Make mine an Americano….

I don’t know about you, but what is it about conference coffee? Why is it so bad?

I do understand large scale catering, in the past I have worked in the industry so know a bit about the issues.

It is a real challenge to provide coffee for three hundred plus delegates in less than 30 minutes.

The main reason for poor conference coffee is poor planning and an audience that doesn’t really care.

I was aware at one conference that the catering team decided to use instant coffee for the conference, as they couldn’t work out how to do a large amount of filter coffee for that number of delegates so decided to go down the easy route…

Another conference the mid morning coffee was actually prepared a couple of hours earlier! So by the time it was served to the conference it had been hanging around for so long that it was rough and bitter.

Another factor in the awfulness of conference coffee is that conference delegates don’t really care how awful it is… most of the delegates probably only drink instant coffee or Nescafé at home or work and only drink “proper” coffee now and again. Even then they probably go to Starbucks and any coffee aficionado will tell you that Starbucks coffee is certainly no where near good coffee should be, as it is slightly over-roasted.

So there is no hope is there?

Well at two conferences I attended last year what was nice was there was for delegates a choice. They could either go with the standard conference coffee experience that was free, or they could if they wanted pay for a real proper coffee experience if they so wished. At Ascilite 2009 there was free conference coffee, but upstairs at the University of Auckland there was a coffee shop and I could go and buy a proper Flat White with an extra shot.

At Handheld Learning 2009 outside the venue was a wonderful invention, a Piaggio Apé conversion that had a real coffee machine in the back. So during a break (even though it was raining) I could go out and buy a proper Americano with a splash of milk.

The issue here is not about conference organisers and conference venues providing free decent coffee for all delegates, because to be honest I don’t think  many of them would appreciate it. It’s about providing delegates with a choice. Enabling those who prefer and are willing to pay for decent coffee, can get one, likewise those who aren’t can get a free conference coffee!

There is one conference coming up that has the perfect conference coffee, well perfect for me, as I will be making it. That conference is the JISC Innovating e-Learning 2010 Online Conference. As it is an online conference I can not only choose and make my own coffee, I can also choose when I want to drink it. I can drink my coffee during the keynotes, whilst in discussions, debates and in the social area.

Okay it isn’t the same as drinking a coffee at a face to face conference, but when it comes to an online conference you can at least choose when and what you drink.

Make mine an Americano….

4 thoughts on “Make mine an Americano….”

  1. I certainly agree with everything you’ve said here James, especially about that excellent little can outside HHL09.

    But the question that occurs to me, perhaps a more pertinent question is, WHY don’t people care about the drinks they drink (and widening the debate here), or the food they eat?

    Personally, I dislike instant coffee, an oxymoron, but accept that many people do enjoy it and I have no issue with their taste. However, even those people must find the burned and muddy taste of conference coffees to be unpleasant.

    As you say, conferences and classes accessed from home give far more organaleptic pleasure.


  2. David asked: “WHY don’t people care about the drinks they drink ” … do you think it’s more to do with expectations? At a conference I don’t expect good coffee, in the way I would were I to go somewhere else (e.g. the great coffee man on the Southsea Seafront!) !)

    As I’m sitting here at home now trying to work from home, while I do appreciate control over my beverage consumption, I’m also realising that I’m a tight git when it comes to putting the heating on during the day!

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