Kevin of Coffee Con
“CoffeeCon is about the indie stuff. Think of it like a record store
that shows you all the indies and how people can set up their turntable
to play them.”
Q: You’ve studied the art and craft of coffee for decades. Did it start as a hobby or a job?
How it happened was I was a freelance writer at the time and I had a project with a client, who was a health practitioner. We ended up talking more about coffee than his practice and he said I should just write about coffee instead. As a joke, I had a graphic artist mock up a newsletter about coffee and I gave it to my friend. He, in turn, sent it to USA Today. The newspaper ended up printing out a blurb and the rest is history. My mailbox started filling with requests and I started a newsletter called the Coffee Companion, which focused primarily on coffee manufacturers. I was the first person to review the actual coffee makers. I was more interested in how you can extract the best coffee from beans.
Q: How did the consumer event CoffeeCon come about? You’re also now in 4 cities. Where did it start out?
We started in Warrenville, which is just west of Chicago, in 2012. The city approached me to do an event to help bring people together and we did a consumer tasting event. There were a lot of featured coffee makers there. We had over 1000 attendees and they thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
The space we found was actually an electrician school, and that held 1300 people. We started to get bigger and so we had to move spaces. I also wanted to take the brewing demonstrations on the road and to other parts of the country. The first city we brought the conference to (outside of Chicago) was San Francisco. The second city was NYC, then LA, and finally Seattle. In each city, we find and feature the local roasters. We were the first ones to showcase coffeemakers and equipment for the consumers. Most conventions at the time were geared towards people only in the coffee business.
Q: Do you have a favorite brewing method? Drink?
There are a lot of wonderful coffee makers and the Chemex is my go-to pour-over. It’s got great filtering and it makes a strong cup of coffee. It works better with a coarser grinder. It was actually invented by a chemist who repurposed a lab beaker. He got fabulous results and fans loved this brewing method.
I don’t have a particular favorite drink because I like to drink coffee how my guests drink it because for me it’s tastes best when enjoyed with people. It’s a social lubricant. People get comfortable talking with each other around a cup of coffee. If my guests take some cream and sugar, I will too. Coffee is an interesting experience, because paradoxically it is both a beverage is that is relaxing and stimulating at the same time.
Q: What are some basic coffee brewing tools every consumer should have? The basics even for an amateur?
I would say a good pour-over, a kettle that you can set the temperature for (with a built-in thermometer), and a good grinder. I think brewing by weight is best, so if you can, also buy a scale and different sized scoops for the coffee beans. It just makes it easier to adjust your recipe.
Q: What is CoffeeCon Exactly?
With coffee being the new culinary art… Think of CoffeeCon like a pop up university for coffee brewing. It’s about teaching people the tools they need to brew great coffee. It’s about learning from the experts, and tasting great coffee. In any learning situation, people are at different levels of knowledge about things. I don’t want people to enter any class at Coffee Con where the experts are just teaching nuances. All the events there are meant to be fun and educational.
Coffee comes to life with the brewing - and brewing methods matter. 71% of coffee in America is actually brewed at home. I believe anyone can make an absolutely stellar cup of coffee. We teach people how to do that by putting in a little extra effort, but also find a balanced way to keep things simple.
Q: What are you most excited about this year at CoffeeCon LA? Any particular demonstrations/talks?
I’m excited about a lot of the demonstrations we’ve got going on this year. The emphasis on brewed coffee, but we have others like espresso and latte art. We hope that people can come away from the event knowing how to brew better coffee at home. I’d suggest doing coffee tastings for a bit and then taking a class and then go back to tasting. We also have food trucks outside in case people get hungry. There few fun things to check out for the LA event in particular. (Also check out our coverage of CoffeeCon LA here).
· Turkish Coffee by Mustafa Arat
· Latte Art by Heather Perry
· Pour-over Methods Compared by Chuck Herrera
· How to Host a Cupping Party by Patricia Sinnott
· Home Roasting by Marc Wortman
· And Tons of Exhibitors and Various Coffee Tastings to try!
We’re about experimenting so we’re constantly tweaking the classes from year to year. The great news is if you missed the LA event, you can still check out the upcoming events this year in New York, Seattle and Chicago.