Barista Competitions – Advice for New Competitors

by Greg Lefcourt @ Ozo Coffee Company – Boulder, CO.

Greg was the Winner of the 2009 Mountain Regional Barista Competition and is a photographer (http://www.greglefcourt.com) as well.

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The butterflies are inevitable. Everyone gets them. You're super excited and nervous as heck, but you're ready. This is the moment you've been preparing for. You know your routine and the table is set. It's go time. Push the red button…

Greg Lefcourt - 2009 Mountain Regional Barista Competition Winner

Barista competitions are a lot of fun. Baristas from far and wide flock to the regionals to showcase their skills and spread the good word about what's happening in coffee culture. The whole weekend you make friends and establish connections with others who share the same passion for what you do. This is the prime opportunity to mingle and interact with your fellow Barista peers.

I have seen a lot of competitions and been a participant a few times at both the regional and national level. The organizers of these events do a remarkable job to ensure communication, flow, and ease for all involved. From the prep room to the practice sessions, you will be well taken care of. There is an amazing amount of energy and talent in the barista community and you can be a part of it. With each competition I get more stoked on coffee and become better educated in the craft of being a Barista. There are certain things you can do to prepare yourself for competition so you can shine once that clock starts ticking:

First, familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations. Brush up on the need-to-know's. Try incorporating some of the criteria into your everyday work-flow and just see how much you save on grind waste or consistency of your tamp. Also check out past competitor's performances on-line and see how dialed and smooth they are.

Second, select an espresso that you think will "wow" the judges. You're probably going to end up using this one espresso in all your drinks, so make sure it fits with each set of drinks you serve.

Third, select all your ingredients, tools, dishes, and knick-knacks with time to spare before competition. Make sure your espresso and other ingredients are a good fit together. Use these items during practice and get your routine down smooth so you could practically do it in your sleep. You will be reciting your lines while driving, in the shower, or cooking dinner, so just let the fever take you over, it's natural, go with it...

Fourth - practice, practice, practice. And practice some more. You will not walk into a competition without countless hours working on your routine and expect to do well. Use timers, pull hundreds of shots, pour dozens of cappuccinos, and build your signature drink over and over again. This will ensure your confidence in front of the judges and give you greater ease when under the lights.

Barista competition is something that will grow your skills behind the bar, increase your knowledge of specialty coffee, and help build lasting relationships to others in your field. Don't worry, it's a ton of fun and remember, if you do get a bit nervous, try eating a banana.

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