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.

My Birthday Cake and Sky Roast Coffee (New Hope, PA)

This weekend was a busy one. On Saturday my wife and family celebrated my 32nd birthday and went above and beyond to get me a cake fit for a coffee addict/lover like myself. My wife tricked me into believing that we will be going to my parents house to celebrate my birthday when they were in fact all coming to my house. The biggest surprise of the night, aside from not knowing that people are coming to my house, was the cake. My wife used one of my instagram latte art pictures and worked with the baker to make me a custom-made cake in the shape of a latte mug with latte art. The cake stole the show and people started taking pictures of the cake instead of myself!

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On Sunday, we decided to go walk around New Hope in Pennsylvania and pay Sky Roast Coffee a visit. Sky Roast Coffee is a new coffee place located in the newly constructed New Hope Ferry Market. Ferry market is located on Main Street and it’s home to 13 vendors offering different culinary experiences and a wide variety of food and drinks. The owner, Alan Cohen, is an active member of the Home Barista forum and his journey to obtain and open this place is well documented there and I had intended on visiting his place once he was in business. Alan was on premises and so I introduced myself and congratulated him on the shop. I proceeded to order a medium roast coffee from their batch brew and my wife ordered a chai tea. The place has a bar and stools to sit and the seating is facing the beautiful 3-group Victoria Arduino Athena copper.

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Alan was working on tweaking the grind for optimal espresso shot extraction and then offered me a double shot and tasted excellent. It was balanced with plenty of body, very different from the usual, more common acidic and floral notes I get at most other specialty coffee places. I then proceeded to check the collection of whole bean coffees for sale and picked a Brazilian blend that promised a lot of chocolate notes and very little acidity, exactly the way I like it. One thing I liked about the package was the easy open tab on the back of the bag. Opening a sealed bag of coffee usually requires scissors or you can try to open it by hand and risk having your expensive freshly roasted beans fly all over your kitchen!

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Excellent selection of freshly roasted whole bean coffee, nicely packaged and well labeled

After I went back, Alan offered me their signature drink, a Maple Syrup Cortado! The drink was delicious, the maple syrup balances out the bitterness in the coffee and adds to the sweetness of the steamed milk that makes up 50% or more of the Cortado.

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Sky Roast Coffee signature drink, Maple Syrup Cortado.
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Sky Roast Coffee’s signature drink as well as the beautiful 3-group Victoria Arduino Athena with its gorgeous copper back

Aside from the espresso and the espresso-based drinks. Batch brews and pour over coffee are also available and by the looks of the pour over station and the smell of the freshly ground coffee, I expect the coffee to taste delicious.

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Alan Cohen (owner), purges the steam wand as he’s getting ready to steam milk for one of his delicious drinks.
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5 pour over station for your brewing pleasure!

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New Hope and its neighbor, Lambertville in New Jersey already have excellent coffee places such as Rojo’s Roastery and the Lambertville Trading Company but Sky Roast Coffee, with its hands on approach by the owner, the excellent coffee selection, freshly roaster beans and excellent location, takes the already excellent coffee scene in Bucks County to a new high. These are great days for specialty coffee and coffee aficionados in and around Bucks County.