Top 7 Things I Learned at CoffeeCon Chicago

This was my first experience with CoffeeCon Chicago, and in short it is a caffeinated version of heaven. Unfamiliar? CoffeeCon is a craft coffee conference created with the enthusiastic consumer in mind.

Me sipping my sec…okay third Grey Goose l’espresso martini of the day.

Imagine forty exhibitors serving up coffee and its best snack buds like donuts, cakes, chocolate, and my personal fav, Grey Goose coffee cocktails. In between rushes of caffeine, scheduled sessions such as Home Roasting, Grinding, and Latte Art infused the crowd with coffee knowledge. Let’s just say I learned A LOT about coffee during the course of the two-day conference.

Seeing as how I’m a life learner and sharer, I decided to share my top takeaways from CoffeeCon Chicago with you guys. This should be entertaining, so please don’t take the term “real coffee drinker” offensively. As an aside, if you are offended, you probably don’t fall into that category.

#1 I was/am not a real coffee drinker.

Yes, I have a “cup” of coffee just about every morning; In fact I have a few. However, I’m not drinking “real coffee” but basically coffee flavored water…complete with sugar and cream. So maybe it’s just beige coffee flavored water. I don’t know. However, I know I am now aware of the err of my ways.

#2  About those cups of coffee…no one knows what the heck a “cup” of coffee actually measures out to be.

Apparently, there’s no standard measurement of a cup of coffee. What is standard, is that it is not typically 8 ounces (gasp! I know, it’s mind blowing). It depends on whatever the brand says a cup is. It may be 6 oz, or it could be 5 oz, Who knows? So now I have no idea if I’ve been having 3 or 5 cups of beige coffee flavored water every day. LOL

This is why your 12-cup coffee maker never really seems to make 12 “cups” of coffee. So moving forward, you now know to consult with your machine’s manual to see what “cup” actually means…or not. I’ve now solved your great kitchen mystery.

#3 Real coffee drinkers are mathematicians, scientists and MacGyvers.

Real coffee drinkers weigh their coffee, and compute coffee to water ratios. I had NO idea. My brain works in measuring spoon land, not scale land, so this is an adjustment I’ll have to make. However, it makes total sense why it takes a bit longer for my coffee when I go to specialty coffee shops.

Real coffee drinkers weigh their coffee! Who knew?

In addition to the weight, the exposed surface area of the coffee bean (aka grind) and water temperature are also important. Cue the need for a burr grinder and thermometer, or fancy kettle, to get your water to the perfect temperature range of 195-205 degrees. You see how this is starting to get to looking like a lab? Oh, and don’t forget your timer! Lol 

During CoffeeCon I discovered that when real coffee drinkers don’t want to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for equipment, they will gladly go into MacGyver mode to construct their own. Imagine making your own diy kyoto cold brew drip maker (just Google it) or roasting your own coffee beans in a metal dog bowl with a heat gun. Yes, it gets real out here in this coffee world y’all!

#4 Your barista is indeed an artist, so act accordingly.

Harry made this look easy. Trust me; it is not.

First things first, latte art is NOT easy! It also involves a little bit of science. Things like temperature of the steamed milk and the milk proteins are important to creating designs. The more protein the milk has, the thicker the foam will get which plays into what kind of art can be created. So when you want art, and skim milk, you probably are not your barista’s fav customer.

#5 There are 50-11 different ways to make coffee at home, and most industry people don’t consider a Keurig one of them.

Image via

Before you all get rowdy, I’m a Keurig owner. I currently own two different Keurig machines, but I know there’s more to experience in the coffee world. If nothing else, my experience at CoffeeCon gave me that knowledge. I want to be able to control my coffee experience more than a Keurig offers, so I have to broaden my coffee horizons. The only thing is how does one choose methods? For me, it will very well boil (pun absolutely intended) down to convenience.

I’m not even going to try to explain or outline all of the ways to make coffee. In my short two days at CoffeeCon, I learned quite a bit about the following methods: drips/filters, steeps, siphons, and pressure brewing. I did not however learn enough to be able to give anyone cliff notes. Maybe I’ll be able to do that after my next trip to CoffeeCon.

#6 Even with all of the fancy drips and presses and pour overs, there’s no “perfect cup of coffee”.

Yes, you read this right! There is an industry Golden Cup Standard (linked in case you care to read about it), but even it has ranges. The real question, is do you enjoy it? If so, it’s the perfect cup…for you! I wouldn’t get too hung up on the standards as long as you’re enjoying your brew.

#7 I’m easily swayed.

In each session at CoffeeCon, the speaker used some awesome brewer or machine. Of course I now want ALL OF THE THINGS so I too, can be a real coffee drinker. Each day closed out with a raffle to win one of several prizes, some of which were high end brewers. I was definitely among those waiting around to see if I had gotten lucky enough to win a Chemex. Unfortunately, I didn’t even win a bag of beans, so I now have to go buy all of this stuff…and beans!

I was almost as excited for him as I would have been for myself…almost!

Seriously though, I do now have a real coffee drinkers wish list. Thanks CoffeeCon, I’m sure my Santa just loves you.

If coffee is your jam, or you want it to be, please visit CoffeeCon’s website to see what city this awesome coffee festival will visit next. You never know, I just may be there too!

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  1. Pingback: 5 Black-Owned Coffee Shops/Cafes in Chicago - Dash & Stir

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