23 Comments Video 12 – Barista Competitions (I’m back!)

  1. Nick Cho

    Don’t forget: (as far as I know) the original latte art throwdown was at SCAA 2007 Long Beach at the Intelligentsia LA Roasting Works! For everyone who was there, it was pure electricity!

  2. Kenny Smith

    Well James I must say that I completely agree with you in terms of the volume of performances that competition level baristas get to experience. But I do think that many people see it as a “best of the best” scenario by the sheer amount of commitment required to ever make it to a competition. Most baristas who are actually competing at WBC or even regionals have spent a huge amount of time not just behind the bar practicing, but also setting up mock ups of what the competition will entail. I think that points back to what you said about the huge difference between experiencing a competition and just day to day work as a barista.

    Something I would really like to is an exploration of how coffees can change depending on the brewing method used. The tradition of espresso, cappuccino, and signature drink can be a good test of skill and exhibit much about the coffee, but it just seems so limiting to me. It would be really great to see some experimentation with common brewing methods, but also to see some newer and more innovative stuff as well.

    My biggest hope is that things like your UBC will spark more of the attitude of bringing competition to where we are instead of going to the major cities to compete once or twice a year. For instance, I live in Louisville, Kentucky where there are probably 10-15 local shops, only 1 or 2 of which are decent. None of them are doing anything about expanding the coffee community, the shop I work at has lots of decent baristas but only 2-3 of us have a passion for competition. I am a big advocate of sharing knowledge and working together, most people like coffee but some of them don’t know it yet.

    Great vid James, thanks for creating a much needed stir in specialty coffee.

  3. Anthony

    What about seeing how fast the barista could change the burrs in a grinder, change out the gaskets, espresso blend matching competition?

  4. Aaron

    fastest barista to prepare one latte and one cappuccino with a rosetta on top of both. Dosing chamber and milk jugs need to be empty at the start . 70 seconds is pretty fast
    takeaway cup stamping. bagging retail coffee to specific weights.

  5. BL

    I love it change the burrs in a grinder….blindfolded! :)
    “This is my grinder. There are many like it, but this one is mine”

  6. Tobias

    If, we like to bring good coffee to the people maybe competitions should be more entertaining. I have watched the two last WBC online, and if you are not a geek you will not get anything out of it. The competitors are addressing the judges – what a waste of good crowd! The judges get the best seat and to taste the drinks, that’s OK! But, then the audience also should get some attention. I would love the competitors to explain what the do, and why. They may be funny, singing, dancing, juggling ore bay other means entertain. The best of them should start turning shopping centers and like. That’s the way to bring good coffee to the masses!

  7. Andrew

    I was just thinking about this the other day… what about a competition around diagnosing and rectifying a fault…

    Maybe lock all competitors in another room where they can’t see or hear what is going on, and infront of the audience each competitor has to diagnose a fault (same fault for all competitors) and rectify it to produce a quality drink.

    Scoring would be based on time taken from start of diagnosis to when contenstant completes their sample drink(s) for the judge(s) to rate and also a rating out of six for quality of drink (same kind of scoring concept as cupping – most points wins, with ties decided by fastest). Judging panel could even be drawn from the audience (perhaps lead by a qualified/respected barista/coffee type as ‘brains trust’). You would have to set a timeout limit of say 5 minutes to make sure it didn’t drag on all night by perfectionist types…

    Faults induced could include wonky brew temp, incorrect grind, stale (or too fresh) coffee, filthy/gummed up PF, old milk etc, etc, etc…

  8. Friso

    Hi Sameul,

    Great idea!

    I folowd a Barista flair workshop in copenhagen WBC, by9Bar from italy…
    those guys are amazing…..
    Fabio invented barista flair….. he’s also a multi champion Bartender/cocktail shaker.
    This year they will organize a barista flair championship @ Milan coffee event.
    check youTube link.

    have fun training : )

    the Netherlands

  9. chris demarse

    Best shot/ best brew comps would be awesome. I love throwdowns, but art seems to be just the icing on a big cake that is coffee. I’d love to see a group have the same coffee to work with and compete to see who’s extraction skills are tops. That, or spin a barista in a circle with a portafilter in hand and have them try to find the machine and lock the pf in the shortest amount of time. ha!

  10. Christine

    I agree that there is a need for more regular competitions for the purpose of practicing and preparation. I am a musician, and practicing to master a piece and practicing to perform it are two different things. Performing in any field, as in music, requires a unique mindset.

  11. Sarah Allen

    So it sounds sort of like some of the Nordic Cup events…? Fun and serious, and all together to promote excellence and enthusiasm? I love the challenge where baristas are presented with a strange ingredient and have to use it in a sig drink. Conversely, if they’re given a certain coffee, and have to detect the profile characteristics, and choose from an array of ingredients what might best complement it…

    Glad you’re back, James!

  12. Marianne Tolosa

    My in-house competition we had at murky – and by far the most fun I've ever had competing, was this:

    Baristas were paired off by drawing names out of a hat. A list of drinks and tasks was created by the judges (in this case Katie Carguilo and Ryan Goodrow). These included everyday things a barista would have to do on shift, and was not shared with the competitors before hand. Each task was then handed to the team one at a time, as they completed the previous task, and the teams who hadn’t competed yet hid in a room so they couldn’t hear what was going on. Ultimately, the duo to perform all of the tasks most quickly, with the fewest faults, won.

    So basically you get up there, and Katie starts yelling things like “make a small latte with an extra shot!”, “Single espresso”, “Medium Cappuccino”, and “you ran out of mocha! Go make a batch!”, while Ryan is timing shots, judging your drinks, and eying your milk waste, and you’re frantically trying to figure out where the bottles are to pour the mocha into. Fast paced, under pressure, and completely ridiculous. It was wonderful.

  13. Jesse Bladyka

    I was thinking about this the other day. I think it would be a lot of fun to involve the audience in something like this. Say the first 25 audience members get to choose a drink from a traditional espresso menu, the barista teams have to prepare and deliver the 25 drinks, are judged on time, station maintenance and then the audience members get to choose the better drink between teams. I mean really, a great barista is only as good as their bar-back, right?

  14. Denise

    Competition of all types is about a performance. Coming from a performance background I know how much practice it takes to perform the most basic things that you do day to day which become so much more difficult in fromt of an audience. To be out of your comfort zone is truely hard. I developed techniques over the years for auditions and performing that do help. The best performances come from a balance of practice, fear and excitment. I'm sure your UBF will help, putting the fun into competition and helping people get used to being out there in front of there audience.

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