Set your doomsday clock to 11:59. Put the kids in the bomb shelter. Call your mother. Things got SERIOUS today over on the Doubleshot Coffee Blog, in an all-but-shooting tête-à-tête straight out of Dr. Strangelove. Nick Cho, Portafilter poobah and noted coffee gadabout, was engaged with intent to destroy in a war of words with Brian Franklin, of Double Shot Coffee (located in Tulsa, OK, otherwise known as the coffee capital of America). We’re giving you the blow-by-blow, the play by play, while these two puscillanimous pugilists rest in their respective corners, each focusing their blackened eyes on conquering one another in the next round of knickerbocking!
I know I rail on this a lot, but I think it’s important.Isaiah and Garth went to the regional barista competition (SCRBC) the weekend before last, and they experienced the same thing as usual. They really went this year trying to play the game. They changed almost everything about the way we make coffee in order to follow the strict and unbending rules laid out by the… whoever. I’m not sure who came up with these rules. Intelligentsia?
One of the things looked down upon in the specialty coffee industry is the way we tamp. We tamp as hard as we can. Who taught me that? No one taught me that. I started noticing years ago that the harder I tamped, the sweeter the coffee tasted. And I like that. Hard tamp = sweet espresso. I promise you that’s true. I’m not exactly sure why.
At the comp, my boys always get marked down for crema that’s not the color the judges are looking for and the crema doesn’t persist as long as they want it to. They always say our coffee is “too fresh.” I’m not kidding about that. As soon as we get the score sheets, I’ll post them so you can see it for yourself. The coffee is too fresh? Yeah yeah, we’ve been through this. Well, I have a couple theories about all this. And I think as time goes on, you’re going to see that I’m right. Because I learned it, not from Intelli, but from experience and experiments.
Harder tamp, coarser grind, less micro-particles, more control over shots, sweeter espresso.Sweeter espresso, fresh coffee, less crema persistence.Should we really concern ourselves so much with crema persistence?Just drink it when I give it to you.
Nick Cho, experienced USBC judge and “big wheel at the cracker factory”, weighs in with the following comments:
Whether or not “persistence of crema” is a value that the industry should be promoting or not is definitely a debatable point. More and more, you hear about baristas questioning the “status quo” and raising doubt about whether crema is all it’s cracked up to be.
That said, this was Isaiah’s third competition. What’s the point in bangin your head against a wall? Did you want the judges to throw out the published rules and turn the competition into the “United States Hardest Tamp Championship?”
There are published standards and rules for the competition. Nobody’s telling you what you can or can’t do in your shop.
Did any judge score lower because of the hard tamp? I don’t think so. It’s about consistent technique.
I’d love to see a DoubleShot barista make a go of the competition by showing mastery of the rules and standards and delivering on it. Isaiah’s a great barista for sure. I hate seeing the Haterade flowing from what sure seems like sour grapes.
Brian rolls out a full troop deployment in response:
I like the idea of Nick Cho, but in practice, NIck, I find you to be a joke. You don’t listen. You aren’t in touch with reality. You don’t listen. I wrote that twice because I figured you skipped it the first time. I’m sick of listening to you. You don’t seem very smart. Your arguments are extremely lame.
Do they take away on points for the way Isaiah tamps? Yes they do. Do they take away points for our fresh coffee? Yes they do. Did he try to follow the arbitrary rules this time and tamp the same lame way every time? Yes. Did they still count off on points because he polished too hard? Yes.
Nick, until you get your head out of your ass I’m not going to publish any more of your comments. No one cares what you think.
The trench warfare then continued on Twitter. Here’s a snapshot of the battle damage:
Stay tuned. We don’t think it’s over. This kind of back-and-forth forum snark has a rich and storied history in the specialty coffee world, and we can surely expect more fireworks and devastation. Suffice it to say, don’t expect Nick Cho to be visiting Tulsa, Oklahoma anytime in the near future (your loss, Nick).