WBC 2016 Rules Shake-up: Barista Hustle

  • World Coffee Events announced significant changes for the World Barista Championship 2016.
  • The cappuccino course will now be called the ‘Milk Drink Course’ with flexible serving sizes.
  • All competitors will be required to use the Mahlkonig K30 grinder.
  • These changes sparked varied reactions from the barista community.
  • Some see potential for creativity, while others fear it will lower standards.

Just before the weekend, World Coffee Events announced some major rule changes for the World Barista Championship starting in 2016. Two main areas are affected: the cappuccino course and grinders.

The cappuccino course will now be a ‘Milk Drink Course’ with no fixed cup size. Baristas can choose whatever size they prefer. The provided grinder, Mahlkonig’s K30, will be the mandatory grinder for all competitors.

This news caused quite a stir among competitors and followers. The cappuccino course, which was notoriously difficult, will lose its rigid 150ml cup requirement. Some worry this will lead to laziness and stagnation among roasters and baristas. They argue that being able to reduce milk to hide weaknesses will result in less skill development and poorer quality drinks.

Gwilym Davies, the 2009 WBC Champion, expressed concerns that well-made cappuccinos, already rare, could become endangered. He worries the mass market will redefine cappuccinos, compromising the high standards set by the WBC.

Moreover, allowing any type of milk drink could increase subjectivity and bias in judging. Personal preferences for drinks like macchiatos or flat whites could unfairly influence scores. Despite anticipated changes in scoring protocols, the challenge of maintaining fairness looms large.

On the flip side, the new rules might encourage experimentation and creativity. Previously overlooked coffees, like certain Ethiopian or Kenyan beans, might now become viable options for milk drinks. Hidenori Izaki, the current WBC Champion, believes this change will bring innovation and originality, aligning competition with the evolving specialty coffee scene.

Regarding grinders, making the Mahlkonig K30 compulsory is seen as leveling the playing field. Historically, the choice of grinder has been a hot topic, impacting both technical and sensory scores. Standardizing the grinder shifts focus to barista skill and coffee selection, potentially benefiting those who lacked resources to procure high-end equipment.

James Hoffmann, the 2007 WBC Champion, supports the idea, recalling his own experience of competing without a personal grinder. He emphasizes that barista competitions aim to test skills rather than replicate real-world cafe environments.

However, there are concerns about stifling innovation. John Gordon, frequent UK Barista Champion, argues that mandatory equipment could curb the experimentation that drives industry advancement. He likens it to giving every kid a gold medal just for participating, risking a lack of motivation for excellence.

Some fear it could be unfair to those unfamiliar with the K30. Gwilym Davies predicts competitors might struggle with the switch and unjustly criticize the grinder. Nevertheless, adaptability is a crucial skill for top baristas, and familiarity with the grinder should come with practice.

In conclusion, while these rule changes bring both restrictions and new freedoms, they don’t spell disaster for the WBC. The competition will continue to evolve, inspiring creativity and excellence among baristas worldwide. As Gwilym Davies wisely puts it, ‘There is nothing like change to get people thinking & doing.’

These changes mark a new chapter for the WBC, promising both challenges and opportunities for baristas.