I know people have spoken about this before in various ways, but I just want to put out there what I think.
I was thinking about this over the weekend. I really like barista competition, the preparation of a presentation, thinking up a signature drink, cupping coffees to use etc, and I also really like the simplicity of (particularly round one) the Brewers Cup (although it is still not perfect), and think there is great scope to take aspects from either and create either a WCE-style competition, or a format to be run causally, like the latte art throwdown. Here are my ideas:
· Like the Brewers Cup, an anonymous coffee
The coffee should not be roasted by a local roaster, to prevent conflict of interest etc.
· Everyone uses the same espresso machine and grinder
They can change the temperature of the brew water, grinder settings, dose, extraction times etc.
· No performance, stage or prep time
Competitors are given a reasonable amount of time (20/30 minutes) in which they can dial in their coffee (scales and timers should be greatly encouraged), taste it, and serve it to the judges in whenever in that timeframe they wish.
· No additional equipment/ingredients
Competitors should only be able to use what is presented to them; no ingredients can be added to the espresso, no methods etc.
· Reset of temperature and grind settings etc
A standard should be set, possibly outside of espresso brewing parameters so that competitors have to dial it in, and can’t simply serve espresso at the standard setting. After each performance, the equipment should be cleaned and reset to this standard.
Before flaws are pointed out with this format (and I do understand there are several), here are what I perceive to be the benefits:
· Equal chances
As everyone uses exactly the same equipment to brew their espresso, everyone has in theory a fair chance (not taking into account skill). This contrasts to barista competition, as one cannot use a more expensive grinder that may produce a more consistent grind.
· It encourages more baristas
I believe many baristas are turned off competition because of the costs, time needed to prepare and need for a presentation. This format removes all three issues, and in theory should encourage more baristas to take part.
· It is about the coffee
The winner of such a competition will have won because his espresso tasted the best, or presented the most pleasing characteristics, because of his/her’s skill as a barista and not because they are more confident at presenting, for example.
· More relevance to the barista profession
In a quality focussed coffee establishment, the most important factor is not a signature drink or a presentation; it is the quality of the espresso. This competition replicates this exactly; it rewards talent and intuition.
· Cheaper to organise and can be regular
All that is needed for this competition can be found in any quality café. The competition can be run regularly, and does not necessarily have to be affiliated with the WCE or SCAE, for example.
I’m not saying such competition should be run instead of barista competitions, but I think it would work very well alongside them. It is possible to see a direct correlation between the forming of the WBC and barista competitions and an increase in café quality. With a competition focussing merely on espresso itself, surely it will help not just as much, but even more?
I’m really interested to hear what people have to say about this! Feedback would be greatly appreciated.