CoffeeWars 4: Lessons Learned

There's always room for improvement, and nobody knows this better than the staff of CoffeeWars. Although this year's event was an unprecedented success, there are still some things that could have been better, and some items we want to bear in mind as we gear up for CoffeeWars 5.
  • Guidelines: We should supply judges with some better information about how to do their jobs. This will enhance consistency. For example:
    • How should one rate "Acidity?" (is 10 more acid? Is 10 good?)
    • How should one rate "Overall?" (or, should this category be eliminated, and derived from others)
    • What will be done with non-integer ratings? (or zero, for that matter, on a scale from 1 to 10)
    Just like a wine tasting, we should publish the criteria that we're trying to judge.
  • More Time: Golly, if we're going to sample this much (or more) coffee, we'd better plan to span this event across a couple of days. That way we can have a better chance at accepting all the entries people bring, and time won't be such a desperate issue.
  • Sterner and More Explicit Rules: We wound up disqualifying two entries; this should not have to happen. The announcement should be more definite about what constitutes an acceptable entry. Specifically:
    • Beans only. No pre-ground.
    • Enough must be submitted to brew four pots (both for the sake of aroma, and also in case there is an accident or run-off)
    • Entries will not be returned, unless you both let us know, and also make arrangements to get them back.
  • Better Entry Management: The blind tasting was good, but could have been handled better; each entry should be placed into a numbered container when it is handed around, instead of just passing the bag it came in, because this allows judges to identify their own entries, and introduces potential for bias.
  • Better Record Keeping: It would have been good to capture more data (i.e., what order were the coffees brewed and tasted), and also to be more organized with its collection (had I known I'd have 120 ballots to process, I'd have had a spreadsheet running on a laptop at the event, so I could do all my tabulation live).

Obviously, this isn't the last round of thought that will go into preparation for CoffeeWars 5. We look forward to hearing anyone else's suggestions.

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