SCAA conference - is it worth your time and money?

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Is the SCAA conference worth your time and money?

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#1: Post by HB »

Twice the question "Are you going to the SCAA conference?" has appeared on the homepage poll, both times almost 30% chose the response, "What's the SCAA?" Their website answers:
Specialty Coffee Association of America wrote:The SCAA is the trade association for the specialty coffee industry, one of the fastest-growing food industries in the world. Specialty coffee - sometimes called "gourmet" or "premium" coffee - is grown in the world's most ideal coffee-producing climates and prepared according to exacting standards.

One of the SCAA's primary functions is to set the industry's standards for growing, roasting and brewing. Members of the SCAA include coffee retailers, roasters, producers, exporters and importers, as well as manufacturers of coffee equipment and related products.
The conference is a big coffee shindig with labs, lectures, and a showroom floor, not to forget my personal favorite, the US Barista Competition, where I served as sensory judge and reported on the finals in 2006 and 2007. I also attended in 2005; at the time, the "cMembers" of the SCAA were alloted some lectures and workshops tailored to consumer interests, but support for such programs has disappeared (for more details, see my whining about the rejection of our presentation in Talk to the hand).

Enough background... the 2008 conference is just around the corner. It will be held in May and you can read the details on the conference website. In years past, it was a 'must attend' event, but my enthusiasm for it has waned. In terms of the official program, only the barista competition and the showroom floor holds much interest for me. The reports I've heard about the espresso related sessions have been unflattering, though I understand it's improved with the assistance of the Barista Guild. There's also some cupping labs that could prove worthwhile and the volunteer hours for judging would pay for it.

The real reason I've gone the last couple years isn't about coffee, it's the people who I would hope to meet there. The online regulars that we read in these pages everyday are indeed interesting people in person; many have considerably different personas online than over a few beers (admittedly the same is true for me, as others no doubt could attest). And yet I hesitate to go again this year, simply because of the time away from home, my limited days of vacation, cost, and the sinking feeling that as a trade outsider, I'm just not welcome.

To compensate for the lack of SCAA's interest in attendees like myself, we once organized our own mini event. As Jim summarized, EspressoFest 2006 in Charlotte was the highlight of the conference:
another_jim wrote:It attracted Ted Simpson and Greg Scace to the first SCAA in four years, so I could finally meet them in person. "Newbies" Lino and Sean astounded all of us with their prototypes. We had the M3 and Chris's Macap MXK conical to fill the state of the art grinder bill. So espressofest actually had more hi-tech stuff of interest than the actual SCAA, where we could find the Schectermatic (Gimme had commandeered it), the GS3, and some old-school hi-tech -- Paul Pratt's GS1. Abe showed us all that he knows as much about pulling real perfect shots as virtual ones (where we all shine). Bob Yellin showed his cupping skills. Me, I demonstrated my need to shut up about cupping, shot pulling, or tech stuff when in this company.
For a brief moment I considered a go at EspressoFest 2008. More sane minds reminded me of the coordination efforts that went into that afternoon event, and the fact it would not be within a reasonable drive of a big sponsor like Counter Culture Coffee, who donated the facility, coffee, and equipment along with a gaggle of HB sponsors (the list of hands-on equipment and volunteers/sponsors was long!).

This long preamble leads me to my question: As an espresso enthusiast, do you think is the SCAA conference worth your time and money? Why or why not?
Dan Kehn

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#2: Post by cafeIKE »

HB wrote:As an espresso enthusiast, do you think is the SCAA conference worth your time and money? Why or why not?
No. We have H-B. DUH :wink:

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#3: Post by gscace »

I like meeting and talking to people face to face. Many people there are my customers. If they aren't, then they oughtta be if they are brewing espresso, building machines, servicing machines etc. I plan on beating the drum for improving coffee quality through increased knowledge, better measurements and better process control. I'm also taking an intermediate roasting class.

Lots to do there for me. I'm sure that I will learn a lot. I hope to see other HBers there.


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#4: Post by Psyd »

HB wrote:As an espresso enthusiast, do you think is the SCAA conference worth your time and money? Why or why not?
I didn't vote, but it's because I'm making a minimum of $350 a day for those same days in DC. I get to hang out at museums and such, and the cherry trees are blossoming. Other than that, I just might have used that excuse to get meself to Minnesota, eh!?
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#5: Post by Randy G. »

For a coffee enthusiast the SCAA show would be a walk through the candy shop, but worth the expense? I don't know. The various educational opportunities are valuable, but the cost would be quite high for the average enthusiast. I sat in on a beginning roasting class which was aimed at those thinking about starting roasting as a business or adding it to their business. Pretty basic stuff with my experience, but interesting nonetheless. But the floor show is aimed at business-to-business contact, so some of the exhibitors are not terribly interested in talking to Fred Citizen.

I voted yes because I work in the industry, and a number of my clients, past and present, will be there, and part of the time I will be working for one of them. I also try to make a few connections for equipment reviews for the next year for my website, but sometimes I wonder if that time is well spent or not... For example, I have tried to get a response from someone from Krups for the last two or three years. Talked to reps at the show, left my business card with them, and after the shows I have, over the years, sent a dozen or more E-Mail messages and numerous phone calls to the contacts I was given at the show, and still I can't even get a polite "go to H---" from them. So sometimes you win and sometimes not so much.

But I really enjoy getting together with the folks I only get to type at over the past year, even if it is just for a few minutes. Really wouldn't matter as there is never enough time for that. Met Dan for the first time last year which was really great because he was looking for me! A few folks actually recognized me by name having visited my website or had seen my various web postings. That was quite cool, realizing the impact one person, just an enthusiast, can have. - 2000-2023 - a good run, its time is done

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#6: Post by RegulatorJohnson »

I wasn't planning on going, then we watched as chris baca won the WRBC .. Now we MUST attend so we can support the barista pimp. We had so much fun and met lots of great coffee freaks, and enjoyed a few KGB's at ritual.

I will be attending. I will probably drive out. Its only 20 hours..each way.

Its worth it to put a face with avatar, who knew that terry was a foundation generation skater?

See ya there. Let have a beer!

2012 BGA SW region rep. Roaster@cognoscenti LA

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#7: Post by Marshall »

If you're an enthusiast within driving distance, you'd be crazy not to at least buy a day pass for the exhibit hall and barista championship ($35 I think). You can check the website for future cities, if Minneapolis is a long haul. Beyond that, for non-pro's it's a matter of your budget and your priorities. But, I think anyone who is seriously into coffee should go at least once.

BTW, although the Conference "Consumer Track" is gone. it's very likely that there will be another "Consumer Homecoming" at SCAA HQ in Long Beach this summer. Stay tuned for further details.
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#8: Post by woodchuck »

I love the toys (machines and grinders), the coffee and of course the Barista competitions. I'll be there to cheer Lem on, taste a few espressos and drool over some nice machines.



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#9: Post by zin1953 »

It's not worth it -- to me, an amateur -- to fly to Minneapolis, let alone to pay to get in. Were I in the trade? Probably. But not as an amateur.
A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.

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#10: Post by Psyd replying to zin1953 »

The absolute best way to see the conference as an amateur is to volunteer. Let them know what you want in exchange (like, that you'll do a butt-load of setup volunteering, but you want to parlay that into a good view of the barista comps, and maybe a seat in the back at competitor's review and their intro, as well as the judge's cert workshop. Wishing I was still a pro when a local barista and his shop owners spearheaded the first jam in AZ, someone here (Thanks, Dan!) reminded me that a volunteer position would get me in the door. They were damned happy to get me, and I was damned happy to be involved. The SCAA sets the prices and gets most of the money for most of the events, so they are in a position (and whether they will or not is entirely up to them, and your negotiating skills) to make it worth your while if you make it worth their while. Make sure that you let them know that you have some skills, like plumbing, electrical, or machine cleaning/care. Make them want you, and you're halfway there.
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