With representatives from over fifty different countries, the World Barista Championship is something like the World Cup for coffee professionals. Along with Brewers Cup, Latte Art, and Coffee in Good Spirits, these competitions can help launch a barista’s career, landing them lucrative jobs offers, endorsements, or funding for their own businesses. Competitions also help push the industry forward, highlighting new processing methods, obscure varieties, and new brewing techniques.
Many baristas aspire to compete, but the learning curve is steep for first time competitors. As a barista competitor, coach, and judge, there are several mistakes I often see first time competitors make— many of which I made myself. These mistakes can result in a bad score that is discouraging even demoralizing for an aspiring barista, but thankfully can be avoided with good coaching and feedback.
Conflating the taste Balance and Flavor Descriptors
It’s pretty common to hear competitors describe their coffee as having “a lime-like acidity, a chocolate sweetness,” etc. The problem with this mistake— which is one I made myself— is that it conflates the taste balance and flavor categories on the score sheet. For taste balance, the competitor only needs to describe the intensity and quality of the acidity, …