Four Need-to-Know Coffee Trends at HOST Milan


Photos courtesy of Katrina Yentch

As the online editor at Barista Magazine, I am having both my first international trade show and coffee competition experience in this position at HOST Milano 2021. What an honor it has been to watch my first ever World Coffee Champs after two long-awaited years of delays.

Since this is an international trade show, I’m focusing on trends not only within the coffee industry, but within the context of Italian coffee. Yes, you can bet that espresso will always be a way of life here. No matter how advanced filter coffee brewing gets, to many Italians, nothing will ever match the long-standing cultural tradition and comfort of receiving an espresso (alongside a bucket of sugar packets, of course).

Here are four trends we’ve witnessed at HOST Milano 2021:

Espresso Pod Machines

One trend in a pandemic-era world of coffee has been a focus on high-quality convenient coffee options, from instant packets to specialty-coffee pods. In this case, the Italian world of coffee has been challenging the brewer of these pods: the Nespresso machine itself.

Various manufacturers showcased plastic-free coffee pods, introducing materials like compostable cardboard to hold coffee. One particularly interesting form of pod that I experienced was one whose materials were very similar to the shape and texture of a tea bag. The coffee sat in these bags in a circular shape as the user “tamped” the machine onto it, brewing a shot in less than five seconds.

My obvious doubt with this system is the ability to hold any kind of pressure whatsoever onto the espresso. However, I do applaud something that appears to be the most compostable option for coffee pods yet.

My favorite part of this trend is the insane customizability and flashiness of these newer pod machines. They’re easily way cuter than any pod machine I’ve seen in someone’s home. It’s practically hard to believe these are coffee pod machines at first glance! Just look at these colors.

Questionable but adorable pod coffee makers at HOST.

Stand-Alone Steamers and Espresso Brewers

While I haven’t quite pieced together the reasoning for the boost in popularity (milk waste and customizability are the most common selling points at the moment), stand-alone milk frothers and espresso brewers are the latest in coffee innovation. They’re not only insanely high tech; they’re just as sleek and minimalist in design, and also resemble products that don’t look like they make coffee. In this case, think of all the home and café grinders that look like telescopes and equipment for optometrists.

Apart from La Marzocco’s own stand-alone milk steamer, Wally, one particularly interesting coffee product that we got to play with was Manument’s lever-style espresso brewer—a large machine that reminded me of the Alpha Dominche (RIP) steampunk tea brewer back in the mid-2000s era of coffee brewing innovation.

Built with coffee roasters in mind, the open-tank water system allows users to put basically whatever kind of water they want in it for coffee brewing (and you bet there were plenty of circulating jokes involving adding other sugary and fermented liquids in there) while customizing their pressure manually. Its features are made for true coffee nerds. However, its minimalist design and lever-style functionality emphasizes a simplicity they claim in “learning to brew in three tries.”

To test this motto, the Del Creatives-Barista Magazine party challenged several competitors to brew the best shot in 3 tries.

The lever-style espresso machine showcases a fusion of new tech with classic design in mind.

Water for Coffee

Speaking of water choice, lots of exhibitors are understanding the importance of water in coffee—something that even a lot of us baristas take extra time to understand before we live the truth of our early coffee education: Coffee is 98% water.

Countless booths are offering high-tech water options for coffee roasters, brewers, and espresso manufacturers—claiming to offer the best kind of minerals to enhance the best flavors within brewed coffees. They come in stylish forms like kegs holding nitro, and have further fueled my desire to be part of a water tasting.

“Dialing Back“ Espresso Machines

At some point, the more customizable espresso machines got, the more complicated they became. In connecting every espresso machine to Bluetooth and a touchscreen interface, certain concepts like PSI, pre-infusion, and dial-in logs became too much for a beginner barista to understand behind the bar, let alone program for an entire shift.

This trade show’s exhibitors are showcasing a variety of machines that certainly cater to that crowd, with edgy presentations by San Remo and Victoria Arduino. However, some booths are also presenting more minimalist and sleek formats in their renditions of a modern espresso brewing experience. They also have come in unique colors and simple interfaces, demonstrating an approachable and understandable format.

Biepi’s espresso machine—or coffee table?

One company that has showed me this style is Biepi, whose recent collaboration with WhyNot Designs resulted in an espresso machine model that looks like a coffee table at first glance. Another brand that has stolen the show is Storm, whose espresso machine interface looks like a production pad for musicians—simply turn knobs to customize your dial-in.

The Storm espresso machine showcasing a different way to customize espresso.

We’re slowly wrapping up the madness at HOST, with World Coffee Champs getting better and better, so stay tuned on our Instagram to get the latest updates from our lens!

About Katrina Yentch 221 Articles
Katrina Yentch (she/her) is a freelance writer and Barista Magazine's Online Editor. When she's not writing, you can find her napping, cooking, and drinking whatever's on drip.