The Five Tools We Loved at the 2022 Specialty Coffee Expo

After three years, the 2022 Specialty Coffee Expo returned to the Boston Exhibition and Convention Center. The event last took place in the city in 2019, running concurrently with the World Barista Championships. 

After two years of caution and COVID-19 restrictions, the event came back in full force. The SCA’s Expo brought together a dizzying array of exhibitors: from green importing companies to roasteries big and small, with an explosive number of new coffee machinery and technical tools making their debut on the trade show floor.

While not an exhaustive list, here are five of the latest gadgets in the industry that caught our eye.

The Unifilter from Weber Workshops 

Touting itself as the industry’s first unibody portafilter, The Unifilter is the answer to all of our crusty-portafilter nightmares. Instead of a removable basket, The Uniflter is a single-piece portafilter—a product that the industry has needed for decades.

This means improved temperature stability. You no longer have to remove the portafilter basket to clean it regularly, as one does when on bar, and risk it cooling down too much when you return it to the portafilter. This better guarantees even extraction in the shot. 

Compared to traditional portafilters, which have a bottom diameter of 48-50mm, The Unifilter has a maximized bottom diameter of 58mm. This means a wider puck—or greater surface area of coffee to extract. We could say that a new frontier of extraction has been unlocked, and this is incredibly exciting for the coffee industry, but really, we were sold at the prospect of never having to remove and clean a portafilter basket again. 

The Key Coffee Grinder from Weber Workshops 

Still resting assuredly in its position of Best New Product for Consumer Coffee Preparation and Serving at the New Orleans Coffee Expo in 2021, the Key Coffee Grinder was spotted a few times around the show in Boston. The grinder accompanied the Under Counter 2-Group machine on the MAVAM stand, creating an elegantly understated espresso setup. 

Crafted by the creative minds behind the iPod Nano (we all remember those, right?), the Key’s ergonomics lies in its compact frame, freeing up counter space and aiding bar workflow. 

The whopping 83mm conical burrs make for quick, smooth grinding. The diameter of the burrs plus the mount define the width of the entire machine—which is to say, it takes up way less space than most conventional electric grinders in the market today.

With an inbuilt cleaning brush, easy-to-adjust rotations per minute (RPM) knob, and surfaces in Snow (white) or Onyx (black), this is a stunning showpiece that will enhance any stripped-back coffee bar setup. Oh, and did we mention it has both standard (non-magnetic) and magic (magnetic) tumblers?

The AiO from Aillio 

A sleek, fully automated in-house roaster—or that spaceship heralding aliens in the movie Arrival

It’s always a joy to see the industry embrace technology to free up humans to do what they do best: being hospitable and engaging. That’s what the AiO purports to do. 

The AiO has fully automated roasting system running an entirely self-contained unit—the days of needing to keep a close watch on the roast profile are gone. Each roast is perfectly replicated from your bespoke template, or you can download a profile from Roast.World, a data cloud platform with plenty of roast profiles from acclaimed coffee experts. 

You put the green coffee in, leave the AiO alone, come back in 10 minutes, and boom. Fresh coffee, roasted perfectly to spec, replicated as many times as necessary. 

It’s convenient enough to plug directly into any countertop electrical system and produces enough freshly roasted coffee to keep up with the busiest cafes in the world. The AiO has carved a niche for itself in the nascent micro-roastery movement without the hassle of gas lines and planning permits that would accompany most traditional 3-5kg gas micro-roasters. 

Plus, who doesn’t love a well-integrated roastery-cafe? There’s nothing like the thrill of watching green coffee turn brown, driving home bean to cup journey in full view for customers. This is a good choice for cafes wanting to branch out into roasting but looking to balance costs and profits to scale up their business. 

The Synesso ES1 from Synesso

Because everyone’s a home barista now, right? Truth be told: two years (and counting) of being at home means we’re all looking for ways to make good coffee in the kitchen that we would otherwise purchase from cafes. While we continue to support small and local coffee businesses during this time, it’s worth celebrating that more people are investing in machinery that allows them to replicate their favorite coffees at home. 

That’s where the Synesso ES1 comes in. It toes the line between ease of use for the coffee novice while offering an entire dimension of functionality for seasoned espresso geeks to sink their teeth into. This is in large part due to its heat precision system. This patent-pending innovation measures water temperature throughout the system ten times per second, allowing you to have café quality consistency in a home machine.

There’s also functionality embedded within the ES1 that allows you to save your espresso recipes manually and historically. So if you remembered a very tasty shot you had last Monday morning that you forgot to save, you could still retrieve it and relive the experience! The ES1 can also toggle between automatic and manual programming to give you the consistency or flexibility you desire with your coffee-making. 

The ES1 also caters to ‘lite-commercial’ environments—if you decided, hypothetically, that you were going to operate a cafe out of your backyard, you’d be in an excellent position to do so with this machine. 

The Omega from Mazzer

Aptly named ‘Omega,’ which loosely means ‘the end of all things,’ the commercial grinder behemoth Mazzer showcased their first-ever hand grinder at Boston—and it made a statement. 

The Omega is crafted from the same materials as many of their commercial electric grinders: carbon fiber for structural integrity and lightness, steel, and aluminum for durability. 

The Omega had a good, solid heft to it, standing at 750g, which made its ease of use even more of a pleasant surprise. Its 47 mm conical burrs were easy to dial in thanks to a micro-click system (not to mention an auditory satisfaction that was entirely, wonderfully disproportionate to this fairly small device), with settings that allow you to make anything from a French press to a Turkish ibrik. 

Additionally, there are two settings that you can choose from depending on your priorities: the soft-grind setting allows for less effort in the grinding process, while the fast-grind setting maximizes your productivity, allowing you to grind more coffee in a shorter period. 

However, what is most satisfying is that this entire assembly is collapsible and compactly stored due to the magnetized handle and knob. It’s just neat—just a neat setup. You won’t lose your previous grind settings, even if you dismantle the device for cleaning.