Monday, June 20, 2005

   from Nick

Portafilter Podcast Episode IV - Live from the SERBGJ

Podcast Number Four. Right-click and select Save As (on PC) or Control-Click and select "Download Linked File" in MacOS to save it to your hard drive... OR click the "podcast" icon above for the RSS podcast feed.

Live from the South East Regional Barista Guild Jam, hosted by Stockton Graham and Company

Special guests: Bronwen Serna (Hines Public Market Coffee, Seattle, WA and 2004 USBC Champion), Cindy Chang (Counter Culture Coffee; WBC Hemisphere Coordinator), Gee Barger (Counter Culture Coffee), Russell Chisholm (The Easy Chair Coffee Shop, Blacksburg, VA), Jeff Vojta (Stockton Graham & Co., and SCAA Board member)

Show highlights:
- USBC/WBC official espresso machine changes?
- Barista competitions... relevant to "real life?"
- Judging at barista competitions
-, Mark Prince, and coffee enthusiasts
- and much more

We had a lot of people around the table for this one... please excuse the wandering ramblings!

MP3 format, 15.0 MB, 1:27:20. 24 kbps bitrate, 11.025 kHz sample rate (low-quality audio)

Questions? Comments? Hate mail? Email us at, and we might read your email during the next show.


Blogger coffee activist said...

funny and intelligently inspiring, once again. party on Nick, party on Jay.


6/20/2005 04:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

That was in fact the best Dismas imitation I've ever heard!

Sammy's wasn't too shabby, but dudes, you really need to work on my voice a bit more. :D

6/20/2005 04:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

Now for a more serious comment. Addressing the whole 4 star / 5 star coffee experience.

Usually when I hear people complain about not liking this comparison or "goal" if you will, it's people who tend to take their own cafe experience into account, not necessarily thinking about espresso *globally*. I don't want to single Americans out, because I've also heard this from my fellow Canadians and from Australians as well, but the espresso experience you get here in Canada or the US isn't the espresso experience you get in, say Oslo, or Trieste, or Vienna, or what have you.

Now, I'm not necessarily saying that there's a five star cafe in these places either.

But instead, what I'm trying to point out is that the competitions are set up to create (and then emulate) a "five star experience" to balance out the playing field somewhat, and eschew regional likes and dislikes. To create a new type of cafe experience that all Baristi competing should be able to strive to.

And once they do, hopefully they will take some of the experience back to their places of work - no, not provide the five star experience, cloth napkins, tuxedos and the like, but perhaps add a few of those subtle niceties that will turn the customer's experience in their cafe or restaurant into something even more memorable.

For eg. When I go to Elysian Room, and I order (or anyone orders) an espresso, water is served with it, defacto. At Prado, they ask. At Wasube Cafe, which is not known for their coffee, they still serve up a side of water with any espresso, macchiato, cappuccino, or americano order.

Meanwhile (not to slag these cafes per se), At Artigiano, water is self serve. At Stumptown during my visit, I asked for water, and was pointed to a table with a rather tepid container of water. At JJ, they don't even put water out any more. You have to ask for it, and sometimes, they're so busy on the bar, it's like asking them to give you spare change.

It's little things like this that I hope cafe owners, managers, and Baristi take away from competitions. Not necessarily the full five star experience, but the little extra touches that make the consumer / professional dynamic that more intimate, one on one, comfortable, and memorable.

6/20/2005 04:49:00 PM  
Blogger onocoffee said...

Okay - water with your espresso.

Hot, Cold or Tepid?

Glass. Plastic or Paper?

Saucer or no saucer?

This is not a challenge. This is a question for implementation into cafe.

BTW, I'm terrible at impersonations.

Party On, Jason.

6/21/2005 04:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Mark said...

Water was just one EG, Jay. A lot of other things happen in the competitions that a lot of Baristi (no, I'm not going to say 'tudes with tattoos again ;)) could benefit from. Just some examples off the top of my head:

- eye contact with the customer
- asking customers names and remembering them
- paying attention to "the condiments" (lol) and making sure they're stocked up (roughly 100% of the time the cream jug has been empty in a cafe that I've noticed is because I've tried to pour it, and it's empty, and I hand it over to the barista or other staff and ask it to be refilled; in other food service industries (ie, restaurants), wait staff usually stay on top of stuff like this; mind u, it's at the table for them to see).
- cleaning up the work station in lulls. Again, I've seen many examples of a dirty work station, but baristi chatting away during lulls. Whistle while you work! Prince is a Jerk!)
- Know your blend. Again, this is one of the "tests" I personally do when I go to a cafe with a good rep. I'll ask about the blend used, and get the Baristi's commentary on it. Works about 20% of the time. 50% it's vague answers; the other 30% or so I hear things like "I never drink espresso"

And other things.... ;)

6/21/2005 12:23:00 PM  
Anonymous adam d said...

Perhaps the whole discussion of a cafe being 4/5 star is somewhat derailing. We want excellence in a cafe. But we want excellence in different areas than we want in a restaurant. In this podcast, Jay kept bringing up these super specific comparisons from restaurants to cafes (I don't want my 4star waiter to be all chatty and 'how's the weather' ish, s/he should be quiet and efficient, but these competition baristas (I can't bring myself to use Italian pluralization, sorry) are totally chummy with the judges!) from which he seemed to make a conclusion like, "therefore cafes don't really aspire to five-star service"

Jay's arguments just take the comparison too far. Cafes should aspire to equally excellent service as that given in a 5 star resturant. Like I said, though, we want excellence displayed in different ways (cuz we're really not talking about restaurant service). So baristas ARE giving 5 star service when they're chummy, and personably chatty.

Adam D

I like this blog, guys. Post more!

6/21/2005 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

coupla things:

There are plenty of crappy espresso bars in Oslo, believe me! A couple are run by lousy Americans, actually. Luckily, none of you ever need worry your purty lil palates with those.
If someone wants to pay my way to the Nordic Cup, I can run a cafe crawl of fabulous shops.

No offense to our Danish friends, but when they say "latte art", it's way way funnier than a Canadian.... as funny as when we all try to say Terroir.
Seriously get a Dane on the phone next time.

BGA trivia: The very first meeting of the Barista Guild Task force was held at what 4 star restaurant?
Hint: I made the reservations because I was trying to make a point. Ken Davids joined us and ordered a $30 glass of port and absentmindedly left it on the table.
Extra points:
Of these two guys (Dismas Smith and Andy Newbom) which one secretly paid the bill for the whole party and which one grabbed the port as soon as Davids' head was turned .

6/23/2005 06:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

Andy paid; Dizzy drank :D

That's my guess, I'm sticking with it.

6/24/2005 02:22:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Deferio said...

Hey guys...
good job....
A couple things though...
The North East ain't happnin cause yous guys ain't lookin!
Dallis Coffee
Ninth St Espresso
Terrior Coffee
Gillies coffee
Lets's not forget that NY is more than just NYC...I would pass out on the floor if anyone from the BGA stopped into our shop in up-state...I challenge at least one of you Traveling Baristas to come to the North East and taste the coffee from well respected bars...
Ninth St
more recently the NOHO star

Any way...time to put the palate where the mouth is if you ask me.

That said...per-capita we should have alot more going on....this year we are organizing our first Jam and the NERBC. We are in many ways a sleeping look out when we blow up the spot.

On the topic of competitions....I would like to see some more faith put in the Baristas ablity to create a good shot outside of the 25-30 sec , 2 single from a double etc...bench mark. I think that if your going to judge a persons ability to create great taste you should not punish them for how they choose to get there. It is stiffling. If I want to pull ristretto shots then I should be able to...without any reprecutions...wether it is thought of as a "crutch drink" or is the taste that matters in the end. (fwiw...our ristretto shots live their whole life....from the thick viscous start to the end when it barely starts to turn... then off it crutch there that I can makes no sense to me..this accusation of late)

Take the pastry judge them based on team effort etc then the final product...but they do not fault them for how they create a lemon reduction or how they choose to shave chocolate or whatever. the reason is because they have humility and guts enough to realize that there are many different styles and to not allow those styles to be expressed would suicide for the progression of their particular industry...

how boring this world would be if we all pulled shots like the USBC say we have to.

So in this way I think the competions do not do a good job of being relevent...they, in this way, deny the reality that there are other legit ways to make awesome shots. It shows more skill for the Barista to have to choose from many different recognized forms of shot preperation...which they should use on their particular coffee. It is not hard however when the method has been formed for connect the's formulaic and I hope it evolves out of this pigeon hole it currently is in.
I like what Chris Tacy said on his blog regarding all he does'nt know about coffee, we are all in the same boat!...surely the USBC...if it wants to be seen as the end all be all espresso event. should take up a more flexible uproach to this mysterious beverage. We have to be learners and operate with a certain level of self-doubt always...we are coffee's biggest problem.
May we never plateau.
-Chris Deferio

6/30/2005 01:24:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

Good guess, Mark Prince!... But now that I think about it, it was probably Sandy Hon who reached for the's all a blur.
The restaurant was Chez Pannise.

7/03/2005 10:08:00 PM  
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