The 2018 Baltimore Coffee Festival in Baltimore, Maryland

Last week I got the chance to go visit the 2018 Coffee Festival in Baltimore, Maryland. I live in New Jersey and so aside from New York, Baltimore, Maryland is the closest a coffee festival will get. I contacted the Festival team via Facebook messenger requesting media tickets, since I own a blog. The people who were responding to the messages were nice and prompt and provided my wife and I with 2 tickets for the show. The reason I reached out to them for media tickets is because this is a trade show so coffee enthusiasts who don’t own a business cannot attend. I don’t own a business just a blog. If you’re in the coffee industry, tickets are $60 for the duration of the show Friday to Sunday).

On Saturday, we drove to the Baltimore Convention Center where the show is taking place, found street parking and headed to the building. After receiving our badges and “goodie bags” we entered the show.

The show had an excellent mix of coffee roasters, coffee equipment manufacturers and coffee industry related items (coffee bags, label machines, etc.). Since I only had Saturday to check out the show, I was only able to check few of the exhibitors.

1) la Pavoni: seeing la Pavoni at the show was exciting because I love their commercial espresso machines and because I haven’t seen a la Pavoni Professional lever machine in person before. If you’re in the catering business and looking for heavy duty espresso equipment (even 2 groups) that is also 110V then you know that la Pavoni is one of the few manufacturers that make those. I was also excited to pull a shot on a la Pavoni professional lever machine. I always wanted to do that but never had a chance.

2) Wega and Astoria: I was always curious about these machines but never saw or played with one in person, the show was a great opportunity to do just that.

3) HM Digital: is a worldwide leader in EC, TDS, pH and ORP water testing instruments. I was happy to see them at the show since I have used their products before and always found them to be reliable and easy to use without breaking the bank. Also, they introduced a coffee refractometer, which is very interesting to me. The coffee refractometer also comes with a very user-friendly app that makes the refractometer easier to use. I was happy to have a demo, which I have recorded and included below.

 

 

4) Nuova Simonelli and Victoria Arduino: I have soft spot for Nuova Simonelli because I have a Musica and I love the Mythos One grinders. I also got a chance to play around and pull couple of shots on a Victoria Arduino 2 group machine.

5) Brewista: never used their products but I think they have an incredible lineup of coffee brewing vessels, kettles and scales. Their new brewing scale won the best new non-consumable product for the show.

6) Malabar Gold: I always heard about them from the Home-Barista forum. Forum members always recommended Malabar Gold especially for use as  a base for lattes and cappuccinos so I was happy to finally try it out. The shot I tasted had a similar flavor profile as the Lavazza Top Class I usually use at home but had a little more complexity and almost no acidity. Only downside is that they sell a minimum of 5 lb. bags, either all in one bag or in 5, 1 lb. bags, which makes it hard for someone to try it out.

7) Hollander Chocolate Company: This company is relatively new and it competes with Ghirardelli. Their products are mostly sauces and powders aimed at cafes serving chocolate drinks and espresso based flavored drinks. All their products are created from Holland’s Dutched cocoas and other high quality ingredients. They had an Oscar 2 and a cheerful barista on duty who made us a dark chocolate mocha latte and another white chocolate mocha latte. Both drinks were better than any mochas I tried at Starbucks or at catering events that use Ghirardelli’s products. They also gave us samples to take home and try out, which I have used to make a white chocolate mocha latte at home and it was absolutely fantastic (video below). The sales rep who was talking to us was very exciting about the brand and very educated about the products, which is always excellent. He wanted to make sure that we had all the information we need, even after he learned that we do not own a cafe!

This was my first coffee trade show (previously I only attended the New York Coffee Festival, which is open for the public) and I was happy to see the diverse exhibitors and the level of excitement for everything coffee. I look forward to coming back next year or when the festival is in New York City.

A Visit to The New York Coffee Festival 2017

Last year my wife and I visited the 2016 New York Coffee Festival and we had a great time. My wife is not as crazy about coffee as myself but she enjoyed the live music, the excellent selection of talented up and coming musicians and the live latte art booth at the festival (yes, a live music indoor set is part of the show!). Last weekend my wife and I decided to repeat the experience and visit the New York Coffee Festival again. 

The New York Coffee Festival 2017

Last year, the festival was held at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue, which was not a good idea. The 69th Regiment Armory is an indoor venue with high ceiling but no AC! This issue became the source of many negative reviews and feedback to the festival’s organizers as the place got warm and people were sweating profusely, especially after few espresso shots. This year, the location was different and much better as it was held in the Metropolitan Pavilion on 18th street between the 6th and the 7th Avenue. This place was better, cleaner and much cooler (climate wise). 

One of the great things about this year’s festival is the fact that more manufacturers and more roasters showed up. More showing at these festivals, especially by equipment manufacturers, is extremely important. Currently, major distributors such as Seattle Coffee Gear and Whole Latte Love are spread out and they carry certain brands of machines, grinders and even cups so for the consumer who’s looking at different brands and would love to be able to compare them side by side (almost) and pull shots on both, a Coffee Festival or show maybe their best bet.

This year, I was excited to see Breville attending the show for the first time. They had their brand new Oracle Touch on display along with the Smart Grinder Pro (excellent grinder for the price point), the BES920XL dual boiler machine and of course their new coffee maker. Their staff (or the staff they hired for the show) was friendly and they let me pull shots, steam milk, and play around with the machine. While at the booth, I met one of my heros in the coffee industry and that is Chris Baca! I have been a big fan of Chris, I listen to his podcast, I follow him on Instagram (@realchrisbaca) and I watch his YouTube videos. Chris was down to earth and was open to taking pictures and really seemed like an even cooler guy in person than online! 

Myself and Chris Baca, owner of Cat & Cloud and an all around cool guy

On my way out they give us a bag with a microfiber cloth/towel on it to wipe the machine! Neat!

Also, attending the show this year for the first, is Commandante hand grinders from Germany. This was also great to see as the grinder is not sold by retailers I know and the show was one of the few opportunities to be able to touch it and play with it. 

COMANDANTE grinders attending the show

It is also important to note that some manufacturers from last year were also attending this year, which is always a good sign. Manufacturers include Bodum and La Marzocco. However, I noticed that some manufacturers were not attending this year, which I thought was a little disappointing as I’d personally love to see as many manufacturers as possible. Espresso Parts, Espresso Supply/Bonavita are among the ones missing this year. Also, it is otable to mention that some of the attendees this year had a weaker showing compared to last year, those include Nuova Simonelli. Nuova Simonelli last year had the Oscar 2 on display and they allowed guests to play with it and pull shots. This year there was none of that and the only Oscar 2 on display wasn’t even plugged!

The show also featured plenty of roasters from New York and elsewhere around the country such as Stumptown, Cafe Grumpy, Apes & Peacocks and others. Overall, the show was exciting and I can’t wait for next year and hopefully see more manufacturers on display!