Sunday, March 29, 2009

   from AndyS

Golden Cup Espresso?

For more, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

   from Nick

Three things I've learned : Reflections from the 2009 USBC

1) The signature drinks are getting out of control!

A little math, shall we?

Espresso section: (Sensory: 62 points x 4) + (Technical: 17 x 2) = 282
cappuccino: (38 x 4) + (22 x 2) = 196
signature drink: (42 x 4) + (17 x 2) = 202

Creating a great signature drink taste experience is definitely important, but competition baristas need to spend just as much effort and energy on cappuccinos... and even MORE on the single espresso, as on the sig' drink.

Also, at this year's USBC, we saw signature drinks as elaborate as I've ever seen, but I can't think of one of those that really nailed it on the taste points. Taste of the signature drink is worth four-times the creativity points, but the former seems to be sacrificed in pursuit of the latter.

Competition baristas need to learn the scoresheets and prioritize based on what gets your the points. Of course, that's assuming they want to get as many points as they can.

2) Single-origin espresso is great for competition

A blend is, by definition, a more complex thing than (most) single-origin espressos. Baristas are identifying 4 or 5 taste-notes out of the dozen, sometimes dozens, that are present in a blend.

In a good single-origin espresso however, flavors tend to be a bit more simple--with a few key flavor descriptors being not only prominent, but present in a more consistent way. Being able to accurately communicate the taste and flavor experience is such a significant part of the taste scores that using a good (emphasis on "good") single-origin can present a fairly significant advantage. It can also help in the presentation and explanation of the coffee, having one origin, farm, etc. to focus on.

However, this leads to my last reflection:

3) We don't give the Robur enough credit.*

To my recollection, the Mazzer Robur has been used by every USBC Champion. That said, I believe that the Mazzer Robur is one of the most important elements in the development of the U.S. "competition-level" espresso flavor profile.

More relevant research needs to be done, but for now, it is my understanding that the Robur's burr design creates more fines (the finest particles) than any other grinder on the market, which conversely allows for the bulk of the particulate to be ground more coarsely to achieve the typical extraction time. Now there are more complex factors at hand, but focusing just on this one component, the grind profile of the Robur effectively tilts the extraction more towards under-extraction. The solubles that would be extracted if the particulate were ground finer are less expressed.

I believe that this has resulted in the improved performance of single-origin coffees as espresso in the U.S. This is especially true when it comes to fully washed coffees.

So hats-off to you, Mr. Robur (or is it Miss Robur? I dunno... the damn thing is too heavy to lift up to get a look at its private parts). You don't get enough credit out there. Every shop that aspires to pull competition-style viscous, sweet, flavorful shots should have a Robur. There are other grinders that allow for a similar profile (the Anfim Super Caimano and Compak K10 come to mind), but the Robur is still the King.

Or Queen.

* note- I'm intentionally limiting the scope of my comments on #3 to the U.S. Extraction profiles and what flavors and viscosity baristas are going for definitely varies from culture to culture.

Oh... and #4 in my three-part list:

4) Mike Phillips is my hero.

Good luck in Atlanta to Mike, and all of the National Barista Champions who are coming for the 10th annual World Barista Championship. May your drinks all be "Sixes!" (or at least Fives).