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Morning Shift

A Very Caffeinated Conversation With The Creator Of CoffeeCon

How many cups of coffee does the creator of CoffeeCon have in a day?

“Very few,” Kevin Sinnott told Morning Shift Friday. “I drink four cups of coffee a day. I drink two in the morning, I drink one after lunch and I drink one in the evening after dinner — yes, I do — and I never have problems sleeping because of it, doctor.” 

Sinnott said he started the coffee-loving convention in 2012 after community members in suburban Warrenville asked him to put on a coffee show.

“I think they thought it was going to be folk music with some coffee served at it,” Sinnott said. 

Instead, Sinnott said he called experts, brought in vendors and offered classes.

“I wanted people to learn how to brew,” he said. “They have to know that or they can spend $40 a pound for coffee and they won’t get that beautiful elixir that I get every morning.” 

CoffeeCon has since expanded to Los Angeles, Seattle, and New York, and it returns to Chicago this Saturday and Sunday at Revel Fulton Market in the West Loop. A single day ticket costs $20 online and $25 at the door. 

Morning Shift host Jenn White talked with Sinnott about the convention and how he makes the perfect cup. (He prefers using a Chemex.) 

If you couldn’t tell, this guy loves coffee.

On the value of coffee education

Kevin Sinnott: People are spending big money — I do spend a significant amount of my personal income on buying coffee beans, more than than I want to say on WBEZ because I’m sure my wife’s listening — we’ll talk offline. 

But definitely I have this habit, and I want to be able to extract that information. Just like an audiophile wants to be able to — when they’re listening to their Tom Petty collection — hear the musicians in the room with them, a coffee aficionado wants to taste all that complexity that came from that single finca in Peru.

On the origin of America’s recent specialty coffee boom 

Sinnott: Here’s what a friend of mine in Amsterdam told me about a year ago: The reason America leads in specialty coffee is because it never got so bad in Europe. He turned it into a left-handed compliment — which is perfect, I’m left handed — but I do take that to heart.

What happened is that the canned coffees — I won’t name brands — but there was a famous supermarket head who said as long as it’s cheap, we’ll sell it, or something like that. And that became coffee. It was the G.I.-generation just wanted quantity, not quality, and convenience. 

Kevin Sinnott, creator of CoffeeCon, showcasing a variety of coffee accouterments in the WBEZ studio.

What’s on offer at CoffeeCon? 

Sinnott: We have 20 classes. There’s everything to learn. There’s learning about grinding, there’s learning about roasting — there’s home roasting — we have a sustainability (class), just because that subject is so incredibly important. We have the social justice aspects of coffee. We have a future-of-coffee panel ... We also have Turkish coffee, espresso, how to do latte art, Chemex, craft roasters. 

We’re going to try brewing coffee with four different coffee makers and the same coffee. Another class is the same coffee, the same coffee maker, four different waters — just to show you what a difference water makes.

On how he takes his coffee in the morning

Sinnott: I will be honest with you. I put cream in my coffee every single morning because I just love the viscosity, I love the taste and I think it’s a combination — a dream come true — and to me I wouldn’t have that any more than I would have baker’s chocolate instead of milk chocolate. However, I probably drink the rest of my coffee just pure — what’s it called? — straight up.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. It was adapted for the web by Justin Bull. Click the ‘play’ button above to hear the entire segment.

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