Archive for barista competition

My Coffee

Posted in Coffee of Course with tags , , , , , , on January 10, 2012 by whyyoushouldhatecoffee

Throughout my time working in coffee and judging barista competitions I’ve noticed that my palette is very fond of approachable coffees.

Coffee with depth and complexity and a distinct yet subtle flavor characteristics.
Awesome.
Coffee you can drink and not think about while after finishing makes you think “wow, that was awesome. What was that”

My experience with this phenomenon almost always falls in the lap of coffee from El Salvador. In lesser cases Guatemala and Bolivia.

That being said, I am absolutely settled on using a Central/South American coffee for competition.
These coffees may be seen as “safe” in a competition setting, to me that absolutely doesn’t make them bad. It means the routine has to make up for and best communicate that specific coffee or the barista’s relationship with it.

After Kyle Glanville won the USBC with the Finca Matalapa, obviously from intelligentsia, And I started working at dogwood, I played around with El Salvadorian coffee as espresso. Kyle’s routine is one that I hold close. He won the USBC in Minneapolis, the first year I attended SCAA expo or any expo for that matter, and the first time I saw a barista competition. I regularly refer back to it.

Last year while thinking of competing we (Dogwood Coffee) had a coffee from El Salvador by the name of Finca La Ilúsion. If I were to compete, I was set on using this coffee. El Salvadorian coffee as espresso sings to my palette. Lovely citrus, paired with subtle complexity, and decent balance. Likely on the acidic side, but not too far and typically balanced with some other nuanced spice (cardamom, grains of paradise, cinnamon). I love it.

This season we weren’t able to get Finca La Ilúsion. It happens.

We did get some samples of some other El Salvador’s though. Stephanie Ratanas, our roaster/buyer, roasted two or three of them up as samples and brought them to the coffee bar where she and I tasted them as espresso. I honestly didn’t want to have any presumptions about the coffees other than that they were from El Salvador so I didn’t know the farm names or any other details.
What we settled on and what we bought was the Finca Alaska. Unbeknown to me, Another one of Juan José Ernesto Mendez’s coffee farms.

Over the next few weeks, and over the past few months, we’ve been adjusting/tweaking the roast profile so that I can a) get it dialed in b) get as familiar with all of the ways this coffee will extract and c) get comfortable with how it ages. (it’s vacuum packed, so hopefully it’ll last two more months, but who knows)

As of right now, I’m 80% sure this is going to be my competition coffee.
But who knows how the next few moths play out.

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The Importance of Travel

Posted in Coffee of Course with tags , , , on November 28, 2011 by whyyoushouldhatecoffee

On many occasion I have asked an employer if they would help me (financially) to attend certain things like regional barista competitions, national competitions, world competitions, and camp pull-a-shot.

I hate asking for money. It’s always made me feel uncomfortable. When I first thought of attending such events I was told by my then employer that they would love to help me out. At first I was shocked because to me at that time, it was vacation. I was working 70 hours a week on a salary, and this was a time to escape. Though it was a business trip and was still very much, if not more, coffee related it was a time to escape the day to day and gain knowledge and insight into other techniques, equipment and perspectives that other coffee people had.

I was and still am told that it’s valuable to the company that I work for to attend such events. To this point I honestly believe that. I believe that attending coffee events nationally is a two fold benefit. It benefits me in my professional career and it benefits the company that I work for in a number of ways.

To me, some of the greatest feelings I have are relating to a guest or in some way getting them to be excited about coffee or some aspect of coffee, whether it be a brewing device, a grinder or one specific coffee. The best ways I’ve found to do this are to either relate to them in some way that makes me/my company more knowledgeable/different (knowing a shop in this guests hometown or a specific barista is a powerful thing in that it can get people really excited/sentimental). The other way I’ve found to get guests excited is maybe obvious, but that is for myself to be excited. The simplest way to do that is to have some new or fresh perspective on something. Be that the newest coolest brewing device, or some new profound approach to use an old brewer, a new coffee. Excitement.

To me, this excitement is gained or significantly enhanced by traveling to events such as barista camp, or regional competitions. By doing so, I feel as though I’m a) more knowledgeable and b) more excited to give the product I have to my guests and c) refreshed from a mild vacation.

This may or may not be a statement for other baristas to help them get out and travel. I have no idea. I know it’s something I think about very much, whether it is worth it, and how much it’s worth. It’s always a difficult conversation for me. But it’s on my mind a lot so I figured I’d share it and see if anyone else has thoughts on the matter or maybe some equation.

SCAA 2011 Recap

Posted in Coffee of Course with tags , , , , , on May 7, 2011 by whyyoushouldhatecoffee

First off, Houston is a pretty lousy city (in terms of weather, from my Minnesota perspective). It was 70-85, super humid and always cloudy. It was 32 in Minneapolis. I arrived Monday, for the USBC judges workshop Tues. & Weds. And then the exposition/competitions Thurs.-Mon.

The coffee scene, is pretty rockin. More than I expected anyways. Catalina rocks a Linea Paddle a bunch of Mazzers and a V60 bar (Amaya coffee, and a rotating). Revival Market had an old Faema E61 that looked sweet! A Mazzer Major, and Chemex (Brown, Amaya, Ritual were all there when I stopped) I wasn’t able to stop out to Green way, but I heard good things!

The cocktail scene, was rather impressive. We stopped at a bar the first night that had an old Slush machine labeled Moscow Mule.
Anvil was super awesome! Classic cocktails, Tiki Tuesdays, and they had a pretty incredible liquor selection. Rittenhouse Rye well, lots of Mescal cocktails, cold draft ice and beautiful glassware. We spent some time there Tuesday, getting acquainted and then again Sunday for the BGA party.

The convention center was Red White and Blue and rather reminiscent of the Titanic with Red Smoke stacks paired up. Heck the whole inside was Red White and Blue too. I was pretty excited about that.

I went through the judges certification which seems like a drawn out regional certification. Lots of hypothetical questions, lots of getting off topic and distracted. Details. A lot of us were there trying to figure it out, from a competitor perspective. The nitty gritty is confusing if not simply subjective extrapolation of the rules and regs. Like a lot of things in the SCAA and BGA it shows a lot of potential for what the judging criteria could be in the future. There are a lot of things that are not perfect, but for what it is, the judging criteria is the best we have. I’m excited to see where it goes in the next few years.

I went to Houston for a few reasons. Mostly to judge the USBC and everyone involved with it. Secondly to see the brewers cup/cup tasters championships. Lastly to see the show floor (sometimes there’s exciting new stuff)

I don’t think enough words can be said for the amount of energy put into barista competition and how at home I feel with everyone involved with the USBC and the SCAA expo. Like a family reunion, that’s pleasant.

I really wish I could have spent more time checking out the brewers cup, simply for the sake that I think it could do a lot for brewed coffee in the Café environment. Which I think is super important, especially with the number of shops switching over to by-the-cup offerings, which are arguably poorly crafted compared to fetco extractors.

Lastly, the show floor. My first stop was The La Marzocco USA booth. Rightfully so. They had two Stradas, one decked out with Marco über scales built into the drip tray, with auto-taring after 3 seconds. Groovy! Secondly, the über boiler has a new chip, that allows it to read in degrees F and has some new boiler settings that I’m really excited to get installed at Dogwood. Second stop was the Synesso booth. I was a bit confused. They seem to be switching over to semi-auto groups. Or giving dual options. Seemed like a bit of a grasp for a new/larger customer base.
Lastly was the Baratza booth. The new grinders seem nice, but I can’t say much for them. I hope they pick up. I don’t have one, and we don’t sell them at Dogwood. I personally think it’s a huge investment, that doesn’t necessarily need to be made for home coffee. Though I’m not too concerned about my home coffee. Personal bias.
Coolest take home from the show: VST 17/18g basket. Holy awesome!
That’s a whole different post.