By Nicolas Lawson – Quality Control Supervisor at Mr. Espresso
There were forty-eight competitors total at the Big Western Barista Championships, a regional competition held in Los Angeles for the top barista competitors in the west coast. Twenty one were fighting for the title of North West Champion and twenty seven were battling it out for the coveted title of South West Barista Champion, a region that is widely considered to be the most competitive in the nation. Baristas came from as far as Alaska and Hawaii to test out their espresso skills in the ring of fire.
The competition was held in the up and coming Arts District of L.A. Less than two blocks away from Handsome Coffee Roasters. The event was split between two rooms. The smaller side room held the competitor preparation tables and the Brewer’s Cup Competition. The main room held the Barista Competition. Approximately 400 guests filled the industrial style Lot 613 to watch the spectacle.
The weather was hot and typical of Southern California. The temperature on stage was magnified by body heat and a skylight placed directly over head. There were 3 competitor stations set side by side with the audience in full view. There was even a balcony with a lounge area if you wanted to brave the heat.
I was the 8th competitor to showcase their coffee on the first day of competition. My coffee of choice was a Guatemalan Guaya’b Associacion Civil with chewy, chocolaty body, strawberry jamminess, and notes of mulled red wine cider and hibiscus. The judges’ stares were penetrating and the crowd was supportive. It made for an awkward balance. I performed the routine as practiced a thousand times over with little variance other than a slight hitch towards the end. It was exhilarating.
The training that it took to arrive there was what meant the most to me. Through dedicated research and study I was able to become a more knowledgeable professional on the topic of Guatemalan coffee. From growing practices and processing methods to roasting and extraction, this was a definitive learning experience in my career. I was able to present a wonderful coffee at the event and that is exactly what I had set out to do, and it was a privilege to share the stage with so many talented baristas. At the end we were able to exchange our coffees with one another and that is what makes the community so wonderful. I look forward to the next time.
Jackie Burrell, Food & Wine Editor with Bay Area News Group, has just launched a new weekly column called “Build a Better…” where chefs, baristas, culinary experts share tips and a quick and simple recipe for building a better _______. Stuff everyone does, but perhaps not really well.
Jackie reached out to us for her column and while making a great cappuccino is not as easy as laid out below, we tried our best to keep it straight forward and simple.
Here is the column copy and pasted below:
Build a better … Cappuccino
By Jackie Burrell @ Bay Area News Group
There are few things that put a zing in your step as reliably and deliciously as a really good cappuccino, that happy collision of espresso and foamy milk. But, Luigi Di Ruocco says, there are a few tricks to making a really good one. Di Ruocco is the vice president of Oakland’s Mr. Espresso, the coffee business his Italian-born father, Carlo, launched in the family garage in 1978, in an era when Folgers and Yuban ruled the demitasse. At first, neighbors thought the Di Ruoccos were setting their house on fire, but that fragrant aroma was the scent of coffee beans roasting. Soon the family was delivering espresso machines to restaurants such as Caffe Mediterraneum — the East Bay’s fi
rst espresso bar — and supplying chefs such as Alice Waters, Paul Bertolli and Bradley Ogden.
The secret to a great cappuccino?
- Texture: “Our classic cappuccino is a 5- to 6-ounce drink, which contains a shot of espresso — .75 to 1 ounce — mixed with equal parts steamed milk and finely textured foam,” Luigi says. “This type of foam is achieved by simultaneously adding air until the milk expands by 75 percent, which should happen before the milk reaches 100 degrees, and creating a whirlpool to break down the larger bubbles into smaller ones. The resulting mixture should be thick, creamy and wet with no visible bubbles.”
- Temperature: What you’re looking for is milk that is “hot enough so that the sugars in the milk are caramelized but not so hot that they are burned. At 135 degrees, give or take, you will achieve the best tasting milk, which not only complements the flavor of your espresso but also allows you to consume the drink within a few short sips, if you please — i.e., standing at the bar as they do in Italy.”
- Pour: Don’t use a spoon. The milk should be poured directly into the coffee. “Before pouring, swirl your pitcher containing the milk/foam to prevent separation,” Luigi says. “Once you’ve achieved a consistent texture, start pouring slowly but with enough speed so that the foam passes below the top layer of the espresso. Continue increasing the flow rate in order to prevent separation and lower the spout of your pitcher close to the surface of your drink — without touching — until it’s full.”
This year the CoffeeReview.com is publishing their “Top 30 Coffees of 2013″ which ranks the most exciting coffees that they’ve reviewed during the course of 2013. The Top 30 were selected based on quality, value, and uniqueness.
We were thrilled to find out that our recently reviewed Ethiopia Kochere Aricha (94 pts in November review) also made the Top 30, coming in at #24! This is quite the accomplishment considering the sheer number of reviews published by the CoffeeReview.com (over 400 per year), and the fact that the “bar” of quality for coffees to be submitted throughout the year is already quite high.
We have less than a month’s worth of inventory remaining for this outstanding coffee – so get your orders in soon!
Read the full review here.
Of the rewards reaped in our 35 years of business, the relationships we’ve built within our community are by far the most cherished. As a family we were delighted to share in these accomplishments with some of our closest friends and clients at our recent 35th Anniversary party at Mr. Espresso. For this momentous occasion we spruced up the roastery, brought in a band, and opened the doors to our newly completed espresso machine gallery which features Carlo’s impressive collection of antique espresso machines.
With delicious savory bites from Jon Smulewitz of Dopo Restaurant, ample red wine from Carlo’s vineyard, Ardente Winery, and sweet treats from Michele Suas of the SF Baking Institute — our guests ate, drank, mixed and mingled to music by an authentic Italian accordion player as well as a jazz duo. A silent auction also went down, with proceeds benefitting Fair Trade USA and Grounds for Health.
It was an amazing night full of friends, family, and good times. For those of you were able to join us, thank you. For those who couldn’t make it, we look forward to celebrating with you soon! Special thanks to Jonathan Fong for capturing our special evening. You can see the rest of the photos on our Company Facebook page here.
This month the Coffee Review.com conducted a tasting of Natural Processed coffees from Ethiopia and Yemen: “Dried-in-the-Fruit Refinement: Ethiopia and Yemen Naturals – November 2013”
As you may already know, we currently offer a “natural process” Ethiopian (Kochere Aricha Yirgacheffe) and we submitted the coffee for the review. We’re pleased to report that the coffee did very well, and received an outstanding score of 94 points —the 2nd highest score in the review!
At a price of $12.10 per 12 oz bag, this coffee offers an incredible value when compared to our competion in the review – which contained coffees priced as high as $65 and $28 for the same amount of coffee.
Congratulations to John Di Ruocco and our Production Team on buying, profiling, and roasting the coffee that received this recognition. We’ve always felt our product is one of the best, but it makes it that much better when our efforts are validated by industry experts.
See the full review here.
The competition begins at 7pm, and we’ll be on hand at 5pm for a tasting and discussion about Barrel Aged coffee. We will be accepting RSVP’s for this event for up to 15 people – so please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a place!
The competition will follow at 7 pm and food and drinks courtesy of Coffee Bar will be flowing all along. We hope to see you there, it should be a memorable night!
More on Barrel Aged coffee:
For the past few months, our Roasting Team has been experimenting with aging green coffee beans in used wine barrels. Why would we do that, you ask?
Well, basically, coffee is porous and absorbs odors and moisture, even when green. The logic goes, why not use this perceived weakness of coffee as a strength, and let it soak in flavors that might help enhance rather than hurt the overall flavor profile?
So, we’ve taken some green Burundi Mpenga and aged it in a used Cabernet barrel for 2 months and the results have been pretty interesting, and, delicious even. You’re bound to hear more about this process from within the coffee industry soon, so we thought we’d engage with the public and share our experiences that we’ve had with the coffee so far.
We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve updated our wholesale packaging!
The handsome gentleman on the Vespa is none other than our Father and Founder, Carlo DiRuocco, riding his scooter near his hometown of Salerno, Italy – back in 1957. For many years you’ve gotten to know the famous “bean man” draped in Italian colors – but we’ve replaced the bean man on the packaging with the real “Mr. Espresso”, along with a more contemporary look and feel.
Any changes we make at Mr. Espresso are carefully considered, so we hope you enjoy the new packaging. Rest assured, the coffee inside of the package has not changed!
Along with the changes in packaging, we’ve also decided to update a few our blend names, please pay special attention to the following details regarding your favorite blend:
Organic Special Blend is now SEVEN BRIDGES BLEND (Organic/Fair Trade)
There are seven bridges that keep the people of the Bay Area connected, and the Seven Bridges Blend pays homage to the diversity of people and tastes in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Gourmet House Blend is now VILLANOVA HOUSE BLEND
Named after the restaurant that Carlo’s brother Franco Di Ruocco owned, Ristorante Villanova (Oakland circa 1980) – and the house blend that was served there.
Special Blend is now ELYSIAN BLEND
Elysian refers to a state of bliss or happiness , simply put – heavenly.
The coffees and flavor profiles of the blends have not changed, just the names. All future shipments will have the new names on the packaging, if you have any questions regarding the new names, feel free to ask!
This lot of Bella Carmona was harvested from farms in and around Hacienda Carmona in the traditional coffee growing region of Antigua. Long recognized as one of the world’s premier coffee growing regions, Antigua has a rich and lengthy history of coffee production. The beautiful valley setting between three active volcanoes harbors ideal growing conditions, consisting of abundant rainfall, good altitude and volcanic soil perfect for producing high quality coffee.
Green coffee buyer John Di Ruocco worked with Luis Pedro Zelaya in the selection of this coffee. For four generations, dedicated members of the Zelaya family have worked together to grow and process some of the best coffees produced in Antigua. The lot they selected is a blend of 100% Bourbon, harvested between January and March and processed at the Zelaya family mill, Beneficio Bella Vista.
Emerging from this vibrant cup the drinker will experience crisp floral flavors, evidenced by subtle notes of lavender. The finish is smooth with compliments of Dutch cocoa, citrusy orange and sweet cranberry.
Try it for yourself:
For the 2nd Year running, we’re please to sponsor the Annual Latte Art Throwdown at Coffee Bar’s Bryant Street location on September 8th, along with other esteemed sponsors Straus Family Creamery and Fair Trade USA. Come check it out!