Sustainability in Coffee

“The organizing principle for sustainability is sustainable development, which includes the four interconnected domains: ecology, economics, politics and culture”

I will be honest, until recently I didn’t really know much about sustainability. Sure, I understood the basic principles, more precisely I understood that there are multiple concerns. I think commonly, the word sustainability is taken to mean environmental sustainability, when in fact it is a dynamic thing, in that it contains more than one consideration.

I once did a brewing course for a chap that worked with a sustainability NGO. One of the projects they had worked on was advising Pepsi. The project was based around potato farming (for making crisps, not soft drinks). The land was over-farmed and the lack of root systems meant that landslides were common in the area every couple of years. These events wiped out whole harvests.

Through taking a slightly longer form of analysis, the NGO showed that by planting less potatoes and creating a more diverse ecology in the area the landslides could be mitigated through a better root system, and that over a 5-year period the land would actually create more potatoes and be more profitable, whilst also improving the ecology of the land.

This is definitely a great example, however there is not always a quid pro quo situation where both environmental and economic concerns both benefit, and as the opening definition of this article points out, political and cultural sensitivity is also part of sustainability, with each topic often being part of a much larger web.

Sustainability discussions are difficult, rambling and complex. Sustainability in coffee is no different. A way to approach the subject is to narrow down what it is you’re looking at, creating some measurable metrics. The tricky thing here is to then comprehend how these individual aspects fit into the whole, and to figure out what should take precedence.

Energy and Waste – Taking a broader view

We have been thrilled to be able to team up with the chemical engineering department at Bath University and work with life cycle analysis methods to study the journey of a cup of coffee from seed to cup, looking at the environmental impact of every step. You can take look at the project on our Colonna labs page.

This is a project that is ongoing and we aim to publish in some way in the near future. To make the work eligible for publishing it cannot be publicly shared until after that process is complete. But there is other academic work on the subject that makes for some thought provoking reading.

Here are a couple of studies based around different brewing methods

Instant v drip v capsule 

Capsule v drip 

In essence, a life cycle study seeks to take a broader view that looks at the whole journey of the item/product from cradle to grave (and sometimes beyond the grave) when considering recycling or re-purposing of waste. In essence some of the most impactful aspects of the product’s journey may happen before or after your interaction with it.

The craft vs industrial surprise 

It is curious to consider that in most cases a small artisan approach to a particular product in almost any sphere, food, drink, technology etc will be more wasteful than a larger industrial approach to producing the same item. Industrial systems are always based on improving efficiency and maximising margins across volume whilst often trying to keep the end unit price down. Inherently this means being as economical as possible with the ingredients. It makes complete sense when you think about it.

Artisan and/or crafted items are likely to have a focus on process and quality. Thats not to say an industrial process can’t have high quality, but lets focus on coffee as the example for now.

Industrial processes in coffee can produce high quality but there is a correlation between those processes and a lower coffee quality. Take instant coffee as an example. Using life cycle analysis, instant coffee is time after time the ultimate way to make coffee for the lowest environmental impact.

Instant coffee’s trump card comes in the environmental impact of growing the coffee itself. Per cup of coffee, the land needed, the energy used and the resources required mean that the origin of the coffee is often producing most of the impact.

Therefore, the methods that come out on top are those that are the most efficient with this precious ingredient. Instant coffee is mighty efficient. The best processes super heat the coffee to achieve huge extractions of around 60%. Compare this to all other brewed coffees that range between say 16% and 24% with this top number of 24 being above the norm. Lets say this means that instant coffee typically yields 3 cups in comparison to 1 cup across all other methods for the same amount of harvested coffee.

Add to this that instant coffee weighs so much less per cup as you are only storing and shipping the solubles and not the rest of the bean, and it increases its lead. The only part of the instant process that isn’t superior when considering the footprint, is the boiling of a kettle of water.

These studies also tend to assume the same coffee source is being used. For example, instant coffee may well use its ingredient more efficiently, but does that ingredient tend to be as sustainably grown as the coffee that ends up being brewed in an artisinal espressos machine? It is the traditional espresso method of brewing coffee that has the largest footprint.

A focus on quality in speciality coffee has created a sustainable living for many producers and coffee businesses right through to the third wave shops that champion quality and provenance. In essence one element of sustainability may suffer to benefit another.

It is also valuable to consider the slice of the overall market place each type of coffee drink inhabits. A crafted cup of speciality coffee may well take up more land use per cup, more packaging per cup and more energy and resources but it also represents a much smaller segment of overall consumption.

Luxury and boutique products are always considered in context. For example, you buy a luxury product for a gift. It has considerably more packaging and associated waste but that is offset by the fact that it is not a daily consumed item. So, although per cup analysis is valuable. It can be valuable to consider the category of the product also and its position in a wider market.

Capsules 

Capsule coffee is directly associated with waste and environmental impact. It is easy to point the finger at capsules and feel rather triumphant about the V60 brew in comparison. So it may be somewhat of a surprise to read research that completely challenges these assumptions.

Research by Quanits based in Canada comes to a rather startling conclusion

“The adoption of a single-serve coffee system by North American consumers would realize significant environmental benefits including coffee waste reduction. Additional benefits could be achieved with the development of coffee machines with better energy-saving capabilities and extended service lives.

The single-serve coffee system’s packaging generates more packaging waste. However, when considering the entire life cycles of each system, the amount of coffee required making up for consumer waste and the electricity consumed for brewing (which depend on consumer habits and coffee machine features) drive the differences in impact.

Overall, the single-serve best case scenario posts a better environmental performance than the drip- brew system from the perspective of the systems’ full life cycles.

 

It will be no secret that I have an interest in capsules with the Colonna Capsule range.

In many ways the capsule project has fed into more focus and research into sustainability for us as a company, which is highly positive.

At World of Coffee in Dublin last year, Mike (a member of the Colonna team) struck up a conversation with a sustainability expert at the show. The individual was particularly intrigued by capsule coffee. She saw it as a great example of perception and experience shaping opinion, even though statistically the truth was quite different.

It is very natural that a capsule would raise the question of waste. When you make a cup of coffee in a cafeteria or buy an espresso and there is a purity to it, water and a roasted seed combing to create an aromatic beverage.

A capsule appears as this very same cup of coffee + additional plastic/aluminium waste.

Much like instant coffee, a capsule’s secret eco weapon is its efficient use of the raw ingredient, with a high yield and lower amount of coffee per cup. No way near that of instant coffee, but rather closer to that of the top end of normal brew methods, whilst creating a cup of coffee with a smaller ingredient amount but an experience of a full quantity.

There is an interesting question here about metrics and measurements. There is less coffee in a capsule, so should it be considered in the same context of a large cup of filter coffee? If a customer is satisfied by the experience of just one full cup then it could be seen as a successful way of using less ingredient and therefore less footprint per coffee drinker.

The other eco credentials of capsules are their brewing devices. These machines flash heat water using far less energy than a kettle and make for low impact brewing.

On the topic of metrics. There is much to explore here too. A life cycle study, or any study for that matter, rates the importance and “impact” of varying factors in terms of sustainability. But, how exactly does one measure toxic waste against green house gases? Or land fill against water used?

Although the world of sustainability research has created metrics within the life cycle analysis systems, it is also hotly debated. There can be different questions asked of the same model that flip something from being better to worse in terms of impact. This depends on the type of impact you want to measure.

It is also mind boggling when one considers how far the exploration of a product’s impact can be taken. One could also consider the resource and the materials used in the context of global industries, and the competition for scarce materials.

The message with capsules maybe should not be one of demonisation, but one of, how can we take an efficient brewing system and improve it further by reducing waste and impact.

The demonisation of capsules from the “manual” brew sector of coffee making is largely misplaced and when the spotlight is spun back onto methods like espresso or filter, they are left wanting. Even though capsule packaging should be improved, sustainability questions are just as pertinent for other methods.

How can we reduce waste and energy and footprint when making espresso, or when farming coffee? Speciality will always be a market with case-by-case examples. When studying the life cycle analysis of coffee Brazil is nearly always used as the origin from which coffee production data is gathered, but clearly different origins have widely differing factors when considering growing and processing conditions and energy use.

Ideally we could create a model that varies for origin. We could then ask fascinating questions, for example: if a Brazilian coffee harvested in a certain way is environmentally superior when made into a capsule, is it still superior when compared to an Ethiopian lot made in a French press?

A lot of research in coffee, regardless of the field, often suffers from only being representative of one type of coffee.

Takeaway coffee cups 

Takeaway coffee cups are an area of visible waste that is also receiving a lot of attention. The problem with recycling capsules is the same as cups. It is about separating materials that need to be recycled separately. This means, that either unique recycling processes are needed or that it is not viable to recycle at all.

The problems with cups are not just that the plastic lining needs to be separated from the paper body, but that the paper is often not a great quality for recycling.

One interesting idea comes from a project called NextCupCycle from Professors Dr Edward Kosior and Dr John Mitchell in conjunction with Nextek and Ashortwalk. Counterintuitively this project seeks actually use more plastic per cup and move the ratio to a 50/50 mix of paper and plastic.

The rationale behind this approach is rooted in realising that it is difficult to separate the plastic from the paper in takeaway cups. This then leaves you with a pretty useless material to recycle.

A 50/50 mix however would have the properties to be recycled into a touch resin that could have multiple uses in other products.

The word could is important here. NextCupCycle have an impressive commitment to seeking to build their own recycling plants as normal authorities and systems would not be able to process the cups.

This is much like Nespresso’s own recycling schemes that display an incredible system to recycle their own coffee capsules. The contentious issue is that uptake tends to be extremely low for these bespoke recycling system as they require customers to go outside of their regular recycling habits. Nespresso’s exact uptake figures are not disclosed, but they are working on initiatives to bridge the gap such as working directly with councils.

The second consideration here is the actual ability for the recycled materials to have a useful and meaningful second life. Aluminium is very successfully recycled, but a new resin like the one from the 50/50 cup idea would need to find its way into supply chains to actually see a recycled use.

Another innovative product being released into this sector is called the Green Your cup. This solution builds takeaway cups in a way where the inner plastic ling can be easily removed allowing the paper to be recycled separately.

Then there is the consideration of biodegradable and compostable materials. I had no idea until recently but interestingly, compostable is basically bio degradable with added benefits. To be certified biodegradable a material can have traces of certain metals, but a compostable material must be able to become a positive element of a mulch in a compost that can be used to grow things.

There are all sorts of interesting considerations here, such as the land use for the plant materials that make up these products, and when considering coffee bag packaging, that often only element of the bag are degradable or compostable. This is often where Life Cycle analysis can really help.

Every facet of coffee has a sustainability consideration and impact.

There is much I haven’t covered in this article, such as climate change and disease, with their impact on the sustainability of coffee production.

Price and value of coffee farming combined with political and cultural elements will always continue to impact on the sustainability of growing coffee at all.

I think that a continuing focus on coffee sustainability is in many ways linked to the sheer size of coffee consumption and therefore the impact of these elements when combined across such a huge audience, with concern of the ability for coffee production to meet supply demands a serious consideration in the future.

This article doesn’t really intend to tell you, the reader what to do or how to drink coffee in a specific way, it is more of an attempt to share thoughts and research on the subject and write down my own.

We hope to be able to publish our life cycle work soon and to be able to do more work on the subject in the future.

Coffee is an incredible drink and of course we want to find the most sustainable way to produce and drink it. This is of course not to under value the incredible work of many in coffee to constantly seek to improve its sustainability across the four domains of politics, economics, ecology and culture. It is this desire in speciality coffee to improve everything about coffee, making it as perfect as possible, that is one of its shining lights.

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A Book and a Research Project

2016 sped by, and I didn’t write here at all. Here’s what’s been happening…

A book

Most of my writing energies have gone into an illustrated coffee dictionary that will be published in September with Octopus Publishing. The Format is pretty flexible with varying numbers of entires per letter of the alphabet, accompanied by Illustrations from Tom Jay. I really enjoyed writing this and look forward to publication.

Its a very different book to the water book I co-authored with Chris, which we will be releasing a second updated edition of this year also. The Dictionary consists of approximately two hundred words per entry, which afforded both freedom and restriction, resulting in a fun challenge.  The book looks to cover a wide variety of topics within the world of coffee and be easy to pick up and read whilst also not shying away from complex topics. The idea was to write something that could be picked up and enjoyed by both the causal enthusiast and the industry professional.

A research project 

Collaboration and research in coffee is only growing and I am thrilled to have been able to take part in various research projects over the last couple of years.

Launching our capsule range has been exciting and rewarding in a number of ways. There are many aspects of the project that I personally find very interesting, whether it be technology, ideas of freshness and quality, as well as how the idea is interpreted and received.

If you were to list the main topics of conversation and consideration that swirl around the capsule concept, I would wager that they are the following.

Convenience/Automation

Quality

Sustainability

It is this last topic that is at the heart of the research project we are currently collaborating on with Bath University. I met DR Alf Hill having a cup of coffee in Repack espresso near where we used to live. At the time he was working in Nuclear waste management. Alf is now lecturing in the department of chemical engineering at bath University. I figured that Alf would be well placed for several questions I have about sustainability in coffee.

It is not uncommon to see an article or a tweet a along the lines of “Capsules are killing the planet” etc, and the gut feeling for most of us, i think, is that this makes sense. A single serve product that has visible waste that we don’t see when we make or buy and espresso or a filter coffee. However a little bit of exploration and digging quickly tells a very different story.

The concept of cradle to grave studies, also known as Life Cycle assessment, is a technique to assess the environmental impact of a product. The value of the technique is to compile a critique that avoids a narrow outlook.

In simple terms, all products have a long journey before they get to us. This journey has its own energy use and waste that most of the time is extremely difficult to consider and perceive as an end user. The results are often extremely surprising, with these studies challenging our assumptions about sustainability.

In Dublin at the World Barista Championship earlier this year I had a chat with a sustainability expert. She extolled her surprise at the disproportionate focus on the sustainability of capsule coffee in media. The simple answer is, its an easy story that grabs minds even if it is not true or accurate.

Exploration of existing research on the topic throws up some surprising findings, an immediate stand out being that the out and out winner in terms of least environmental impact is instant coffee and that way out behind is hand crafted espresso.

Of course sustainability means more than environmental impact, it means economical sustainability, wether it be the livelihood of the producer or the success of a coffee roastery. It may also refer to a focus on improving the sustainability of quality in coffee. Ultimate Sustainability is dynamic.

In my next post I aim to explore the existing research in more detail and to outline more of the questions we hope to explore with our research project, whilst musing over many of the questions we likely wont be able to study.

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Capsules

Coffee is full of surprises.

In our minds eye we categorise everything, putting labels on ideas and experiences. What do we label as good and what do we label as bad?

Speciality coffee is an area of the market place that often has a mild tension between exploring the new, exciting and innovative whilst also searching for a more constant, authentic idea of quality. The two are not always mutually exclusive, that’s for sure.

We experience technology. In coffee that means we experience a drink that a certain piece of technology played a part in creating.

The drink essentially defines our idea of that technology’s value, of its capabilities. The technology however is not the sole maker of that quality. It has a user, a driver. A product it was asked to prepare. It is often extremely hard in coffee to separate which element of the making process is responsible for which flavour element. The water project has displayed this starkly.

Have a bad batch brew, brewed with undesirable beans and little governance of the process and we could possibly deduce batch brews are then bad. Somebody lovingly makes us a pour over with great coffee and then we may deduce a pour over is far superior. Case closed.

It is also true of course that meaning is placed in the making process itself. There is a value system here and not one to be shirked off. Ritual and process have their place.

However it is often stated that something objectively makes good or bad coffee. This is the concept being explored here.

Capsule systems are particularly unique in this regard as the product chosen to be delivered via a capsule system is more curated. Your choices are limited. It requires a fair amount of expensive technology to put coffee in capsules, especially if you really play with the technology.

Capsules currently available on the market place do exactly what they’re supposed to do and they do it very well. It’s just difficult to realise that if we don’t share the same product goals. They are supposed to offer an espresso style drink with loads of crema, to an audience looking for and expecting a traditional commercial coffee taste profile.

I’ve always been interested in tasting what the rest of the coffee world beyond speciality has to offer, not because I personally enjoy it, (although I appreciate others do) but because of the reference it offers. I find it interesting to see what people are drinking and how the flavour relates to the narrative the companies are telling.

A few years ago, a friend of mine who works for a very successful company in the traditional Italian style market was kindly driving me from London back to Bath. He pulled over into a layby excited to show me something. The company’s latest in car capsule machine was revealed.

This is a big company whose whole bean and ground coffee I was very familiar with and had tasted on a number of occasions. I thought it was all very neat that we were brewing espresso on the side of a dual carriageway half way through our trip, but what really caught me was that it tasted better than any other experience I had had with the companies coffee. For me this was the first time I had been able to experience a direct reference, to see what Capsule delivery systems are capable of brewing wise. In the past I had always tasted coffee from a “capsule only company”, so I didn’t know what that coffee tasted like when brewed manually.

The idea of using capsules as a genuinely worthwhile way of brewing speciality coffee is likely a rarely held notion. The zeitgeist and status quo of the community does warp and evolve regularly though, and what was not considered at all a few years ago can suddenly become cautiously considered and then embraced.

So, is now the time that capsules go from being ignored, even hated, to embraced by the speciality coffee community.  A valuable and unique delivery system for the coffee we are looking to share?

Personally I like to try and remain open minded to any delivery system.  That is if it is able to combine water and coffee in a way that the resulting beverage displays the characteristics that define the coffees provenance and value.

I really think capsules are a unique and valuable delivery system with many additional benefits.

Over the years we offered coffee training courses in our store. These courses were often bought by the non industry drinker. Friends and family would buy a course for their coffee obsessive hard to buy for sister or friend.

Personally the courses ended up being extremely fascinating for myself. There tended to be a correlation that individuals from very interesting fields of work would come on the courses.

At the beginning of the course I like to get to know a bit about my student. We quickly cover their interest in coffee and how they currently approach preparing themselves a cup. More often than not we discuss how they have an Aeropress and buy coffee from such and such, and use scales etc. Then comes an apology.

“I’m sorry but for the office and for espresso type drinks I have a Nespresso machine. I am not overly enamoured with the results but there is a lot about it I like. Ease of use etc”

In consultancy jobs I would often come across discussions about capsule systems. In this case it was more a frustration about a solution for their business that offered them the convenience and the quality/flavour profiles they were looking for. I remember a restaurant owner that told me how they had tried capsule solutions but weren’t happy with the results, so they moved over to a manual set up. Lots of investment, staff training and quality control. However, if they were honest with themselves the quality was incredibly hard to maintain across the staff base. At the low points the consistency and quality actually dropped below that of the capsule. So now they are back with capsules. Their question to me was, do I have a solution?

I think the wrong way to see capsules is that they are in danger of replacing the craft and quality of a handmade espresso. The right way to see them is as just another brewing method. “Just” sells them a bit short though.

It is a brewing method that many people are using. The exciting thing here is the opportunity to display amazing coffee in another way.

The shift of narrative that comes with a more “finished” product and single servings is also something to get excited about.

A customer buys a bag of beans in my store. The discussion we have has a strong likelihood that it will focus on brewing methods and guidance mixed with the provenance and flavour profile of the coffee. We may chat about grind, water temperature, weight of coffee to water etc. For a lot of customers this adds to the immersion of the experience and there is a lot of value here. But the idea of also offering coffee in a way where we skip the making lessons and focus on the choice of coffee as the centre of the experience is alluring.

The dynamic of the experience with the coffee can then manage different angles in one fell swoop. The dialogue and story are now primarily about the coffee itself and what it can offer in the cup.

Choice and comparison become the central experience. To taste different coffee and origins in the speciality sector at the moment you would have to buy several bags at once, which when opened present staling issues and then you have to brew two or three manually side by side to try and taste multiple coffees. You have to grind them individually and so on and so forth.

Today I was sat in a café in London and we plugged in a capsule unit (with the permission of the proprietor) and tasted different coffees side by side within a minute or two, then discussed the flavour and origin of each.

This didn’t dumb down the experience. It had its own value. Just like the several stages of a more crafted traditional process have their own value. I brought my own water in a bottle to get the best results. We effectively focused on ingredients first and foremost.

The capsules we were drinking were ours. It was so exciting to see them fit in neatly on a table of well-prepared speciality coffee drinks and brewing methods. In fact they won some favour in places.

Of course, you, the reader have likely not tasted them. Currently, this is all hypothetical for many.

Hopefully, early next year you will be able to make up your own mind……..

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Catch up

I have been pretty busy, in the most positive of ways. There is so much potential for collaboration, exploration and rewarding experiences in coffee.

It’s been a while since I wrote here, so I thought I would do a little summary of the projects I am involved in, a bit about each and the hope of expanding on each in the near future. I have always loved the medium of a blog to get ideas and thoughts down on paper.

 

Water for Coffee

Several weeks ago, myself and Christopher H Hendon released our self-published book on the topic of water for coffee brewing. This was the culmination of research over the past couple of years. The book has sold really well and the coffee community definitely appear to be enthralled and interested in this amazing topic.

One of the most positive aspects of being able to create a book like this and get it out around the world, is how the dialogue and discussion suddenly widens. There will always be more we can learn with a topic like this, as it is with much in coffee.

An immediate and fundamental point to consider, which has been gained from the input of readers is that of standard water measurement. We are interested in the individual aspects of the water’s mineral composition and how the role they play in the extraction and flavour organising process. However, it has become abundantly clear that the standard unit with which to communicate hardness in water is Calcium Carbonate (CaC03). This basically means that if a specification is written with CaC03 as its reference you then have to figure out a conversion to get your actual amount of calcium for instance.

We have explored this concept in a written corrigendum (an error to be corrected, esp. an error in print). This is available here and is supposed to accompany the original volume. Research into this topic continues, by ourselves and by others. This is an evolving project and we intend to release a volume two next year with additional content.

The particular point to take from this is that it is very important to know that these two ways of expressing mineral content exist. This is specifically important when interpreting a specification and when understanding the result from a measurement device that may measure in either expression.

For example take two interpretations of the SCAA water metric.  The larger box interprets the numbers presented by the SCAA as straight ion whereas the other box denotes the same numbers when considered as CaC03, therefore resulting in a lower actual ion reading.

scaa water

More research

Coffee is full of hidden details that can be better understood and explored though scientific practice. A personal fascination of mine is coffee grinding. I have written about this at length before, here and here.

There is doubtless much research to be done with grinding, as it seems that when one question develops an answer, then several more questions arise, with the potential of several more tests to be done. Like the Water book, research here has greatly benefited from collaboration.

I feel there are several aspects to grinding coffee. There is the distribution of particle size, from the very small to the not so small and what this means for extraction. It’s very hard to test a single variable however, as by grinding coffee differently (by changing the grind) we may be effecting heat transfer during extraction or flow rate during espresso brewing. There is then the issue of dosing and distribution.

One of the topics that was explored in a previous blog here and has been expanded on by others is the impact that the temperature of the bean has on the particle distribution of the ground coffee when the burr setting remains constant. This presents a good test as the variables are controllable and the answer we are looking for can be relatively easily measured. Well, you need a laser particle analyser, which Chris managed to wrangle for a day’s use in our shop.

Myself, Chris, Matt Perger, Cristian Klatt from Mahlkonig and others, are currently finalising a paper to be submitted for review and hopeful publication on the effects of heating on particle distribution. The paper will include some other interesting and surprising findings.

One of the revelatory perspectives I have found and like to present, is the 3 various ways that a particle analyser can display the same information. Below is an image of one set of data interpreted to represent volume percentage, surface area contribution and number count.

partivle dist

I find this a tremendous display of how the question asked can completely change the answer based on the same topic, in this case data on ground coffee. Volume % denotes how much of the overall volume of the ground coffee is taken up by that particular size of ground. A boulder or larger particle will take up a lot of volume and present itself as prominent on a graph that interprets only volume. Smaller particles will take up a fraction of the space and will appear less important in this interpretation. When the data is adjusted for contribution to surface area, everything changes and the smaller pieces become far more influential and start to dominate the interpretation. They may take up less space but they contribute a lot to surface area. Lastly we have number count. This changes everything again. In this espresso grind the particles under 100 microns contribute to roughly 20% (this number is derived only from this data and one grinder model) of the volume but this twenty percent is made up of a hell of a lot of those small pieces. When we change the data interpretation for number count the data suggests there are almost no pieces over hundred microns. Fascinating stuff!

 

Colonna – Sourcing and roasting

We have started a roastery, well just about. We have a premises, some rather special green coffee and various equipment making its way through customs. We are tremendously excited by this project. I could explain the concepts behind the project here, but an interview by Sam Maccuaig for Sprudge does a great job. You can find it here.

A lot more on this venture coming soon.

 

Sanremo

Sanremo are an interesting company, one undergoing a massive change of direction. This started with a collaboration with John Gordon a few years back and resulted in the Opera espresso Machine. This machine will be presented in its final updated V2 form at Host in Milan in a few weeks. It will be accompanied by other new projects that Sanremo have been exploring. This year I was asked to become part of an international development team. Together we are working on new equipment aimed at the cutting edge of what’s possible.

I joined this project not only because it provides an opportunity to get behind the scenes, to learn more about, and be involved in the technology that we utilise to make delicious coffee, but also because the company proved to me to have a flexibility to become inspired by a concept or a goal and to approach it creatively and to make it happen. The international group I’m working with is of an amazing quality and it’s very exciting to see where we can go together.

If you are at Host I hope to see you there and to serve you some Colonna coffee; that is if a certain roaster makes it through customs in time.

 

WBC development board

I guess you could say I am currently retired from competition. Never say never, but I won’t be competing for at least 3 years. I took the opportunity to become involved in the WBC development committee which is currently exploring how we can evolve and develop the World Barista Championship. Being so heavily invested and involved as a competitor, it is fascinating and rewarding for me to get behind the scenes. The coffee competitions have played a huge role in the speciality coffee community and I am sure they will continue to do so.

It’s intriguing to assess something that is already very successful and to look at where it can go. It is easy to criticise something like the WBC, I myself have been a critic of certain aspects during my competitive career. I do think the competition can improve, but it’s also important to be aware of what works, of what makes it special and to maintain that whilst addressing the elements that can improve.

Unfortunately (but also naturally and sensibly) I can’t divulge the details of this process. You’ll just have to wait and see what changes in the coming years.

 

National Coordinator SCAEUK

Speaking of competitions, I have taken on the role of National Coordinator of the UK chapter of the SCAE.

Much like the WBC board, getting involved in the running of the UK chapter really appealed to me. I am working with a great board over the next couple of years. Our goal is simple really. To take the potential and support for these competitions and to maximise and explore it, creating as much value as possible for all of those involved.

There is a lot of support for the chapter and that has a huge impact on what we are able to do. In summary we are looking to expand the nature of each event, hosting the competitions and the heats at venues that reflect the speciality coffee community. We are looking to further the success of the UK Barista championships but to also make the most of the increasing popularity and potential of the other competitions.

For updates and info keep an eye on the chapter’s website here.

That’s all for now.

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