I went to Out of the Box in Berkeley yesterday.  It was a conference for baristas and other coffee/espresso people (classes, coffee vendors and the like).  It is interesting being in love with espresso and coming to these places with no marketing intentions.  Someone asked me if I was “in the industry.”  I told her I wasn’t but hope to be someday.  I’m not really sure where I’d like to take my knowledge and love of espresso.  I do know that it was interesting to attend events and I always love sharpening my understanding of espresso!  Here are some highlights:

1.  I went to a class on brewing methods.  It was basically a big advertisement for Hario V60 pourover, which I know well enough to respect as a serious pour over option, but not much more than that.  I’m still such a newbie when it comes to pour over, so I was excited for the opportunity to learn.  I guess my interests have just been mostly around espresso since Portland, OR has such a great espresso scene.  I learned yesterday about the effects of CO2, blooming, and the changes when you have a larger hole in the bottom of the pour over.  The instructor emphasized the importance of not over extracting the lower grounds/under extracting the upper grounds and having hot enough water (often grossly underestimated by many baristas as an important component to good pour over coffee).  That is my very lo-tech explanation of his workshop.  The end result?  A great cup of coffee.  But then again, the De La Paz that I had at Cinnaholic earlier that morning was also just as good, so I’m not going to cry about the experience or anything.  Here are two resources from vimeo and Sweet Maria‘s if you want more information on pour over.

2.  I tried Pacific Coffee at the event’s coffee bar.  It was interesting that they were pulling all sorts of drinks instead of just shots.  I would assume that people that are intimate with espresso would be really interested in the taste of the bean on its own.  I’m a fan of Pacific, but something was not quite typical of the taste of my shots.  Not bad but lacking some of the depth and richness that I like to feel in a shot.  I first heard about these guys through espressomap.com and have been out to visit a few times but have increasingly found that a good experience is very hit or miss depending on the barista.

3.  There was a bike powered espresso machine and the demonstrator was allowing fast pedaling participants to pull their own shot by the power of their own legs.  This was the final straw in learning how very different this event was from my last espresso event (the 2008 US Barista Championship in Portland), because, hey, the last time I saw a bike-powered-anything I was on the most remote part of Maui!

4.  La Marzocco was there.  They had their newest machine that they are advertising, the Strada.  There is a lot of buzz about it, but the employees working the stand weren’t ready for the crowd (on the second day of the event, which I didn’t understand).  In the end I didn’t really learn anything from the seven people standing behind the machine and never tasted a shot either.  Sigh.  I’m not too hopeful that this is really “industry changing.”