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Coffee Wars 5: Scores and Analysis

Well, well, well.

Same deal as last year: Judges were asked to rate the brews in a variety of categories on a scale from 1 to 10. For the purposes of scoring, all non- integer results were rounded up to the next integer. Also, people who submitted out-of-bounds scores (like 0, or 10+) were corrected to the nearest legitimate rating. All derived statistics (such as average or standard deviation) are based on the number of valid entries: if a judge left a category blank, this did not count either for or against the entry; it merely increased the weight of each score that was received.

Likewise, Bang-for-the-buck (highest overall score for an entry, divided by the price per pound) was only calculated for those entries that included cost information.

One entry was disqualified:

  • Glacier Blend Shade Grown Organic entered by Sera White. These were flavored beans.
Tasting was more blind this year than in previous contests: for both smelling and drinking, judges saw only the number of the entry, not the name or packaging. Even Shrdlu, as master of brewing, was only given beans by number, so it is unlikely that much emotional bias was introduced. I think the only person who had full knowledge of which coffee was which was Foofus (since he did the bean-numbering), and he kept his mouth shut till after the judging.

Having dispensed with the preliminaries, let's get on with the show.

OVERALL WINNER

This category is the one by which we award the grand prize. There were a number of ties this year, and in cases where there was a tie, taste was used as the ranking factor. In the event that there was STILL a tie (i.e., Spyboy vs. Sweetypig vs. Saraphim), aroma was the determining factor. Sheesh! A three-way tie on TWO stats? Aieeee!
EntryEntered byScore
Wallenford Estates Peaberry Hook 8
Bad Ass French Roast Jay Dyson 6.71
Ancora d'Oro Foofus 6.43
Better Then Goat Pee CAM 6.14
HOJ Decula 6.14
Kona Blue Sky Peaberry GodMinusOne 6.14
Anonymous B Tim (proxy) 5.86
Unknown Sample NA 5.83
Spyboy Blend Spyboy 5.57
White Mountain- Millcreek Saraphim 5.57
Atomic Brew Sweetypig 5.57
CM Tanzania Peaberry Alice 4.86
Delta Mud Otto Eyebiter 4.67
Shock Gurney Halleck 3.86
Morning Flammer John Galt 2.57
JBM Wallenford Estate Dr. Vann Harl 1.86
The mean score was 5.36, and the standard deviation was 1.54. That means that the winner was more than a whole standard deviation away from the average, which indicates a strong response. There's curious information here, too:
  • How could Vann Harl's ostensibly excellent coffee have gotten clobbered so hard? It doesn't make sense-- a bad batch of beans? a brewing mishap? The world may never know.
  • The scoring is surprisingly consistent, from year to year: JBM again, and by a wide margin.
  • What John Galt lacks in tact, he also lacks in taste in coffee! (just kidding, John: we were very glad to see you, and we look forward very much to next year's entry)

BANG-FOR-THE-BUCK

This category doesn't actually win a prize. Instead, it's our attempt to recognize a coffee that didn't win, but is still worthy of honor on the basis of value. It is calculated by dividing the overall score by the price per pound; no effort is made to objectively verify the price per pound-- that's part of why there's no prize. In the event of a tie, the overall score was used as the determining factor.
EntryEntered byScore
Spyboy Blend Spyboy 1.12
Unknown Sample NA 0.83
Atomic Brew Sweetypig 0.74
White Mountain- Millcreek Saraphim 0.64
Ancora d'Oro Foofus 0.61
Better Then Goat Pee CAM 0.56
Shock Gurney Halleck 0.55
Delta Mud Otto Eyebiter 0.52
CM Tanzania Peaberry Alice 0.49
Morning Flammer John Galt 0.40
Wallenford Estates Peaberry Hook 0.28
Bad Ass French Roast Jay Dyson 0.20
Kona Blue Sky Peaberry GodMinusOne 0.20
HOJ Decula 0.15
JBM Wallenford Estate Dr. Vann Harl No Price Data
Anonymous B Tim (proxy) No Price Data
Again, a few notes. Average bang-for-the buck was 0.52, with a standard deviation of 0.27. This means that the winner was more than two standard deviations away from the mean. Partly this is because there were so many very expensive coffees this year (the average price of an entry was $15.38, with four entries at $29.00 or higher). Partly, though, this is because Spyboy entered some really cheap coffee.

Some Additional Commentary

There were a couple of interesting footnotes to the competition. This was the first year in which competitors actually tried to hack the contest itself. Gurney Halleck submitted hyper-caffeinated coffee. Decula wanted his beans to be brewed with caffeine-enhanced water. Interesting thoughts, gentlemen, although I can't see it having much effect, given the sheer volume of normal-strength coffee that the judges consumed. Even if it did, though, it would seem unlikely that the judges would know from which coffee the extra buzz originated. So this wasn't really so much an effort to alter the odds of the contest as it was an outright attempt to overload the judges. Not only that, but Gurney was himself a judge!

You are both a couple of big nutty nuts!

Also, a secret note to GodMinusOne: sorry we could not get your beans back to you. The minute the contest ended, all materials (including entries for which no prior arrangement had been made) were packed up and carted away, mostly to places off the hotel grounds, for transport back to the Coffee Wars Stronghold of Might, where the contest gear will be stored until next year, and the remaining beans will be... analyzed. Anyway, as I said, I want to send you, like, some stuff. I don't need your real name. I just need a fake name and an address that will accept a package on your behalf. Or, depending on what city you're in, we can maybe arrange an anonymous hand- off. So drop me a line. And if you're reading this, and you're not GodMinusOne, but you know him, and he's been moping around all bitter feeling like CoffeeWars has done him wrong, please refer him to this web page, so that we can make the bad feelings all go away.

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