Welcome to Day One recap coverage from the 2014 Big Western Regional Barista Competition. This event is happening over the weekend of February 21st-23rd, and is a preliminary regional competition to determine entrants for the 2014 United States Barista Championship in Seattle. It is our pleasure and privilege to serve as official media sponsors throughout the 2014 United States Barista Championship season, in association with the Specialty Coffee Association of America.
Our coverage is made possible by direct support from Wilbur Curtis and Portola Coffee Lab. The entirety of our 2014 competition coverage–regionals, nationals, and the 2014 World Barista Championship in Rimini, Italy–is anchored by the direct support of Nuova Simonelli, whose Aurelia T3 serves as the official espresso machine of the USBC and WBC.
All of this coverage is culled from the @SprudgeLive Twitter feed. Please follow @SprudgeLive for our leading competition coverage live from Los Angeles. All photos by Zachary Carlsen for Sprudge.com.
Day One – Friday, February 21, 2014 – 20 Competitors
This is the third consecutive Southwest Region appearance for Justin Williams of @frontsf. He competes with an heirloom variety Ethiopian coffee from Yirgacheffe.
“I feel that the value of coffee can be elevated with an environment of finesse and detail…” Mr. Williams is serving a housemade mineral water, flat water, and sparkling water throughout this #bigwestern service.
Espressos for Justin Williams: “semi-sweet chocolate, blackberry, apricot”–notes will appear again in his sig drink. His sig drink includes blackberry puree, dried apricot, palm syrup, and chocolate. Pulling his sig drink shots, he is tapping his toes to “Love You Like A Love Song”. Time is called at 14:47.
Charles Biando is the only competitor at #BIGWESTERN from @bluebottleroast–he works at their newly opened Morse Building cafe in Oakland (read all about it here on Sprudge). Mr. Biando's routine has 2 components–fast service with “sparse” dialogue & seated service “like a restaurant.” He competes with an Ethiopa Homacho Waeno.
For his sig drink of grapefruit zest, brown sugar, water, jasmine, citrus-peel-rimmed glasses, and espresso, Mr. Biando cues his own music on stage via cassette player–to the judges: “it's just for you!” For the bonus now in Charles Biando's routine…he's charging CO2 for a second sig drink component meant to mimic capps. Unfortunately Mr. Biando goes past 16 minutes and becomes the weekend's first DQ.
A Seattle guy through and through, @MaxwellAMooney asks the judges “how do you like this weather? it's so sunny! like summer!”
Mr. Mooney competes with coffee from Boquete, Panama–“this is speciality coffee”–from producer Graciano Cruz. He goes for big, beautiful flavor descriptors “Madagascar vanilla”, “Cavendish tobacco finish.”
This is such a producer-focused performance. @MaxwellAMooney talking at length about his producer, Graciano Cruz. On using a Panamanian natural process coffee: it's experimental in this part of the world “but the rewards outweigh the risks”, and “the water saved from one bag of naturally washed coffee could fill 100 @nuovasimonelli #T3 espresso machines.
This routine has a little bit of everything…@MaxwellAMooney using the “nutation” tamping technique for his sig drinks. He winds up calling time at 15:21.
Mr. Tran competes using a Guatemala Huehuetenango coffee–from a producer with a “knack for experimentation”. For his espresso flavor notes, he describes “a floral aroma, kumquat acidity, pinot noir, with a date finish,” while he says his cappuccinos will “taste a lot like thanksgiving…candied yams, campfire, toasted marshmallows…”
David Tran ends with a riff on the espresso con panna–kumquat pith over date whipped cream and espresso. Smooth and serene on stage, Tran gives a really artistic and intentional routine. He calls time at 14:37.
Mr. Neighbors of @cremaPDX competes here at #BIGWESTERN with @coavacoffee‘s Honduras Benjamin Miranda–learn more about the coffee here. This coffee brings a cocoa bitterness, lingering caramel, paired with the “comfort” of milk in Liam Neighbor's cappuccinos.
Mr. Neighbors sig drink includes cherry syrup, cocoa nib and cherry powder lined cups, along with espresso.
Mr. Flores of @BarNineCoffee competes at #BIGWESTERN with a Brazilian peaberry coffee–the first Brazilian coffee of the day here. You can read more about Bar Nine in our Build-Outs Of Summer feature here.
Pomelo, sugar, chocolate, and pomelo extract in Mr. Flores' signature drink, “Gangsta's Paradise” for the soundtrack. He calls time at 14:10.
Mr. McBride was the 2013 second place finisher for the NW region. It was, as they say, a photo finish. Cole is locked in from jump at the #BIGWESTERN : talking and working–pulling shots, pouring water, working through his script.
Mr. McBride's roaster @veltonscoffee–in-depth experimentation together on roast profile: “by slowing it down and adding development time, the coffee become more soluble.” The roast profile is designed to maximize extraction–“it's a little more developed than I would traditionally like”–intentional. Mr. McBride's typica coffee from southern Ecuador was sourced for him by our MC @roasterjoe of @CafeImports, shouted out by name on stage.
Sig drink: chilled espresso in sake containers from Japan–“blown to a specific thickness” for optimal chill. @Vervecoffee cascara concentrate, Washington State honey water, @RishiTea sencha green tea, all double-charged with nitrogen “to change the tactile sensation.”
Cole McBride calls time at 13:27 (?!?) here at #BIGWESTERN–that's what happens when a very driven person does nothing but bust ass on a barista comp routine for months.
Mr. Lawson of @OakWoodRoasted looks like he's having a ball up there! Big smile the whole time. Notes of “caramel, pralines, and warm honey” in his cappuccinos–made with @oakwoodroasted Guatemalan coffee.
Mr. Lawson's sig drink: cider reduction with apple & zinfandel juice, cloves, star anise, Vietnamese cinnamon.
“There's two ways to be an artisan: traditionalists…and radicals”–@christosandrews with a very interesting opening script at #bigwestern. “This coffee was produced by traditionalists and roasted by radicalists”– @christosandrews on his @kumacoffee El Sal Las Brumas, roasted on a @LoringRoasters air roaster. “Radicalist” indeed.
Mr. Andrews presents the judges with a bit of ground coffee, then adds water to bloom as an intro to his sig drink of cinnamon, vanilla, basil, and an almond infusion cream. He calls time at 14:31.
Jamil says that his work as a barista and his work as a DJ/MC in the Inland Empire is much the same: it's all about 1st impressions. He produced his own competition soundtrack, and the jams are as smooth as the presentation. He gives an impressively chill & assured routine using Dripp's “approachable but complex” Colombia La Hermosa.
Serving capps, he says “as a DJ I'm not playing for myself, I'm playing for the patrons, and as a barista it's much the same.” He gives equal parts soundtrack & taste info throughout the performance: a @diplo remix of @grizzlybear‘s Will Call accompanies his “stone fruit” espresso. His sig drink: reduced peach, apricot preserves, half &half, & sweetened condensed milk, chai concentrate spray. Beats for his sig drink: J Dilla.
There's a @MAHLKOENIG EK43 up here on stage for Mr. Weaver. He competes with two coffees by @SlateCoffee–first, a Kenya Gaturiri from Nyeri, with “refined pomegranate acidity” and “floral aromatics.” Learn more about @SlateCoffee‘s Kenya Gaturiri AB here.
Ahh hey–“Walkin' After Midnight” in @coffeeandbookz‘ routine…Patsy Cline FTW. The 2nd coffee in @coffeeandbookz routine is @slatecoffee‘s Brazil Sao Pedro Estate peaberry. Beautiful flatware, stemware, water pitchers etc from @coffeeandbookz–aesthetically very pleasing stage set. He calls time at 15:05.
Dry ice! syringes! This sig drink from @crisjmendoza is nanners you guys–bubblin' & brewin' away. On the dry ice component of his sig drink: “it's pretty awesome.” Sig drink mixture–coriander simple syrup, cherry juice–is filtered through a metal sieve.
Cannon uses a two-bean variation on the Velton's Coffee Bonsai Blend: a pulped natural Brazil & a late harvest natural Mexico Nayarita. Wine glasses get placed over the espresso course to capture the aromas as the espresso cools, judges asked to inhale after
Cannon blends his two beans in the portafilter for each course with a @Mahlkoenig K30 Twin. For the capps, he highlights the Brazil Condado.
Cannon filters the crema from espresso for his sig drink so he can add carbonation to it. The sig drink has simple ingredients: espresso, strawberry, selzer, sugar–it's all in the technique & balance. Unfortunately Mike Cannon goes over 16mins, and is disqualified
Big hometown crowd at #BIGWESTERN for Frank La, representing @Copa_Vida (read all about them on Sprudge here) in Los Angeles. The glass and ceramic water bottles for @flalessinhim chose for his #bigwestern service are so so pretty.
Frank ‘s routine is all about time–he competes using a Kenya Gaturiri that had two 24hr fermentations followed by a 24hr soak. Next Frank walks us through time on production side: to highlight acidity, a 12:50min roast time, and a 27sec extraction. For his sig drink: Gaturiri ice cubes, sugar, multiple fermentations of kombucha, jasmine tea, hibiscus flowers, ginger juice.
Stacy uses a blend of a lighter roast & a darker roast of the Colombia Huila Monserrate from @BatdorfCoffee to highlight both acidity & depth. Stacy's signature drink focuses on umami savoriness, combining chocolate, miso, and honey-almond foam into a riff on a macchiato.
Andrew starts with a confession: “I hate sig drinks. I think they're often a poor representation of the coffee.” He competes using a rarely seen Venesia variety coffee from Hacienda Sonora in Costa Rica, roasted by @PortolaCoffee for #BIGWESTERN
He uses a special 6% milkfat milk from the revered California creamery @StrausOrganic for his #bigwestern capps. The sig drink is the height of simplicity: judges given a full extraction split in 2 glasses, given 1 bottle of hot & 1 bottle of cold H20. He then asked judges to combine the waters and espresso, and look for relaxed melon acidity in the hot, and a tighter bergamot in the cold.
“An intensified, refined acidity” in Mr. Schroeder's espressos–coffee grown at 2200 meters! That's high. Tastes like “black tea and lemon.”
A lot of intentionality in this routine–different groups on the Nuova Simonelli T3 espresso machine designated for cappuccino service, sig drink service. Mr. Schroeder talks at length about his coffee's “caramelization roast…a slow stacking of energy that was applied to this coffee.”
Signature drink inspired by “black tea and lemonade…one of my favorite drinks in the summertime”–his sig drink takes black tea, coconut sugar, and egg white, shaken with ice. Finishes sig drink w/ lemon peel–“look for the natural lemon notes the espresso provides.”
“Making consistently delicious coffee is challenging.”–Nicholas Rodriguez.
Beautiful barman set-up here for Nicholas Rodriguez–vintage ice buckets, Japanese pitchers, wooden table trays…each course of Mr. Rodriguez's service is attended by a hand-drawn menu card for each judge. It's the little things.
A treat, truly, to watch Bronwen Serna compete again–she is the 2004 United States Barista Champion, donchaknow, and while that was certainly a long time ago, it feels like everyone in the room knows who Bronwen Serna is.
Ethiopian Natural Guji and Sulawesi Toarco peaberry in Bronwen's espressos–a play on the old school “moka java” blend. Her Ethiopian is a fully natural coffee from the Sidamo region, with a juicy, rich body, and very clean. Her Indonesian Sulawesi balances those notes with a “tangy, rich body, and dark chocolate aftertaste.”
Bronwen Serna plays with blend ratio and portafilter layering throughout her routine. 30% Guji, 70% Toarco for her espressos, with the Ethiopian coffee added last to the top of the portafilter. Same ratio for her capps, but this time the Ethiopian goes in first. Says this has a subtle but meaningful effect on flavor.
“Strawberry milkshake and milk chocolate” notes in Bronwen's capps, moving into a sig drink with “spice syrup” – brown sugar, fennel seed, fennugreek, caradmom–and a 50/50 blend of her coffees.
Huge cheer as Bronwen Serna calls time. Much love in the room for Bronweezy.
Another @MAHLKOENIG EK43 grinder on stage here at #BIGWESTERN–June Thornton cool and composed through her espresso course, serving Heart Roasters Ethiopia Chelektu. As an aside, we get to drink this coffee on the regular back at Sprudge PDX HQ, and it's #deloshes.
Cappuccinos with simple notes: “floral lavender, plums.” Signature drink features “rosemary and goji berry creme anglaise, sparkling water, and simple syrup…” all shaken together with the addition of “sparkles”.
Very cool mood for this routine, our last of the day. The lights in the room were a little dimmer, and some of the space's blue background lighting kicked in behind Ms. Thornton. A moody and intense stage setting, but also serene and very beautiful at the same time, and perfectly complimentary to June Thornton's music selections. This routine was a great highlight to end the day.
You can read all about the 2014 Big Western weekend here on Sprudge.