Planning to host a public coffee tasting this weekend. I have coffees from 3 different roasters and different geographical locations. I have specified manual brewing: Chemex, Clever, and Aeropress. I will also make traditional capps for those interested in trying them. May even have a few treats to eat with the coffee in a pairing fashion.

I want to use this as an opportunity to educate my community in specialty coffee, particularly emphasizing the agricultural side and the people involved.

Any suggestions would be appreciated. Practical how-to tips, as well as germane thoughts that would be interesting tidbits to share.

One that I want to share, but can't remember where I heard it was the steps to produce wine vs. the steps to produce coffee, coffee being much more involved?

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I host a lot of public cuppings and I have found certain dynamics common to groups no matter where the cuppings are held. My goal is also to convey the producers' stories as much as possible and to provide both an informational and a sensory experience.

The biggest lesson I have learned is that people can only take in small bytes of information, and unless they actually work with coffee and have paid for a lengthy class on the subject, they have a relatively short attention span for the event. If you can keep their rapt attention for one hour to maybe one hour and fifteen minutes you will keep from boring the snot out of them.

1- Prepare very brief but interesting facts about each coffee (keep with coffee descriptors like sweet, savory, chocolaty, caramel, fruit, bright, roasty. Avoid "roater's tasting notes" with flowery and metaphoric descriptors)

2- Keep your talking points on the agriculture and processing very concise

3-Make sure they know to hold questions for a Q&A section at the end of your presentation or they will derail you repeatedly

As much as I would like to tell lengthy back history, detailed processing procedures, relevant points on roasting, and go on at length about proper brewing techniques, the people who show up for public cuppings and tastings do not want to know, or have time and patience for everything I would love to tell them. You should know specifically what you want to convey, and edit yourself before hand to keep from burning up a large percentage of your time and their willingness to listen on some tangent detail.

It may be helpful to use only one brewing process. This will help you stay on track and keep the action moving. Know your brewing parameters very well before you start to make sure you nail your extraction during the presentation. If you will be bringing you own grinder, get it dialed-in in advance. If you are using a grinder at the location, give yourself time to dial it in before you start by brewing a couple of rounds to test grind settings.

A really hard lesson for me was to come to the realization that it is more effective to use very simplified, and almost cliche sounding, explanations of things I may want to go into detail about. People will ask questions about the things for which they want details. It is difficult for me not to bore them with the things I personally find interesting.

Good luck!
Thanks for sharing, Mr. Proteau! I really appreciate your taking the time to share! I appreciate it even more knowing the depth of knowledge you have about this industry!

I do have a question regarding explaining extraction: Most people are familiar with the standard electric drip brewer. Given that making coffee is, at its geeky scientific heart, a hot-water extraction of solubles held in organic material, how much does one explain the reasons the attendee's cherished percolator, or Gevalia drip machine, simply won't cut it for quality coffee? Not that I would be disparaging, but given the fact that I have completely converted to by-the-cup brewing for my personal use, and this is the type of method I will be using for this event, they will probably ask.
Another question I have: Are there any online materials, e.g. documentation, info, brochures, posters, etc, that are downloadable featuring Seed-to-cup info, or sustainability, or direct trade, etc? For instance, I looked through the SCAA library online, but didn't see a whole lot of material that would be useful for consumer info.

Does anyone know of any resources like this? I would love to generate a factoid handout to give attendees.
I totally agree with Phil on limiting the no of brewing methods. too difficult for you to pull off, too complex for your audience to understand appreciate. keep it simple: pick clever and/or chemex: easy for you to work with, easy to understand for your audience, looks good visually.

Unless you have very good reasons why people should stop using their current homebrewing equipment I think you should stay out of that, the electric brewer they have at home might work OK so why tell them to change?

It's much easier to argument the value of a grinder or buying good beans, especially if it your coffee tastes as good as I hope it will! :-) good luck!
Thanks, Oscar! I decided to limit it to just Clever and Chemex. I felt the visual appeal of the Chemex pour was worth it, as is the brew, of course. A bit of theater helps, though.

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