The World of Coffee and WBC Prelim Report
This report from the WBC and the World of Coffee is brought to you by Rocket Coffee Roasters, a specialty coffee roaster located in Arizona, and we really appreciate their support.
What an absolutely stunning day from Milan, where I begin writing this report from. I just finished a tour of the Duomo Cathedral, the largest cathedral in Europe and definitely the most ornate. I enjoyed a full day of Milanese caffe, people watching, and even buying gifts for loved ones back home. And now, I'm all psyched to start bringing you the full deal show reports from Bern, pouring over my notes, and putting it together into something that I hope you'll find interesting.
In this report, I'll be having a look at the first two days of the Bern World of Coffee Expo and the initial round of the WBC.
The Trade Show
If you've only been to US-based trade shows and not the European ones, there's a bit of a style shock. As in, the "style" and urbane look of many of the booths in Europe kinda puts US shows to shame. Many booths, from the small Della Corta booth to the medium Ancap display, to the large Jura and Cimbali booths just exuded this polished, smooth feel and style. Lighted panels are big at these shows, and why? Because they work.
That was my first impression when I hit the trade show floor on opening day. My second impression was the cigarette smoke everywhere. Even I found it kind of disgusting. But whatever ;) Visually, things were very cool, so I picked up my notes about booths to visit, and started on my walking plan.
The cup manufacturer Ancap was my first stop. I had many reasons to visit them, not the least of which was the wicked cool designs they have for moka pots. I would have to say the Ancap booth was also the most colourful and "fun" booth at the show, again just on visuals. I have to tell you, I continually gravitated back to their booth each time I toured the floor, and I think the colours displayed had a lot to do with that.
Ancap's got a huge line of "art" cups lately - not on the level of Illy with limited, numbered, signed edition stuff (with a heritage, at least), but lots of limited editions nonetheless. They also make a whole series of very well designed porcelain, and in this author's opinion at least, their quality is higher than IPA, the huge Italian company that Illy often uses.
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| Alladin's Lamp |
Great looking moka pot at the Ancap booth
| Colours! |
Ancap's colours were amazing.
| Funky! |
More funky moka pot designs.
| Logo Cups |
Ancap does a lot of logo cups for companies, here's just a few.
Dalla Corte booth
After Ancap, I made a beeline for a company I'd been hearing a ton about - Dalla Corte - an upstart kinda company shaking things up in the super-temp stable espresso world. I said on Flickr they were kind of the "Synesso of Europe" but more, and I'd like to explain why, based on what I saw at the booth.
David Cooper, who is a WBC judge (and one of the finalists judges too) is the UK rep for Dalla Corte, and Coops gave me the full scoop on the company and its products.
Basically, this machine is the ultimate control freak's espresso machine. The amount of control, and ways to control the temperature and flow (and even the grinder) with the Dalla Corte system is just staggering.
Take for instance the fact that, not only is the machine extremely temperature stable, but that each individual group can be temperature programmed. If you want to run one group at 94.6C, the second group at 92C, and the third group at 97.5C, not an issue. And not only can you set these temps, but you can actually "phone" these temps to the machine - it has its own gsm radio unit built in, and can literally be texted' the temperatures you want.
Or how about the grinder setup. They had a Mahlkonig grinder hard wired to the espresso machine, and the espresso machine's brain box controls the grinder. And you, as the control freak, control what the espresso machine will do to the grinder.
Confused? How about this. As you hone your skills as a Barista, you know that in the morning, your shop's shots run great, but by mid day, as the humidity level picks up and the shop temperature goes up 3C, you have to eventually change your grinder - your shots are just running too short.
With the Dalla Corte system, fuggedaboutit. Well, fuggedaboutit after you give it heaps of thought and testing! After you really get to know your beans, program in the variable controls you know, based on your own real time expertise, and the espresso machine will actually adjust the grinder on the fly as ambient temperatures, humidity, machine temps, etc... change. Sweet.
The booth was easily the most popular "small" booth at the show. If anyone was at the SCAA show in Charlotte, and saw the buzz and traffic around the Clover booth, the Dalla Corte booth wasn't far off this kind of traffic.
There's so much more to write about these machines, but I need to move on. But before that, one more bit of info.... this is, as I said, the kinda Synesso of Europe... but where Synesso has a 1 group, 110V machine at around $6500, and La Marzocco has a 110V, 1 group machine for around $4500 at a future date... Dalla Corte has two consumer versions of their technology, including user-selectable brewing temps that are rock solid accurate, for around 1000-1400 Euros. I hope to be able to tell you much more about this machine down the road - the company has promised to send a machine for review.
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| Machine and Grinder |
This dual hopper grinder, a Mahlkonig customized, is wired to the machine.
| David Cooper and Paulo Dalla Corte |
Paulo is the son of the inventor of the E61 group.
| Set temperature |
The temperature setting device for the machine's individual groups.
| Dalla Corte |
The logo on the back of the polished machine.
| Jura Booth |
With a commercial machine in the middle.
| Z5 and Cup warmer |
The high end consumer super auto and its euro-spec cup warmer.
This site, and especially the podcast, has a primarily consumer audience and there were only two "major" booths that dealt with consumer products. One was Nespresso which we don't cover on this website. The other was Jura. So I had a nice visit with some very friendly folks at the Jura booth.
Did you know that Jura is over 70 years old? I sure didn't. I thought the company was less than a decade old but nope, back in the 1930s, they were making irons and other appliances! Their first pump driven espresso machine was introduced in the 1980s, but to my eye looked like a rebadged Saeco. In 1994, they introduced their first super auto, and well, it's been moving on since then.
Their booth was big and really detailed out, but the different types of machines they had on display was minimal - it seemed most of the booth was taken up by various design layouts of the Impressa Z5 machine, a very, very expensive consumer super auto, and a few of their more commercial machines.
The big deal about this machine is that you don't have to move the cup if you're building a cappuccino. Two spouts will deliver espresso and frothed milk, right in the same part of the machine. Now to a CoffeeGeek, we hear this and go... "uh. That's it?". And in a way, that is it. The machines look gorgeous, should fit really well in the kitchen room on Boston Legal, but I still see many of the same-old, same-old problems with super autos in this machine.
For instance, the grinder is well removed from the brew group - meaning lots of stale ground, unused coffee remain in the machine between brews.
Also, these machines are in a way suited more for Swiss style coffee likes and dislikes, meaning that brewing a "caffe Suisse" (essentially a super-lungo espresso) is an important thing on this machine - to the point where the programming, temperatures, grinder fineness settings, etc, etc., are not so well suited for getting the perfect 30ml espresso shot.
A lot of gee whiz stuff is built into these machines, from an optical bean sensor to make sure you don't run out of beans and get a "half shot", to LED lighting in the brew area, but I don't see a lot of innovation in actually addressing espresso quality.
Here's my note to Jura and any other super automatic manufacturer, when it comes to amping up the quality of the shots:
- no residual grind path between grinder and brew group - 100% of the ground coffee should end up in the brewing group each and every time.
- very short (3cm or less) brew path for the brewed espresso to make it from group to spouts
- detailed and accurate temperature controls. On machines costing $1000 retail, I'd expect at least something in the range of 2C accuracy and ability to set from 90C to 100C. And you would think that a machine that costs you $3200 retail price would at the very least have a $100 PID unit for dead on accurate temperature controls, and a decent boiler inside.
- wide range of grinder settings from truly Turkish grind on up to a "moka pot" style grind.
- ditch any kind of "froth aiding" internal componentry, and practice the KISS rule
- keep it simple, stupid: just have a brewing chamber with a water introduction side, and the filter (non-pressurized) side, with the flow path from that filter to a short tube which fills cups in front of the machine. Plain. Simple. Works.
It's been my experience in the past and present that most super autos don't make the grade on one or more of the points above, and I haven't seen any evidence that the Z5 machine passes all these criteria. But they do look nice...
One cool thing I did see in the booth is the, afaik only available in Europe cup heater attachment. It's actually quite slick, with very good heat controls up to 55C with two levels for cups.
| Anastasia, Clover |
Anastasia Chovin, Clover's super sales person.
The Clover peeps were in full effect right at the entrance to the WBC hall. Zander Nosler was there, as was Anastasia Chovin the first time I dropped by the booth to get a shot, and I was served up the La Minita Terrazu they had in from the US. It was an excellent spot for them, and they got a lot of interest and traffic. I heard sales in the dozens were likely.
Got some serious face time with the Mahlkonig Guatemala grinder, the brand new "cupping" version that features a grounded base catcher plate and a grounded (when in contact) metal container / catcher.
Cupping grinders are a beast that continues to be developed. The goal is something that grinds consistent, with or without "load" (ie, beans in the hopper), and grinds all the coffee leaving very little residue in either the burrs, internal chute, or other parts of the grinder. If you put 12g of coffee into the top hopper, you want 12g dosed out into the collector cup.
The Guatemala cupping grinder attempts to achieve this by having a good "whacker" system that, with the pull of a spring loaded pulley, "whacks" out the remaining grounds from the near-vertical dosing chute. Also, the grounded base catcher plate "attracts" the ground coffee, especially when a metal container is placed above it to be the actual grinds bin.
It's bloody fast too. I asked to see a 12 sample ground, and the sales booth guy put roughly 12 grams in the hopper, and pressed a button. I barely heard anything, but wallah, there in the catcher, all the ground coffee. One "whack" of the front pulley and it was done. Price is quite steep at around $1800-$2000 or so. But the thing looks serious. Vertical stack of burrs too.
As a side note, the robot-shaped Mahlkonig, used by the Netherlands and UK Barista champs (to name but two) got some changes as well, with a new "manual" version showing up at the show.
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| Mahlkonig at Clover |
This is the machine at the Clover booth. The Clover folks seemed very happy with it.
| Whacka |
The pull whack device releases any stray grounds.
| Dial it up |
The Cupping Guatemala has a beefy grind selection dial.
| Manual |
A new manual version of the grinder first introduced at SCAA Seattle.
| Auger Feed |
A look inside the Guat, with it's auger feed system.
La Marzocco's booth
| Ron Cook at WBC Finals |
Ron from La Marzocco making a very short speech during the Winners' announcement at the WBC.
A highlight for me, mainly because I got to make my aunt (who is a native Bernese!!) and my cousin and her new husband some great shots of espresso, and some macchiatos and cappuccinos. La Marzocco generously let me have about a half hour of "face time" on the machine on the last day of the show just to do this.
I was very surprised at how small La Marzocco's booth was, and how plain it was. But the company's overwhelming expense for this show was the sponsorship of the WBC, and the fact that they had to provide ten machines to the competition setting.
But it didn't end there. They also ended up kicking in a significant, yet undisclosed amount of money to the WBC Barista party on Sunday night so that volunteers, judges, and the competing baristas' teams could attend the $50 party (I can't call that thing a "gala") for free. I'll write a lot more about this on my WBC Finals report (coming soon), but suffice to say, La Marzocco saved the day and saved a lot of hard working volunteers from spending 50 francs on a party that you'd be challenged to find 50 francs.
Ron Cook, Lorenzo Carboni, Kent Bakke and others were all very much present in Bern. Ron was handing out t-shirts all weekend because the WBC didn't have any official t-shirts. He was also handing out some amazing LM cups with the WBC logo on them, and some very cool LM / WBC caps. This is the first WBC I can remember that didn't have an official t-shirt, so I was really glad to see Ron doing this - the volunteers work their asses off for this thing, and being able to take back some minimal schwag goes a long, long way. Huge kudos to La Marzocco for this.
Now, before I get into the WBC First round, enjoy some Flickr Love from the World of Coffee Expo.
World Barista Championships First Round
Stretched over two days, the first round featured thirty nine competitors, national champions from diverse places including Slovenia, Costa Rica, Kenya, Puerto Rico, Latvia, South Korea, Guatemala, China, and many, many more. And all the usual suspects (the Scandinavian countries, Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, etc) were there.
I absolutely love these events. Not all of it, but most of the WBC is just a pure lovey thing going on for me. I love them for the diverse cultures and complete passion I see in the competitors. I love them for the amazing volunteers and their tireless work - in fact right now I want to single out Marcus Bonny, Cindy Chang, Bronwen Serna and Nick Cho for their efforts, but by no means are they the only volunteers who worked their asses off.
I also love these competitions for just bringing together some remarkable coffee people - the baristas and their teams - and in one tiny part of the world, for a very brief time, we have all this incredible espresso being poured by so many people, and I don't quite know how to describe it, but I'll try: it's like there's this nova star event happening with everything gravitating towards it and making everything even more intense, more special and more pleasing - the sum seems greater than the parts at the WBC. And I love it.
I also love seeing countries that you normally don't think of when it comes to high end espresso being represented. The Kenya woman, Jackline Mweni was a pure joy to watch. The Guatemalan fellow, Jhonni Gonzales, was not only a delight to watch, but he also finished a very respectable thirteenth. And the list goes on and on.
I judged in the second day, and I wanted to just put a thanks out there to each of the Baristas in my flight. I also want to say a bit about each competitor I had the honour of judging this year.
Italy, Andrea Antonelli
Andrea, your presentation and your table setting was fantastico. The violin theme, representing your home city was memorable. And your espresso, the first one I had that day, was a pure pleasure.
Poland, Rafal Adamek
Rafel, you had this amazing energy and joy at what you were doing on stage and for the crowd, and I was so happy to see you have so much fun with it. Your signature drink was again, something I will definitely remember for a long time.
India, K.S. Gautam
Kdawg (I use that term of affection because I am sorry I didn't learn what "K.S" stands for), you just seemed so genuine and passionate about your craft. That was the coolest thing, and you know, if baristas only showed a quarter of your passion for the art, this world of cafes and espresso would be a hundred times better - thank you for that.
Mexico - Aaron Fierros Gual
Aaron, I'm sorry that I couldn't spend more time with you debriefing - I wanted to articulate as much as I could, and it was difficult ;). I'll say what I said to you the day of your debrief - I loved the performance, and the espresso for me at least, was better than I get from almost any Vancouver cafe. You're tops, guy.
Lebanon - Bassem Saadeth
"Love is in the air... everywhere I look around... " heh! Bassem's theme was love and romance in espresso. He was soft spoken, had a very smooth and mellow presentation, and his drinks were extraordinary. I loved how on his signature drink, his brewing apparatus moved steam and water one way, and the essence of rose another. I felt like I was in a very special cafe during your performance, and I thank you for it.
The big guns cometh.
| David Makin |
David, smiling for the crowd after his round is over.
You know, I was so impressed with the calibre of the National Champion baristas this year, but especially so with the top men and women who practice this fusion of art, science, and performance. I'll save my comments about the finalists for the next report; for now, I want to focus on the few people I saw who were just as amazing to watch, but didn't make the final six.
First mad props gotta go to my fellow Commonwealth'er, David Makin from Australia. I'd heard a lot about David from my Aussie buddies (after all, I'm a known Aussiephile lol!), but seeing David do his stuff was special indeed.
David faced some serious challenges. His hotel accidentally used up his air freighted competition coffee, and he had to at the last minute scramble to have that replaced. He was also challenged during his sig round with having to pull some extra shots, but he really showed some grace under pressure.
Well, at least during his comp! I was actually worried that, before he started the fifteen minutes, he was hyperventilating, but in fact he was doing some uber-deep breathing exercises to calm himself down. After, he was glad it was over but upset at the shot pours, but you know what, this guy is a quality barista, and has nothing whatsoever to be ashamed of. The highest compliment I could ever pay a Barista is "I'd go out of my way to get to his (or her) shop", and I'm happy to say that to David anytime.
Luciano Marcolino of New Zealand finished the utra-respectable 7th in the prelims, and was coached by a fellow CoffeeGeeker and former NZ and world-level champion Carl Sara. Luciano also had some issues with shot times, but dude represented, and represented well. Total super star.
| Jhonni Gonzales |
The Guatemalan competitor was solid!
I got to see all of thirteenth place competitor Jhonni Gonzales from Guatemala compete, and I was just so intrigued with the performance. His apparel was very much in the "pro barista" style but with that colourful Guatemalan flair, and he was just so smooth and classy. I want to check out this guy's shop if I ever get down to Guat for a Cup of Excellence jury, that's for sure.
Rose van Asten from the Netherlands was just so refined and pleasing to watch. She seemed only the slightest bit nervous, but you know what, she got into her groove so much that, at one point, she looked over the machine right at me when I was photographing and flashed me a winning smile, right in the middle of the competition. He signature drink looked fantastic, and she was just a delight to watch.
You know, there's so many more I could talk about, this article could go on for pages and pages. Tatiana Elizarova from Russia was great and a very worthy ninth. Kati Kljukina from Estonia was beautiful and elegant during her performance. Anne Lunell from Sweden made me want to move to Sweden just so I could be able to visit her cafe on a daily basis.
The thing is, every competitor, from the first round highest scorer Sammy Piccolo (with what I believe is the highest ever WBC score of 865.5), right on down to Tomas Funtik (Slovenia) and Peter Deprez (Belgium) were just pure joys to watch on stage. Toss the politics aside, and I gotta tell you, the WBC is pure heaven.
I know I make a point of finding every Barista that I judge in these competitions after the comps is over, and telling them how much of an honour it was to be their judge. I know other judges make it a point to do this to. Maybe this article will be the shout out to all the Baristas who competed, just to let them know just how much of an honour it is for all of us.
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| Barista Art |
A barista having fun while pouring his cappuccinos
| Getting ready |
Getting psyched up before pushing the buzzer to start.
| Precision! |
The little things were all looked after...
| Costa Rica Judges Schwag! |
The Costa Rican competitor gave these gifts to the judges.
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| Capps |
Rose from the Netherlands sets out her capps.
| Jhonni on TV |
As Jhonni works, the crowd watches on TV
| Wang Pei |
Wang getting prepped in back. She poured amazing latte art.
| Jackline Mweni |
The Barista from Kenya about to participate in the Russian Table Dance!
Wrap up, Finals Eve
There was an excellent party on Saturday night, hosted by Mercanta, the Coffee Hunters. These are the folks probably best known for doing one of the first "group buys" in the Cup of Excellence program, but also just well known for sourcing some exceptional coffees for mainly the European ultra specialty market, and also for other parts of the world. It was in a very classy and ancient grand hall below ground, one that featured what has to be the biggest beer keg I've ever seen - it looked like it was big enough to hold all the liquid from an Olympic sized swimming pool.
I think of all the group social events, that one was definitely my favourite. The vibe at the party was awesome. I enjoyed some kick ass cigars with Instaurator. The alcohol was not only free, but seriously good quality, and if anything the buffet food selection was even better. Mercanta deserves mad props for "throwing down" how to do a party right, providing lessons to others who had less than stellar hosted events this year.
You know why I'm raving about the Mercanta party so much? I think it's because the atmosphere was so smooth and relaxing that it really fostered some great conversations. I was a fly on the wall, for instance, in a discussion amongst many of the Scandinavians about a possible bar idea featuring head to head Clovers and GS3 machines - for the uninitiated, that's a superior brewed coffee system, one that pops out flavours that no other non-espresso brewing method does (the Clover), and the most temperature stable machine available (or soon to be available) today for making espresso (the La Marzocco GS3). I mean, how cool would that be?
There were lots of discussions about everything from blend theories on post and pre blending (ie, blend before or after roasting), on machines like the GS3, the Dalla Corte, the Synesso and others, and just a lot of excitement by many on where coffee and espresso is heading. The party was a definite highlight.
Next up in a few days is my final day report. Just to give you a sneak preview, I'll be covering the finals in depth with some op/ed; I'll be talking about the good, the bad, and the yes, even some of the ugly of this competition and those involved in it, along with some closing thoughts about the city of Bern as a host and other throw downs.
In the meantime, I'll leave with this - every single barista represented. Represented coffee on a plateau that we, as coffee and espresso lovers, should be supremely thankful for. CG may be part of the wave that's making more and more people realise what good coffee is, but let me tell you - the 40-odd Baristas that get up on that stage, perform their art, serve up perfection in a cup in the WBC? Those are the folks who shout out to the world, "coffee is something culinary". I was my distinct pleasure and honour to be a part of that process.
Once again, I'd like to thank Rocket Coffee Roasters as our primary sponsor for all the content posted during this trip to the WBC, the World of Coffee, and the forthcoming reports from the Italian road.
We'd also like to thank Zaccardis and Coffee and Kitchen for helping out too, and you'll also find mention of these companies on the CoffeeGeek Podcast.
And we'd also like to thank Parkside Coffee for their very generous support.