UK Roaster Wars 2020 is a wrap..
Before I get into the details of how it came about and the incredible enthusiasm and support from some of the best UK speciality coffee roasters you probably want to know who won ??
Here’s the podium.
No SCA trophy, no prize money and no spot at the World Championships BUT you can bet all 20 of us wanted to be at the top of the podium (I did for sure). Respect and admiration from fellow roasters and an affirmation that you do actually know what you’re doing ;-)
Congrats to Casey from Girls Who Grind, Stephen from Baillies and Matthew from Plot Coffee who took the top spots.
The competition came about as an idea following an early lockdown v.1 zoom cupping between a bunch of roasters that Lisa at Dear Green Coffee put together. Nine of us swapped one coffee with the other 8, blind, and then we cupped them together and tried to guess what they were. It was a great event and made me feel like I was not alone as a coffee roaster trying to keep my small business afloat in those stressful and uncertain times. We had a common interest and the session generated a lot of follow-up chatter via WhatsApp, coffee swaps, info sharing and I was left with the thought I had joined a small network of coffee professionals that I may have never met otherwise.
About that time all of the organised SCA competitions started to get cancelled for 2020, and having competed for the first time in the 2019 UK Roasters championships I was disappointed not to get a chance to improve on my 5th place. I wondered if it might be possible to have our own little friendly competition along the same lines as the official comp but all remotely on our own roasting machines. Also on that first Zoom session was John Thompson, a Cup of Excellence judge, SCA AST trainer, Q instructor and consultant (I’m sure I’ve missed some stuff). Anyway, a competition isn’t anything without someone to judge it and I sent the rough plan I had in mind firstly through to Lisa and then to John. He gave it the thumbs up and said he’d look at his schedule and see if we could make it work with some modified SCA rules and judging criteria.
We limited the number to 20 to ensure we had enough green to go around and that filled up quickly, with a few more roasters disappointed including a roaster from Germany.
A friend doodled a quick sketch for the logo and before long there was a Tee shirt designed and printed.
Here's Jack at Roastworks modelling his Roaster Wars Tee
The crux of the competition was this. Each roster would get sent 5.1Kg of an unknown green (that JT had selected and purchased with the entrance money), along with a roasting plan form. The roasters would get a few days to sample roast 100g and submit their roast plan and green analysis including roasting philosophy, time and temp metrics for their competition roast along with flavour descriptors. Here's mine.
The comp roasting day was set so that everyone had to roast their 5kg batch (some slightly different depending on machine) on the same day. Then immediately send 1Kg of that batch to JT for splitting and coding for double blind testing along with the the recorded roast profile (mine below). JT cajoled another 3 industry leading coffee professionals to help with the judging and we were set.
The roast plan above was worth 100 points, and the sensory analysis another 100 ie. taste attributes, flavour descriptors, roast defects, mouthfeel and balance.
200 points up for grabs. To win you’d need to have a clear and detailed plan, follow it accurately and know what you were likely to achieve in the cup. Roast it well with high sweetness and acidity, good balance and no defects.
We created a WhatsApp group to keep the 20 competitor in touch and energised with the competition progressing: a great community feeling amongst people who spend their days in front of hot rotating ovens.
The results were announced last Friday on a Zoom chat with all but 1 of the competitors and judges able to make it (one was on a plane).
There’s some interesting data to be had from the event including some basic info like the spread of roasting machines, spread of overall roast time and development time, as well as the sensorial attributes of the same coffee roasted in 20 different ways.
Here are some images from John's results presentation (all courtesy of Coffee Nexus):
I put out a little voting poll on my social media channels to see if anyone could guess the top 3 with a prize. Nobody got all 3 correct but a number got 2 out of 3. They'll be receiving a 3-pack of 100g of each of the winning roasters coffees. Thanks for all those that voted and I'm sorry for those that voted for me that I let you down ;-)
There's always next year !
My fellow competitors were:
- Mike from Redbank Coffee
- Kasjan from Alchemy
- Jack from Roastworks
- Stephen from Redemption
- Stephen from Bailles
- Matthew from PLOT
- Krag from Northstar
- Casey from Girls Who Grind
- Chris from Outpost
- Matt from Fortitude
- Barbs from Gold Box
- Ted and Dan from Moonroast
- David from Castiron
- Aaron from UE
- Mark from Shiloh
- Pete from Grindsmiths
- Joshua from Blossom
- Danny from Dear Green
- Edgeras from Mission Coffee
and our judges who gave up their valuable time and expertise:
- John Thompson (head honcho)
- Lisa Loo
- Mat North
- Diana Johnston
Incredibly generous and talented people one and all. Thank you.