This past month Emeran traveled to California for the Big Western Brewers Cup where she participated as part of the judge’s panel for the U.S. Coffee Championship’s regional competition. Attending this event is not only a great opportunity to put her coffee expertise to good use, but it’s also a great way to check in on what the best baristas in the U.S. are up to.
The competition tests a barista’s ability to properly manually brew coffee. Hot water and a grinder are provided and each competitor may use the brewing apparatus of their choosing as long as it is considered manual. It is divided into two rounds:
The first round is known as the “compulsory round,” during which all competitors are given the same coffee to brew. The coffee is unknown even to the judges and is typically a generic, neutral selection. The competitors are required to optimize the coffee’s attributes by manipulating those variables they can control – ratio to water, extraction rate, temperature and brewing method (must be a manual brewing method). The judges are then given unmarked cups of coffee from which they will assess the aroma, flavor, acidity, body and balance.
The top six competitors from the first round proceed to the next round where each competitor brings their own coffee of choice. In this stage of the competition, participants present to the judges the reasoning for choosing their coffee, how they plan to brew the coffee, and why they are choosing the decided brewing method. This round is designed to showcase the competitors’ understanding of their chosen coffee and brewing method. In this case, the judges are assessing how closely the brewed cup matches what the competitor told them they would experience. The judging criteria include taste description, customer service and the overall experience.
As a certified Q grader (read all about what a Q grader is in this post on Emeran!), Emeran represents a small population of experts that are invited to judge these competitions (and she’ll be at the Big Eastern competition later this month) For her this is an opportunity to use her skill set and grow in her coffee knowledge: “I expand and grow significantly, because you would never reproduce that in your business,” she explains. Emeran not only expects to ensure the highest quality in the products she sells, she also expects to continually expand her own skill set and knowledge so that can it be applied to her business.
Next up for Emeran is the Big Eastern Brewer’s Cup in North Carolina later this month!
By the way, if you haven’t been to our cafe lately, be sure to stop in, as we have some exciting new featured beverages in store to help you stay warm as this weather starts turning cold!