I just realized, I never did post up on the fun volunteer piece I did approx one month ago. I got asked to be a sensory judge at a Barista Championship, which I was glad to do. Here's my thoughts on that weekend...

Two days spent with espresso minds. Two days spent with judges that have palates. Two days spent with a focus on excellence. A good two days.

Friday was 'judges calibration' where we spent a very busy 7hrs with head judge Amber Fox (Ecco Cafe and nationally rated judge, see image below) aligning our palates and expectations/scoring criteria against multiple espresso and cappuccino.


During calibration, and the competition judging, we were being held to the standard of WBC competition judges which has very strict criteria, here is an example of some of the detail:

"WBC Rules and Regulations Version: 2010.3.1 Page 6

2.2.1 Espresso

A. An espresso is a one-ounce beverage (25 to 35ml including crema).
B. An espresso is prepared with various grams of coffee (depending on the coffee and the grind).
C. The espresso will be brewed at a temperature between 90.5-96 degrees Celsius (195-205 degrees
D. The espresso machine brewing pressure will be set between 8.5 to 9.5 atmospheres.
E. Extraction time is recommended to be between 20 to 30 seconds; however not mandatory.
F. Extraction times must be within a 3.0-second variance of each other within each category of drinks.
G. The espressos must be served in a 60 to 90ml (2 to 3 fluid ounce) cup with a handle.
H. Espressos must be served to the judges with a spoon, napkin and water.

2.2.2 Cappuccino

A. A cappuccino is a coffee and milk beverage that should produce a harmonious balance of rich, sweet
milk and espresso.
B. The cappuccino is prepared with one (1) single shot of espresso, textured milk and approximately 1
centimeter of foam depth (assessed vertically).
C. A traditional cappuccino is a beverage between 150 to 180 mL in total volume (5 to 6 fl. oz.).
D. The cappuccinos may be served with latte art or traditional style.
E. The cappuccinos must be served in a 150 to 180 mL (5 to 6 fl. oz.) cup with a handle.
F. Any additional toppings, sugar, spices or powdered flavourings are not allowed.
G. Cappuccinos must be served to the judges with a spoon, napkin and water.

2.2.3 Signature Beverage

A. A signature beverage is a freestyle espresso-based beverage created by the competitor.
B. It should be a beverage; the judges must be able to drink it.
C. Each of the four signature beverages must contain a minimum of one espresso shot.
D. The espresso must be prepared during the competitor’s performance time.
E. A dominant taste of espresso must be present.
F. The signature beverage can be any temperature.
G. Any ingredients may be used in the signature beverage with the exception of alcohol, alcohol extracts
or by-products, or illegal substances.
H. The components of the signature drink should preferably be produced during the competition, i.e., the signature beverage ingredients should be assembled on-site during the competition time.
I. All ingredients must be disclosed upon request. Competitors must bring the original bottles and/or
packaging of all ingredients used in his/her signature beverage.
J. No ingredients or substances other than ground coffee may be placed in the portafilters."


Luckily we had Sammy Piccolo pulling example good and bad shots and good and bad capps on Friday and Saturday morning for calibration purposes. There were well over 100 of these comparative style drinks (thank you Sammy). Here are some images I took during the calibration.


These two calibration capps are a good example of what we worked through, one would be scored well and the other not as well based on it not having enough vertical depth once the foam was pushed back.


Most of Friday was spent at the Slayer or the WBC machine in the back left, not a bad way to spend a day.


As a sensory judge it was interesting to experience a wide array of drink results during the calibration and competition. Judging is a serious responsibility, no doubt, but I couldn't get enough of it.


At the judging table.


If you ever get a chance to be a sensory judge at a regional level, and find yourself surrounded by industry legends, pinch yourself to make sure you aren't dreaming then get on with the knowledge transferal and absorption. Enjoy the ride - I know I did.


John F said...


I want to ask if the shots lived up to expectation but then again I'm not sure I want to know......either way.

Shaun Taylor said...

You know.