How Judging Works at Barista Competitions

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Barista Competition Trophies

Baristas must impress both Technical and Sensory judges to claim trophies.

Judges at regional, national and world-level barista competitions all adhere to SCAA guidelines. Each barista welcomes the scrutiny of two Technical judges who work the floor and four Sensory Judges who sit in a row at a table. Each Sensory Judge can award a possible 179 points. Each Technical Judge can award a possible 77 points. The Head Judge tallies all the points on their Score Sheet. A perfect score is 870.

Each barista is required to present four espressos, four cappuccinos and four signature drinks within 15 minutes. If that doesn’t happen, they’re deducted one point per second, with a maximum of 60 negative points.

Technical and Sensory Score Sheets feature a series of Yes/No questions, with a Yes counting for one point each. Judges are also presented with a series of 6-point boxes, awarding 0 points for an “Unacceptable” evaluation and 6 points for “Extraordinary.”

A Sensory Judge can award 62 points for “Espresso Evaluation,” considering factors like the color of the crema, and the “harmonious balance of sweet/acidic/bitter.” “Cappuccino Evaluation” (38 possible points) accounts for taste and beverage presentation. It’s important to have “consistency and persistence of foam” and “Taste Balance.” The signature beverage is worth up to 42 points, should be “well explained and presented” and incorporate an “appealing look” and “creativity.” “Barista Evaluation,” worth 13 points, considers “Customer Service Skills” like “presentation,” “attention to details” and “appropriate apparel.” Finally the Sensory Judge delivers up to 24 points for “total impression.”

The Technical Judge has 6 points to decide whether the barista has a “clean working area at start-up/clean cloths.” “Espresso Evaluation” accounts for 17 points. For instance, whether there’s “acceptable spill/waste when dosing/grinding.” 22 points are at stake during “Cappuccino Evaluation,” with five more points coming from milk. “Signature Beverage Evaluation” (17 points) sticks exclusively to “technical skills.” 7 points are devoted to “Technical Evaluation” and 8 points involve “Station Evaluation At End.”

To get the full effect, here are links to the nearly-identical score sheets from last year’s Southwest Regional:

Head Judge Score Sheet

Technical Judge Score Sheet

Sensory Judge Score Sheet

Brent Fortune owns Crema in Portland and trains judges for World Barista Championship. He was at the WRBC yesterday instructing judges. He said that judging guidelines change every year. This year, the SCAA is “looking for competitors to engage the judges, create an emotional experience, create a connection…part of being a barista is to represent your coffee and engage the customer, who in this case is the judge.”


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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