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Thread: Barista comps

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    TC
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    Barista comps

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    [minirant]I spent a total of about 10 minutes at MICE over the weekend at the various comp stages. The more I watch these evolve, the less relevant they seem to be.

    • Coffee is not acceptable unless it was picked out of previously undiscovered stands of rainforest on a full moon between the hour of 12pm and 2am by virgins
    • The barista has little relevance to real world coffee. How many cafes serve coffee cocktails?
    • Cup tasting? Yep, get that and sure it's a good thing that some people have good palates and can display that. Relevant to real world cafes? Probably not when most drinks continue to be milky.
    • Pretty pictures? If you want- so long as the coffee tastes good
    • Coffee in good spirits? Let's just have a whisky/ey tasting instead and not taint it with cream

    I'd love to see a comp where the barista is given a machine and all of them use the same coffee, same grinder (deliberately out of whack) and same milk. They draw 5? 10? random coffee orders from a fishbowl and they make 'em in however many minutes. No more BS about how they came to choose the coffee. In fact, maybe they don't talk at all. They can just wear a superhero suit if they choose. Give the coffee to the judges and let them decide who has the real skills.

    At the end of the comp, perhaps the guy who makes the tamper trophies can actually present them rather than be pushed to the side just before the presentation because somebody "paid" (one way or another) to have the right to present the trophies.

    Time to revisit this comp format which is now becoming a "Best in Show" but for people who make coffee rather than people who groom and train dogs?[/minirant]

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    Senior Member Rocky's Avatar
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    I am yet to see my first Barista Competition.
    I did however enjoy watching the You Tube videos of Matt Perger and Pete Licata that someone posted on here some months ago.
    These were immensely entertaining (in a sort of 'other-worldly' way) and I made a mental note to try to catch one of these comps in Melbourne in the future.
    All of these "best of" competitions are the same - Best Car of Show, Best Dog, Best Red Wine, etc - in that you're comparing apples with oranges and tweaking the criteria slightly could potentially throw up a set of different results.
    It's really 'just entertainment' isn't it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
    I'd love to see a comp where the barista is given a machine and all of them use the same coffee, same grinder (deliberately out of whack) and same milk. They draw 5? 10? random coffee orders from a fishbowl and they make 'em in however many minutes. No more BS about how they came to choose the coffee.
    I wholeheartedy disagree.

    I have as much interest in seeing what I can see every day at my local cafe - that is, a busy person behind a machine - as I do in seeing stock standard Hyundai i30s driving on the road; home videos of random people and their families; or an u12s swimming lesson - all of which better reflect "real world scenarios" than do F1, Hollywood movies and the Olympics.

    None of the latter(s) come close to being relevant to "the real world", and yet all display people pushing the boundaries of what was previously thought possible, are far more entertaining and inspiring than the former, and are what people pay to see.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocky View Post
    It's really 'just entertainment' isn't it.
    Yes and no Rocky. When you have baristas who have mind coaches, other coaches flown in from the other side of the world, train for competition for 6 (or was that 12 months) a year and do nothing at the coalface, it's like competing in the 100m but with full and free access to the drug cupboard.

    For me the entertainment value has waned considerably across the last 5 years. I find that it's becoming "just BS"- little more than a pi$$ing contest for cashed up biggies.
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    Senior Member summercrema's Avatar
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    I just hope these coffee competitions won't one day have pole dancing girls on site doing promote for the event which happened many years ago in PC Show at Darling Habour.

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    Senior Member Vinitasse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by summercrema View Post
    I just hope these coffee competitions won't one day have pole dancing girls on site doing promote for the event which happened many years ago in PC Show at Darling Habour.
    You make it sound like that would be a bad thing

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    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
    Yes and no Rocky. When you have baristas who have mind coaches, other coaches flown in from the other side of the world, train for competition for 6 (or was that 12 months) a year and do nothing at the coalface, it's like competing in the 100m but with full and free access to the drug cupboard.

    For me the entertainment value has waned considerably across the last 5 years. I find that it's becoming "just BS"- little more than a pi$$ing contest for cashed up biggies.
    Once again you'd hit the nail on the head Chris, nice to hear from people who see things as they really are, rather than the rubbish the spin doctors would like to have us mere mortals believe.

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    Senior Member chokkidog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by summercrema View Post
    I just hope these coffee competitions won't one day have pole dancing girls on site.
    So, ........you haven't been to MICE ??

    They just didn't bring their poles......;-D
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    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Love your way with words Chris....

    Can fully understand where you're coming from too, but only from what I read about these events; never been to one and probably never will.

    Mal.

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    Super Moderator scoota_gal's Avatar
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    I think both sides of the discussion here are on the mark.

    I cringe to think that the World Barista championship has no real relevance to real life.

    But as pointed out, so too does some of the elite level competition for various athletics.

    Meanwhile, we can't all be super hero's of competition I guess. Some of us aspire to other great heights that do reflect on what we do in real life, without the fanfare of a "world" or "national" competition.

    In reality, I don't think that these competitions will change format to come back to being close to reality. As it was said, it doesn't make for all that riveting watching!

    Sometimes you find yourself moving along and noticing that there is in fact, nothing to see here...
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    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Nicely said Scoots...

    Mal.
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    Senior Member GrahamK's Avatar
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    I suppose F1 racing bears no relation to real life either, although no doubt more exciting than Barista comps, however quite a lot of innovation that does eventually apply to the man in the street comes out of such elite levels which have the money for R&D, hopefully that applies to coffee comps as well.

    GrahamK
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    Senior Member chokkidog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scoota_gal View Post
    As it was said, it doesn't make for all that riveting watching!

    Sometimes you find yourself moving along and noticing that there is in fact, nothing to see here...
    My son and I dropped in on the final of the world latte art comp....... I couldn't have said it better myself Scoota.

    There was in fact nothin' to see there....... they didn't even have an overhead camera set up, ........saw one competitor.........

    and moved on.

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    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    ....I await the World Gardening Championships with bated breath....particularly the 'weeding' category.
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    Senior Member GrahamK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barry O'Speedwagon View Post
    ....I await the World Gardening Championships with bated breath....particularly the 'weeding' category.
    Apparently big strides been made in that & paint drying. :-)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barry O'Speedwagon View Post
    ....I await the World Gardening Championships with bated breath....particularly the 'weeding' category.
    Yeah- but you won't have a hope of being able to compete unless you're bankrolled by Monsanto who will also be paying to the present the custom weeders to the winners. Too bad for the artisan who makes the weeders :P

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    Someone who has a small interest in something goes to an event and sees and feels an atmosphere that heightens their senses and drives them to embark on training to learn more and try new techniques, purchase better equipment and changes their perspective on many levels, even if only one person is affected this way I see it as a good thing. As Grahamk states plenty of innovation comes from events like these that are adopted into mainstream practice.

    How many people go to a AFL match and gain enjoyment from the experience though they will never play at that elite level themselves. Does this mean that AFL is just BS and not relevant, come on guys your attacking the elite of an industry for being inspired by their chosen craft. Isn't it that same coffee that inspires you to be a member of a forum and dissect that coffee craft to the nth degree or that passion of people for coffee that supports your business. It might not be your thing to watch but there were many a call out from the crowds appreciating what was going on.

    Met a young Canberra barista today that was so excited and inspired from attending her first major competition that she has decided to work harder, learn more and travel to the worlds for inspiration and travel to coffee producing countries to understand more of the journey from origin and how she can have a role in that. Awesome all from being at MICE.

    Who are we to judge others for being passionate about what they do, sure we all have our thing.
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    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    CC22,

    As far as these things relate to making better coffee...or inspire young people to pursue a dream....I agree with you entirely. And regardless, whatever people enjoy is fine by me.

    But, the analogy with elite sporting teams etc is not quite on all fours with the current discussion of barista comps. Players in an AFL game are playing fundamentally the same game as the Oakleigh Dropbears....just a lot better. I think people's ambivalence towards some barista comps is that what is on show includes a lot of superfluous stuff that has not much necessarily to do with making a great coffee, or making lots of great coffee in a constrained time period. Maybe it's Bryan Brown and Tom Cruise's fault.
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    Super Moderator scoota_gal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barry O'Speedwagon View Post
    ....I await the World Gardening Championships with bated breath....particularly the 'weeding' category.
    Barry, they already have that.

    It's called the Chelsea Flower show and showcases everything from flowers to full on gardens and yes, it has a competition.

    TalkCoffee...please don't mention Monsanto here. It's bound to get me going......oh. Too late, you already did but I shall keep my fingers crossed and stop them from typing any more! haha!

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    Senior Member GrahamK's Avatar
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    Agree with some of your sentiments CC22, but a caveat to that is when things become too elitist, less gregarious and more introverted people can be intimidated and choose not get involved. They should maybe have different levels of comp which would be more inclusive, and maybe make it more fun.

    Having said that I have to confess of not ever having watched a comp as yet, so should probably bow out gracefully, as talking theoretically only.

    GrahamK

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    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scoota_gal View Post
    Barry, they already have that.

    It's called the Chelsea Flower show and showcases everything from flowers to full on gardens and yes, it has a competition.

    I know Scoots (I almost got dragged to it one day)....but they judge the end product, not the pruning dance

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    I agree that it is a little elitist and Chris's comment on people having a financial backing may not be a totally just way of making it to the competition to be somewhat correct, but we do have state rounds and they are open for anyone to enter. How you progress through this process may need a little more transparency however.
    Relevance of whats on display ¨superfluous stuff that has not much necessarily to do with making a great coffee¨ try and get a job as a barista these days without being able to show the magic on top of the cup and you don´t have a chance although I agree a picture doesn't mean you have made a great coffee ¨but the industry requirements dictates that it does. Great milk dispersion means so much more as we know but most consumers want a quadruple swan with a heart on the side. So I believe that while the consumer is led to believe that a picture represents great coffee, competitions will continue on it's current trajectory. I still think that competitions have some flow on affect to coffee producers/cafe's that are looking to improve whats in the cup.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GrahamK View Post
    Agree with some of your sentiments CC22, but a caveat to that is when things become too elitist, less gregarious and more introverted people can be intimidated and choose not get involved. They should maybe have different levels of comp which would be more inclusive, and maybe make it more fun.

    Having said that I have to confess of not ever having watched a comp as yet, so should probably bow out gracefully, as talking theoretically only.

    GrahamK
    Made me think.. . I'd love to rock up with my Gaggia Classic in the entry level amateurs, get some constructive criticism/ advice, & if I find myself in the zone on the day , walk away champion, carrying the prize: 250g of roasted from Bean Bay!

    God... there could even be a pod section.

    Now That would be great fun. Shall we?

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    Senior Member chokkidog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shortblackman View Post
    ... there could even be a pod section.
    With the look of the main floor at MICE this year your words may well be prophecy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by chokkidog View Post
    With the look of the main floor at MICE this year your words may well be prophecy.
    Off topic a little but got to agree chokkidog, pods pods and more pods.

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    I disagree Chris, the barista competition as with the brewers cup are great for coffee. I think its a good thing that it's become more about processing and growing methods rather than barista skills, more about the raw products rather then gadgets and technique.
    It probably tells us more about where we are with coffee now. We know how to make it, we know how to roast it, but processing/drying has a big impact on flavor and so it's now also being explored.
    You could be right that the format perhaps has become a little too easy for well practiced barista's. I'm guessing that most would be scoring close to 100% on technical with all of the differences being on sensory and explanation.
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    Super Moderator scoota_gal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shortblackman View Post
    Made me think.. . I'd love to rock up with my Gaggia Classic in the entry level amateurs, get some constructive criticism/ advice, & if I find myself in the zone on the day , walk away champion, carrying the prize: 250g of roasted from Bean Bay!
    If my memory serves...

    What seems like A Long Long Time Ago...

    Di Bartoli started this on their stand at the Sydney coffee expo. Well, at the very least they had a home barista competition one year and it was huge fun and certainly far from serious. Might even have contributed to some home barista's going on to become professionals.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic_couple22 View Post
    try and get a job as a barista these days without being able to show the magic on top of the cup and you don´t have a chance although I agree a picture doesn't mean you have made a great coffee ¨but the industry requirements dictates that it does.
    Interesting comment. As it has become an industry standard, its also led to an acute skills shortage. Once you can you'll never be out of work again. It is important because it demonstrates some level of dedication to the craft. I get barista's all the time applying for jobs who have worked for years and can't pour a heart. Why not? Did they never try? Did they not care enough about what they were making to try and improve it's presentation?

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    Senior Member chokkidog's Avatar
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    I don't think for a minute that Chris is eschewing the value of legit competition. Going to MICE this year, more than the first two years,
    gave me the impression that the corporate dollar is muscling in on an industry that has, largely, been born and given life by the
    passion, drive and accomplishment of the artisan coffee maker, be it grower, roaster or barista.

    It's not 'til you go out the back, to the annexe, that the faithful remnant can be found, people like our own beloved Andy, Joe Behm,
    the small dairies like Procal and Sungold, the small coffee gear retailers and the representatives
    of some of our coffee producing countries not receiving much support from their governments.

    Where are the small artisan roasters who have given the press so much to write about, who have become the fabric and colour of
    our food experience and everyday life? Priced out of the market. Yet without them we would still think that instant was as good as it gets.

    It was the emergence of the independent roaster that has given rise to that which we seek to celebrate on weekends
    such as this, yet their (relative) absence is more than conspicuous. It's a travesty.

    I would love to see competition that promotes excellence in technique, that relates directly to the roots of coffee production, that
    celebrates what to some may seem ordinary and connects all of us in the pursuit of better coffee.

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    Quote Originally Posted by muppet_man67 View Post
    Interesting comment. As it has become an industry standard, its also led to an acute skills shortage. Once you can you'll never be out of work again. It is important because it demonstrates some level of dedication to the craft. I get barista's all the time applying for jobs who have worked for years and can't pour a heart. Why not? Did they never try? Did they not care enough about what they were making to try and improve it's presentation?
    Absolutely, one has to practice and show a commitment to their craft to produce latte art however I would still prefer a barista who understands milk distribution rather than one who just knows how to do a sweet tulip. You can achieve one without the other, plenty of articles online to support the argument that one needs to perfect the milk pour before perfecting latte art.

    But again I do agree with you, today we have to be able to do both.

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    Senior Member mwcalder05's Avatar
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    So here are the thoughts of a barista in the industry who had too much coffee at work and is now up at 3am..grrr..

    I think some baristas can definitely just be about show ponying. You can tell by the delivery of the barista. One can be there just to entertain the judges, make some nice looking and tasting beverages and that's all good. Good for them for showing up.

    However, a lot world competitors are about innovation. Innovation in technique, roasting, growing, harvesting, milking and probably more. These competitors show their knowledge and passion for the coffee. They know about harvesting times because they have tried it and decided that that time was legitimately the best. They work with the farmers to get their quality higher so they can raise their prices and pay better wages for workers.

    Without the WBC, would the specialty coffee industry really take notice of Matt and his EK? I don't think so. The championships do a lot of good for furthering every aspect of the industry. Even if three quarters of customers still drink a latte or FW, the beverage that they get will be the best coffee they have tasted and continue to get better.

    Michael

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    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
    For me the entertainment value has waned considerably across the last 5 years. I find that it's becoming "just BS"- little more than a pi$$ing contest for cashed up biggies.
    The term that jumps to my mind is "wank"...
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    Quote Originally Posted by mwcalder05 View Post
    Without the WBC, would the specialty coffee industry really take notice of Matt and his EK?l
    *Waiting for someone's smarmy negative comment about EK's, so before it comes...*

    Whatever you think about the particular innovative idea a particular barista comes up with in competition, Michael is right - and I am so thankful for the innovation in coffee these people come up with. Yes even Paul Bassett with his insane updose which pushed the industry to drink underextracted ristretto's for years. Innovation, experimentation and growth are what will continue to create better coffee, and better coffee culture.

    Love it.

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    IMHO the whole coffee industry has turned "wank"in the last 5 or so years.
    But thats expected when the majority of people involved in it are, dare I say it w...... .
    Its all about money folks,money.
    Now wheres my organic, hand picked, sundried, Australian grown cherry thats roasted to how it should be,served in a plunger?
    Try ordering one of those in this country and see how far you get!!!
    No theatrical bullsh*t required.No advertising executive/sales person getting their commision per kg.No unhappy farmer being gently stroked on the other side of the world.
    Its amazing how hot water and a roasted coffee bean or two can create so much energy,both positive and negative.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bames View Post
    *Waiting for someone's smarmy negative comment about EK's, so before it comes...*
    Quote Originally Posted by jbrewster View Post
    The term that jumps to my mind is "wank"...
    jbrewster got it in one....

    The way to win one of these is to have a very large company bankroll your bid with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Your "tender" (aka bid) should probably then include something "new" in an attempt to gain the attention of the judges. More likely than not, something used in a way it was not designed for. We'll no doubt see other brands of deli grinders used for the same purpose...Cue the pole dancers for the entourage....

    There is way too much hyperinflated ego and yes, a number of wanker detectors are being tripped by it...

    If this show was about innovation, the espresso side of this comp would now be run on manual pressure profile style machines- Strada EP style, not a boring HX machine (money talks yet again). Then we'd see if there was true talent in the room.

    In my opinion, it's no longer about the coffee. It hasn't been for a long time. Ego is the big winner.
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    I went down to MICE last week and had the exact same conversation with the business owner and operations manager about the competitions, for me they are to unrealistic of the environment that most people actually work in.

    12 coffees in 15 minutes with only 3 different sorts of drinks give me a break, if I was working at that speed in the cafe I would cop an absolute rocket.

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    Some thoughts...

    A couple of decades back, wine took off in Australia because of the dedication and skills of a number of 'boutique' vignerons. (sp?) Then the 'biggies' moved in and shortly there was maybe 2 or 3 large companies who owned almost all of it and we lost a lot of good labels. In recent times the return of the small vineyards and labels has enlivened the market again and once more excellent wines are available for those who like good value and taste.

    IMO the coffee scene is at the stage where the 'biggies' have been raking in profits and recreating the scene to suit themselves - to me, pods are the equivalent of casks. It's a little different though because there are still small roasters and with coffee you don't just buy a bottle and walk away - how it gets in the cup also matters.

    Maybe there should be 2 comps? One for the wank-factor and one where the emphasis is on satisfying expert palates with standard coffee beans - perhaps from a variety of roasters/growers, manual profiling - to test the real skill of the barista, and performance - testing just how the level of performance is under pressure.

    I watched a guy in Royal Women's the other day while waiting for the missus - he produced very good coffees at an incredible rate on a 4 group LaCimbali - in 35 minutes, he and the guy on the 3 group LaCimbali produced 120 coffees and the other guy did maybe 35 of them - I know the figure because I was 388 and they were calling out 415 and 420 as I walked past after finishing breakfast and coffee.

    THAT, to me, is performance. I wasn't worried that all I got was a basic fan on the coffee, it was a great taste and well made and was ready literally as I walked up to the counter after getting my brekkie - the girl at breakfast counter ordered it via the till as I paid - walked maybe 20 metres around to get the coffee and it was sitting there.

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    While a barista who can churn out coffees fast is, well interesting I guess, it does nothing for me. I would rather wait an extra 5 minutes and get sensational delicate flavours that have been uncovered by - what all you people call the "wank" factor - than the same standard tasting coffee you get from the same standard cafe, that you can get from most any standard machine with most any standard bean in most any standard basket by most any standard barista. Achieving this 30 seconds faster than the shop next door does not impress, and is not what specialty coffee is about. It's what vending machines are about.

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    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Sommeliers and over the top baristas have one common attribute, the wank factor.
    When I order a coffee or a bottle of wine the last thing I need or want is some supercilious Basil Fawlty type fool hovering around trying to sound "knowledgable"
    Perhaps some may be impressed by this tom foolery, however most find this fawning behaviour over bearing.

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    Coffee Nut fg1972's Avatar
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    Love the opening post.
    I too am not that interested in a show and pictures in the milk.
    However I'm extremely interested when one can do an exceptional espresso without all the fancy fluff that sometimes goes with it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bames View Post
    While a barista who can churn out coffees fast is, well interesting I guess, it does nothing for me. I would rather wait an extra 5 minutes and get sensational delicate flavours that have been uncovered by - what all you people call the "wank" factor - than the same standard tasting coffee you get from the same standard cafe, that you can get from most any standard machine with most any standard bean in most any standard basket by most any standard barista. Achieving this 30 seconds faster than the shop next door does not impress, and is not what specialty coffee is about. It's what vending machines are about.
    You must have missed the bit where I mention it was a very good coffee? Definitely one of the better coffees I've had in Melbourne, including from the 'specialty' places that rely on the wank factor to fool people into thinking they are getting value for money.

    There's nothing standard about a highly polished professional delivering great coffee faster than most places produce crap.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Journeyman View Post
    You must have missed the bit where I mention it was a very good coffee? Definitely one of the better coffees I've had in Melbourne, including from the 'specialty' places that rely on the wank factor to fool people into thinking they are getting value for money.

    There's nothing standard about a highly polished professional delivering great coffee faster than most places produce crap.
    So. All other things being equal - eg the coffee produced is excellent - you are more impressed with speed and I am more impressed with innovation. Just a difference of value. It's just that the WBC sits on my side of the fence.

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    True dat...

    I have nothing against innovation if the quality remains. But I've been to blind wine tastings where the supposed 'experts' would pontificate at length about the qualities of a wine and get it totally wrong. I don't think the wank factor refers so much to people trying new things as to the pseudo-elevation to superiority they ooze from their pores as they attempt to convince people that 'planted at 3AM, with an east wind, on a total eclipse' somehow makes their coffee supreme.
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    Maybe we should introduce coffee enimas to the competitions,just for entertainment value.
    After all,they are quite popular.

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    Quote Originally Posted by elbeano View Post
    Maybe we should introduce coffee enimas to the competitions,just for entertainment value.
    After all,they are quite popular.
    And then we could could all debate the relative merits of various tamping (plunging) pressures, dosage and steeping times
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    Quote Originally Posted by elbeano View Post
    Maybe we should introduce coffee enimas to the competitions,just for entertainment value.
    After all,they are quite popular.
    Ain't nobody got time fo' dat!...

    And one shudders to think about the puck...
    Attached Images Attached Images
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    Barista comps

    Well said Chris! One ASSCA sanctioned event I went to had a barista bringing out the delicate flavours of the coffee with cucumber infused water at precisely 68 degrees (NSW barista champs 2012)
    What a load of rubbish! Coffee comps are not relavant unless they don't try and replicate real world situations.

    How about: 40 impatient customers in front of machine , set your grind with a half bag of aging coffee , then fix up the grind as the new fresher bag of coffee gets through the hopper. All the time maintaining amazing calm and poise with fantastic extraction.
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    Interesting discussion.

    I think that a more real world situation could be made to be entertaining if there was one comp that encompassed the specialty coffee scene as a whole. Instead of having these separated different events. Which I think are just an attempt to elevate the " Status " of coffee, after all most people say " Its just coffee, get over it " give them some Blend43.

    Just off the top of my head....A setup that you would find in a typical larger emerging specialty coffee shop.
    I think espresso machines that offer PID temp control and pressure profiling is a great idea.
    Various grinders and manual brewing methods to choose from, Big conicals, Eks and other big flats.
    Say 2 different blends and 3 SO to choose from, hailing from different specialty roasters and your different types of milk.

    Then get say 10 to 15 ?? coffee professionals, say a mix of trained judges / cuppers ect, specialty roasters and or equipment suppliers to pre place their order, its the same for each competitor who has no idea what they will be. Baristas that have competed are kept separate from those who have not.
    Each Barista gets certain amount of time to make all these different personalized beverages. Then the judges fill out a standard judging form.

    A barista that can do well in this unpredictable varied environment would have to have a very rounded and skillful approach to all things coffee.

    I guess it kinda draws slightly on the Masterchef paradigm, but with less choreographed BS.

    Events like this would TRULY inspire people in the real world specialty coffee scene to make better coffee of all methods.
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    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    +1 to Talk Coffee's frustration with style over substance.

    Further to Steve82's thoughts here are a few more for consideration.

    My personal vote for the MICE tests would have a few categories.


    1) Technical excellence – three stages for ALL contestants. Separate awards for each class, plus an overall award.

    a) Using the same basic, badly in need of a clean (i.e. low end) set of grinder / plunger / aeropress / siphon / espresso machine / coffee frother and the same two batches of coffee (one good medium roast SO, one good darker roast) & ONE suitable batch of milk: clean, calibrate and get the best you can out of your chosen bits of gear. 20 minutes to clean the gear properly (all cleaning gear on hand, or bring you own “non invasive” bits). Another (say) 20 minutes to provide one good latte (no art, just a single letter to see how stable the milk froth is) and one good espresso per judge out of each batch. Use “as shipped” Sunbeam or Breville “true espresso machines” (i.e. no dual floor baskets or other horrors) and matching basic grinders. Perhaps Sunbeam or Breville could provide loan machines & sponsor it?
    b) same as above using mid range espresso gear. Perhaps Mazzer / Exobar / their competitors could be approached to loan out the gear.

    c) same as above using their own personal grinder of choice (no price limit) and an “as shipped” EP Strada. No cleaning time, the Strada is already cleaned. That means it only has the standard profiles stored, and it records the profiling used by the contestant to settle any judging disputes. Latte art if you must, however a minimum of a single letter is all that is required.


    Anyone who could take out all three categories would be an extraordinary technical barista in every sense of the word.



    2) Speed class: generate xxxx coffees from the “MICE standard blend beans” worth drinking in (say) 10 minutes using whatever gear you wish to bring. The judges have to set the quality standard fairly high so ANY poor cups brought to them are a fail for the contestant. Fastest Quality Barista Award.


    3) Latte art: two classes, one free pour and one using whatever needles / nail files / paper clips / spoons or other implements fancied. No taste test, however it must be stable for 20+ minutes or it is a total fail on the milk texture (I can hear the howls from wannabee artists from here...).


    4) Speciality coffee: whatever floats your boat (think harvested by a new moon from the southern slope). Two classes, each with their own awards. All earlier “top three” entrants are automatically qualified in the “Top Coffee” class, however this time they have a choice of bean & roast if they choose to go for it.

    a) The obligatory plain espresso & “lettered latte”. Top Speciality Coffee (light to medium roast SO) and Top Speciality Coffee (traditional espresso) awards.

    b) At least five other different styles of coffee from the same batch. May include chile icecream or coriander leaves steeped in Grand Marnier for all I care. Ditto hot / cold / warm / iced. Half marks for presentation, half for the flavour in the cup. Top Coffee Recipe award(s).



    It would almost be worth a 'plane fare from the west just to see it.

    TampIt
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