Coffee Toys of 2010

Jeremy and Mike are finally in the same city, the same postal code and have decided to do a palettetraining guide to the newest, coolest toys in coffee. Think Kees van der Westen, Uber, Clover….



Canadian National Barista Championships: #2

Preparation is TEDIOUS!

Last week I spent a fair amount of time sorting out my competition coffee after the roast. Looking for quakers (bad beans that add bitterness) and picking them out. Also looking for general bad beans that I think will ruin my coffee for whatever reason. I may have gotten a little crazy because a few hours into sorting, I was chucking out “bad” beans simply because I didn’t like the way it looked. Anyways, about 5 hours later, I had 5 pounds of competition coffee sorted out and bagged, ready for nationals. Woohoo!

Then I sorted out the rest of the roast for practice sessions. That was probably another 2 hours of sorting. If I had to sort for a living…I may just jump off a cliff or something like that because I was SO drained.

I'm not quite as happy as these people while sorting

I'm not quite as happy as these people while sorting

Man is it a long, arduous process. In-house competition was mid-August, regionals was mid-September, and now nationals are mid-October. This makes 3 months worth of preparation or thinking about preparation. It is draining. One of the things I’m thinking about during these prep times is what to change, what to keep the same and what to tweak ever so slightly. For noobs like me, I find that these past three months has been a STEEP learning curve and it’s pretty cool. Huge progression. Huge knowledge gaining. Hugeness. Each comp is like a new one I’m preparing for and not really a continuation from the comp previous.

Anyways, can’t wait to get to Vancouver. Can’t wait until its all over and we’re all partying.

How many tampers do you own?

Andrew Legg kept pimping this question out at the Prairie Regional Barista Championships 2009. How many do you own? At that time I owned none. After getting a participants tampy from Mr. Tamper himself, Reg Barber, I can proudly say 1.

An article popped up on what I’d say the illest coffee blog as of late cleanhotdry. They topic on hand was tamping and the basics of coffee. I totally agree that baristas tend to put more attention into tamping where the benefits are not always evident. However with my new toy came some new ideas and curiousity. What is the difference between all these tampers and why, if it really doesn’t matter that much are there so many different products?

Tamper Basics

Essentially, the purpose of tamping is to create an even puck so that the pressurized water extracts the coffee puck as equally as possible. 🙂 This is about as technical as I will (and am able to) get.

So taking a C-Flat tamper as loot from PRBC and experimenting with it I did. Not too much info is available on the internet but I did stumble upon a blog that helped…somewhat. (check out espressorun)

Essentially what I did was this:

To combat evil channels around the rims, I did first (leveller) tamp with the C-flat to try and push some coffee around the edges. Then switch to a smaller (I used euro curve, would be interested to see what a flat would do) and then staubed it with a North, South, East, West. I found on my wet pucks that my seal was pretty much solid each time. :S

What does this mean?

Don’t really notice any difference between my shots with this method and not using this method.
I guess that cleanhotdry was right, tamping don’t matter much.

I’m not going to say citrus…

Almond cherry. That’s the notes of our Brazil Fazenda do Sertão and Costa Rica Finca la Margarita espresso blend.

Some longer quibbs about the PRBC 2009 and competition as a whole. Here’s the money statement:

Must go in with a learning attitude

This statement applies to both 1st time competitors as well as 100th time competitors (a la Sammy). From the beginning, the bosses took me under their wing to shed words of wisdom. Drawing upon past successes and failures to shape my routine and practicing for the competition. I think that this was highly beneficial and sky rocketted me to a level where I could never have reached if I had trained alone.

Always learn. Learn from your own competitions and dry runs. Watch video. Now the trend seems to be ustream videos of the regional competitions. Watch other baristas and take the good and leave the bad for your own routine.

Learn because at the competitions, you gain respect for others in the industry. Almost all the baristas I came across at the Prairies were super nice and excited about coffee. They all have something different about them so jack those different skills and use it for your own.

Alright, let’s get a little personal. I just wanted to thank everyone at the shop for their support. Also the people at the event from other cafes/roasteries for their kind words and encouragement after my wet run. It means a lot to me and those are the things I will look back fondly of. Thanks the P&S for the support and coaching. Thanks Benny for training and practicing with me… letting me steal ideas and techniques and pretty much everything :). Thanks to those who helped during my dry runs, giving me supplies. Thanks for sending messages, twittering and all that jazz.  I’d have to say that for my run at the Prairies… it was way way more of a team effort. Ben did a lot, a lot of things on his own. I, on the other hand, was less … everything and needed everyone to pitch in. I wish I woulda placed better to reflect how awesome my support was and the amazing amouts of effort that was poured in.

As for the outcome? Shoulda, woulda, coulda. There are most definitely things I would have done differently and I could analyze how close I was to getting to nationals but all in all I’m pretty satisfied with how things turned out. It is very much so a bittersweet ending.

Apple cherry!

PRBC 2009

I just thought I’d share a few short quibbs.

Thank you hosts Fratello. Nicest bunch of guys ever.
Mad, mad props to all the competitors regardless of where you finished, all of the baristas were awesome.
Great job supper crew and coffee community. What an awesome first competition for me.

Finally congrats Benny. It means a lot to a lot of people

Prairie Regional Barista Championships

I originally hoped to have a series of posts leading up to the comp to try and shed some light on what goes on during the preparation but I don’t think I’ll have time for that. Instead I will just rant.

I semi-swore that after the in-house competition I was through with barista competitions. After that first taste of barista comp I felt too detached from the coffee. In my opinion, it had almost nothing to do with the coffee service industry of a REAL cafe. But, here I am a few days away from representing the most awesome cafe in the Prairie Region (if not the country) ready to give it all I got.

Has a lot changed since I walked away from the in-house? No. The competition preparation focus has still deviated away from the nitty-gritty coffee aspect. Prep has been getting gear, laying out gear so it looks the most pimp, coordinating movements so YOU look most pimp, and pretty much pimping stuff out as much as you can without having the BIG BIG budgets of those BIG BIG companies.

I’m still not sure if competing will be a future direction for me. However through preparation for this competition I feel that I have gained a lot more respect for the whole event. It was be really awesome if I could represent our shop at nationals. That would be great for me and great for the cafe, I think. Either way, I could definitely see myself being involved in future competitions further down into the future.

I’ll be tweeting lots lots lots, so if you’re not watching ustream, or even if you are you can keep up with my tweetering.

September 12, 2009

Live Stream:

Check it out! 😉