“The first coffee plant arrived in Europe in 1616, brought from Yemen to
the Amsterdam Botanical Garden. This was successfully propagated, and
the mayor of Amsterdam later presented a coffee tree to Louis XIV of
France. ” -Eccardi/Sandalj
This year I decided to skip the hipster saturated hustle of the Allegra London Coffee Festival. It does seem like I have been attending since the beginning of time. Instead I’ve taken the short hop to the Netherlands to mingle at Amsterdam Coffee Fest. Boy did I make the right choice.
Amsterdam Coffee Festival was by not the usual coffee fest line up. Don’t fall into the thinking this was London coffee fest in the Netherlands. This celebration of the bean has a distinct taste and style. The Dutch scene is still clearly between the new wave speciality and the old school more historic companies. Yet even with this clear contrast of operation and roast styles the ‘scene’ is surprisingly well gelled. Speciality baristas moving between the strata with no animosity between company’s. The United feeling that the dutch coffee industry has reminds me of London 10 years ago. Let’s hope the Netherlanders don’t follow the same path the UK has.
I did a quick scan around, Probably the first thing to catch my eye was the Kees Van Der Western machine on a major coffee brands stand. The fascinating part was the groups were built with manual adjustable extraction using springs. Not a lever machine but a way to control preinfusion on a pump machine. Shame I didn’t get any time to try it out.
Seeing new machines, a Swedish built coffee brewer called “the hipster” ugly like the Slayer this behemoth will brew in the area of 2 litres with a tidy dispersion style slow drip. This device supplies the brew into three stages and allows control of each stage of amount of water, temperature and time.
All the espresso machine classics were here too La Marzocco, Faema, Wmf, Victoria Ardwino and Sanremo. I also got a look at the London built velopresso again, armed with the londinium lever espresso, gas powered, machine. This complimented by a pedel powered HG one for grinding. All very slick off grid tech, the coffee set-up choice of the post apocalypse minded barista.
Coffee fest for me is all about the barista lectures and competitions. My favourite barista Esther Maasdam was banging out the lart like only she could. I was more interested in her talk on drawing attention to speciality coffees obsession with the term fresh. Do freshly roasted coffees actually translates to a better tasting cup? No dark corner of the warehouse left un illuminated. Esthers points included freshness of green, nitrogen flushing, grain pro, jute taint and also highlighted recent research that shows old green can be held for lengths of time then roasted and cup just as well after several years, followed by a quick decline. Thanks to Esther I’m now questioning my own storage and practices in my own espresso bar.
Ben Morrow of latte art fame courting no irony at all delved into the murky world of soy vs dairy. I’d always assumed the soy industry to be as devious and dirty as dairy but hearing about hearing about heritage almond farms being rebuilt and the benefits to farmers was truly heartening. To do it the cause justice you have to hear it with Bens hypnotic Australian drawl.
I love a good brewers cup and will always watch one eagerly. Im not sure who it was exactly; but seeing a young barista freezer up on stage makes my heart sink. Channelling encouragement and strength to all competitors everywhere.
My Comrade Dagmar however wasn’t lacking any confidence. She took the stage simultaneously presenting her research findings on acoustics and taste notes and making the best coffee of the Netherlands. A fascinating presentation that could transform high end coffee service forever.
I got to meet so many great people in coffee, who gave me so much great coffee. Every festival I go to I pick a favourite. Visiting Keen coffee, Dagmar served me her competition espresso as a flat white. So amazingly sweet and subtle I could have been easily drinking hot milk and honey.
Innovations in the coffee industry that I saw for the first time at this show include ÜberMilk, a bench top apparatus for “steaming” perfect milk at the push of a button. No robots to pour large art yet, so barista jobs are still safe. Another barista labour saving device is the auto Tamper the puq press. I knocked out a couple shots on the puq that has been modified to fit snugly under a mahlkonig k30 timed grinder. Makes service very smooths. Thank you Henk of La Marzocco Netherlands for indulging all my questions and observations.
Henk also demonstrated the La Marzocco Modbar. This cutting edge coffee machine is recessed under the bar, with taps the only visible part. Promoting potential patrons to ask if it pours beers. It’s about the only thing it doesn’t do. Marzocco in true artisan fashion had a wood turner on stand with lathe producing Tamper handles and portafiter handles. Overhead this hall had a all-day DJ ripping it up too.
The Dutch coffee scene that has a wide slice from commodity to the best of specialty despite or maybe because of this the Dutch are a tight crew. The sponsorship of the Aeropress Champs by an espresso machine demonstrates this elegantly.
Oh shit, do the dutch know how to party. No better party this week than the Dutch Aeropress Championships. Kim and Gabe make for a wicked MCs, top bants. I would book them to host your next competition. No idea who it was who won but the party was great, floor filling hits all night long. Some great break dancing. The DJ was amazing.
I’ve a confession, although I greatly admire Netherlands finest coffee machine designer I’ve never used a Kees machine to actually pull a shot. Mr Kees Vanderwestern has been making tricked out La Marzocco hybrids in the Netherlands for decades. Seeing a La Marz on a coffee shop counter you can make the assumption the owner is serious about coffee. See a KVW and you know they are obsessive . it’d be wrong not to. Esther Maasdam kindly let me play on her KVW Mistrial. Other than Latte art tutorials, roasting the coffee for the dutch barista champion talks on fresh coffee and supplying many of the coffee machines to the exhibitors Esther joined in on the tasting competition or Dutch Cupping Championship. Arguably the most important of the competions, certainly the less complex. Esther took home 1st. Going on to represent the Netherlands in Korea World Champs.
I ran in Peter of made by knock fame. Furtively he pulled me aside and conspiratorially opened his gym bag filled with grinders to extract a prototype from the workshop of Scotland’s newest coffee industry. A gorgeous camping grinder that will be the death of the porlex. Affordable portable coffee grinders are coming. And they are made in Scotland.
The new coffee trends were annoying still present. Robusta doesn’t taste good, please stop spending money on marketing to make it look good and use that money to buy better green.
Kubatcha, seems like this is going to be a full on trend, I’m not so down with, but now with sugar conscience consumers and heading towards a post waste society it’s something that can only get better.
A vetren of trade shows I was impressed by the quality of the stands, the imaginative concepts. Bocca coffee roasters, a roaster we’ve served in the Chapel, built out an airplane to take visitors on a tasting flight. Keen had a slick brew bar and machines. La Cabra and Goat Story shared a stand and Kopp of Sweden made an appearance. Kopp Anne herself judging the heck out of the very entertaining Mixology competitions with Patrick Rolf-Karlsson of “Specialty coffee that isn’t user-friendly is like, diet coke, Nespresso, the Brexit and undercooked noodles, simply not helping anyone” fame.
I love the city of Amsterdam. It was the first port of call when I first landed on the continent and I’ve been back half a dozen times in the past decade. Bicycles, a social approach to social problem, Canals, amazing architecture and a culture that reflects the seafaring tradition.
Unfortunately London’s coffee scene has always been closely tied to hipster ‘scene’ and east London. I always felt that this in a major contributing factor stopping the London speciality coffee from moving forward.
The dutch also established the first truly transnational corporation VOC (dutch east India company) who were responsible for the cultivation of the first coffee in Java and the rest of Indonesia.
Present day Amsterdam Coffee still holds the connections of the old but with a new angle, ACF venue itself the old gas works the main hall in a firm of the century gas tank. Made for a astounding steam punk style venue. The coffee machines on display had a hard job to out shine the architecture. Or should that be engineering? Any way a suitable venue as the age of gas age gave us the energy to boil our water and make steam in the first place. Even the Siren herself, Seattle’s giant Starbucks roast all their UK coffee here.
Traditionally Dutch Coffee houses were known for elaborate gardens and ornate surrounds. To this day although London may have more speciality coffee shops (for how much longer?), the Dutch still fresh grind and brew at home. A morning art that if presented to a typical British coffee drinker they likely wouldn’t know where to start.
The Dutch didn’t start drinking coffee until after the Oxford and London coffee houses. The English rejection of coffee in favour Tea after the suppression of coffee houses by Charles II gives the Dutch, like the Germanic cities during the same period an unbroken tradition of coffee drinking.