Smooth, Round, Bold? WTF!

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Smooth, Round, Bold? WTF!

Postby Benjamin Myers on Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:27 am

I was concerned to learn that at this weekend's barista competition in Atlanta our competitor's scores on their espressos weren't scored well because they didn't fit into the 'Smooth, Round, and Bold' judgement for the score-sheet's.

I am hopeful that this criteria will be revisited before future flatness takes place. In my opinion Espresso should be judged on the shear excellence it exhibits, and a major part of pushing this excellence is delivering something new and amazing that stretches the boundaries of the culinary map.

I understand that it gives competitors an unfair advantage working with a roaster whom is provoking taste buds to find new descriptions of life, and if we don't want to challenge then why not go the other maybe we should have each competitor use the same brand? BRAND X: Guaranteed to be SMOOTH, ROUND, AND BOLD. Is that the direction we want to go?? Not me. I want our baristas to be encouraged to push the limits, to be encouraged to help our industry grow by helping encourage THE UNIQUE not the categorically competent.

Benjamin M.
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Re: Smooth, Round, Bold? WTF!

Postby Jim Saborio on Tue Feb 23, 2010 12:17 pm

before others chastise you for speaking ill of the competitions, I'd just like to say...

oh nevermind.

...aaannndd the Starbucks down the street just got a Clover
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Re: Smooth, Round, Bold? WTF!

Postby Chris Kornman on Tue Feb 23, 2010 12:23 pm

Here's a pretty good thread on a related topic:
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Re: Smooth, Round, Bold? WTF!

Postby nick on Tue Feb 23, 2010 12:27 pm

I'm not judging nowadays (not since NWRBC this past fall), and won't be for a while. Nor was I a judge at the SERBC this past weekend. Nor have I talked to any of the judges from the weekend. On the other hand, I've been very involved in judging the past couple years, especially regarding interpretation of the USBC Rules & Regs. Okay. Disclaimer over.

"Smooth, round, bold" are part of the description for Tactile Balance for the espresso course.

Specifically, the Rules & Regs state: "The balance should be full bodied, round and smooth. Judges perception of viscosity will have an influence."

Now, to be clear, this is a separate scoring criteria from "Taste Balance," which has its own set of definitions and such.

That said, what you're questioning is whether or not it is appropriate for the USBC and WBC Rules and Regulations to promote "full bodied, round and smooth" as tactile and mouthfeel balance descriptors.

The opposite of "full bodied" is thin.
The opposite of "round" is sharp.
The opposite of "smooth" is rough.

Now anyone who knows me well within the context of the USBC and WBC knows that I'm not one to defend the wording of the Rules & Regs. Many sections are way too vague (on the Tech section, "General hygiene" is defined as... um... "hygiene"), and there's much to improve. Other sections perhaps pass judgement in an overly arbitrary or overly traditional way (color of crema is one). However, I'm struggling to dispute the judging criteria for "Tactile balance."

If the competitor's espresso was more thin-bodied, did they take the opportunity to describe it as such to the judges? Maybe they did, maybe they didn't. A good judge might make some allowances for an espresso viscosity that was described by the competitor as being a bit outside the definitions in the Rules.

So perhaps the definition in the rules is a bit too vague or terse, but I'd find it hard to dispute the content there.

Anyway, does that address your issue at all, Benjamin? I'd be interested to hear your response.
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Re: Smooth, Round, Bold? WTF!

Postby aaronblanco on Tue Feb 23, 2010 8:19 pm

Benjamin: Is it your honest and studied belief that judges are so unsophisticated as to hold blindly and unflinchingly to the maxim that every blend must have Sumatra to be considered good?

Or is that just part of your signature line?

Or could there possibly be some room to explore and grow within this category by, as Nick rightly points out, recognizing the very obvious difference between Taste and Tactility?

Surely you don't believe that how espresso FEELS on the palate can only correlate to one TASTE do you?

I'll go out on a limb and speak for competitors far more accomplished than myself to say that the trick is to find a spark of the unique from within the rules that provide us all the same boundaries. That is exactly where taste diverges from the tactile and perhaps the starting point as you and your team decompress and begin the runup to USBC and beyond. "Round" can taste (ahem) 1000 different ways, wouldn't you agree?
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Re: Smooth, Round, Bold? WTF!

Postby Benjamin Myers on Wed Feb 24, 2010 8:07 am

Thank you Nick and Aaron for your thoughtful follow up. I feel after reading your points I have a better understanding of the process.

I was at the supermarket last night and noticed that a lot of the shampoo bottles used the descriptions of "Bold, "Round", and "Smooth" for their product line. They are indeed very safe terminology that provide for a good deal of wiggle room be it creative or masked(better/ worse.)

no hay mas.
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Re: Smooth, Round, Bold? WTF!

Postby Instaurator on Tue Mar 09, 2010 12:42 pm

Benjamin, I love it when the rules are challenged! I wrote a blog on coffee tasting sheets a few days ago which may shed some light on this discussion: ... s-and-the-‘heisenberg-uncertainty-principle’/

Having great body definitely doesn't just mean using only Sumatra! There are plenty of other coffees that produce great body without resorting to the random earthy, mold/yeast affected style of many Sumatras.

Natural coffee as opposed to washed coffee for a starter has quantifiable more body/mouthfeel. Often natural processed coffees are seen as a poor second cousin, but for espresso they are great for body. Menno at Trebocca has been specializing in "Operation Cherry Red" trials with some great powerful fruity, extraordinary bodied coffees. Nothing like Sumatra. There are also now higher grown 'honey robustas' from India which have even more towering body and crazy sweetness.

I think what you're getting at is: tasting/score sheets are always going to have their limitations by their very nature, but hey let the search (and fun) begin. There is no end to the possibilities if we stay open to the search (quest :roll: )
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