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Reports From the Road
SCAA Photo Essay: Judging
Author: Mark Prince
Posted: May 9, 2004
Article rating: 7.6
feedback: (2) comments | read | write

Judging in the United States Barista Championship (USBC), or the World Barista Championship or Canadian Barista Championship for that matter is intense, involved stuff (the CBC is coming up June 11 and 12 in Vancouver - visit the Canadian Coffee and Tea Expo website for more info).

In this photo essay, you'll see a range of judges doing their thing, from the all day Certification program right though judging in the prelims, the semi finals, and the finals of this year's USBC, which occurred in Atlanta at the 2004 SCAA Conference and Trade Show.

Judges Certification Program

I didn't get a lot of photos from this... mainly because I was busy being certified! It was a great program though, and even if some people didn't pass (only three didn't); it was highly educational, and like getting a free all day course in espresso excellence.

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Chatting and Talking
Lindsey Bolger (back, green shirt) chats with Mireya Jones and George Sabados near the end of the session.
Seen lots of use
One of the two "practice" machiens supplied by La Marzocco, this one got a LOT of use in certification.
Taking the test
Judges in Training had to take a written test. Here, about half of the applicants were still writing.
Discusssion Groups
Judges "broke down" into small discussion groups to discuss the finer points of the competition.

Judging in Competition

Here's a wide variety of photos that show the judges in action. I don't have the names of all judges - my apologies to those involved if I skipped a name. Truth be told, I'm absolutely horrible at remembering names. Terrible skill (or lack therof) of mine. :(

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John Neate
Neate, acting as a sensory judge, listens to a Barista introduce themselves.
Barry Jarrett
Barry Jarrett, a technical judge, watches like a hawk.
Neate Scores
Sensory Judges do go up to the machine while the Barista prepares their cappuccinos and signature drinks to see the shot pour.
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Asking a question
Neate asks a rare (for judges) question of the competitor as she serves her signature drink. Cindy Chan smiles. Danny O'Neil (far right) listens.
Evaluate It!
The judges evaluate the espresso served by one of the competitors.
Judge Captain
John Sanders, a judge "captain" in this particular round, leans over to look at the crema in one of the sensory judges' cups.
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Cindy Chang
Chang evaluates the crema on an espresso shot.
Technicals
The technical judges (and Sarah Allan, far left, sensory judge) evaluate the pulls for a cappuccino shot.
Tasting
The judges taste and write notes on a cappuccino shot pulled by Kyle Larson.
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Consult
John Hornall (center) and Mike Perry discuss timing on a competitor's shot. Technical judging is seriously tough.
Judge Captain
a Judge captain, Jeff Taylor (also USBC Committee Member) watches as a Barista does their thing.
Circulating
Judges are often circulating all around the competitors, but we try our best to stay out of the way. The video feed shows the audience lots of stuff.
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Serving Cappucino
Serving up the cappuccinos in very unique cups. The thing is, uniqueness counts, but proper cup shape counts more!
Evaluating Foam
George Sabados, sensory judge (middle) evaluates the foam on the cappuccino.
Tasting
Judges will a) check the foam level, b) foam consistency and thickness, c) taste of foam, b) taste of drink when judging the capp. Sabados uses a thermometer, most judges won't.
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Evaluation
Tone Liavaag (middle) evaluates an espresso. George Sabados (right) writes notes for the Barista (who will eventually see the sheets).
Timings
Technical judges (right) evaluate performance and timings. Judge captain Jeff Babcock watches along with George Sabados (sensory judge) on the left.
Listening
Judges will listen intently to the competitors, and will also respond to direct comments and eye contact.
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Evaluating the Crema
Each sensory judge has their own way of evaluating espresso. Many things we do are "standard" across all judging techniques, but some place more emphasis on things than others (like the smell of crema).
Tasting
Sensory Judge Insturator (Inny) tastes the espresso.
Like a Hawk
Vince Piccolo watches Kyle Larson's technique and technical skills.
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Finals
In the finals, we had many WBC certified sensory judges.
Score it up!
You'll see sensory judges often writing furiously. We're putting comments on the sheets for the Baristi to see after competition.
Listening
Judge Captain Sherri Johns (middle) listens along with the sensory judges as Billy Wilson scores points while explaining his beans and coffee.
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Evaluate the capp.
The cappuccino is evalated in the finals. This is Billy Wilson's round.
Going Fast
As Phuong Tran serves her espresso in the finals, the judges dive in to evaluate crema, smell, and then taste.
Jeff Taylor
Taylor, a sensory judge in the finals, watches the shot pour on a cappuccino by the very fluid and relaxed Phuong Tran.
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Serving the Signature
Judges often watch for the minutae of detail, especially in the finals. Here, I can tell you that Tran lost minor points for the too-small water glasses (even though serving water in a jug was included).
Smelling the Mint
If a Barista instructs judges to drink in a specific way, or to eat or taste (or smell) something first, or in a specific order, the judges will follow the directions to the letter. Be clear when doing this, Baristi! And tell us *why*!
See...
Here, Inny (appeared) to not hear the instruction to crinkle and smell the mint leaf... a fellow judge handed him one. How did he score this element?

Lastly, a note to competitors in this year's USBC. If I was a judge in your prelim or semi round, and you want a debriefing, fire off an email to me at mark@coffeegeek.com. I'm at your disposal.

Article rating: 7.6
Author: Mark Prince
Posted: May 9, 2004
feedback: (2) comments | read | write
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