The World Barista Championship are about to start. Over 60 competitors will compete to become the next World Barista Champion. It sounds easy; you brew coffee and the best one wins, right? Basically you are right, but there’s a lot more to it. So how does it all work?
How do you organize a competition in which you choose the best Barista in the world? It’s not so simple as to let them brew an espresso and choose a winner. A Barista needs to be consistent in brewing excellent coffee, all the time. The Barista also needs to be able to brew other coffee varieties, know the product he is working with, entertain in front of a crowd and be a role-model/inspiration to others. Sounds like a lot huh? Back in the days, the SCAE and SCAA created a set of rules and a tournament set-up, to determine which Barista will be the overall champion. Let’s take a look at the set-up.
World Barista Championship set-up
In total there are over 60 Barista’s who will compete in the championship. There are two days of preliminary rounds after which there will be only 15 Barista’s left, plus one Barista with a wildcard. The highest-scoring person in the highest-scoring WBC team (that’s not a semi-finalist yet) will be granted a spot. After the semi-finals only 6 Barista’s will continue to the Finals. The one emerging as a winner from the finals is the world’s best Barista.
During the tournament rounds, there will be 4 sensory judges, 1 technical judge and 1 head judge who will be watching, tasting and judging the competitors.
Each Barista gets a cycle of 44 minutes in which to make his or her run. This run is made out of 7 minutes table set-up time, 15 minutes preparation time, 15 minutes competition/performance time and 7 minutes of clean-up time. If the barista exceeds one of these set times, a penalty will follow.
World Barista Championship: The Run
The run starts out with a 7 minute station set-up time. The Barista’s may choose any out of 9 pre-set set-ups that are chosen by the organisation. All the equipment is the same, except the grinder(s) and the coffee. The Barista may bring along his personal grinders and the coffee is a personal choice as well; tastes differ and not all coffee’s are available all over the world. There is also the possibility to change the temperature of the water with which they will pull their shots.
Next we have the preparation time. During the 15 minutes of preparation time a Barista must think of a lot of things: setting up the station, setting the judges table, getting all the equipment he needs for the performance, making sure all the equipment is ready to go etcetera. When the clock hit’s 15 minutes it means the end of preparation time and the Barista better be ready.
During the 15 minutes of competition/performance time a Barista must serve 4 Espresso’s, 4 milk-based drinks and 4 signature drinks. In the meanwhile he/she uses music and light to entertain the judges as well as talk about what he/she is doing, what he/she is serving and some other information he/she wants to give out. Now think about it for a second. You have got 15 minutes to make 12 drinks, perfect drinks that all need to taste the same. During that time you will have to perform, entertain and talk to the judges. Oh, and you must perform flawlessly because chances are, that some other competitor is doing a flawless performance and run away with the trophy.
After the performance run the Barista needs to clan up after himself. This must be during the 7 minutes clean-up time, but the time used will not be judged by the judges. After exactly 44 minutes the Barista has done all he can, as best as he can and within the time that was given.
World Barista Championship: What do they judge?
The judges have a huge responsibility when it comes to the scoring part of a Barista. What do they watch for? When will they give out a penalty? To make things a little bit easier for the judges, the organisation set-up 4 points that a Barista must meet to be considered a true Barista Champion:
A.Has a mastery of technical skills, craftsmanship, communication skills and service skills and is passionate about the
B.Has a broad understanding of coffee knowledge beyond the twelve drinks being served in the competition
C.Prepares and serves high quality beverages; and
D.May serve as a role model and a source of inspiration for others.
The judges will give a maximum of 6 points for each criteria. 0 being the worst and 6 for being extraordinary. Judges are allowed to hand out 0.5 points (1.5, 2.5 etc.)
World Barista Championship: A look at the judging criteria
Next up is judging the technical aspects of preparing the espresso’s, milk beverages and signature drinks. Flushing the group, spillage of the dosage of coffee, consistency during dosing and of course the extraction time. They also look for cleanliness, hygiene and organization as well.
In the meanwhile there are the 4 sensory judges that will judge the the drinks.
When the espresso’s are served during the competition/performance time, the judges will give scores to the crema, taste balance, accuracy of flavour descriptors and finally how all these come together in the espresso. Did the espresso have the correct flavours, mouthfeel etc. when you look at the type of coffee that has been used by the Barista?
After the espresso’s it is time for the milk based drinks.
The judges will give scores to the visual aspect of the milk: the colour, appearance and consistency of the milk. How do the colours blend with the espresso, how does the froth look? After that they will judge the taste balance of the drink and the accuracy of flavour descriptors. Finally they will check if the right cup has been used as well. During this round, a Barista is not allowed to put any powder or such, on top of the milk.
The last round is the Signature drink round. The judges will determine if a drink has been well explained, introduced and prepared. This is critical since the judges will probably have never tasted the drink before. After this they will take note of the presentation of the drink. The functionality part is about how well a drink can be consumed. The next aspect is the creativity and synergy of the drink. How well do the ingredients go with coffee and how creative is the idea of the Barista. The taste balance and accuracy of flavour descriptors are the last aspects that are judged.
After these rounds, the judges will give a score to customer service skills and finally an overall score for the Barista. After deducting points and debating the performances by the finalists, a winner is chosen. In short, this is how the World Barista Championship work.