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SCAA 2006 Charlotte Final Day Report
Posted: April 10, 2006
Article rating: 7.8
feedback: (6) comments | read | write
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This is going to be quite a long travelogue of my last day at the SCAA. I don't have exact time stamps for this, but I will do it in order. I'll do it in blog style again, even though I'm posting this the day after the last day. You'll see time stamps indicating when approximately these things happened, and if you're reading CG the day this was posted (April 11), keep coming back as it will be updated and eventually be one of the longest articles on the site. (PS. The ident pic shows the top three in the USBC - Billy Wilson on the left, second place; Matt "Riddle me This" Riddle, 1st place, and Amber Sather, 3rd place).

Before I get into that, I wanted to mention a few additional notes about the previous days, covering some things I missed.

I got to meet Cindy, the person who does the fantastic show notes for the Podcast. I couldn't thank her enough, and more truthfully, I didn't thank her enough. I had a gift I brought down to Charlotte with me for her, and forgot to give it to her. Cindy, I need your mailing address ;)

I had a "mission" at this show. To not pay anything for booze the entire trip. I almost succeeded - the only time I did pay for booze was buying myself and Rob Stephen a beer when I recorded my podcast with him. Other than that, I hit every "open bar" party there was. And there were a lot ;) Fun times.

In yesterday's update, I wrote about the Clover vs. Aeropress test, and regarding the aftertaste from the Aeropress, I said... "and the aftertaste was so bad after a while, I had to find some carbonated water and crackers to get rid of it. The Aeropress 180F / paper filter was the last one I sampled, and it was hurting after two or three minutes."

This commentary did not come across the way I intended. I was talking as if I was talking to a room of fellow cuppers, and when we do that, this is just an indication you're not pleased with the aftertaste. Alan Adler talked to me at the airport and told me that the comments really hurt, and that wasn't the intention, so I want to clarify. The brewed coffee from the Aeropress on that day was a mellow, even, mild cup and definitely something pleasing to the majority of coffee drinkers. But I wanted to get across that there are some aftertastes from coffee that you want to linger, and there's some that you want to move on from. This was the latter, and I in my haste, I wrote the way I would talk in a cupping room, where such comments would be more clearly understood.

Changing gears, the social gatherings were awesome. The highlight for me was probably the Counter Culture Coffee party at their training facilities, closely followed by the Barista Guild Party on Sunday night, where everyone who was anyone was in attendance. At that party alone, I think I was said hi to by about 80 different people.

Which brings me to something I just want to mention briefly. I am absolutely terrible at remembering names. My short term memory kind of sucks, something I don't like about myself. But closely following that is my (in)ability to remember names. I remember faces, smells, tastes, imagery with ease. But I have this kind of dyslexic ability (for lack of a better word) to not remember names associated with faces. I feel absolutely terrible too about this, when people come up to me and go "Mark, so great to see you again!!!!" and I know the person, remember meeting them, remember snippets of our previous convos, but can't remember their names.

I type all this because if you are a person who's name I didn't remember this year, please know that it's just a brainfart on my part, and in no way related to you, or the impression you left on me. 'nuff said on that? ;)

Arriving at the show floor
Posted by Mark Prince, 9:20am Permalink to this blog entry

I got to the show floor at around 9am, or one hour before it opened. Press credentials can be helpful. I ran into the guys from Urnex who are very excited about introducing a new line of consumer versions of their commercial cleaning products for Urnex and Purocaff. I wish I had more time to spend with them, but I do know that a consumer version of Grindz, Cafiza and other products are not only in the plans, but already available from some dealers. Grindz is especially good for home baristas and their multi-purpose grinders. I use it all the time myself in the Baratza Virtuoso, Solis Maestro Plus, KitchenAid Proline and other consumer grinders, and it works as advertised.

I headed over to the Baratza booth next where I had some additional questions for Kyle Anderson, the designer of the Virtuoso grinder. Most of the concerns about the grinder (aka static issues, etc) are being addressed, and existing customers of the product will be taken care of, according to Kyle. It's a kick butt grinder and in many ways the current standard other consumer grinders are going to be measured against. I took some photos of the internals of the grinder. You can see that the grind path is almost entirely vertical and that big beefy DC motor looks like it will last for decades. Last year I posted pictures of the conical burrs, so I won't repeat it here, except to say that they are not the same burrs found in most other consumer cony-grinders.

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You can see the grind path (shrouded by the plastic cover) is near vertical from the burr stack area to the bin.
Big DC motor inside the grinder, and a small circuit board connector for the microswitches.
Kyra Kennedy
Kyra, of Baratza, explaining products to a potential customer.
USBC Closed Circuit - why the hell not?
Posted by Mark Prince, 9:40am Permalink to this blog entry

I headed over to the Barista competition where everyone seemed to be. I bought another $50 worth of tickets for the GS/3 auction (bringing Beata and my total to $200 bought, plus another $120 for the proxy buys I made). The USBC finals should have a lot of audience today - I hope. Which brings me to a point I want to make.

The SCAA should be doing closed circuit broadcasting of the feed of the USBC all over the conference hall. Believe it or not, a woman I shared a cab with (along with Jim Schulman) to the airport had this brilliant, "why didn't we think of that" idea. Plasma screens on rental or something, all over the convention hall, showing the USBC in progress. The idea is that people can walk the floor and make booth owners happy, but still see the live action going on at the USBC. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. When the USBC is not going on (and I dunno when that would be - it's four days long, 9am to 6pm most days!), the vid screens could be used to pimp other stuff going on at the SCAA.

Schectormatic and GS - Original!
Posted by Mark Prince, 9:55am Permalink to this blog entry

USBC is about to roll, so I walk around the area near the comp. Checking out the Intelly booth which is hopping crazy, and I ran into my friend Instaurator. He had not heard about Andy Schecter's "Scheckomatic" alternative pressure system, so I walked him over to the Gimme! Coffee booth where he got a chance to talk to Kevin C. (I was also able to introduce him to Chris Deferio). I saw Inny and Kevin get deep into the convo, so I decided to leave them at it as I went next door...

To Paul Pratt's booth where I was able to (finally) pull shots on his complete rebuild of a GS (original) model. Paul's a freaking genius, and that machine is seriously lustworthy. I was doubly blessed, because Paul had, in the grinder, some of Barry Jarrett's Espresso Taliaferro - some of the last we'll see until Riley's Coffee moves to its new location. The shot pulls were exquisite, and I showed my complete neophyte-with-the-paddle-group skillz by forgetting to use the preinfuse on the GS.

Speaking of which, here's another factoid about the new GS3 and new paddle group. The original GS had a preinfuse mode where, move the paddle to a certain point, and the path between brew boiler and grouphead is open. Open or close. But on the new paddle group, it's a progressive opening... move it to a certain point, and the brew path may be open 1/16th of its total size. Move it more and it's 1/8th. Move it more and it's 1/4. And so on. The Barista has total control not only over the preinfusion time, but how much flow (based on brew boiler pressure and / or line in pressure) the boiler will provide to the grouphead. Sweet.

Pratt then showed me some of the new tampers he has out of Asia that look really cool. There's a whole variety of design tweaks and such, but one thing I noticed in particular was this massive "euro preferred" bevel on one of the tampers. Very extreme!

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Raffle Tix!
ESI selling tix for the LM GS/3 raffle.
Power discussions
TonX, Kyle Glanville, Andrew Barnett and unidentified person discussing coffee, espresso, whatever ;)
I have to ask you not to take our confidential photos! LOL! Tony rox.
The crowd is thick, as Doug (far right) observes.
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Talking Espresso
Inny talking to Kevin C. at Gimme! As Deferio listens in.
Paul Pratt
Paul and his amazing GS machine.
Dat's a Bevel!
Check out the mad bevel on this tamper.
Barista Guild
Jay Carragay with (sorry, I forgot your name. sigh), at BGA Booth.
Oh my gosh...
Posted by Mark Prince, 10:00am Permalink to this blog entry

The thinking, dangerous men of coffee.

LOL. Next time I get snapped with an ultrawide angle lens, I'm standing in the middle. Look at how skinny TonX looks! That's me, Tony, and Kyle, ready to stage a coup on the world of mediocre espresso and coffee.

Mark, Tonx and Kyle

Jon Lewis, USBC Finals
Posted by Mark Prince, 10:30am Permalink to this blog entry
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I thought Jon was brilliant. I also think he was one of two or three finalists who might actually be better suited for the WBC than for the USBC. His drink builds looked great, and his signature drink was elegant. Perhaps even too elegant (and complicated) for the USBC. It took some time to explain how to drink it, and there were stages to the process.

My photos for this are going up on flickr, and I have to apologise - the colour balance for most of my USBC photos are way off, and I just uploaded the raw imagery. But the idea behind these photos is to give you, the viewer, the idea of what it's like to be right in there - peaking over the judges' shoulders, seeing the drink builds in detail, being intimate with the process. I hope these photos portray that.

Jon placed outside the top three, which is a surprise to me - but I didn't taste the coffees, and talking to Jon after the comp, he said he missed the ball a bit on his cappuccinos and espresso pulls. I don't know about that - his drink builds looked fantastic visually.

Enjoy the flickr love.

Jon Lewis USBC 2006 CoffeeGeek's Jon Lewis USBC 2006 photoset
NB. I didn't shoot all the finalists - I only got a few of them - my apologies. But more to come.

Matt Riddle, USBC Finals
Posted by Mark Prince, 11:00am Permalink to this blog entry
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I know Matt pretty well. We work a lot together on projects on the functionality of the Intelligentsia website, where's he's the web developer and designer for the company. That's his primary job at Intelligentsia. Not that he doesn't know how to Barista... because after all, he won it this year with the highest ever score in a USBC. He also cups coffee regularly and roasts.

But my point is, Matt's kind of the "outsider's" champ. Training barista skills isn't his main job. He's a true coffeegeek, with an amateur background in it before he went "pro" and even then, his "pro" side isn't really focused on espresso. It's his passion for espresso and the art around it that runs deep. Most importantly, he's a complete natural at it. I said a couple of the USBC finalists were people I think are even better suited for the WBC than for the USBC above, and Matt is definitely one of them.

His performance was near flawless, and on top of that, the key word "natural" comes to mind. His drinks looked fantastic, his signature drink was near perfect (I tasted it myself, and I can tell you as far as being a good competition signature drink, he hit a grand slam. It had espresso as a pure flavour, but then a kick of spicy goodness with anise comes through on the aftertaste, leaving something extremely pleasing on the palate).

Here's his flickr set - enjoy these pics of this year's USBC champ at work.
Matt Riddle, USBC 2006 Finals CoffeeGeek's Matt Riddle, USBC 2006 Finals photoset

Smarten Up, SCAA oldbies...
Posted by Mark Prince, 11:10am Permalink to this blog entry

Heard it from a very reliable source....

Apparently, some people within the SCAA - namely the old school, "mired within the 1980s corporate structure" types - don't like the fact that Rob Stephen would "dare" to go on the Portafilter and CoffeeGeek podcasts.

Didn't like that Rob was speaking "outside official media channels". Put down the podcasts as amateur, innappropriate forums.

Now it may be just the portafilter podcast that was talked about. I seriously doubt these oldschool (in a bad way) types had a chance to listen to Rob's CoffeeGeek Podcast interview yet (warning, mp3 file link). And maybe they have issues with Jay and Nick's liberal use of colourful words.

But the fact is, Rob turned a LOT of ears and minds by his participation on that podcast over at portafilter. He sure changed my mind somewhat about the SCAA. He put a human face on the .org, and did a damned fine job of it.

I'll be so happy when the day comes when the vast majory of those within the SCAA structure are more part of the Third Wave.

Just a little rant for the middle of these updates. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Extreme USBC Blogging Coverage
Posted by Mark Prince, 11:25am Permalink to this blog entry

Just brought to my attention - but if you want to get a great indepth view of the USBC this year, it's being blogged (with vids and stuff) over at Chemically Inbalanced.

Great stuff.

The USBC Show Guide - awesome pub...
Posted by Mark Prince, 11:35am Permalink to this blog entry

I'd be remiss if I failed to mention the great USBC programme guide that Sarah at Barista Magazine produced for this year's competition.

It's definitely the best one I've seen to date. Written in some ways like a journalistic magazine, it gives a great primer on the competitions, what they are about and how the process works. For the competition noob, you get a crash course in Barista competitions, with a walk through of the process.

There's an awesome profile of Phuong Tran who is the 2005 WBC champ (and her birthday was yesterday!), followed by profiles of the regional winners in a good journalistic style (Matt, I am so glad you ditched that beard!).

The writing is fresh and "hip" (I don't use that word lightly), with an engaging style that really complements the entire USBC. There's some promo stuff in there, but even that is written in a very neutral way.

Sarah hit a home run with this publicaiton. If only we can have something 1/4 as good for the Canadian championships in September.

Ellie Matuszak's USBC Finals
Posted by Mark Prince, 12:40pm Permalink to this blog entry
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Ellie has been doing this for a while now, and is just an amazing Barista. I love seeing her performance, and while I think she shows the tiniest bit of nerves, she's an extreme natural at this and more importantly, loves what she is doing. I'll take a natural anyday over someone who just drills and drills. What's ironic in all of this is that there is a confidence and a very professional manner about her as she performs... she's a very complex person up on stage.

She's the trainer at Intelligentsia, and I have rarely met anyone who knows more about coffee, in the trainer position.

Her signature drink was based around grapes and even featured an antique grape press. She finished very early - one of the fastest competitors in the round.

Here's some flickr love for Ellie.

Ellie Matuszak 2006 USBC Finals CoffeeGeek's Ellie Matuszak 2006 USBC Finals photoset

Ryan Dennhardt - USBC 2006 Finals
Posted by Mark Prince, 1:15pm Permalink to this blog entry
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So there was a bit of a surprise at this year's USBC - there were seven finalists instead of six. Now, I'm not going to speculate one way or another - whether it was "deserved" and a valid complaint that made this happen, or as one person hinted about how it was "ironic" that the seventh place finished seventth again in the finals. I just know I was very happy to get another chance to see Ryan Dennhardt do his thing once more, and I'm pretty sure 99% of the crowd felt the same way.

Ryan's a great, entertaining Barista. He's got flash and skill, he pours a mean drink, and you're always going to have a smile on your face when he's performing. One day soon, I'm sure I'm going to be down at Barista's Daily Grind to see him in his natural enviro.

Here's Ryan's flickr story.
Ryan Dennhardt USBC 2006 Finals CoffeeGeek's Ryan Dennhardt USBC 2006 Finals photoset

Finalists I missed.
Posted by Mark Prince, 1:55pm Permalink to this blog entry

I missed three of the finalists. Billy Wilson, Steve Fritzen, and Amber Sather.

I suck.

But here's a couple of photos of them, along with some photos of the crowd and other things while we waited for the winners' announcement.

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Amber Sather
Amber warming up before her performance. I could use a glass of that Pellegrino right now....
Billy Wilson
Billy - a bit blurry - that's because he was making me laugh when I shot this.
Here's why
Billy, going for his "GQ Coffea" Cover Shot.
The crowd
Lots of folks waiting. Dead senter, black jacket, hands in pocked is the GS/3 inventor, Bill Crossland.
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Money raised!
This is how much the GS/3 raffle raised for the USBC regional comps.
The crowd
Waiting for the announcements.
The trophies
Big shout out to Krups for their support of the comp.
Intelly Juggernaut.
I didn't know juggernauts could look so friendly and fun.
The winners!
Posted by Mark Prince, 3:00pm Permalink to this blog entry

So.... it came down to the wire, and we have the winner and runners-up announced for the 2006 United States Barista Championship. Phuong is no longer the reigning champ, she's the past champion now.

And the winner was.... Matt Riddle, of Intelligentsia Coffee! Matt scored the highest ever USBC score - way to freakin' go, Matt!

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2 seconds before
As Nick Cho, the Emcee is dragging out the annoucement, Matt takes deep breaths while Billy shows the stress of wanting to know.
Matt Wins!
Matt Riddle wins - accepts the congrats from Jean-Claude Ciquer of Krups.
Billy Wilson
Billy won second place in a very well played performance.
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Amber Sather
Amber took third for Intelligentsia.
The top three
The top three showing good times, good times.
GS/3 Winner
I don't have her name, but she's related to Matt Riddle somehow (on the left). Ron Cook of La Marzocco on the right.

There's many more raw (unedited photos) up at flickr for you to enjoy:

2006 USBC Winners CoffeeGeek's 2006 USBC Winners photoset

Last thoughts from the Airplane...
Posted by Mark Prince, 9:15pm Permalink to this blog entry

Here's the last bits from the show, via flickr. Ciao Charlotte! Looking forward to Long Beach next year!

SCAA 2006 Last Day CoffeeGeek's SCAA 2006 Last Day photoset

Article rating: 7.8
Posted: April 10, 2006
feedback: (6) comments | read | write
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