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.