barista competition

Tom Maegdlin from Press Coffee is working on a statewide barista competition. Tom sent in this poster along with a few specifics. Tom has arranged for the event to be covered in Barista Magazine this November.

Tom writes:

I got the idea from Scott Lucey of Alterra Coffee in Milwaukee. Scott is USBC third place finisher and Great Lakes Regional Barista Champion. He organized the first City V City with Chicago and Milwaukee on June 6, 2009. (Milwaukee won by the way 😉 ) This proves its not always the big boys who win so that’s why I’ve been telling the Phoenix guys to look out and avoid being cocky. Here’s the link to that story:

The event is going to be held October 10th, 2009 (3:00pm) at Press Coffee in Phoenix, Arizona. The competing cities will be Flagstaff/Sedona, Tucson and Phoenix. Each city will choose between 5 and 10 baristas to compete. I may go toward the higher end of competitors depending on whether or not I can get the more sparsely populated regions to produce competitors.

The competition format will be:

  • 1-12 oz Lattes
  • 1-12 oz Cappuccino
  • 2-double Espresso
  • 2-signature drinks

10 minutes performance and 5 minutes of clean up.

The scoring will be relative to:

  • Professionalism
  • Drink Appearance
  • Drink Taste

These criteria will be the basis for the individual score and the the cumulative city score. There will be an individual winner and a winning city. I am in the process of finding 2 independent judges preferably from out of state.

Arizona Coffee

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  1. ” 1-12 oz Lattes
    1-12 oz Cappuccino
    2-double Espresso”

    Ehm, if this is ostensibly to ready the State Players to compete in the xBC, why not concentrate on the drinks and judging used in those comps?

    A twelve ounce cappuccino?
    A twelve ounce Latte?

    Is this so the Black Apron’s think that they can have a chance?

    BTW, what’s the difference between a twelve ounce cap and a twelve ounce latte?

    Colour me confuzzled.

    OTOH, kudos Tom! There has been a dearth of Tucson involvement in this kind of thing, with Jason Calhoun pretty much carrying the banner for the baked apple. Hopefully there will be a bit of a lower state contingent to compete.

  2. jc

    I agree with Psyd in the fact that if this is to ready people for the swrbc why not do drinks that they would have to do for the real thing. Scott Lucey is an amazing barista and guy but did he put that on for the same reason as this one? I’m just wondering? It’s great things like this are happening but for this I think running as close to the real thing will help people that plan on competing that haven’t ever competed before to have an idea what their up against.

  3. Tom Maegdlin

    I know where your coming from with the volume issue. Here is the rationale. The only variable outside of the skill of the barista is the ‘spro. You will provide your own competition ‘srpo. The reason for the volume is to a) accurately gauge the quality and consistency of the milk texture while b) simultaneously not giving someone the out to drown sour ‘spro. I borrowed this idea from past competitions where we would use 8 ozers. I am trying to give the lesser experienced guys the opportunity to pour some rosettas in a vessel that I am confident anyone could do it in. The cap issue is a whole other issue unto itself. Your 12 oz cap and my 12 oz cap may look the same. I assure you on the 10th we will see a rainbow of what people think a cap is. This is ok. That leads me to my final point. I don’t expect or anticipate this event to be hyper-competitive like a USBC. Maybe 5 people there will even be competing in the SWRBC. This is mostly to help us network and build a stronger specialty coffee community. If you want to offer up any alternative I am way down for amendments of all kinds. This is a competition for Arizona baristas. I work for your guys. On that note, if you are interested, have any questions of want to offer your time or resources to making this event a success for the community, email me at


  4. A 12oz cappuccino forces people who know how to make a cappuccino to pull away from what could be described as the true drink especially when served in porcelain. Why not force others into a 6oz (or even 8oz double) and see if they botch it?

    The definition of a cappuccino is technically a bit vague but the same logic could be used to have people make a 16oz macchiato.

  5. Well, as I have ranted to the BGA and the SCAA for years, if they don’t start defining these terms, they’ll mean nothing. And the Green Monster gets to design our lexicon for us.
    There are potentially two sources for what a ‘real’ cappuccino is, and all others are either following one of these models, or a pretender to the throne, AFAIC. The first is the Italian Govenment, with the Istituto Nazionale Espresso Italiano,

    and the WBC .
    The only source I can find for a 12 ounce cappuccino, or latte, is Starbucks.
    If we’re gonna lead the way from clowns, mermaids, and donut hustlers to the ‘real’ coffee world, why are we letting them redefine the rules?

    And a macchiatto refers to a ‘marked’ drink. Latte Macchiatto is a milk marked with espresso. Cafe Macchiatto is an espresso marked with foam. Two completely opposite drinks that tend to be referred to by the same name, thanks to the influence of the Green Monster yet again.
    I think that it’s wonderful that we’re starting to have a real coffee community and scene in AZ, and that the seeds fostered by the Vein are starting to take root all over, but I think that it should come from a place of quality, history, and conscientiousness when it comes.

  6. Brian Clemens

    12oz is not a cappuccino, it’s a latte. Cappuccino’s are thirds. 1/3 – espresso, 1/3 milk, 1/3 foam (art if you can). A cappuccino is a great measure of a coffee shop and barista. Perhaps you should think about changing the size to the standard 6oz capp, forcing baristas to get use to the correct capp size enabling them to practice and learn how to free pour a small, true cappuccino. The rest looks good…GOOD work Tom!

  7. Tom Maegdlin

    Thats why we re going with USBC format now. I’m a little nervous because I don’t want to scare the guys up north away. Thanks for all your feedback guys. Please help us get the word out. Tell your friends/family and if you are willing to hang a poster let me know.

  8. 2009 USBC Rules and Regulations – Page 8
    3.2.2 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 five- to six-ounce beverage (150 to 180ml).
    D. The cappuccinos may be served with latte art or traditional style.
    E. The cappuccinos must be served in a five- to six-ounce (150 to 180ml) cup with a handle.

    I’m just sayin’…

    Still, send me as many poster as you’d like me to hang, and then send a couple more that I can put into Starbuckses. Just a little propoganda…
    And if the guys up north are scared of the tall grass, maybe it’s better they stay on the porch.
    Something tell me that they’ll adapt just fine, though. It would seem awkward to have them win on a local level, only to be annihilated on a regional level, while a local that could have competed regional gets discouraged as a loser.

    Usually, art is included in the cappuccino, but a separate latte art competition would be lots fo fun, and the drink size is of no consequence in that kind of comp.

    Ask Scott and Nick what size their capps were in the USBC.

  9. SK

    I credit everyone here, the only thing I suggest is that we all market this event just as much as we talk about it here. Tom seems to be putting forth a great deal of effort to encourage everyone to compete AND OR come by and support Arizona’s best baristas. I’m surely excited to see who comes out of the wood work to showcase he/she’s skill and I’m also looking forward to meeting many new people that support coffee culture here in AZ.

  10. We’re looking forward to the Barista Showdown because we improve technique better by observing in a timed setting. How do the top local baristas get soy to consistantly foam nicely for a cappuccino? What variables make light creamy micro foam one drink and so-so foam the next, and does it have anything to do with climate?

    We’d also like to see a local free pour and etch latte art competition and observe cupping of locally roasted coffees, both which will help to grow the AZ coffee culture (and could be covered by local weekend TV news like they did for Coffee Fest Las Vegas?) Thank you for getting the ball rolling and let us know if we can participate (though we’re not ready to compete).

  11. Stephen Protasiewicz

    I supposed the cappuccino thing will eventually work itself out; but, my question is: Do you have to be a current working barista to be considered for this competition?

    If not, how do you join a squad?

  12. Tom Maegdlin

    Just let me know you are interested. Shoot me an email. If you are not familiar with the format I will be holding workshops to get people up to speed. I would love to see you there!

  13. Tom Maegdlin

    So I have finished a day of canvassing Phoenix and the northern areas of the metro. Great response from the majority of people I was able to speak with. I wanted to articulate a few points to further clarify what this event is all about:

    1. Due to popular demand and a few agitated emails I received, THE EVENT IS GOING TO BE IN USBC FORMAT. Because of the number and function of all the judges, I will be consolidating some of their functions. I know this will not make the most seasoned and experienced of us the happiest of campers, but this is purely a resources issue. If I can raise $2000 for airfare and lodging for trained SCAA judges, I would throw down for it. Better yet, If you know some judges from other states who would like to come down and help out, they are more than welcome to have a seat at the judges table.

    2. Yes this event is to get us ready for the SWRBC. (and now the format) I wanted to give the younger guys an opportunity to cure some of their stage fright. Let me make it abundantly clear however that I intend this to be a fun, friendly and most importantly a knowledge networking event. I am not putting this on to make one group feel inadequate or inexperienced. To quote a 30 year veteran of the industry to whom I spoke today, “Don’t kid yourself, we are ALL still learning.” In other words, I did not start this event as a venue for people to “show off”, nor do I view this profession as a medium for self aggrandizement. I am in coffee for the love of coffee. This industry is to showcase the quality of the produce we are serving, not a way for anyone to be king of the mountain. We do this to get the public interested and to strengthen our internal quality. If you are a barista that is more interested in exhibiting your abilities for personal fulfillment, sit this one out and take that time to fill out your Intelligentsia application.

    3. This is NOT a latte art competition. Yes aesthetics are noted and judged, but it is not of paramount importance. I understand the resistance towards latte art competitions and most note that they are more for the general public than the barista community.

    4. I will be holding a number of workshops between now and then to help everyone get comfortable with the format. If you have some baristas that are kind of on the fence, I would be more than happy to spend some time on the bar with them to help them cure any problems or anxieties they have. It can be nerve racking to perform in front of a large group, especially when you have some vets around. It’s ok. I have botched drinks in competition. Ask anyone who was at the last competition, I let my nerves get the better of me and I poured this latte.

    IT HAPPENS! Chill!

    So if anyone stills is not clear as to WHY or HOW we are putting this on, email me @ and we can speak at length if necessary. I am excited to see excited faces out there. This is shaping up to be a great event.

  14. Karen and Chuck:
    If you want to be involved, volunteer. That way you get to be there, you get to watch and learn, and you get to get ‘backstage’. There will always be a need for someone to clean machines between competitors, to keep track of hopper levels, to replace milk stock, to clean cups and pitchers, you name it. Tom will be puling his hair very shortly, if he isn’t already, and someone to take care of some of the time consuming smaller details will make a huge difference in his ability to pull off some of the larger miracles needed to make one of these go well.
    Anyone with excellent coffee taste and cupping skills can be a judge for a ‘warm-up session’. Spend a little time learning what a barista is supposed to do, and how they are supposed to do it, and what a drink is supposed to be comprised of, and you’ll be started on your way to being an SCAA certified judge.
    Y’all that live up there, volunteer.

  15. Tom Maegdlin

    Word. I have started recruiting interested customers for this already but I would love to have interested baristas get to see what this process is like up close. Working on a big name judge……I’ll keep you guys posted.

  16. I’ve been sending folk here to get the lowdown for the comp, and one of ’em called me for more details, citing that August first was the last info posted here. Is there another website, or on-line resource for details, Tom?
    I’ve been hyping this like like a two-bit, uhm, hyper, and they want to know what is the dealeo.

  17. Great to see these developments in AZ! If only the event was the weekend before… I’d be able to come out for it. That said, we’re cheering you guys on to have a great event!
    -Nick Cho

  18. Nick, you’ve seen, MC’d, and run a million of these kinds of things. You available for a kibbutz for warnings for what to look out for, what to absolutely have on hand, and what never, under any circumstances, to do?
    Tom, if he says ‘yes’, take advantage. Nick’s probably made or seen every mistake at a competition that could be made.

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