SCAA Barista Competition - Competitor Debriefing - Page 2

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Abe Carmeli
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#11: Post by Abe Carmeli »

barry wrote:you are extrapolating more from that photo than is, perhaps, warranted. we don't know if those shots were rejected or not; we only have that one instant in the photo.
I'm actually not referring to the photo anymore, but to your comment that the average shot in a competition is between 2-4 points (out of max 6). It is unlikely that professional baristas that pull hundreds of shots a day cannot muster a very good or an excellent shot. They can, they just can't do it in a competition. Have you noticed how many personal, world and Olympic records are shattered in the Olympic games? How many athletes break at the very least their own personal best in the competition? This is what those competitors should be shooting for. It's all about preparation and training. They are way behind. You want an example closer to coffee, check out baking competitions (which are much more difficult). You do not see such poor performances there.
--barry "even the best baseball players miss the ball over 60% of the time"
Yes, but they also miss the ball in practice. The question is: can you deliver your best performance in competition? In sports the answer is yes in many cases. There lies the difference.
Abe Carmeli

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HB (original poster)
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#12: Post by HB (original poster) »

barry wrote:you are extrapolating more from that photo than is, perhaps, warranted. we don't know if those shots were rejected or not; we only have that one instant in the photo.
I was one of the sensory judges for that particular preliminary round. To put it delicately... that photo alone accurately captures what you would expect. But in all fairness, the regionals are the first stepping stone of the overall competition and as for a regional competition of any nature, there is a wider range of skills and finesse under the stress of performance. This brings me back to your earlier point:
barry wrote:everyone who makes it to the finals should be very capable, so the judges will be looking for any little justification to deduct points. i remember at the usbc that everyone was so top notch that sometimes it came down to the "little stuff" to determine who was doing a better performance.
Despite that some of the drinks were disappointing, I admire those who are willing to work in front of an audience and seven judges peering at their every move. I'm barely willing to try it myself in the Unsanctions Pro-Am. Honestly, I would be very pleased if I could perform as well on stage as I do lounging in my kitchen.
Dan Kehn

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barry

#13: Post by barry »

Abe Carmeli wrote:I'm actually not referring to the photo anymore, but to your comment that the average shot in a competition is between 2-4 points (out of max 6). It is unlikely that professional baristas that pull hundreds of shots a day cannot muster a very good or an excellent shot. They can, they just can't do it in a competition.
i'll agree 100% that every single competitor i've judged could have done better, but that's the nature of anything, isn't it? there's a huge difference between standing on the sidelines saying/thinking "oh, he should have done this" and actually doing it. coaches coach and players play, and there's always room for improvement. the majority of shots in competition fall between 2 and 4 (especially in regionals). i would say there are more 5s at the USBC and WBC. remember that there're no preliminaries for the regionals, so baristas of every level of experience/knowledge can be in the line-up. there have been several times, while judging, when i just wanted to scream out "NO! don't do that!", but, alas, i am a judge, not a coach.

also, there are complications in the way the contests are run and judged which can have a negative impact on scoring. all four drinks must be served at the same time. i have watched a number of beautiful shots die in the cups while waiting for milk or the second set of shots. we can't judge the shot based on the pour alone; they are judged as they are presented (espresso), or as they appear just before the milk is added (espresso base). a shot that might be a 5 or even a 6 as it pours into the cup, drops to a 3 or 4 (or worse) before it is judged.

Abe Carmeli
Team HB

#14: Post by Abe Carmeli »

barry wrote:also, there are complications in the way the contests are run and judged which can have a negative impact on scoring. all four drinks must be served at the same time. i have watched a number of beautiful shots die in the cups while waiting for milk or the second set of shots. we can't judge the shot based on the pour alone; they are judged as they are presented (espresso), or as they appear just before the milk is added (espresso base). a shot that might be a 5 or even a 6 as it pours into the cup, drops to a 3 or 4 (or worse) before it is judged.
That particular rule has bugged me to no end. Why is it so important to serve all judges at the same time, especially when it is clear that it compromises the drink? There is room for improvement in the contest rules for sure.
Abe Carmeli

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#15: Post by HB (original poster) »

Abe Carmeli wrote:Why is it so important to serve all judges at the same time, especially when it is clear that it compromises the drink?
I asked the same question to the head judge, Jeff Taylor. He replied the competition isn't about optimizing the rules to maximize the quality of the drink or recreating a cafe production line, it's to simulate the mythical "five star" experience. As a sensory judge, I wouldn't mind being served out of order, but it would detract from the service aspect. I suggested that baristas should consider pulling all the shots at the same time and apparently at one time they did just that. However they soon discovered that the time out of the portafilter affected the quality of the shot too, plus they got dinged on technical points, so everyone reverted back to sequential shots.

Hey Barry, what about popping out the baskets and prepping a couple? It's not an uncommon practice among home baristas... are there competition rules against it? I know competitors aren't allowed to introduce new baskets or modify the machine, but technically they aren't.
Dan Kehn

Abe Carmeli
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#16: Post by Abe Carmeli »

HB wrote: I asked the same question to the head judge, Jeff Taylor. He replied the competition isn't about optimizing the rules to maximize the quality of the drink or recreating a cafe production line, it's to simulate the mythical "five star" experience.
Jeff's reply does not add up. That mythical Barista exists only in the delusional mind of whoever wrote those rules. If indeed it were about the service and not the drink, how come the allocated points for service performance is so minuscule in comparison with the technical and sensory evaluation? The whole thing is half baked and inconsistent. Who cares about the service if the shot sucks?
Abe Carmeli

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barry

#17: Post by barry »

Abe Carmeli wrote:That particular rule has bugged me to no end. Why is it so important to serve all judges at the same time, especially when it is clear that it compromises the drink? There is room for improvement in the contest rules for sure.
it bugged me, too, until i realized that holding the bar just slightly out of reach always meant there was room for improvement. i've only seen one or two competitors who've properly managed their time wrt espresso prep/brewing. making things difficult lets the judges see how well the competitor deals with the challenge. if you're really really good, you can grind/dose/tamp/load and start brewing in about 20 seconds (or less), which means the longest the 1st set has to sit before serving is about 20 seconds. the first year i was judging, i could tech judge with one stopwatch because no one would get the 2nd set going before the 1st set finished. after spending much of last year encouraging competitors to improve this aspect of their performance, at this year's USBC i had to use two stopwatches. the overall level of performance at the USBC improved remarkably between 2004 and 2005, and i expect to see similar improvements in 2006. in 2004, it wasn't uncommon to see competitors using only one of the three groups available. in 2005, iirc, there were a couple of competitors who used all three groups. i still think there is room for improvement in several areas.

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HB (original poster)
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#18: Post by HB (original poster) »

Abe Carmeli wrote:Who cares about the service if the shot sucks?
I can't speak for the authors of the rules, but I bet they would say that a truly talented barista will overcome the competition's limitations (e.g., time, equipment, and service rules) and still produce a superior shot. I did notice that one barista who advanced to the finals learned a lesson in the preliminaries on this very topic -- the consequences of spending too much time between the two sets -- and did indeed adapt in the finals.
Dan Kehn

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barry

#19: Post by barry »

HB wrote:Hey Barry, what about popping out the baskets and prepping a couple? It's not an uncommon practice among home baristas... are there competition rules against it? I know competitors aren't allowed to introduce new baskets or modify the machine, but technically they aren't.
against the rules to pop out baskets.

Abe Carmeli
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#20: Post by Abe Carmeli » replying to barry »

Why am I not surprised... As far as producing the drink, I think the competition should allow some leeway to deviate from common practices. There is no room for innovation otherwise.
Abe Carmeli