Janet Jackson had Rhythm Nation. Boutros Boutros-Ghali had the United Nations. And we here at Sprudge have Barista Nation, a globetrotting series of international coffee lectures, demos, and hangouts presented by our friends and partners at UNIC, makers of fine espresso machines based in Nice, France with US headquarters in Washington State. We’ve been attending, covering, and speaking at Barista Nation since 2012, including events in Montreal, Los Angeles, Kansas City, San Francisco, Portland, and Orange County, and we’ll keep going as the event series grows and expands.
Accessibility and egalitarianism are cooked into Barista Nation’s DNA, and that’s part of what makes the events so great. For Barista Nation Denver, attendance was free with a $10 donation to the worthwhile human rights charity CARE, and attendees received breakfast, lunch, drinks at the bar, swag, and as you’ll see below, access to a diverse and wide-ranging set of lectures and panel discussions that ran the gamut of coffee’s strange providence, from green importers to machine manufacturers, cafe owners to inventors to journalists.
It is perhaps cliche to remark at the end of any recurring event, “This was the best one ever!” But Barista Nation Denver may well have been exactly that. Read on for just 20 of our favorite moments from BN Denver in a listicle that could be five times as long!
20. Things were really popping off at the Golden Triangle hub of Galvanize, a progressive co-working space that played host to Barista Nation Denver. It’s located in an enormous brick warehouse that used to be home to the Rocky Mountain Bank Note Company.
19. Some awesome art inside Galvanize helped set the mood.
18. Barista Nation founder Anastasia Chovan, of UNIC USA, dropped some opening remarks on the assembled crowd. “Thank you, Denver, for turning a one-day event into a three-day event!”
17. Boxes of muffins helped steel us for the long day ahead. They were delicious, stumps and all.
16. There was also plenty of espresso, courtesy of event host UNIC USA’s Stella di Caffe espresso machine.
15. Really, this event was a coffee gearhead’s playground. Here’s Brant Curtis showing off his sleek matte white Wilbur Curtis Seraphim by the cup brewer.
14. The Seraphim is pretty sexy. Here Brant Curtis has it rigged up to brew through an Able Kone metal filter, straight into a Chemex. In that moment, a thousand coffee zen koans were coined.
13. There were educational panels aplenty at Barista Nation Denver. The above group featured Koan Goedman of Huckleberry Coffee Roasters, Jonathan Jarrow of Harbinger Coffee, Noah Price of Crema Coffee House, and more, and was themed around a lively audience-driven Q&A.
12. In a moment from that same panel, Koan Goedman told the crowd, “Success for one brand doesn’t have to come at the expense of others.”
11. Barista Nation Denver was chockablock with insightful talks. Tamas Christman of Dragonfly Coffee Roasters talked about common ways to address start-up funding, from boot strapping to angel investors. “Ultimately it’s up to you to set yourself apart,” he told the crowd.
10. Brant Curtis and Jeremy Kuempel (of Blossom Coffee) lead another panel discussion, helmed by Brian Cornelsen of UNIC USA, themed around investing in equipment behind the coffee bar.
9. Jacob Ellul-Blake of Pantechnicon Designs delivered a fascinating, intimate look at how to develop new products. Mr. Ellul-Blake’s custom La Marzocco espresso machines are among the dopest/freshest in the game, and have been featured previously on Sprudge.
8. Eventually we all needed affogatos. Denver’s own Milk Money Ice Cream & Treats were happy to oblige.
7. A hallmark of Barista Nation events, there was plenty of chilling and conversation at BN Denver.
6. Jeremy Kuempel of Blossom brewed up plenty of cups of coffee, giving demos and even instructing a Sprudge editor through the steps to use his device. Later, Mr. Kuempel would deliver the keynote address at Barista Nation Denver, during which he’d call The Blossom a “viral sensation.”
5. Perhaps our favorite talk of the day was delivered by Kari Guddeck of Bard Coffee, an industry veteran with 20 years of experience in the Denver coffee scene. “After 20 years,” she told the crowd, “it’s about believing in a career path, believing in yourself.” As part of her talk she led the crowd through a blind juice tasting with humbling results, pictured above.
4. It wouldn’t be Barista Nation without the swag, and Keep Cup represented by giving away reusable cup hotness to all BN Denver attendees.
3. Beyond the talks and panels, Barista Nation offers an opportunity to get hands-on with gear. Here we see UNIC USA’s Paul Flynn giving a Stella di Caffe demo to this curious duo.
1. Here’s a happy bus tub full of former espresso shots. It kind of sums up Barista Nation Denver in a nutshell: we came, we saw, we talked, and we consumed copious amounts of espresso. A good time was had by all.
And yet, there were even more incredible moments from Barista Nation Denver. Additional mentions are well deserved for:
A riveting panel hosted by Sarah Allen of Barista Magazine, featuring Jacob Ellul-Blake, Andy Sprenger, Jon Jarrow, and Greg Lefcourt of Ozo Coffee; Sauro Dall’Aglio’s real-talk on how much cash you need to get a cafe off the ground; marketing guru Alicia Hassinger’s tips and tricks for managing your brand message; true stories from inside the world of a B Corporation from Bhakti Chai; additional opening remarks from Heather Bradford, herself a Barista Nation success story; a lively “idea throwdown” won by Josh Taves and his delightful KONG Brewer (full feature forthcoming!); a challengingly mellow bar set from DJ Sprudge; afterparty hangs at Metropolis Coffee; a delightful Friday night throwdown at Huckleberry Roasters; and the Sunday premiere of Barista Nation Boot Camp, hosted by Sweet Bloom Coffee.
All photos are by Tyler Bruno for Sprudge.com.