, it isn’t surprising that the industry is looking for ways to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and reduce risk. I spoke to João Alberto Brando from Pinhalense, a manufacturer of coffee processing equipment. He tells me that “producers reach out to us asking for quality [equipment] at the production level that helps them to reduce their operational costs.”

Pinhalense use the expo to launch a product with three temperature sensors to help farmers better control the coffee drying curve. João tells me how this equipment allows producers to reduce drying time without compromising quality, which consequently reduces the cost of production and makes the whole operation more efficient.

Learn more in What Role Can Machinery Play in Specialty Coffee Processing?

Pinhalense’s CSP-1801. Credit: Jenna Oliveira

Improved Coffee Experiences For Home Users

Specialty coffee lovers are interested in both roasting and brewing high quality coffee at home, and this was reflected in the number of exhibitors promoting coffee and associated products for home use at the expo.

Phil McKnight from Breville tells me that “coffee consumers are really trying to replicate the coffee experience at the comfort and convenience of their home.” This year, the Breville Barista Pro took first place in the best Consumer Coffee Equipment – Electrical category.

Phil was chatting with attendees at the event and says that it’s important for manufacturers to listen to customers. “Customer feedback is an extremely important part of product development for Breville. It generates opportunities and ideas for us.”

The Breville Barista Pro Model BES 878. Credit: Miguel Regalado

Home roaster and brewer manufacturer Behmor launched its copper 1 kg home roaster at the event. Founder Joe Behm tells me that home roasting can be an affordable and ethical choice.

“With the increasing availability of high-quality coffee beans for consumers to purchase, they’re now able to spend much less than the amount they usually pay for their already roasted coffee bags,” he says. “When doing home roasting, consumers [usually] pay for a high-quality coffee and in most cases, that money will make its way to the farmer.”

Taylor Mork, the founder of coffee importers and roaster manufacturers Crop to Cup was also in attendance, along with the company’s Arc 800g roaster. “We’re making high-end micro lots available to the home roaster,” he says. “Home roasters can access our award-winning coffees just as any roaster in the industry.”

The Arc 800g roaster. Credit: Nicholas Yamada

Brewing equipment is perhaps the most obvious area that coffee consumers invest in for home use.

Giovanni Giaquinta, Marketing Director at Dalla Corte, tells me “We’ve noticed a strong interest from coffee lovers who are looking to brew not only great coffees using pour over methods, but also great espressos at home.” In response, the company has launched its Studio espresso machine, which uses the same technology as its professional machines but is designed for household use.

“In the future, more people will be looking to drink quality coffee at home,” Giovanni says.

Grinder manufacturer Baratza used the event to promote its new product, the Virtuoso+ and Marketing Director Joyce Klassen confirmed the importance of listening to consumers when she told me that the grinder was developed with features based on customer feedback.

The Behmor 1 kg copper roaster. Credit: Miguel Regalado

Coffee Shop Menu Diversification: Tea, Cold Drinks, & More

Several people at the event spoke to me about the changing expectations of coffee shop customers. Alongside specialty coffee, cafés are increasingly offering fine teas and specialty cold beverages to meet customer demands.

Gemma Kiernan, Marketing Director of beverage system manufacturer Marco, tells me that “As specialty coffee and tea consumers are learning more about beverages and expanding their taste profiles, they want to see these choices on their café’s menu.”

The company launched the FRIIA at the event. Gemma tells me that the hot, cold, and sparkling water dispenser is a response to customer demands. “We have identified that people are getting more health conscious, and that’s the gap the FRIIA covers,” she says.

Preparing a drink with Marco’s FRIIA. Credit: Nicholas Yamada

Sara Hunt, Marketing Manager at San Franciscan Roaster Co., was a station instructor in the Crafting Seasonal Espresso Beverages class. She tells me that “signature drinks can be seen as a way to get baristas creative, [they can be a way for] café owners to get baristas involved and participate in the menu.”

She also says that “signature drinks can help cafés reach a market that wouldn’t initially be interested in going inside a third wave coffee shop.”

The World Barista Championship also took place during the expo and this year’s signature drink entries reflected the diversification of menus and experimentation in cold drinks. German Barista Champion Wojtek Bialczak took fifth place after serving a combination of cold espresso, a fermented rice drink called Amazake, mandarin, elderberry juice, and hibiscus.

German Barista Champion Wojtek Bialczak prepares espresso-based drinks in the final round of the World Barista Championship. Credit: Miguel Regalado

The Single-Serve Market Shows No Sign of Stopping

Single-serve coffee has been a quickly growing market in recent years and it shows no sign of slowing down. Exhibitors demonstrated both specialty quality instant coffee and coffee capsules at the expo.

Nate Appel is the Marketing Director at Steeped Coffee. The company produces single-serve coffee bags that are used in a similar way to tea bags. He tells me that single-serve specialty products are popular because “people want the convenience, but they don’t want to compromise on the taste.” Specialty quality instant coffee can be a good option for those wanting a quick brewing method but who are concerned about the waste involved in coffee capsules. Nate says that “people also don’t want to compromise on the environmental and sustainability side.”

Cometeer’s booth at SCA Coffee Expo 2019. Credit: Nicholas Yamada

Cometeer attended the expo for the first time this year. The young company brings specialty coffees in capsule form. Vice President of Marketing Zachary Rueda told me that “for so long people have been sacrificing quality for the sake of convenience.” Co-Founder and CEO Matthew Roberts emphasizes the importance of sustainability and tells me that “because we have a frozen liquid inside of our capsules, they rinse clean, which makes them 100% recyclable.”

Both Steeped Coffee and Cometeer won awards at the show – the former for Best Packaging and the latter in the Open Class category.

Learn more in Why Specialty Coffee Needs to Befriend The Capsule Consumer

Salvadoran Brewers Champion Miguel Candel completes a compulsory service round. Credit: Miguel Regalado

Accessibility & Democracy in Specialty Coffee

Throughout the event, I spoke to exhibitors and attendees about their opinions on the future of specialty coffee. One recurring comment was that specialty coffee is becoming increasingly accessible.

Gemma Kiernan says that, “before, people would have great coffee at a specialty coffee shop but now, they can have in their home, at their office, or in a hotel, which are spaces that people traditionally aren’t expecting to find it.”

Joe Behm has similar sentiments, telling me that “with home roasting, consumers are now able to roast and drink a coffee that would usually cost on average double the price if bought in a coffee shop.”

Joe Behm and the Behmor 1 kg copper roaster. Credit: Nicholas Yamada

I also heard many people talk about the need for the coffee industry to be more democratic, particularly in the context of the falling C price. While some simply expressed their frustration at the situation, others had practical suggestions.

João Alberto says that “technology such as ours help producers to replicate the production process, which they can then share with their peers to support local production.”

There’s no easy solution to the coffee price crisis and its impact on producers, but events such as Expo 2019 allow industry professionals to discuss the topic in person and share ideas of how to improve life for producers.

Learn more in How Much Should We Pay For Green Coffee?

One of  many cupping sessions during the SCA Specialty Coffee Expo. Credit: Miguel Regalado

SCA Coffee Expo 2019 was a fascinating experience that allowed many parts of the coffee supply chain to come together. As well as providing a forum to learn about new products and opportunities, the event was a venue for coffee professionals from around the world together to discuss sustainability, make new business connections, and share knowledge. See you in Portland 2020!

Find this interesting? You may also like Being Black in Specialty Coffee

Perfect Daily Grind

Want to read more articles like this? Sign up for our newsletter!