At last we are on the ground again after getting the starting mechanisms sorted for this year’s Compak Golden Bean North America. I arrived in Portland last week and had a chance to catch up with the guys from the American Barista School to plan for this year’s fun awards. We put together some great ideas including a Portland Roasters tour for visiting delegates. We are in the final stages of confirming an impressive line up of speakers – we’ll publish more in a few weeks. I also had the chance to look at our venue space Castaway in Portland’s Pearl district. Thanks again to Don from Rancilio for some USA electrical advice on our machine setup in the engine room.

I had a fun day visiting a few roasters and walked into a cupping session with Rob Hoos at Nossa Familia and was blown away by one of his new coffees, a Guatemalan Natural – yum!

I was privileged to attend the Oregon Coffee Board meeting at Sustainable Harvest, with David and his team hosting a fun get-together. Kelsey from Roast Magazine gave a good industry report and then we had plenty of time to network. It was nice to see Don from K&F, Heather from Stumptown, Mark from Portland Roasters and many of the other industry players supporting coffee businesses in Oregon. Again I was hosted by Jan and Rod Weigel from Fresh Cup Magazine who have been a massive support team in making Compak Golden Bean real and keeping me focused.

The big news is we have booked the venue for the ‘Green Bean’ day: it’s the Buckman Coffee Factory’s shared-facility roastery in Portland’s southeast. Cassy took me through the new roasting facility that can be hired out for private label roasting, then had a chance meeting with Nolan Hirt from Melbourne’s Proud Mary Coffee who was in Portland on business. Nolan is a previous winner of the Australian Golden Bean and a great advocate for the awards.

The overall idea of this trip was to get out and visit roasters, answering their questions and talking them through the awards process. We chose the Midwestern States this time as we could visit some of our sponsors and lock in some event logistics ahead of the September conference. We also are scouting for roasters to come to be a judge at this year’s awards in Portland.


I met Golden Bean North America communication manager Brendo Schack in Milwaukee and had a good start to the trip staying at the old Pabst Brewery which has been converted into a hotel. We also jagged a few tickets to the last night of Summerfest which was highlighted by oldies but goldies Sting and Peter Gabriel.

We visited some very cool coffee roasters including Kickapoo Coffee, Stone Creek Coffee and Collectivo in downtown Milwaukee. We took a short drive and met up with Erin from Pentair Everpure and finalised our water plan for our brewing stations.


Next part of the roadtrip was visiting the little town of Nelsonville in Wisconsin to meet Jared from Ruby Coffee. This was the biggest thing this small town had on offer – producing one of the most recognisable brands in the USA. Jared was a great host, gifting us some travelling coffee and a cool t-shirt that I will be proud to wear.


We worked our way North to Wausau where we met the team at Roastar, Golden Bean’s bag sponsor. We checked out the finished design that Roastar already had on film ready for the bag forming process. Roastar has a state of the art digital processing setup that can turn your coffee packaging into a reality in just three weeks and it’s all manufactured on site in Wausau.

We finished the day by pulling into Minneapolis late, just in time to have a browse at the USA’s largest shopping centre – Mall of America. Yes, it was definitely ‘Big’.

Stay tuned next week when we finish the rest of my caffeinated journey of America’s Midwest.

Click here for Part 2

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