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Trying As Much Coffee As I Could at Sea Otter 2023

Apr 23, 2023 at 9:38
by Alicia Leggett  
Along with about 4 million other bike industry people, I've made my way to California and am now at the Sea Otter Classic, the annual springtime racing and commercial goods and culture opening of the official bike season. As you might know, I've been off work for the last six months recovering from a brain injury, but through some conversations with the Pinkbike crew we decided it made sense for me to come be part of the bike world - this world I've built so much of my life around - for this weekend.

It's been an interesting balancing act, trying to figure out whether or how much I'm going to work while I'm here, and I've mostly settled on the idea that I can write an article or two, but I won't be covering bike tech. Bike tech happens to be a lot of what exists at Sea Otter, so unlike my last two times here, I'm pivoting to covering some softer but still pretty compelling areas of life, like coffee.

Caffeine has also been on my mind because this week I listened to the audiobook version of Michael Pollan's 'This Is Your Mind On Plants,' an exploration of the human relationships with opium, caffeine, and mescaline. I recommend it to anyone interested in any of that bunch of topics.

Arriving at Sea Otter and seeing the mill of all kinds of industry people, riders, colors, sounds, food, bikes, and more, it seemed like the only thing to do was to throw myself into a bit of my own chaos, and putting my brain onto the hamster wheel seemed like an okay way to do that, so I set off on my mission.


Continental


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The Continental tent was just about 20 steps from the Pinkbike tent, so it was an easy first stop. I went at coffee rush hour, right after the venue opened, so the long wait in line was not surprising (but did mean that I missed my tentative not-plan to have breakfast with Christina. The two people making coffee were wearing Corsa Pro hats, which gave me the impression they'd been contracted by Continental to come in and attract all of us into the booth. It worked!

There was a sign indicating that our options were espresso and Americanos, I think because they had some technical difficulties with their portable refrigerator and had no milk. I'm an Americano fan, so the options at baseline worked for me, but I was a little bummed not to have the option to add half-and-half as I usually do. Still, it didn't feel foreign to drink black coffee. I was a black coffee aficionado for a solid decade after I started drinking coffee, but over the last few years have become easier on myself and/or care a lot less about whether or not I feel 'tough' or whatever was going through my head.

The black coffee made the multi-stop comparison samples less equalavent, but I ended up adding some cream from a different place after leaving the tent, so I did end up keeping them as consistent as I could. Note that any consistency does nothing to make me a qualified coffee reviewer. Know that this is just a write-up of my experience, not by any means a review to be treated as legitimate.

I want to mention that the Continental coffee tent also had a foosball table outside. Beyond mountain biking and paragliding, foosball is one of my favorite activities. (In the 8th grade, we had a foosball table in my classroom that I used through every break. At the end of the year, my teacher, who was about to take his sabbatical year, gave me the table because it made me "come alive" in ways that he wasn't used to seeing from me.)

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The relevant table, plus two of my coworkers.


Shimano


I've long been a fan of Shimano components. Unlike what many seem to feel, I don't have a real preference between Shimano and SRAM - they both have real strengths and relative weaknesses! - but the Shimano zone gave out coffee at Sea Otter, so that's a pretty big plus.

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Like Shimano shifting, Shimano coffee is user-friendly. I showed up a bit after what I imagine to be rush hour, so there was no wait whatsoever. I wandered into the booth while chatting with a couple of friends and mentioned that I was looking for coffee, and the barista started brewing something great in almost no time. It's hard not to start drawing comparisons between the drivetrains and coffee, since the coffee was easy to drink, very pleasant, less strong than that of Continental, and more smooth than biting, if I'm going to self-congratulate myself into thinking I can use coffee-connoisseur terms.


Specialized


Specialized is good at making crowd-pleasing products (remember when they made the golden retriever bike?) and their coffee is no exception. Once again, the coffee seems congruent with the brand The Specialized tent is a vast world of all kinds of things, but the coffee stand took up a prominent corner, with a vast menu of seemingly every kind of coffee drink I'd ever heard of and some that never crossed my mind.

The person in front of me in line was handed some form of quadruple macchiato, which made my Americano order feel a little lackluster until the drink was handed to me and I remembered why I love it. There was a full bar of types of milk and sugar and other additions, easily accessible, so I added a bit of half-and-half and carried on with my wanderings.

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Photo credit to a guy I met in line.

The coffee itself tasted a little muted, maybe dusty, nothing remotely harsh or edgy or "bright." I don't say that by any means as a bad thing. I think the coffee is roasted a little darker than some that give me the impression of being "bright," but I'm deeply unqualified to be assessing and reviewing coffee so take that with many grains of salt.

At this point in the day, I just about hit my caffeine intake limit; it started feeling like I could hear colors, think in abstract shapes, have conversations with birds. I understand that feeling coffee-saturated could affect my judgment, but this whole process is unscientific enough that I think I can get away with my mediocre and self-righteous opinions.


Canyon


Like Continental's, Canyon's booth was within view of Pinkbike's, so it almost taunted me for all the time that I was not visiting it. I finally gave in and crossed the pathway. The process was straightforward: I stood in line for a couple minutes while chatting with a few people I'd just met. I have the tiny complaint that it was kind of loud in the booth, loud enough that my hard-of-hearing self had trouble hearing anyone talking, but we made it work. I asked for my Americano, waited a moment, and watched it appear. I then asked for some milk and was given the options of oat and macadamia. I have the slight suspicion that those were my two options because they don't require as much refrigeration as milk that originated in a cow, but I have absolutely no proof of that. (I do think maybe Continental should have opted for the oat milk option, but we all have different comfort levels with unrefrigerated products.)

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I only saw waffles in one place at Sea Otter.

The Canyon coffee also has the honor of being one of the few coffee drinks ever to give me the feeling of "ugh, more coffee."

Canyon is European enough that I expect them to have slightly better taste in many things than I do, and I'll count coffee among those things. The coffee was quite nice, despite my not wanting to drink any more today. I'll take the long-shot guess that the roast level is medium, more "bright" than "earthy" but still seeming very well balanced, at least in my opinion.

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It's worth noting that this is the least direct comparison, being coffee mixed with oat milk rather than half-and-half, even though I think oat is the most similar non-dairy milk to dairy milk. Actually, none of these include anything remotely scientific, but drinking free coffee and walking around and saying hi to bike people is a decent enough excuse for me to ramble in an article a bit, so I'll take it.



Well, that's my roundup of the free coffee of Sea Otter. I probably missed one or two or five companies, so it won't surprise me one bit if the commenters shout out other brands that deserve recognition, but these were the main ones I found. I'll try to visit even more next year, but in the meantime, that'll mean putting in the training to help my over-caffeinated brain get strong enough to handle what the world has in store for it.

Author Info:
alicialeggett avatar

Member since Jun 19, 2015
745 articles

93 Comments
  • 544 1
 Welcome back Alicia
  • 6 2
 I’ll take an Almond Milk Chai
  • 12 0
 Exactly what i thought as soon as i saw this post. Good to see her back!
  • 2 0
 And she's wearing a Melly too. Dang !!
  • 1 0
 I laughed, like a lot
  • 89 1
 So stoked to see you writing articles again, and always stoked to see so many ace coffee setups at events
  • 57 1
 PB needs more coffee related content.
  • 11 0
 Some of my favorite bike shops also serve coffee and beer (usually not in the same receptacle).
  • 1 0
 Seeing different teams coffee set ups is always a treat when they get shown from time to time in pit walks
  • 2 0
 I don't personally drink coffee, because I hate the taste of it, but the process of pulling a perfect espresso shot is so satisfying to watch.
  • 2 0
 @danielfloyd: Nate Hills frequently has some good espresso footage (I think he uses a manual press called an Espresso Forge) at the starts of his Follow Cam Friday series.
  • 46 0
 "it started feeling like I could hear colors, think in abstract shapes, have conversations with birds"

Yeah, been there. Weeeeeeeeeee!
  • 22 0
 Umm.. That wasn't the coffee, Carl... lol
  • 12 0
 My favorite color is ham
  • 42 1
 That's just the sort of hard hitting coffee journalism we've come to expect from Pinkbike. ☕☕☕☕ My dear, you must have been pretty jacked up after all that. As someone who's never been, had no idea that the booths offered coffee. Good to know. (Just reminded me that I'm out for tomorrow's cup!) Welcome back!
  • 29 1
 Nice non-review coffee roundup.

We discovered I am lactose-intolerant at some point in the summer of 2020. I’ve found the Laird brand (liquid, unsweetened) to the non-dairy creamer I prefer. For milk substitute we use almond milk at the house but I usually ask for coconut milk lattes at my local coffee shop.
  • 6 0
 If you're open to exploration, I recently discovered flax milk (unflavored) and it has become my favorite dairy-free milk sub.
  • 4 0
 @Jvhowube: I’ll keep an eye out for it. It’s not an option I have spotted yet out here in Oregon, but thanks for the heads-up!
  • 4 0
 That Laird creamer is so good. I can't stop.
  • 4 0
 I've actually drunk that stuff straight, it's like candy.
  • 31 1
 Hot take- coffee and bikes over beer and bikes. Sue me. So glad to see you back on here Alicia !
  • 6 0
 Post ride coffee may actually be easier to realize than post ride beer. If you bring your boiling water in a good isolated bottle (I've good experience with Stanley), a manual grinder, beans, the Aeropress with filter paper and some cups, the water in the bottle is perfect for your brew. I recall Enduro-mtb.com/en also did a portable coffee maker review too but that was next level. For those who really really care that much it may be worth it though. But the Aeropress is fairly good already. And as with everything in the bike industry, designed by an aerospace engineer.
  • 6 0
 @vinay: the aeropress is super sensitive though. If you're going to store hot water and travel with it, why not just travel with a hot coffee?

Also, the Fellow Prisma is a game changer if you don't mind metal filters, I highly recommend it as an aeropress accessory.
  • 1 0
 @RonSauce: It is part of the experience. There is more of a coffee ritual when you chill together as you grind the coffee rather than poor some coffee you already made up front. And of course, that option was too obvious to make a PB post for Wink . Boiling water on the spot may make it even more of an experience but that would imply carrying another piece of gear and the risk of starting a fire. That said, I never actually took the aeropress out riding though, only for camping. I personally never bothered with a metal filter. Paper filters are pretty good and the waste is harmless. Not that I'd litter it, but it is not a bad kind of waste if dumped in the dumpster.

As for sensitive, do you mean that it is vulnerable or just that there are a lot of variables? The one I have is the portable one where everything stores in the cup. So that's decent protection. With the grinder, it probably depends on which you have but the one I have is quite sturdy. It is actually made to fit onto the aeropress but with the required adaptor in between, I feel it is pretty finicky to use like that. It already has a cup for the grounds that fits directly under the grinder so you can go pretty wild without the risk of spilling the (ground) beans.
  • 1 0
 @vinay: sensitive meaning a slight time and/or temperature change makes a huge difference. Personally getting the coffee perfect is more important than where I throw it together. Carrying hot coffee on a ride already seems a little silly seeing as I'm rarely out for more than half a day.

I actually prefer the metal filters and the prisma attachment lets you play with variables like steeping and volume. You can actually press about 400g worth of coffee through 20g of grounds. Its a little less delicious, but if you're making coffee for the whole crew its helpful. I always reccomend it to anyone who loves playing with the aeropress.
  • 1 0
 @vinay: I keep a camp stove and bialetti espresso maker in my van. Some dark chocolate and espresso is the best post ride treat!
  • 2 0
 @RonSauce: How are you getting 400g of water into an Aeropress? Filling to #4 is under 300g.
  • 1 0
 @WheelNut: with a prisma and the valve it gives enough resistance to tilt the plunger and pull up without sucking in air from the bottom, then you just add more water. The quality is lesser, but you can press out a small pitcher that way.

Just below the 4 circle is about 200g
  • 1 0
 I like cold brew kept in a cooler for post ride in the summer. Perfect for the drive home.espically if I drive over an hour to a trailhead.
  • 21 0
 Espresso is a hobby of mine so this reading about it on PB is a bonus.
  • 2 0
 is my hobby as well, some sort of high level miscellaneous on coffee is ok here.. but as well as with bikes, snobbery is brutal, and I despise it. #lamarzoccomicra crowd will be awaken ; )
  • 15 0
 Yeeah, Alicia's back writing articles on PB! Coffee is very important. Sometimes (esp early mornings) more important than bikes.
One thing: "Canyon is European enough that I expect them to have slightly better taste in many things than I do" . They are German. Of the countries I often visit, Germany is lowest on the list of good coffee. If you don't mind a snobby look when you order Americanos, I recommend an Italian, French or Swiss brand.
  • 2 0
 Agree in general, but on the other hand they've got Five Elephant, The Barn, Populus and Bonanza, just to name a few
  • 12 0
 James Hoffman/Alicia Leggett crossover? I'm in.

How about making a bike powered grinder? Or even better, a whole espresso machine?

Can Loic Bruni properly froth milk by riding down Fort William with a jar strapped to his bars?

The possibilities are endless.
  • 14 0
 Great to see you back on your feet again, Alicia, as a writer/reporter and as a person. Hope you will be 110% in no time!
  • 11 0
 Glad to see you up and about, Alicia.
  • 8 0
 Best Sea Otter article so far. Welcome back Alicia!
  • 7 0
 Coffee machine review next! that's another endless rabbit hole
  • 4 0
 Steel is real.
  • 2 0
 coffee geeks riding bikes is a saturated group of people already. Wink
  • 3 0
 Love the vibe!

Since you like half half, Makeworth can probably do breve cappuccino, just sayin.

A quick cheat if you ever need to throw down - Latin American coffees lean towards nutty/cocoa, Asian coffee's lean towards spicy/earthy, and African coffees lean towards grassy/fruity.
  • 6 0
 Looks like Formula wasn’t there?
Come to Eurobike next time for some really great coffee!
  • 1 0
 overextracted ristrettos, yeah aahahahaha
  • 5 0
 Is trying to get as much free coffee at a bike show the adult equivalent of when I tried to get as many free stickers as possible as a child?
  • 6 0
 Ok this is awesome. Now what I really need is some dogs of Sea Otter content.
  • 2 0
 I loved this so much! By Sunday AM the Canyon coffee makers were cranking them out. My theory was the direction they faced and their position in the pits made random folks like me feel welcome. Specialized coffee was rotated 90 degrees from the entrance and it made me say to myself, "Is their coffee just for the important people?"
  • 4 0
 The burning questions are:
1. Did you get close to the sinkhole
2. Did you chuck anything in it, like the dregs of one of your coffeed or a tired piece of gum?
  • 2 0
 My rides are usually in the morning so a post ride coffee and breakfast burrito are my jam. In Santa Cruz? Hit up Cat and Cloud on west side. There's a brewery nearby too so you can make that decision on the spot if you choose (I don't drink so I choose coffee every time). Depends on how long your ride is. But maybe no matter if your ride ends before noon, you can have beer. Just like I can get a latte after noon, but before 3. I do have a caffeine cut-off time.

Thanks, Alicia, for this very relevant article. I 100% support this content.
  • 2 0
 11th Hour ftw! Cat n cloud is solid but 11th is on another level in my opinion
  • 3 0
 Coffee ratings and ambiance is how I would like to make my purchasing decisions in the future. Please revisit this next year!
  • 3 0
 This is the hard hitting journalism that brings me back to Pinkbike everytime. Glad to see you doing well and better Alicia!
  • 5 0
 Fuck yeah Alicia. So good to see your name back on some quality content.
  • 2 0
 Really cool. Would like to see a ranking/scoring system based on a handful of variables: wait time, condiments bar, order correctness, temperature, flavor, color, smell, size, price, etc.
  • 2 0
 Nice to see you out there Alicia. I saw you hanging out in the PB tent but didn't want to throw out an obnoxious greeting from the lemonade stand. My favorite was the flat white from the Specialized tent.
  • 3 0
 Very creative idea for an article! Totally agree oat milk is the way to go.
  • 5 0
 Great to see you again!
  • 2 0
 YMOP was a great book and made me want to read Pollan's previous book, How to Change your Mind (psychedelics). Which I did. His writing style is excellent and informative.
  • 4 0
 Glad to see you upright, Alicia! Wishing you a strong recovery!
  • 2 0
 Good to see Alicia up and about. I think that bump got your camera settings confused. It says, "North Pole, Alaska, United States" as the location. Big Grin
  • 3 0
 Canyon already offering discounts on waffles. Supply chain issues reconciling, big waffle must have made them commit early.
  • 2 0
 Great read! Living vicariously through this one. Nothing perks me up like free, high-end espresso drinks! Welcome back Alicia.
  • 1 0
 @AliciaLeggett Why not include the roaster and information on the beans (origin, roast level) which is arguable the most important information for a comprehensive coffee review?
  • 3 0
 The Rapha crew always pulls good espresso.
  • 8 0
 bugger the coffee those blueberry lemon waffles look great
  • 1 0
 Cofidis tends to bring the best libations
  • 1 0
 @p0rtal00: If I add blueberries to my waffles, do I need to use an equal amount less water? My current recipe is

1 tablespoon linseed (ground)
2 tablespoons water
(mix the two and set aside)

100g ground oats
100g almond flour (or buckwheat, or ...)
250ml water
some cinnamon
some salt
(mix the ones above and add the linseed mix)

Add a tablespoon of baking soda and two bananas and mix until everything is consistent. I take about 9min for baking them. This makes about eight waffles.

The recipe above works well now so I'm ready to experiment a bit more, but I'm anxious to try some wetter fruits. But could I just add 50g of berries and use 50ml less water or doesn't it work like that. My breakfast depends on your answer.
  • 4 1
 Welcome back! Fun easy read!
  • 3 0
 1) Welcome back!!!

2) Can we make coffee reviews a thing on PB please?
  • 1 0
 More coffee content! Gunna plug @tractioncoffee here. Get you some and show Shawn Neer some love.
  • 3 0
 Excellent. Go Alicia!
  • 3 0
 Welcome back
  • 2 0
 Finally some good content
  • 1 0
 @alicialegget Did Specialized offer specialty coffee? If not, opportunity missed Big Grin
  • 2 0
 Welcome back, Alicia!!! Hairbender coffee FTW!
  • 3 1
 Coffee over beer anytime! Love to read you again Mrs.Leggett.
  • 2 0
 One of the best MTB article I've ever seen !
  • 2 0
 Great article! Welcome back
  • 1 1
 i'm surprised you could drink that much coffee after a TBI. I had one in august and can't drink more than a cup now or I feel like I chugged 17 red bulls.
  • 1 0
 Rocket machines are amazing
  • 1 0
 Good to have you back! Smile
  • 1 0
 So glad you are back. Americanos are my jam too!
  • 1 0
 Do a tea article tomorrow!
  • 1 0
 Is that Anna Cipullo from GMBN?
  • 2 5
 According to this--https://nutritionfacts.org/2022/11/10/coffee-benefits-blocked-by-adding-milk/--from a nutritional standpoint, black coffee and milk coffee are barely the same drink
  • 1 0
 that website doesn't cite anything and show no signs of peer review. I would be careful how much I would take as truth from it. Never mind my bad I found the citations.
  • 2 0
 @Davemwhite: so slick it's difficult to believe it's not an infomercial, but the donor list is impressive and you've got to be on your game when promoting planetary health against entrenched interests
  • 1 0
 Great article!
  • 1 0
 3
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