What Is the Future of Coffee? This Aficionado Intends to Find Out

CoffeeCon takes a closer look at everyone’s favorite pick-me-up

Kevin Sinnott is a longtime coffee aficionado. In the early ’90s, he published a newsletter about coffee, and then went on to write two books on the subject, Great Coffee: The Coffee Lover’s Guide in 2001 and The Art and Craft of Coffee: An Enthusiast’s Guide to Selecting, Roasting, and Brewing Exquisite Coffee in 2010. When it occurred to him that some people learn things better by experiencing them in person, he says he “decided to have a coffee event where people could get together and taste a lot of coffees.” But bringing that vision to life turned out to be fairly complex. “Putting together a wine tasting is easy,” Sinnott says. “A bunch of great wines, a corkscrew, and some clean glasses, and you’re there. Coffee’s not like that. You have to brew it, and it requires a lot of equipment and a lot of hands-on, fastidious brewing.”

 

If you have similarly strong feelings about how coffee is grown, processed, roasted, ground, and brewed—or even if you just really like drinking it—you belong at CoffeeCon. Sinnott’s coffee festival, now in its fourth year, brings more than 40 exhibitors offering tastings, classes, and demonstrations to L.A. on February 3 and 4. Learn latte art from champion barista Heather Perry, get tips on roasting your own coffee beans from Marc Wortman of Make Good Coffee, or check out a panel discussion on the Future of Coffee moderated by Sinnott himself.

In that panel—held at 2 p.m. both days—Sinnott hopes to take a closer look at where coffee technology is headed. He mentions a coffee maker that connects to your phone so you can download brewing parameters from the internet. The inventor will be on hand to answer questions, and Sinnott wants to know when we’re going to have a coffee maker that’s really automatic. He says, “I don’t have to set recording levels when I record a movie from the TV. When are we going to finally get to that point with coffee, that we can make a truly interactive, truly robotic, artificial-intelligence-driven coffee maker?”

Sinnott also plans to address potential threats to coffee production. He says, “We get all sorts of scare headlines, even in the mainstream press, about ‘Will climate change affect the types of coffee that we have available to us?’” Another concern is how the farmers themselves will affect the future of the industry. Even large coffee companies buy most of their coffee from family farms, but farmers—who are around 60 years old on average—often tell Sinnott that their children are going to be professionals not coffee farmers. He says, “I want to know that there’s still enough of a business that it’s going to inspire someone to grow it. Otherwise there’s no business.” He sees the panel discussions as a place to get everyone from the farmer to the consumer in the same room.

Sinnott shared a few words of advice for CoffeeCon ticket holders: “Drink light. Take little sips.” At a coffee festival, it’s easy to end up over-caffeinated but, as he points out, “One of the great things about the classes is that they help you pace yourself. Sip for a while and then take a class.”

CoffeeCon Los Angeles, The Reef, 1933 S. Broadway, downtown; Sat.-Sun., Feb. 3-4, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; general admission tickets are $20 per day or $25 for both days.


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