Nordic Barista Cup 2012 Begins in Copenhagen


Last night, 200 of the coffee industries finest gathered together in Copenhagen, Denmark to welcome the next 3 days of inspiring speakers, cuppings, Nordic barista team competitions and enough delicious coffee to satisfy all our discerning palates.

I am on-site with my colleague Tim Styles from Workshop Coffee to capture all the action. We will be uploading videos of the speakers at the end of each day, blogging and tweeting the highlights on behalf of the Nordic Barista Cup for those who can’t be here.

Follow along at home:
Blog: Nordic Barista Cup
Flickr: Official photostream
Twitter: @NordicBaristaCu
Instagram: #NBC2012
YouTube: NBC Speaker Videos

posted by on 08.09.2012, under Misc.

The MANE Coffee Event – Part 2 Recap



The second day at MANE was a long one, filled with 4 classes, a brew down and an after party. But there was no shortage of great coffee going around to keep everyone focused on all the great learning going on.

I started the day at “Introduction to Espresso” with Scott Guglielmino from La Marzocco. After gauging everyone’s knowledge and interests, the conversation steered towards best practices for dialing-in using the three golden variables—dose, grind and temperature. We discussed the characteristics to look for in a shot, to know which of the three variables that need to be adjusted, and how to make those adjustments. Scott also spoke about some of the unnecessary minutiae that muddles up making a good shot.

Some highlights from the discussion:

  • Try brewing coffee as filter before dialing in as espresso. This creates a reference point so you aren’t blindly adjusting to achieve unknown flavors.
  • Tamp pressure isn’t that important, just push down evenly.
  • An uneven flow has to do with an uneven machine, or dirty/defective spouts—not an uneven tamp.
  • Don’t spend a ton of time grooming, just level the grounds and tamp.
  • 19% extraction is horse-shit. The correct extraction is what tastes best.


Next was a great panel discussion with Trevor Corlett, Dan Streetman, Philip Search and Gwilym Davies called “Training to be a Barista Champion.” Moderated by Troy, the group shared their personal experiences competing, tips for preparing yourself and how to make your presentation unique.

Some tips for competing:

  • Read the rules. -DS
  • Find a coffee that you love and really get to know it. -GD
  • If you enter the competition with the sole purpose of winning, you’ll destroy yourself. -PS
  • You can take a lot away from competition, without playing to win. -DS
  • Equipment shouldn’t matter, don’t let it dissuade you. -TC
  • Make a signature drink that accentuates the coffee. -TC
  • Find that thing you’re passionate about, that magic spark that can lead your presentation. -PS
  • Be consistent. Break your routine into steps. List them and learn them. Make them muscle memory so you can focus on the service. -PS
  • Play, have fun, get creative and experiment. -GD


After a nice lunch that included some of the best apples I ever tasted, Gwilym taught a class on the classic, but often feared Leva machine. He began with an introduction on how it works, why the standard rules of espresso don’t necessarily apply and the danger of flying levers. A disassembled group was then passed around to give everyone a better look at the giant pressure creating spring attached to the lever.

It’s a surprisingly simple machine that works in many ways like a high-powered AeroPress (or the AeroPress works like a low-powered Leva). After a brief tutorial, we took turns pulling levers and shots.

The last class of the day was a filter brewing lab where we picked a brewing method we were unfamiliar/uncomfortable with and took time to learn and experiment with it. I choose the Clever and teamed up with Jessie Kahn from Counter Culture, to see if I could actually produce a better cup of coffee with one.

After many attempts and realizing the water was causing everyone’s coffee to taste off, I walked away still unconvinced by this brew method.

By the end of the 4th class, it was time for a break. Everyone split-up for dinner on their own, so I went with Mark Hundley, a Providence local, to get burritos and walk around Thayer Street for a bit. Then we came back early to pull shots on the Strada before the whole group returned for the brew down and after party.

There was more coffee brewing, beer drinking, laughing, and fun—and just when we thought things couldn’t get any better, a surprise appearance by Providence’s own Extraordinary Rendition Band got the room moving.

The following morning there was a light breakfast and two more sessions. My last two classes were a second manual brew lab and a class about how to implement a modern brew on demand program. The latter was a bit dry, with lots of information, but without any visuals and very little applicable information. It was more of a general overview of the pros and cons of making such a move.

Afterwards everyone began to disperse to to head home or spend an afternoon in Providence before catching flights. As a left, I had a bag full of coffee and a notebook full of knowledge and a lot of excitement about the direction the coffee industry is moving. More passion, better education, and improved skills will mean more great coffee.

Thanks to all the new friends and thanks again to Troy and Gerra (and all the volunteers) for making MANE such a valuable event to attend.

The Mane Event – Part 1 Recap


posted by on 10.13.2011, under Misc.

The MANE Coffee Event – Part 1 Recap


I just got back from a great weekend in Rhode Island, where the best coffee conference I’d never heard of, took place. MANE, or the Mid-Atlantic / Northeast Coffee Conference, has evolved over the years from a barista jam to its current state. The event has grown into a gathering of more than 150 coffee professionals sharing knowledge, taking hands-on classes, and partying with new and old friends in the industry. I heard about MANE for the first time just 6 weeks ago and when I saw the dates aligned with my trip to the US, I did what I could to make it to Providence.

MANE offered 4 “tracks” this year, including Barista, Advanced Barista, Roaster, and Owner & Manager. For only $75, attendees received 2 full days of classes, all the coffee you could brew and drink, food throughout the day, beer at night and a swag bag full of goodies. I’m not really sure how Gerra (of New Harvest) and Troy (of Cosmic Cup) pulled it off, but a huge thanks to them for doing so.

My first day was a crash course on all things milk—starting with a class called Milk Science. We began by cupping various milk samples—heated to different temperatures as well as properly and improperly steamed—before discussing what we liked and didn’t liked about them. From there, Todd Mackey broke down milk into its key components (water, fat, sugar, protein) and what happens to those components when they’re being steamed (adding surface area and splitting disaccharides).

The class wrapped up with Trevor Corlett talking about his experience using non-homogenized milk at MadCap and some of the advantages (sweeter and creamier) and disadvantages (seasonal diet of the cows affecting milk taste) of using it. The class was an enlightening primer on dairy and set the stage for what was next—Latte Art.

After a brief introduction to proper milk steaming techniques and reminding everyone that texture and taste is more important than the aesthetics of a pour, we wasted no time breaking into groups to work on all three.

After the first day of classes, dinner and beers were provided while everyone relaxed and practiced what they learned on the bar stations set-up throughout the space. After a bit of downtime, a warm welcome by Troy was followed by Gwilym Davies keynote, which addressed the importance of staying hungry for knowledge.

After Gwilym set the tone for a great weekend to come, it was time for some more drinks, fun and a little latte art throwdown.

Overall the conference was off to a great start. It was equal parts inspiring, humbling and encouraging. Seeing so many people in one place with a desire to continue pushing their abilities to make great coffee, is something I would have never imagined in the days I worked on bar. Coffee has come such a long way, and yet we still know so little about it. Gwilym made the point repeatedly, saying, “we have to admit that we really don’t know that much.” So we agreed and set off to learn as much as we could.

…to be continued

posted by on 10.11.2011, under Misc.

2011 MANE (not Maine) Coffee Conference


What’s better than New England in Autumn? Coffee in New England in Autumn! This year’s MANE (Mid-Atlantic/Northeast) Coffee Conference in Rhode Island is the best way to enjoy both. What began years ago as a barista jam started by Gerra Harrigan of New Harvest Coffee and Troy Reynard of Cosmic Cup Coffee, has transformed into full a on coffee conference for baristas, roasters and coffee industry professionals. There will be speakers and forums and workshops oh my!

Kicking off the weekend with words of wisdom from Gwilym Davies himself, the weekend will progress into selected tracks for baristas, advanced baristas, roasters and owners/managers. Each track will offer specific skill building workshops from industry professionals with some intimate hands-on experience—who doesn’t love that? There will also be an opportunity for baristas to take a BGA Level 1 Certification test while they’re in Providence.

There’s a great list of presenters lined up, including:

Gwilym Davies – 2009 World Barista Champion
Jay Caragay – Spro Coffee
Dan Streetman – Irving Farm Coffee
Trevor Cortlett – MadCap Coffee
Scott Guglielmino – La Marzocco
Tommy Gallagher – Counter Culture Coffee

just to name a few…

Since I’ll be in the States in October, and I love foliage season, I’m be taking a weekend trip to Providence to take part in the fun and share some collective coffee wisdom from an often overlooked part of the country. The cost of registration is only $75, so if you’re in the industry and live along the Eastern seaboard, sign-up now and I’ll see you there!

MANE Coffee Conference

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posted by on 09.13.2011, under Misc.