Part 2: Six things a Competition Barista should know while preparing for Singapore National Barista Championship.

15 minutes of high tempo performance to 7 judges in the final of 2011

In Part 1 of 'Six things a Competition Barista should know while preparing for Singapore National Barista Championship,' I covered the following:-

1) Watch an actual Barista Championship 

2) Know the score sheets

3) Understand there is Only 15 minutes

To ensure you enjoy the final 3 factors  that I will be delivering, please read Part 1 if you have yet too. After all, there are only six pointers so there is not a need to cherry pick. ;)

Embraced the sponsored equipments and practice on them at every given opportunities.

Yes you have been pampered silly by what progressive technology on espresso machines have done to your ability as a Barista in extracting consistency shots after shots. The roasted coffee that you and your roaster have chosen  never tasted this good before on your preferred  pressure profile and water temperature grounded via the EK grinder. 26gms of freshly grounded coffees are also packed in a 22gm VST  basket! If you think you have nailed it and ready for the competition and doing well,  I beg to differ.

The sponsored equipments (which coincidentally have been announced just a few days ago, of which i will blog about here) are usually presented in a competition to its factory standard setting and/or the competition regulations if any by the 'Competition Operations Committee' of the World Coffee Events. This means fixed technical configuration and cannot be altered by the competitors. Some of the specifications are as follow:-

- Temperature set between 90.5 to 96 degrees Celcius (of which the past years it is always set at 94 most often then not)

- The pump pressure set between 8.5 and 9.5 bars 

- Basket size of the porter filter are usually 17gm (and pray hard they provide a VST basket)

- Brewing button will be the non-programable volumetric version (so you can forget about setting the volume if the plan is to save some time and for consistency)

There is usually one opportunity over at the sponsor's facility to try your coffee on the provided equipment. Take this moment to take down as much notes and test your coffee (roast it on a few profiles to select the best tasting ones on the fixed technical configuration) flavours vs dosage recipe. The other opportunity to practice on it will only be if you are one of the finalist where another 30 minutes will be given on the actual day itself.

If you have a good rapport with friends in the industry that have similar machine, asking for help will be awesome for more practice mileage. With deeper pockets and budgeted business plans to acquire another machine, go crazy and purchase one yourself for the Academy (if you have one) although i will never recommend it as unlike the World platform, the National machine sponsorship is secured only on a yearly basis.

 Have extra & spares of EVERYTHING.... including pair of hands too!

You are serving only four (4) sensory judges so you will have thought four of everything will be enough and sufficient. You will only be making four sets of Cappuccino, two at a time thus 2 milk steaming pitchers and another 2 more (splitting & pouring) seems do-able along with one tamper. Think again!

Packing and carrying these fragile items around is a recipe for disaster if you don't do spares. Too many time, even the most careful of barista/s experienced broken or chipped glasses, only realising it in the competition preparation room and scrambling away trying to find something similar within the room and putting a thick face and borrowing from fellow competitors. Mind you, the industry people is friendly but this is still a competition after all and a lot is at stake. (including a free holiday)

Then there is that extra pair of hands, your competition assistant that is privileged to enter the Barista Room. That person can be your best friend, coach, roaster, spouse, colleague or even your own Boss. Whoever they are to you are not important but what that is more of an importance is that they are willing to roll their sleeves and get dirty. They listen well to instructions, willing to be at your receiving ends when things goes out of plan, OCD and understand your routine. A bonus if he or she was an ex-competitor before!

Provided return tickets and accommodation for the Champ but be prepare to spend more money so start saving up.

The high pressured training and spending spree stopped for all but one competitor in every Nationals. The Champion gets what he deserved and usually has a very short time span to prepare for the Worlds, which by the way, is held in Seattle this year. At times due to the short preparation period, the said Champion will make the decision to do the same routine for the National in the World Championship. After all, if it is not broken, why change?

Reading the paragraph above, one will never understand why would there be a need to spend more money. Apart from a little bit more cash for the raw ingredients to prepare the signature beverage, what else right, you may ask? Yes it is true that the air ticket and accommodation are covered by the National coffee body but did you ever realise that as Champion travelling for at least a week, especially in the USA will require more money for.......:-

  • Food and more food
  • Coffee souvenirs from the WCE booth like the t-shirts and badges (especially if you have a big team back at home and everyone plays a part in your success and deserve a momento)
  • Transportation to roam the city
  • Sightseeing to tourist attractions (if you even have the time at all)
No Money No Honey dear Barista Champion. ;)

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