Allegria Espresso Bar

Day 3 – Seattle / Day 1 – Northwest Regional Barista Competition
November 9, 2007, 8:52 pm
Filed under: Competition, Seattle

First day of CoffeeFest, and I spent nearly the entire time watching the NWRBC. 12:00 PM until 4:30 PM? Something like that. There were eleven competitors today, some first-timers, others well experienced, one current NWRBC champ (Billy Wilson), and another a former USBC champ (Bronwen Serna).


Tracy Allen among the judges.

Again, I have plenty of photos, but nothing uploaded. So sorry. Anyway, I think I saw three certain finalists today. Billy Wilson from The Albina Press, Maki Campbell from Zoka, and Orme Kellett from Lava Java. Before I go further, I want to say that I am typing names as I heard them from Nick, so they’re not necessarily spelled correctly. Correct me if I’m wrong anywhere. But Billy and Maki did well. No idea how their drinks tasted, but they looked like finals material. Billy did many curious things during his presentation. A blue cheese signature drink for instance. More on that later. He used Hairbender for his coffee, explaining that it’s a 6-bean blend of Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Sumatra, and another I didn’t catch. Using an Anfim grinder with a timer mod, Billy didn’t level his espresso as the grinder apparently doses it in such a way that one only need to tamp and lock the portafilter in place. I’m sceptical, but he said he’s seen no difference between that and leveling. After locking the pf in place, he let it set for a few moments before beginning the extraction, saying that Hairbender behaves better with a slight rest. Signature drink…a blue cheese mixture presented in a spoon alongside a chocolate, espresso, and allspice mixture on another. The judges were instructed to consume the blue cheese last. I was sitting too far away from Billy during his presentation so I couldn’t see the judges reactions, if any, to this drink.(?) Calling time at 15:00 exactly, Billy seemed pleased with his performance. It was clear he had done this before.

Maki (it’s killing me that I’m not sure that’s how you spell her name) was well-rehearsed and professional. Being from Zoka, she naturally used their Paladino blend. Beautiful hearts topped her cappuccinos. Mika’s signature drink was called Onix, a drink that I missed too many of the ingredients to even bother listing the two that I did get (sea salt and heavy cream). She called time at 15:03 but the competition’s not tight enough to make me think that will matter.


Maki wiping off the drip tray.

Orme finished his run at 14:55. Using a 6 bean blend, he created his espresso and capps without much trouble. I noticed that he filled his cups with hot water (to preheat I’m guessing) prior to pulling his shots. Once his pf was locked in, he dumped the water and set the cups in place. I can’t imagine that all the water was really dumped though. There had to be a small amount, but enough to effect the espresso? Hard to see, so I’ll leave that up to the judges. If there wasn’t any problem with that, I think he’ll be competing on Sunday. His sig drink looked great. Egg inspired, mango, honey with sesame seed, and cream mixture. Hard to describe without my photos, but it looked good. And bringing a juicer on stage to get the mango in line was nice. We’ll see if my predictions are correct later.


Atop the espresso machine sits fresh mango juice in their signature cups.

Other observations: the first competitor of the day, John Lucas, had to call a technical timeout as his espresso wasn’t pulling quite right. He initially blamed it on the espresso machine, but it turned out to be his espresso grinder. Thus, he had to ditch that and make his espressos with his cappuccino beans.

Many competitors went over time today. 5 of 11. Bronwen Serna lost track of time and went over by 1:28. She did well otherwise. Very comfortable and clearly excited to be competiting after a few years hiatus. She brought out a bunsen burner and make Turkish coffee for her sig drink. Well, not just Turkish coffee, but that was the primary component. She took so much time talking with the judges that time slipped by. Oops. But she was still all smiles afterward. She said she’ll be at the USBC anyway.


Bronwen smiling once finishing…


even though she went well over the 15 minute mark.

A couple competitors repulled shots after letting them go for well near 40 seconds. Oops again. There were no “Hoffmann-esque” spills, thankfully. I can kid about Hoffmann spilling because he’s now the world champ. He’s over it. I’m sure. I hope. So no spills, no breaks, nothing really terrible. One competitor even used a song Hoffmann used in his WBC performance and another used his “pouring the capps at the judges table” technique. He’s being emulated the world around. And that’s that.


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