NBC Day 2 – Build it, Beer it, Brew it

Now that’s a competition! The back to the basics theme really got things started this morning with a very cool competition unlike any I’ve ever seen. And in an interesting twist, the attendees joined the teams in the challenge: build a primitive roaster and grinder, and roast and grind coffee.

Ellen and Enrico assemble the grinder

Ellen and Enrico assemble the grinder

The teams were given a stack of materials (and a student engineer from the University of Iceland), and the task of building a grinder and roaster. They had to assemble, without the assistance of any instructions (though you can see them here) a working roaster and a grinder (which used sandpaper to grind the coffee).

Team Denmark works to assemble their roaster

Team Denmark works to assemble their roaster

A grinder that uses sandpaper to mill.

A grinder that uses sandpaper to mill.

make you own grinder diagram

make you own grinder diagram

make your own roaster diagram.

make your own roaster diagram.

Then given a sack of green coffee the teams had to figure out the best roast profile and the best grind for the coffee, prepare it, and serve it to the judges. They had 3 hours to get it all done.

Anne works Team Sweden's roaster.

Anne works Team Sweden's roaster.

Team Finland gets their roaster up and running.

Team Finland gets their roaster up and running.

Up close view of a "roaster," i.e. tin can.

Up close view of a "roaster," i.e. tin can.

Team Denmark working closely with their engineering student

Team Denmark working closely with their engineering student

Every team got their machines built and delivered a drinkable sample for the judges. The word “interesting” was the most frequently used to describe the result. You can draw your own inferences from that about how good the coffee tasted. We then had a lunch break featuring a lovely typically Icelandic cod casserole and rye bread.

Team Iceland delivers their freshly roasted and brewed coffee to the judges.

Team Iceland delivers their freshly roasted and brewed coffee to the judges.

Dutch champions Leisbet and Rose taste coffee with two engineers.

Dutch champions Leisbet and Rose taste coffee with two engineers.

Afterwards we were able to clear our palate with a locally brewed coffee beer. The owner of the nearby brewery created four different coffee beers (he met one of the NBC organizers Sonja Grant at a party earlier this year and was intrigued by the NBC event). Each beer featured a different coffee and the teams were challenged to identify the country of origin for the coffees. Attendees were challenged to drink as many of the beers as they could. And the event featured a guest team composed of the judges to see if they could outperform the national teams.

The local brewer describes his coffee beer.

The local brewer describes his coffee beer.

Sonja reviews the team's score sheets.

Sonja reviews the team's score sheets.

Following that it was time for a second go round with the aeropress. The teams were given 10 minutes to develop a recipe, then five minutes to prepare and serve as many cups as possible. As the rain poured down (temperatures are in the 40s now with rain consistently increasing throughout the day), the teams worked without pause (and many were drenched by the end).

The Finnish Team works diligently despite the rain.

The Finnish Team works diligently despite the rain.

Spirits, however, are not dampened, and now we all take a break to warm up and enjoy a little rest. Afterwards, we’re going swimming… um, what?

About the Author

Ken

Kenneth R. Olson is co-founder and publisher of Barista Magazine the worldwide trade magazine for the professional coffee community. He has written extensively about specialty coffee, traveled near and far for stories, activities, and fun, and been invited to present on topics important to coffee culture. He is also an avid fan of the Portland Trail Blazers and the Washington Huskies. Go Blazers! Go Dawgs!