Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Problems with Barista Competitions

I have recently competed in the GBC (short of Grand Barista Championship) which was hosted by Danes coffee. Having went through the heats and did not get into the finals or even top 10, but I did go away with some thoughts on the competition both Positive and Negative.

First let's talk about the Negative, I think too little is concentrated on the final cup and too much is emphasised on the presentation, imagine you are a customer getting a coffee from your favourite coffee shop, what matters to you the most is how your coffee taste and whether you can get that consistent coffee everytime. Personally I can't give a rat about what brand of Jeans the barista is wearing or whehter he speaks like your local radio station DJ... that's why you waiter/waitress! It's their job to do a professional presentation, for the coffee maker (don't like to use the word Barista for some reason) it's our job to concentration everything into the cup, let the Coffee speak for itself and for whoever that's making it. I am a big fan of the Japanese Cooking Show "the Iron Chef", and it's great to see chefs putting all of their heart of soul into whatever dish they are making, and it's only scored on the final products. I think Coffee Competition shoud learn something from it, maybe someone should start a competition called "the Iron Coffee Geeks"...LOL..
Another problem is the Espresso machine settings which was set to a Static 92c and 9Bars of pressure, so basically I had to design my coffee to work around this setting, which I think is kind of crap. Imagine you just came across a fanstic coffee and would like to share this with the Judges, but the coffee requires a high temperature and a low pressure which means you cannot use it for competition because of this constraint. I think the competition machine should work around whichever bean the competitor is using, Competition should get machines with easily adjusted brew temperature and pressure and the competitor can submit their desired temperature/pressure before the competition, the machine can be easily set to the target values before the presentation.
OK, enough on the negatives... more for later. Now the positives on Competitions.

I think compeitions are great in getting everyone involved, both customers and people in the industry, it promotes coffees in both quantity and quality which is great for the coffee farmers. It inspires Coffee Makers to reach new heights, it inspires roasters to try harder.

So for sure competition is a good thing for everyone, just that it needs constant evolving to get to what it really stand for..... Quality of the cup!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Espresso Shots

Ever heard of the industry standard espresso shot volume and time? 25-30ml in 25-30sec.
I guess they have that standard there so even idiots can pull shots, I am not saying that standard is wrong as in most cases it can probably achieve a reasonable tasting espressos. But this standard does not factor in a lot of variables, for example if the beans are fresh it will achieve that volume in a much shorter time as there are a lot more crema than liquid and vice verse if you have stale beans, Temperature of your brewing water, brew pressure, type of beans and the roast degree. I have seen truly amazing shots that's pulled in near the 1 minute mark. So what's the irony here? As a Barista it's our duties to experiment with different types of method to achieve the best possible outcome for the particular type of beans we are using. And most importantly, taste,taste and taste....

Below are a few images from the shots I pulled using the Aroma Felice Blend, shots didn't taste too bad actually.

Initial stage of the shot, should look like honey being poured, broken but not quite broken stream. If the first few drops looks watery it may indicate a channeling in the coffee cookie,
chuck it out and redo! LOL...

Middle stage of the shot, stream becoing more steady and even and only broken near the bottom
before it hits the cup.

Towards the end of the shot, now 2 constant running stream with no broken bits, colour starting
to get lighter but still has viscosity as not mouse tailing. Most of the flavours would have been
extracted at this point.