USBC FINALS

barista competitions, trade shows, jams, tastings

Postby Tim Dominick on Tue May 08, 2007 4:29 pm

USBC is leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the SCAA show's competitve events when it comes to building excitement and passing out results to the ether.

As a great example of how far we need to travel (and for that matter how much further ahead USBC is:)

I'm a big fan of the cupping pavillion, you know the event that brings together nearly 60 cuppers and 75 vetted samples from around the world over three days and at the end crowns a winner....not to mention the Roaster's Choice competition that featured 14 house blends submitted by some well-known roasting outfits.

(crickets and/or silence...who made it up to the second floor ballroom to check out the event?)

It is supposed to be an exciting event with a big flat screen updated after each session. Producers and importers submitted 75 samples. En Injerto, Esmerelda, Kotowa Duncan and some other luminious names from 'round the world filled the ranks. Great cuppers slurped and scored with portalab equipped palm pilots, expecting a dynamic and near real time display of their results. The roaster's choice coffees could be voted on by anyone, yet only 51 ballots were cast over 3 days. Both of these events should provide pretty big feathers in the caps of their respective winners.

By the end of the show all that was posted was a spreadsheet print out of the first two days with a highlighter across the top two finishers from each session. Despite the presence of a 21" screen, none of the results, including the results of the final ten coffees cupped on Monday morning ever appeared in a digital format, and by show's end it took quite a bit of asking around to learn that El Injerto came so very close to derailing a three-peat for Esmerelda (which wasn't even the top-scoring coffee going into the finals)

Nothing about the roasters choice competition. I'm not sure who won, and given that a mere 51 people knew where to find the coffees, I'm not even sure winning the event means much.

Word is the cupping pavillion and roaster's choice will be on the show floor next year, hopefully it will provide another worthwhile diversion to the wash of flavor booths and coffee-scented teddy bears. I'm not asking for up to the minute podcasting or blogging, just a general awareness that there are some amazing coffees going head to head. Then again, it wouldn't suprise me if we found ourselves tucked away in a far away corner of the building.

I'm not suggesting this is anywhere near as exciting as the USBC or deserving of the same attention, however those of us from the outside look at the USBC as the front-runner, always creating a buzz and putting out relevant and timely news about their events. It ain't perfect, but given the general culture around the SCAA show, USBC is pretty f-ing far ahead of the curve.
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Postby Troy Reynard on Tue May 08, 2007 4:40 pm

mikep wrote:Thanks for the info on the middle machine issue. Ironic there would be issues after Nick commented on the podcast, "Hey look who all is on the middle machine."


Heck with the Black Cat conspiracy, there's obviously a Nick Cho conspiracy! :shock:
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Postby Marshall on Tue May 08, 2007 4:53 pm

If it's any consolation, the results went out on the business wires and were read by people around the world who follow coffee news. :D

The major brokers, importers and roasters all knew immediately. So, maybe most of the shopowners on the Exhibit Hall floor didn't know, but Ueshima did.
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Postby Mark Prince on Tue May 08, 2007 5:20 pm

Really astute observations Tim - definite food for thought.

I'm ashamed to say I didn't attend any of the cuppings this year - and I should have. I always learn a lot from them, even as an observer, just picking up new vernacular that almost always makes tons of sense... once you hear it used in context.

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Postby onocoffee on Tue May 08, 2007 6:05 pm

bz wrote:a lot goes into macworld too.



I think a comparison to MacWorld is a bit off here.

Like (I surmise) a number of people on Coffeed, I too tune into Macrumors.com during the MacWorld Keynote Speech to read up-to-the-minute, line-by-line coverage on the Internet so that I don't miss out on any details regarding the release of the iPhone or appleTV.

However, a site like Macrumors.com is focused on delivering that coverage. There currently isn't a site like that for the USBC (although I was hoping that Chemically Imbalanced would become that venue),nor are there "macrumors.com" type people running around the show floor ready to blog on every moment.

Bear in mind that the rest of us are working and partying, and without the time or energy to provide that level of coverage. What the USBC needs is the kind of third-party coverage that Chemically Imbalanced provided in 2006.

Quite seriously, I was hoping that Ben would be in Long Beach and kept logging into Chemically Imbalanced to see if he was on the floor providing coverage.

With regards to the middle FB80, while it was problematic for both Kyle Glanville and Heather Perry, I think you'll find the standings prove that it wasn't that much of an obstacle for such talented baristas.

Melanie-
Your point on other, larger, food shows providing better blog coverage than the SCAA/USBC is well-taken. However, that point is better made to people like Nick Cho, Ellie Matuszak or Rick Reinhard - people in a position to push that agenda within the SCAA.

The other side of the coin is the calling for up-to-the-minute reporting when your own barista is on the ground in Long Beach. I didn't see her at the USBC outside of her competition day so I presume she had free time to provide some information on the action.

But none of this is here nor there, bottom line is that there is currently no website dedicated to delivering live coverage of the USBC.

Perhaps someone ought to change that.
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Postby terry on Tue May 08, 2007 6:39 pm

onocoffee wrote:Perhaps someone ought to change that.


Dave W and I have given allot of thought to this. I think I would like to have Espresso Parts sponsor such a site and welcome the idea of creating a group dedicated to event coverage. If you are interested in a project like this and think you have the time to dedicate to such an endeavor please let either Dave or myself know, and we can start working on a format.
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Postby bz on Tue May 08, 2007 6:57 pm

What the USBC needs is the kind of third-party coverage that Chemically Imbalanced provided in 2006.


i'm willing. just need a sponsor. :)

I think I would like to have Espresso Parts sponsor such a site and welcome the idea of creating a group dedicated to event coverage.


i'm interested. there was a point before long beach where i thought i'd snookered a certain deep pockets i know into flying us both out there (mostly for coverage purposes ... fundamentally, i think it's hard to justify the trip as an enthusiast ... but as an aggregator and sifter of interesting info, now that's a worthy mission).

i drove 10 hours to the serbc solely to video tape the finals before the now-notorious loss of every scrap of imagery.

ideally, i like "grassroots" coverage. comprehensive, entertaining, and with a definite perspective. but i'd love to hear what others want.

tim: that stuff is fascinating. stuff i've never heard of, and would love to know. all part of the "energy" at a national show that could be packaged and used for web-based excitement.
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Postby barry on Tue May 08, 2007 9:40 pm

Chris Baca wrote:So, if you had the middle machine on Saturday...you got screwed. (I must note that this did not affect me in any way, my machines were fine). I just think this is something that should be talked about so I wanted to throw it out there. My feelings go out to those on the middle machine.




I'm not sure how much I can and can't say about the middle machine. I can say that I think the middle machine was made a scapegoat for some less-than-great performances where the middle group had negligiable impact on the performance (if any impact at all). Consider that the champion managed her equipment in a way to completely avoid the issue, by using groups 1 & 3. Consider that that is championship thinking...


FWIW, my wife had the following (approximate) conversation with someone in the stands who was griping about the middle machine:

June: What would you do if you had a problem with a group at your shop?

Other person: Call the repair guy.

J: What if the repair guy couldn't get out there right away?

OP: We'd work around it.

J: BINGO!



--Barry "right there, watching"
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Postby Mark Prince on Tue May 08, 2007 10:45 pm

barry wrote:FWIW, my wife had the following (approximate) conversation with someone in the stands who was griping about the middle machine:

June: What would you do if you had a problem with a group at your shop?

Other person: Call the repair guy.

J: What if the repair guy couldn't get out there right away?

OP: We'd work around it.

J: BINGO!


LOL! Just another variant on the "any machine, any grinder, any coffee" mantra!

Good call btw Barry. We've both seen in the past competitors who can work around and overcome disadvantages or problems up on stage, and those who can't, or just don't recognize what to do in time.

I don't want to take anything away from the latter group though. I think it's always important to recognize how much of a pressure cooker it is just to compete. Serious balls. Serious. I know I couldn't do it. I'd melt and just go silent, and maybe sit down on the floor and zone out.

I was talking to Carl Sara quite a bit Sunday night, and you know, he was bringing stuff up like this - being able dynamically think while under this pressure cooker - but the discussion was more about recognizing a problem, recognizing it's beyond your control, so taking that moment to step aside and say "technical time out", instead of waiting for your performance to end before filing a protest.

I wasn't taking one side or the other on that issue during the discussion - I felt a barista could go either way. I'd probably just play it out, and if I did bad, then use the protest filing. But after reading what you wrote, I think I agree more with Carl now - knowing the situation enough to either work around it, or step aside, and have it addressed right there, right then.

Again, no knock against ANY competitor though. Just having the courage to go up there in that pressure cooker - whether you're making judges wear beer hats or you're playing to not only go to Japan but win in Japan, I have the utmost respect for ***every*** competitor.

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Postby Aldo1 on Wed May 09, 2007 5:11 am

Thanks to all for the discussion about coverage. I would be happy to participate in any effort next year assuming I can attend. If there is not an organized effort, I would be happy to help organize one or to just give you guys updates.

It was not fun hoping for more news and not seeing any.
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Postby Aldo1 on Wed May 09, 2007 5:25 am

Troy Reynard wrote:
mikep wrote:Thanks for the info on the middle machine issue. Ironic there would be issues after Nick commented on the podcast, "Hey look who all is on the middle machine."


Heck with the Black Cat conspiracy, there's obviously a Nick Cho conspiracy! :shock:


Hi, Troy, I hope all is well with you in beautiful Easton.

Is there really a Nick controversy? I hope not. It sounds to me like he handled it the right way. Thank goodness someone filed a report or challenge to this: as I recall, that is what we are supposed to do, right?

How "far" into the competition was Nick -- if I recall correctly, he was not in the first flight or two of competitors. I could be mistaken on that, maybe I can find the schedule.

I am curious how this problem presented itself to competitors -- did the water just gush out or not flow or what was the actual, physical extraction result of the machine problem? Was it obvious in the warm- up time or was it more subtle or occaisional? If it was OK sometimes and sometimes, all of a sudden, water and coffee started spitting out at me in the middle of a presentation -- I would have freaked and assumed the error was something I did, not something the machine did.
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Postby Troy Reynard on Wed May 09, 2007 5:28 am

I was just kidding....all that Black Cat conspiracy talk and all...
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Postby Matt Riddle on Wed May 09, 2007 7:51 am

I'll just go ahead and post all I know about the middle machine right now. I'm sure Nick will have more to say because he actually used the machine. I never made it onto the middle machine (despite being scheduled for it) so I can't comment on the actual or perceived problems.

(from memory) The competitors who actually used the machine all weekend were:
open round
Steve Fritzen
Kyle Glanville
Shut down afterwards?
Perhaps there were more here.

semi-finals
Katie Carguillo
Heather Perry
Nick Cho
Shut down afterwards.

It was not used for the finals.


Before the finals, we (the finalists) were talked to by La Marzocco...The truth is that there was a piece of manufacturing material that made its way into the gicleur, which is what was affecting the flow rate.

The reason that it was shut down, reopened then shut down was because the "problem" was being measured with a scace device - which does not measure flow rate. The temperature and pressure were spot on. Nick, Katie and Steve complained that either the flow was super fast, or that 10 seconds would go by with nothing, then you would get your full 1 ounce shot in 5 seconds or so. It wasn't until after Nick's performance in the Semis that they measured the relative flow of water (volumetrically) versus the other groups/other machines.

On Semi-finals day, the machine was scaced by Nick and Marcus and, I think, one other person before competition time. According to all of their tests it appeared to be working properly. The flow was apparently still spotty.

I do think that both Heather and Nick approached it properly. Heather did well by avoiding the group, Nick thought there was something weird, so he called Technical. Kyle used the group and still made the semis. Calling Technical is something that is an amazingly hard choice to make. You are/can be theoretically screwed either way.

That's all I know about that.

All that being said. I was really impressed with level of excellence at the USBC this year. There were some amazing performances put on, and I think that Heather completely deserved to win. The range of scores in the finals was SO tight. Between 1st and 3rd I think there were 12 points...1st and 5th - I think it was like 20 pts or something.
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Postby barry on Wed May 09, 2007 10:08 am

ThaRiddla wrote:Nick, Katie and Steve complained that either the flow was super fast, or that 10 seconds would go by with nothing, then you would get your full 1 ounce shot in 5 seconds or so.



This does not correlate with what the Tech Judges observed. It's my understanding that there was, indeed, an obstruction in the water path on Friday, but that this obstruction (probably swarf) was removed by the ESI guys. I'm sure Roger can give us the low-down.

The issues on Saturday and Sunday were, in my opinion, due to competitor performance (eg. inconsistent tamping and improper grind adjustment) rather than machine performance.

I'd like to remind folks that, apart from extremely restricted water flow, the limiting factor on the flow of espresso out of the spouts is the coffee. The fact that the machines Scaced* out just fine on Saturday/Sunday, indicates there was sufficient water flow to brew espresso.


--Barry

*I note, with some humor, that Greg is now a verb. :D
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Postby Robert Goble on Wed May 09, 2007 10:28 am

barry wrote:The fact that the machines Scaced* out just fine on Saturday/Sunday, indicates there was sufficient water flow to brew espresso.

Not sure if this is correct.... scace measures temp and pressure, not flow right?. Anyone care to speak to the interconnectedness or independence of these 3 variables?
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Postby Matt Riddle on Wed May 09, 2007 10:35 am

I'm just recounting what I was told by ESI/La Marzocco before the finals. They said the obstruction was "manufacturing material". Additionally, they said that the tolerances on the gicleurs would always be varied, due to limitations in manufacturing...until, of course, they can laser cut a hole in a ruby.

I asked if we would then be allowed to bring our own rubies, or would we have to use the ones provided. :)

the 10 seconds of nothing/5 seconds for full shot volume was the description given to me by Fritzen. Kyle can probably describe his experience.

Like I said, I never got to use the machine, so I can't describe it.


I don't think that the machines should be 100% to blame here. If you think a group is weird...don't use it. I felt like one of the groups on my machine back stage was a little low on temp...I chose not to use that to test my shots for taste. Did the baristas not notice the problems in their practice time? Did they taste the shots coming out of that group? Again, calling technical is a super tough decision, but if you're confident in the problem, it's something you should do.
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Postby Matt Riddle on Wed May 09, 2007 10:37 am

Robert Goble wrote:
barry wrote:The fact that the machines Scaced* out just fine on Saturday/Sunday, indicates there was sufficient water flow to brew espresso.

Not sure if this is correct.... scace measures temp and pressure, not flow right?. Anyone care to speak to the interconnectedness or independence of these 3 variables?
Yes, there was sufficient flow...the question that the competitors had was "Was that flow consistent among the three groups?" In this case, it was not. The flow was almost double the other two groups...as well as double the flow from one of the other machines on stage.
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Postby barry on Wed May 09, 2007 10:50 am

Robert Goble wrote:
barry wrote:The fact that the machines Scaced* out just fine on Saturday/Sunday, indicates there was sufficient water flow to brew espresso.

Not sure if this is correct.... scace measures temp and pressure, not flow right?. Anyone care to speak to the interconnectedness or independence of these 3 variables?



The Scace has a flow restrictor at the outlet, to simulate the flow restriction normally provided by the coffee puck. IIRC, the flow rate out the Scace is approximately 75ml in 30 seconds (the additional flow is to account for the water normally retained in the puck).

So, if there was sufficient flow out of the Scace, then there was sufficient flow through the group to brew a double shot. If the flow was less than 75ml/30sec out of the Scace (which I think was the condition on Friday), then the flow is too restricted out of the group (or the pressure has tanked).
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Postby barry on Wed May 09, 2007 10:58 am

ThaRiddla wrote:Additionally, they said that the tolerances on the gicleurs would always be varied, due to limitations in manufacturing...until, of course, they can laser cut a hole in a ruby.


Yep.


the 10 seconds of nothing/5 seconds for full shot volume was the description given to me by Fritzen.


I'm sure I'll talk to Steve about it sometime, but that sort of event still does not sound like a machine issue.
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Postby sarahdelilah on Wed May 09, 2007 10:58 am

Two discussions going on here -- I'm replying to the one re lack of coverage.

First of all, really, Marshall? There was good coverage of the show and USBC? Beg to differ. Grassroots efforts from baristas and retailers got a helluva lot more response from local media in Seattle and even Atlanta than we got in LBC.

Ben, good point about our (Ken's and mine/Barista Mag) live coverage of the Nordic Barista Cup (NBC). Just for your info, here's how it went down: the NBC Organization places high value on the availability of live information and photos throughout the event, as they realize not everyone can attend, and those around the world who would like to be involved on a virtual level want access. They actually contract me and Ken to attend the event -- we're there working for the NBC; our job for those days is to cover the event, and we both spend 10-12 hours solid doing this and only this. It's super smart of the NBC, as the sponsors love the fact that while they may only be reaching 200 people at the event in person, they are reaching countless others through the coverage. I really wish this kind of thing was a priority for the SCAA as well. Maybe someday.

I would have LOVED to devote my time to covering the event live, but Barista Mag had a booth and countless other responsibilities at the show. As I said, at the NBC, all we do is cover and photograph, and it's seriously a full-time job.

I'm sending a shout out to Mark Prince for his reporting work throughout the SCAA for the (how many years has it been now?) that he's been doing it. He's right -- it's a near impossible job, especially given the frustrating logistics that always seem to be in play, and he deserves props for what he is able to accomplish.

Lastly, tune into nordicbaristacup.com in September, as Ken and I will again be reporting live throughout.
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Postby barry on Wed May 09, 2007 11:21 am

ThaRiddla wrote:the question that the competitors had was "Was that flow consistent among the three groups?" In this case, it was not. The flow was almost double the other two groups...as well as double the flow from one of the other machines on stage.



Again, the limiting factor on flow out of the portafilter is the coffee. The water flow difference between a wide-open machine and one with a .8mm gicleur is not similarly manifested coming out of the spouts. I used to run my 4-group with one side wide-open (water "debit" <unrestricted> of over 250ml in 10 sec) and the other side restricted to 75ml/10sec; same grind; same shot times (within a second or two).

The interesting thing about the three complaints on Sunday (that I know of) were they were about contrary things (too slow and too fast). Again, these complaints did not correlate with Tech Judge observations.
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Postby Matt Riddle on Wed May 09, 2007 11:35 am

barry wrote:Again, the limiting factor on flow out of the portafilter is the coffee. The water flow difference between a wide-open machine and one with a .8mm gicleur is not similarly manifested coming out of the spouts. I used to run my 4-group with one side wide-open (water "debit" <unrestricted> of over 250ml in 10 sec) and the other side restricted to 75ml/10sec; same grind; same shot times (within a second or two).

The interesting thing about the three complaints on Sunday (that I know of) were they were about two different things (too slow and too fast). Again, these complaints did not correlate with Tech Judge observations.


Then that again brings us back to the other option that the barista(s) had, which was not to use that group. Yes, it sucks if you had to pull 6 shots at the same time, but that's all part of it.
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Postby bz on Wed May 09, 2007 1:23 pm

the NBC Organization places high value on the availability of live information and photos throughout the event, as they realize not everyone can attend, and those around the world who would like to be involved on a virtual level want access. They actually contract me and Ken to attend the event -- we're there working for the NBC; our job for those days is to cover the event, and we both spend 10-12 hours solid doing this and only this. It's super smart of the NBC, as the sponsors love the fact that while they may only be reaching 200 people at the event in person, they are reaching countless others through the coverage. I really wish this kind of thing was a priority for the SCAA as well.


wow. those nords get it, and we don't.


I would have LOVED to devote my time to covering the event live, but Barista Mag had a booth and countless other responsibilities at the show.


word. i'll reiterate -- i'm not calling out any specific personages.

I'm sending a shout out to Mark Prince for his reporting work throughout the SCAA for the (how many years has it been now?) that he's been doing it.


again, totally agreed. my first infantile awareness of such an event came through mark. and even though we're still duking it out over on the blog (what am i, the new cho?), i know he's been slogging away long before most of us.

i'm focused on the usbc, because it's the low-hanging fruit -- the purest form of drama, most easily written as a narrative. now i'm thinking that the cupping and roasting comps could also be captured in an entertaining way (what, esmeralda is a three-peat winner? tell me that couldn't be compelling horse-race fodder.)

i was hunting around for a link to the nordic cup bloggage from last year. can't find it. good stuff, though. and a hint of what usbc coverage could be like.
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Postby scottlucey on Wed May 09, 2007 1:27 pm

my photos are up
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Postby James Hoffmann on Wed May 09, 2007 2:25 pm

scottlucey wrote:my photos are up


Thank you - they are great!
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