London Coffee Festival 2018 highlights


London Coffee Festival 2018 highlights

LCF2018 has come and gone and it was once again A-MAZE-ING. The usual mix of crowds, noise, heat and all things coffee (and associated), both in the tiny speciality world that we live in as well as the wider market in general.

Stand setup in the La Marzocco roasters village

This was our second year with a stand as part of the La Marzocco roasters village. They're one of the major sponsors of the show and an industry leader in terms of espresso equipment. The stand comes with a lovely little Linea Mini home espresso machine and a Volcano grinder with the 'village' area organised so that it feels you are part of a community of speciality coffee folk together. This year Crankhouse was offered a spot on the new upper floor area between the VIP lounge and UKBC competition zone. High ceilinged with a huge skylight it felt airy and bright. Yes please. Setup was Wednesday and this is definitely the quiet before the storm. Brewing-wise I took my new EK43s and Moccamaster to do batch brew and like last year took 4 coffees to serve (and sell) over the 4 days. One of the four in the Volcano each day for Espresso, the remaining three brewed in the moccamaster.

Rwanda Rugali Natural, LCF Special (50% Ethiopia Guji Shakiso, 50% , 50% Ethiopia Sidamo Chichu), Colombia Monteblanco and Burundi Shembati lot11.

The festival splits into trade days Thursday and Friday until 5pm and then the doors open to public ticket holders from 5-8pm Friday and 10-7pm Saturday and Sunday. If you've been following Crankhouse goings on for a while you might have read last years LCF summary and would have noticed that the Crankhouse stand was manned over that 4 days by me (Dave) and my good friend Tony Isaacs (insta: tony_isaacs) who is the head barista and cafe manager at Exeters iconic Exploding Bakery, the first and arguably still the best speciality coffee shop in the region.  This year I asked a few baristas I know if they were going to the show and if they'd be interested in doing a spot behind the counter representing Crankhouse. I couldn't believe the response and the impact that had on the overall experience of the festival. 

Tony dialling in each morning

Tony dialling in Espresso and filters each morning using a VST refractometer to precisely measure extraction levels in conjunction with taste.


Each morning we would arrive about 8am and Tony would begin dialling in the 4 coffees concentrating on Espresso first and then the filters. I'd manage the setup including fetching the water and milk and organising the display of retail packs, info cards and merchandise, and then ensuring all the electronics were fully charged and ready, tasting and testing the coffees along the way. Finally with about 15 minutes to go before doors open I'd do the Doughnut run. We did the same last year, headed to St Johns restaurant on Shoreditch High Street on the recommendation of another Exeter speciality coffee shop March Coffee. The owner John used to work in London and reckoned the St Johns doughnuts were the best. No arguments here.
Doughnuts from St Johns a morning ritual
One of the great things about being part of the village setup is that you're working shoulder to shoulder with some great baristas and roasters from other businesses. That means you're constantly asking someone to taste your espresso and filters for their critical opinion and likewise in return. This means by 10am we were completely wired. Sipping our own Espresso's and filters to check but also those of our fabulous neighbours Outpost Coffee from Nottingham and Neighbourhood Coffee from Liverpool. It is a highly caffeinated environment from the start.





I'd say I spoke  to a few hundred people over the four days, a majority of whom knew already of Crankhouse and some who specifically came to say hi. The feedback on the coffees we were serving was incredible and we had a couple of memorable visits which are worth mentioning since they very much for part of the highlights of this years LCF:

Freda Yuan (insta: imfreda) is the reigning UK cup tasters champion which she also won in 2017. This means she's the best competition coffee taster in the UK right now and has one of the best coffee palates in the world. I spotted Freda chatting with the guys at Outpost and went over to say hi and ask her if she fancied tasting my coffee. She said she'd love to and I poured her a couple of the filters we had on that day starting with the Burundi Shembati. I waited nervously and her response.. "I could drink that all day". That was a pretty special moment.

At the end of the trade session at 5pm on Friday a young lady Sierra (inst: sbywx) came to the stand and said she'd like to try the LCF Special blend. I served her a small sample and she smiled and commented that it was super sweet and well balanced and delicious and wanted to buy a bag. I asked if she'd had a good day and she told us that she'd been working on the Square Mile stand for the day and was just helping out since her normal job is a barista at Prufrock. She asked if I was the owner and then told me that she wanted to say how well I'd handled the complaint I'd posted about on instagram a few months back. She'd read it and thought my handling of the issue was excellent and told me to keep up the great work.

The UK Barista Championships were held at the weekend with the finals on Saturday. Origin Coffee incredibly had 5 out of the 6 finalists and ended up taking the top 3 spots with Josh Tarlow a deserving 2018 champ. Their stand was also in the roasters village which meant some of the UK's best baristas were around and about serving coffee on their stand over the weekend. The 2016 UK barista champion Dan Fellows was also there and on Sunday at about 6pm when we were all winding down Dan asked if Tony and I would like to taste Josh's winning coffee and do a swap. Of course we did. In our hopper on Sunday was the LCF blend and I took an espresso over to Dan and he handed me two ceramic cups each with a shot of the UKBC winning coffee. It was delicious and whilst whilst Tony and I were breaking down it's attributes Dan came over with the cup I'd give him, pointed to it and said "that's how a blend should taste" !

These were all incredible moments but none of them come close to the real highlight. Seven people came and helped Tony and I over the weekend. Seven incredibly generous and skilled baristas stood behind the Crankhouse stand serving coffee and telling customers about the brand. I know a few of them reasonably well and others hardly at all. They all thanked me for allowing them to represent Crankhouse. That's an incredible testament to the generosity and passion of people who work in this amazing industry. They all deserve a special mention and a huge thanks for their support:

Rory from Corner Coffee, Cardiff (insta: rory_spro)

Joe from Corner Coffee, Cardiff (insta: coffee_by_joe)

Fay from The Exploding Bakery,  Exeter (insta: fay.clement)

Renaud from Small Street Espresso, Bristol (insta: genus.coffea)

James ex of Artigiano Exeter and one of the founders of the Exeter Uni Espresso Society, and now a teacher in London (insta: jim.hames)

Tasha and Katy from Small Street Espresso in Bristol

More than once over the weekend I was told that I had a great team. That made me incredibly proud.

Finally the biggest thanks go to my good friend Tony Isaacs. Couldn't do it without him. Wouldn't want to. As a thanks I'm taking Tony to the World of Coffee in Amsterdam in June and tonight he sent me a text saying "I hope they do good doughnuts somewhere in Amsterdam".

2 Comment

  • Rory Garside on

    Dave, It was again, a pleasure. A fantastic experience for all involved. Without yourself and the community, you and Tony have helped to develop in Exeter I would not be at the person I am today. So, thank you.

  • Renaud on

    That kind of post is a prime example of why I (and probably many others) always support you! You are a talented professional and can take on the big boys without a doubt but don’t make a fuss out of it. Your selfless dedication to the product is obvious, it shows in your work and attracts likeminded people. It’s a real honour and pleasure for me to support Crankhouse!

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