I’ve been busy at work and I almost forgot about SNBC this week that I didn’t even have time to plan leave. Hope to see all of you there. Although SCA’s website didn’t specify the time, I’ve gotten word from one of the competitors that the final day on Saturday, 27 February will start at 11 am, and will end approximately at 4 pm. As Ben Ruane has pointed out in the comments below, SCA has updated their page with the schedule. As with all SNBC’s since 2007, the competition keeps getting tougher each year, thus raising the bar and hopefully, we will see more of a coffee culture in Singapore. Good luck to all the competitors, and we hope this year’s finalist will improve Singapore’s global standing to under #20.
And a shout-out to all the readers attending, free free to comment on this blog (not the facebook post) about the results or any other tidbits. Thanks in advance.
[googleMap name=”Suntec City Convention Centre” description=”Room 303 and 304″]1 Raffles Boulevard Suntec City, Singapore 039593[/googleMap]
I’ve wanted to broach on this subject for a long time now, ever since some friends and I have experienced disappointments from roasters in Singapore. What typically happens is that we’re assured by the MBTC (Men Behind The Counter) that the beans we’ve bought are freshly roasted the week before or so, and then we get home only to find out the beans are stale beyond consumption. Before I go any further, I would like to thank the following for their time, effort and photos:
Matt Riddle and Shari Bagwell from Intelligentsia Coffee, USA;
Tim Wendelboe and Tim Varney from Tim Wendelboe, Norway.
The following few points are some factors to look out for when buying freshly roasted coffee.
1) Whole beans
When whole roasted coffee beans are ground and broken down into tiny fines, it results in a significant increase in surface area from which a rapid deterioration of the coffee occurs. And if you are buying freshly roasted coffee, you would want to buy whole beans instead of ground coffee.
2) Roast Date
I am quite particular about the freshness of my coffee and I tend to discard beans which are older than 14 days. In Singapore, most roasted coffee packaging I’ve come across do not have roast dates. Instead, they list expiry dates which should be ONE YEAR from the roast date. Next time you pick up a bag of locally roasted coffee, just subtract a year from the date of expiry to determine how fresh the coffee is. I asked both Intelligentsia Coffee and Tim Wendelboe on the window of consumption on an opened bag before discarding the coffee and their replies were:
Matt Riddle, Intelligentsia: “2 – 3 weeks would be the top end of optimal storage time.”
Tim Wendelboe: “3 – 4 weeks, when coffee is packed in a one way valve bag flushed with nitrogen or CO2 then vacuum sealed. In an open paper bag maximum 4-5 days. We operate with 3 weeks on our bags that are vac sealed and flushed with nitrogen.”
3) Proper Treatment and Packaging
Coffee is highly volatile and prone to staling upon roasting. The roasted coffee beans begin to degas carbon dioxide and deteriorate the moment they are being roasted. Proper packaging and treatment of the coffee as they leave the roastery are very important to prolong the freshness of the beans. The following are some features roasteries use on their packaging of coffee:
a) Opaque one way valve Bags
b) Resealable or Zip-loc
c) Nitrogen flushed before sealing bags
Tim Varney mentioned that “When the bag is flushed, then sealed, the bag is sucked tight – but is designed to be able to stand up. Also, there is a one way valve on the rear of the bag to release the CO2 over time.”
d) Immediate packaging of the beans upon cooling after the roast
The following are prime examples of coffee bags from the 2 aforementioned roasters.
FYI, the roast date for Tim Wendelboe Espresso is found on the lower right corner of the label.
Last but not least, I asked both roasters the following:
“I’ve come across a few roasters in Singapore who fib on the actual roast day. A good way to tell is the smell and the oil on the beans. Am I correct? What are other ways to tell you’ve been had?”
Matt Riddle stated “Really, just by looking at coffee it’s hard to tell when it was roasted. So much would depend on the level of roast, age of the (green) coffee and other factors. The best way to tell if the coffee is fresh is to grind some, and pour a little water over it. if it blooms, it’s fresh. If not, it’s probably getting up on the window if not past it. You can most certainly smell old coffee…it’s hard to describe, but you know it when you smell it.”
Tim Wendelboe’s answer was “It depends on the roast and the cooling technique. If you cool the coffee with water quenching the shelf life is max 5 days and the beans will get oily the day after roast if they are dark roasted. Lighter roasted beans have longer shelf life and air cooled coffee has longer shelf life. However a good indication whether the coffee is stale or not is by looking, smelling and tasting. Oils is a good indicator of stale coffee as oils oxidize and turn bitter when in contact with oxygen.”
Incidentally, both coffees in the photos are legendary and you can order them online below:
Oriole Cafe will be organising a latte art competition on 2nd November 2009. For those who don’t check or have Facebook accounts, the details are below, as excerpted from their Facebook updates:
Get your milk jugs ready and steady your nerves,
Back after 8 months (sorry we’ve been busy…)!
New exciting and audience friendly knockout system
Many prizes galore (alcohol guaranteed)!
$5.50(nett!) beer all night long
cut price shooters
$5 entry, winner takes all
register early to secure your limited slots! Or just come and join in the mayhem!
This event is planned to start at 7:30 pm on Nov 2, 2009 at Oriole Cafe & Bar, #01-01 Pan Pacific Suites, 96 Somerset Rd.
Coupled with the bad internet connection, I could only catch every other frame during John’s routine. The emcee is James Hoffmann, WBC 2007 Champion, now at Square Mile Roasters. Anyway, here are whatever pictures I could take during the event. As John says in his routine, “Please enjoy…”
John pours latte art in front of judges.
The familiar “tap tap tap”, dosing coffee grounds into the portafilter
John pours water for the technical judges.
John explains his signature drink, “Summer Blossom”.
John calls “Time,” signaling the end of his performance and is being
interviewed by James Hoffmann.
John thanks everyone for their support, especially the ones cooped
up in Singapore, watching his performance at an ungodly hour.
During the break before the awards ceremony of SNBC 2009, there was a friendly competition between Eleen Cai (SNBC 2007 Champion) and John Ting (SNBC 2008 Champion). It was a competition to make as many cappas as you can in 10 minutes. The highlight of the event was uh, someone volunteered me to be the 8th guest judge. All guest judges were chosen from the audience. The WBC judges took turns mucking up Ting’s grind and dosing. It was quite understandable he fell 2 drinks short from Eleen. Eleen finished with 12 while John made 10 cappas. The MC asked for my opinion on Eleen’s to which I replied, “What I’m looking for is the taste of the coffee cutting into the milk. Eleen’s cappa didn’t do that, because all you taste is milk.” When I tasted John’s, he was the clear winner.
Lo and Behold! Guess what cropped up next? It was a competition between Bosses and Students’ Cappa Contest. The Bosses were Justin Metcalf and Ross Bright. Both Bright and Metcalf ARE CERTIFIED WBC JUDGES. The students were Ting and Cai. I was called back to be the judge and I made sure I sat at the bosses’ table. Whoa! Getting served cappas by Bright AND Metcalf and then judging them will most likely be THE highlight in my career in coffee. I noted the lack of latte art in Metcalf’s drinks, to which he promptly replied that they were’nt being tested on the art. But he did make several triple rosettas later on. Here are some pictures that speak for themselves.
Justin Metcalf pouring latte art while …
Ross Bright foams the milk.
The two WBC judges pour a few rosettas with love
After 10 minutes, both teams had made 30 cappas. The tiebreaker was latte art. And I was the latte art judge. (I am having so much fun!) I gave one point in difficulty for the Bosses and one point in artistry for the students. The Bosses won. We’ll give it to them this year.
I hope this sets the bar for future SNBC’s to come.
I just came from SNBC 2009 Finals held at Suntec Convention Hall today. Whew! What a turnout. Sadly, I didn’t see any familiar faces from our local home roaster’s group, CGSG (Coffee Greens Singapore). Cafes that had baristas in the finals were 2 from Oriole Cafe, Ian from TCC, 1 from Spinelli’s, Danny Pang from Geek Terminal, and 1 from Jones the Grocer (Ahmad Hidayat). Sorry, I’m not familiar with the names other than those from Oriole, who are John Ting (SNBC 2008 champion) and Keith Loh (SNBC 2008 3rd, SNBC 2007 4th.) I guess it’s Fate that Keith should come in 2nd this year, huh?
Without further ado, the winners are (my predictions were spot-on this year):
SNBC 2009 Champion is John Ting. AGAIN
SNBC 2009 Runner Up is Keith Loh. Chalk this up to Fate.
SNBC 2009 2nd Runner Up goes to Ian from TCC.
Singaporean coffee geek’s notes and reviews on espresso and coffee roasting. Formatted for iPhone / iPod Touch.