MBC2015: Everything you need to know.

Chin Woo Stadium. 23-25th January 2015. The Malaysian Barista Championship. Sixteen competitors. One champion to represent Malaysia in Seattle for the Worlds.

Chin Woo Stadium, Jalan Hang Jebat, KL. 23-25th January 2015. The Malaysian Barista Championship. Sixteen competitors. One champion to represent Malaysia in Seattle for the World’s.

So, the Malaysian Barista Championship (MBC2015 or #2015MBC) is this weekend. But maybe, you don’t know anything about coffee. Don’t worry, as we are here to help you through it with this article.

Here’s what you may have missed so far:

MBC lead-up: History of WBC

Introducing the competitors: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Also, to understand better, see: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/eat-drink/article/are-malaysian-baristas-ready-to-take-to-the-world-stage

If you are a friend or family of someone competing or someone out of the coffee community, no worries, we have you covered. You will be talking ‘like a pro’ in no time at all! Cut through the lingo and here is what you need to know:

The pleasant tartness/sour/’fruitiness’ of coffee. Sometimes people will say this is a ‘bright coffee’, which is good. If it’s unpleasant, they call it ‘sour’.

Acidity, sweetness and bitterness are the three main descriptors to determine the quality of coffee by tasters. Some have even compared acidity in coffee to the astringency in wine. Without acidity, coffee will taste flat and less interesting. And no, acidic coffees are not to be mistaken as stale coffee.

Cascara in Aeropress

JJ Abrams would be proud.

A home brewing device used in some cafés. It is an air-pressure coffee maker brewed by pushing one cylinder down, forcing hot water into a chamber of coffee through a filter. It was invented in 2005 and marketed by the Aerobie Inc.. It is a popular brewing device and competitions are held around the world every year to find who can make the best coffee out of it.

The taste of the coffee as it leaves the front of your mouth. This can be both pleasant and unpleasant and is one criteria judges look for in a competition.

Bokeh with your coffee, sir?

Bokeh with your coffee, sir?

Americano/Caffe Americano:
Espresso with hot water added on the top making the drink longer. The name originates from the World War II American GIs who were stationed in Europe who supposedly found espressos too strong.

The fragrance from freshly brewed coffee. Our noses get less sensitive as the drink cools down so aroma is best when hot. Examples of aromas are: nutty, spicy, floral. Aroma is a criteria judges will be looking for in drinks in competitions.

Barista, Joseph Long at work.

Barista, Joseph Long at work.

A professional person skilled in making coffee usually for espresso bars but also filter bars. See ‘filter’, below.

This is to describe the weight or sensation of coffee on the tongue. This comes from the dissolved material in coffee (sugar, solubles), the oils and sediment that are left after brewing. Our Kopitiam coffee mixed with condensed milk tend to have high body thanks to the oils and milk in it. In competitions, judges look for body to determine the quality of the coffee.

Coffee from different regions or countries are mixed together to make a blend. Usually done to give a balance of body and flavours that just one coffee can not give.

Brew Group:
The combination of parts that stick out of the espresso machine made up of the: Basket, group head and portafilter. Good baristas will ensure that the brew group is well heated to produce  a good espresso.

Café Mocha, Mocha:
Similar to a café Latte but with melted chocolate/chocolate sauce/powder.

The reason why most if not all of us drinks coffee. But seriously? This is an odourless, slightly bitter alkaloid that gives a stimulating effect we all have grown to love. Apparently, bitterness from caffeine only makes up 20% of the bitterness you find in common coffee.

A classic Italian drink that is supposedly made out of one part coffee, two parts foam and two parts steamed milk. Also, a drink that is expected to be served in the WBC format of competitions.

Before the coffee beans are removed, coffee is in a coffee cherry form. Each cherry has two coffee seeds (beans).

Clarity is used to say whether a coffee is easy or hard to taste its flavours or whether it is too concentrated. Usually, a coffee with more body has less clarity and vice versa. The body (thanks to the suspended oils and tiny sediments) tends to ‘distract’ the tongue, so you are unable to taste the flavours so well.

A common perception is that crema, this golden layer that forms over your espresso is desirable. It contains emulsified oils created by the dispersion of gases in liquid at high pressure. Recent trends have suggested crema may not be always beneficial as it can be the most bitter part of the drink.

Weekly production cupping at Beans Depot, Kelana Jaya.

Weekly production cupping at Beans Depot, Kelana Jaya on Sundays.

Sluurrrpp! If you ever see a group of coffee people leaning forward and slurping coffee like soup in a bowl with spoons in their hands, it is a way for coffee professionals to evaluate the coffees. It is a quick and easy way to smell and taste coffee.

Coffea Arabica or just Arabica:
The joke here is that some cafés will answer when asked, “What coffee are you using?“: Instead of getting the answer of a composition of the blend or the origin the coffee, the answer comes: Just – Arabica Coffee. Or worse, Coffee from Arabia!

Arabica coffee is actually one of the earliest cultivated species of coffee tree and makes up 70% of the world’s coffee. This is followed by Robusta next but Arabica is superior in quality, has more delicate flavours than Robusta. The best Arabica are generally grown at higher altitudes.

Double Espresso/ Doppio:
Also known commonly as a ‘double shot’. Usually 30-35ml extracted from 14-20g of ground coffee. Most coffee beverages are based on double espresso rather than single. But in competition, singles/single shots are used.

Espresso at V Cafe, Penang

Espresso at V Cafe, Penang.

A short, strong shot of coffee that is the base of many coffee beverages. Made by grinding coffee very fine, forcing hot water through it with high pressure.

Up to 1/3 of the material in the coffee beans can be dissolved by infusing coffee grounds with hot water and high pressure to release flavour. Time, temperate and turbulence affects the extraction along with the solubility (how well developed the roast is) of the coffee.

Filter Coffee in the park. Lake Gardens.

Filter Coffee in the park by Junnie. Lake Gardens.

Filter Method:
Using not so finely grounded coffee, the coffee is rested on a filter (metal, cloth or paper) and hot water is poured through the coffee and the filter. Also known as drip coffee or hand brew coffee (手沖咖啡) in Malaysia, it usually gives a lighter and more diluted coffee, in comparison to espresso-based coffee.

Flat White:
An espresso-based beverage which was made popular either in Australia or New Zealand and has the least foam among all milk-based espresso drinks with just a thin layer of microfoam. Usually served in 5-6oz with latte art.

A combination of the taste and aroma gives the flavour of the coffee.

Created when milk is heated and aerated.

Green Coffee/green beans:
Unroasted coffee. The dried seeds from the coffee cherry.

Grinder and Slayer Espresso Machine at Waffle Slayer, SG,

Grinder and Slayer Espresso Machine at Waffle Slayer, SG.

The most vital piece of equipment for making coffee. Coffee beans must be ground evenly for a good extraction. Usually motorised but hand powered grinders exist too.

Latte, Caffe Latte:
Espresso with milk. In Italy, if you only say ‘latte’, you will be served only milk. Typically, a cafe latte is combined with steamed milk, traditionally topped up with foamed milk and served in a glass. Usually comes with 8oz (240ml) of milk or more.

Latte Art:
The pattern or design created by pouring steamed milk on top of espresso. Only finely steamed milk is suitable for creating latte art. Simple patterns are hearts, tulips and rosettas. 

Long Black:
Similar to an Americano but usually, less overall volume and crema is preserved. It is made by adding an espresso on top of hot water.

Macchiato traditionally means ‘stained’ so usually this is a drink with a dash of steamed milk (espresso macchiato or dry macchiato) or a tall glass of steamed milk ‘stained’ with espresso. (latte macchiato). Another variation in some Indie cafes is a wet macchiato which is a shot glass with some milk mixed in.

The preferred texture of finely-steamed milk for espresso-based coffee drinks. Essential for pouring latte art. Achieved by incorporating a lesser quantity of air during the milk steaming process.

Micro-lot Coffee:
We may hear this term this weekend. This refers to coffee originating from a small area within a farm, typically benefiting from conditions favourable to the development of a particular set of characteristics. Micro-lot coffee tends to fetch higher prices due to its unique nature.

This is the physical sensation created by the coffee. Some coffees can be described as smooth or silky.

Over extracted:
Describes coffee with a bitter or burnt taste, resulting from ground coffee exposed to hot water for too long.

A short Italian coffee beverage made with espresso topped with an equal amount of steamed milk. Traditionally served in a glass.

Pourover on the Cores Coffee maker at Exhibit Cafe's booth at CAFFA 2014.

Pour over on the Cores Coffee maker at Exhibit Cafe’s booth at CAFFA 2014.

Pour Over:
A type of drip filter method in which a thin, steady stream of water is poured slowly over a bed of ground coffee contained within a filter cone.

Processing method:
Different coffees are harvested and then processed differently giving unique flavours to the beans and also according to the farmer’s practices at origin. The general processing methods are washed, semi-washed and dried (natural) process. Coffees from Indonesia also feature its unique style of processing called ‘wet-hulled’ which is a hybrid of the washed and dry process. This gives them the body and mild acidity associated with Indonesia coffee.

Looks like a hockey puck, this is used, spent grounds from the espresso machine.

Lever machines at Cherry Bomb, KL. How the term, 'pull the shot' originated.

Lever (fully manual) machines at Cherry Bomb, KL. How the term, ‘pull the shot’ originated.

Pull :
The act of pouring an espresso. As above, the term originates when baristas had to pull a lever down to create an espresso. This was normal before boilers were used instead of lever in the 1960s.

Diedrich at RAW

A pic of RAW’s roaster for old time’s sake. Now, found at RGB.

Directly translated as a shorter, ‘restricted’ shot of espresso. This usually results to a richer, more intense coffee. Different methods are used to arrive at this coffee drink of lower volume.

The process of applying heat to the green coffee so that the coffee beans are ready to be consumed. Caramelisation occurs as intense heat converts starches in the bean to simple sugars, giving the beans its flavour and changing its colour to a golden brown.

Roasting in action at Three Little Birds

Barista turned roaster, Izaz at work.

This can either mean the person roasting the coffee or the roasting machine being used. Confusing, right? We will be hearing a lot of this in the competition as each competitor would have spent quite some time working with a roaster to present a coffee she/he wants to present in her/his routine.

Seed to Cup or Crop to Cup:
This is similar to the term ‘farm to table’ used in artisanal food settings. Coffee has shifted towards this raising questions of knowing where the coffee is from, coffee quality and of course, sustainability.

A single unit of brewed espresso.

Single Origin, Single Estate or just SO:
Coffee from one particular region or farm.

Syphon Prep at My Liberica

Jason of MyLiberica, JB (a farm to cup cafe) brewing a syphon.

Siphon Brewer, Vacuum Brewer:
A brewing method that uses water from the lower chamber to wet and extract coffee in the above chamber (see pic above) before being drawn down through a filter, back into the chamber below. The result is a clean, bodied coffee but can take some time to cool before drinking. Don’t burn your tongue!

Signature Drink:
A drink that is uniquely designed by a barista using coffee. In competitions, baristas need to design a signature drink that fits the theme of their performance.

Small Batch:
Refers to roasting beans in small quantities, usually up to 24kg, but sometimes larger.

Specialty Coffee:
Premium quality coffee that scores 80 points or over (from a total of 100) by SCAA grading standards.

Steam Wand:
The protruding ‘arm’ from the machine that shoots hot steam out used to froth and steam milk.

Stovetop and Moka Pot:
A method that makes strong, concentrated coffee (but not espresso) by placing it directly over a heat source. The hot water is forced by the steam from the lower chamber to the upper chamber, passing through a bed of coffee.

The small pestle-like tool used to distribute and compact ground coffee in the filter basket. Or for some baristas, swag items. (we jest, we jest)

Under Extracted:
This is to describe coffee that has not been given enough love, ie: exposed to brewing water long enough. The brew is often sour and thin-bodied.

Just like apples have Fujis and Royal Galas, coffee has its own varietals like Yellow Bourbon, Gesha, Typica, Caturra and more. These varietals give different genetic materials that affect the flavour of the beans.

Whole Bean:
Coffee that has been roasted but not ground.

WBC Competition Format:
The World Barista Competition format is where competitors have to represent four espressos, four cappuccinos and four signature drinks to a panel of technical and sensory judges. Baristas are judged on the drinks, the presentation and professionalism of the routine.


Pictures featured taken by Shean Tan on film. All rights reserved. Drop us an email at cafehopkl@gmail.com if you would like to use these pictures. Words have been adapted from the Dictionary of London Coffee Festival 2013, World Atlas of Coffee and various other sources.