Prepare for the USCC Qualifying Event With a Prepfest
Three years ago, in the fall of 2012, I hosted the first “Prepfest,” an event designed to boost the success of barista competitors by bringing together potential competitors, previous competitors, and seasoned judges in a series of exercises illuminating the rules and scoring of barista competition, as well as provide insight into the preparations of successful competitors. Since then, other communities from LA to DC have put on their own versions of PrepFest, each with its own execution geared towards helping people better prepare for the exciting, but sometimes daunting, task of contending in a regional or national barista competition. This event can be put on for any of coffee competitions that happen at US Coffee Championships. Outlined below are three different ways of putting on a Prepfest in your own community, ranging from a large event down to a mini study session.
Option 1: Mega Prepfest For this version, a large space with an espresso machine and a training lab would be ideal. You will need a full competition set-up with tables and espresso machine. The idea behind this execution is that you will do a live coffee competition, with all judges, in front of the audience. Once the routine is over, the judges will do their post-competition calibration (normally done backstage, out of sight), right in front of the attendees. This is generally something that no competitor ever gets to witness unless they have judged. It allows people to see how scores are calibrated: moved up or down by a head judge, how judges must defend their scores, and how they come to be the scores they give.
I recommend starting this all off by having the competitor run through their 15min prep for people to watch, and then do the 15min presentation, then move into calibration, and finally open the floor to questions. Or you could have those asked throughout the calibration process.
Once this part is over it might be an additional opportunity to pull shots for people and let judges score it so people can see what a 2 point or 4 point espresso might taste like. If you have the competition machine present, people can use it, or the grinder, for the first time and see how and functions.
This entire event might last 3-4 hours.
Option 2: Standard Prepfest No espresso machines are needed for this event. A large space such as an after-hours coffee shop, training lab, or event space would work. I would recommend a projector and a laptop so that you can project the videos. Get at least one experienced competitor per competition you plan to talk about, and a judge for each as well. If your focus is on the barista competitions, one sensory and one technical should be fine. Start the event of by reviewing the rules and regulations for the competition. This should take about 30-45mins. Answer any questions attendees might have, but allow the judges to run through this and give their insight behind certain things.
Next, if possible, play the video of the barista competitor present at the event and have their scoresheet from said competition either printed out to hand to attendees or projected. Once they watch the full routine, have the barista, with the help of the judge, run through their scoresheet, pointing out areas they gained or lost points to bring perspective to the scoresheet based on the routine. Really great insight and questions usually come from this portion that are very valuable to a competitor.
It should take about 1.5 hours to present this all per coffee competition you wish to prep for.
Option 3: Micro Prepfest This version of a Prepfest might just take place at a coffeeshop. Maybe you can get into a space after hours and have a large group, or maybe you just meet a hand-full of baristas at a shop during business hours. This option won’t require having someone who has judged or competed but it still would be nice to have a sounding board in someone who has experienced it before.
Have everyone print off the rules and regulations so that you, as a group, can go through them line by line. Highlight things you find to be important or things that might be unclear you. Keep track of all the things you are unsure of and reach out to a judge or a member of the competitions committee and ask for clarification. Run ideas about possible routine ideas or concepts with each other and analyze if you think it would do well based on the scoresheet. This is a chance to get together with some friends and colleges and really dig into the meat of competition. Knowing the rules and reg front to back will greatly help you in competition.
More information about Prepfest and access to the event templates can be found here.