Ken Davids enhanced 2If there’s one writer who both predicted and created the coffee resurgence we currently enjoy, it’s Kenneth Davids. His classic book, Coffee, A Guide to Buying, Brewing and Enjoying is still the definitive coffee text. I’m proud of my own work, but I’d be delusional if I thought I had anything to do with causing Specialty Coffee to happen, and Davids did help make it happen. Few may know this, but Davids actually opened one of the first Bay Area coffee bars in the 1970s. He’d written a fiction novel, and then wrote the first book on the subject we now call Specialty Coffee. That book is in its nth edition, in fact I think a new one is coming out soon.

In the Internet Age, Ken David’s blog is equally famous. Founded in 1997 with Ron Walters, the site now hosts nearly one million unique visitors per year, nearly one-third of them from outside the United States. Coffee Review originated the 100-point rating system for coffee, well before this approach was adopted by other segments of the coffee industry. Those of you who are wine drinkers know of Robert Parker, likely the number one known wine reviewer. Davids is coffee’s Parker. He tastes more coffees in a year, than most of us do in a lifetime. He’s admired and feared, as a good reviewer should, by most of the industry. I’ve had some roasters tell me how much they enjoy the – that is until they receive a less-than-stellar review! Then they squawk about his bias.

All reviewers are biased, but clearly Davids does something right. He’s read and quoted by the industry. I’ve known him since the mid-1990s, when he took a shine to my own humble writings and we became friends. I’m proud that he’s coming to CoffeeCon to share his vast knowledge and tasting experiences with us.

Here’s a sample of what his presentation will contain:

  • The importance of reviewing coffee, both for the consumer and the coffee industry;
  • How Coffee Review approaches the issue of relativity of taste, in other words, how Coffee Review grapples with the problem of assigning an absolute score when individual tastes and styles of coffee vary;
  • How reviewing coffee is both like reviewing other beverages like wine, and how it is different, and how Coffee Review tries to recognize and celebrate the differences;
  • How Coffee Review grapples with the special problems of reviewing espresso.


To coin the language of a gambler friend of mine, you can’t really be a player unless you know the language and the rules. Kenneth Davids knows all the language and rules of coffee. Luckily for both of us, he’s a cheerfully unassuming presenter and will educate us without making us feel inadequate. We’ll only walk away enlightened and better able to describe what we’re tasting and read and understand his pronouncements of the world’s great beans.

This is a must-do on your CoffeeCon Chicago short list.