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Coffee Wars vi: Scores and Analysis

Well, well, well.

Same deal as always: 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. Before the war began, I pleaded with the judges to honor these seemingly simple principles, but in vain: I got answers like "0," "yes," and so forth. Such is the excitement of CoffeeWars, I suppose.

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.

Tasting was blind: for both smelling and drinking, judges saw only the number of the entry, not the name or packaging. Even the brewing team of Shrdlu and Sweetypig only saw the beans by number, so no favoritism could take place. As evidence of this, note that Vann Harl, who turned out to be the winner, gave his entry (#19) the lowest scores it received. By a wide magin; go figure.

Not only was the tasting blind, but the brewing technique strives for uniformity: the same pots, the same grinder, the same amounts of both beans and water, and the same people operating the equipment. Sure, it's not completely rigorous, but it's really pretty good, considering that we're doing this on a budget, and inside the space of a single hour. It's true, though, that if you submit a coffee that only tastes its best under specific and unusual brewing conditions (i.e., one must use a burr grinder, a french press, and water from a holy stream in Tanzania), the process might not really showcase your beans to their greatest effect. Such is the nature of coffee war, though: some arbitrary decisions have to be made, and then followed without mercy.

OVERALL WINNER

This category is the one by which we award the grand prize. The entries are presented in order of the highest overall score. In the event of a tie, the "Brew Taste" category was used as a tiebreaker. It's worth mentioning a couple of tidbits. First, two fine roasts from Victor's in Wisconsin (yay! a hometown favorite for me) placed pretty well. Second, one coffee identified as a Jamaican Blue Mountain (in prior years, JBM won every single time) received a horrible beating-- maybe a bad batch or something (another coffee from the same roaster placed much higher, for what it's worth)? Also, Andy Hall deserves special props for roasting his beans himself. Jeremy did almost as well: his beans were roasted by his brother-in-law (in Syndey, AUS), for that exceptional in-law flavor you can't get elsewhere; perhaps its disappointing score is related to the fact that in this hemisphere, the Coriolis effect works against it. Finally, Spyboy, whose entry won the bang-for-the-buck category last year, received the most savage beating of them all.
EntryEntered byScore
Red Lion Kona Dr. Vann Harl 7.67
Bob Dog 6.67
Peets Jay Dyson 6.5
Uncle Albert's Guatamalan Doom [sic] The Finn 6.33 (Brew Taste: 6.67)
Victor's Celtic Italian Larry Gadallah 6.44 (Brew Taste: 6.5)
Baltimoron Blend Just Ken 6.17
Stumptown Hairbender gpetme 6.0
Victor's Seattle Dark Otto Eyebiter 5.67
Papua New Guinea Kinjibi Peaberry Steve 5.5
Ultra Dark Sumatra Qubit 5.33 (Brew Taste: 5.33)
Andy Hall Mt. Special 5.33 (Brew Taste: 5.17)
Estate Java Joshua Fritsch 5.33 (Brew Taste: 5.0)
Rojo's Rostery's Midwire Moonshine Nous 4.83
Foglifter RavenloftGM 4.67
Equal Exchange Gurney Halleck 4.5
Toby's Estate-Rico Jeremy 4.33
Colombian Gold Joe Blow 3.17 (Brew Taste: 3.5)
Sumatra French CIR 3.17 (Brew Taste: 3.0)
Michael Tiffany Rojo's Roastery Mavis Bank Mill Jamaican Blue Mountain 3.0
Exotic Octane Spyboy 2.17
The mean overall was 5.13, and the standard deviation 1.42. The winner, therefore, was more than a whole standard deviation away from the average, which indicates, as usual, a strong general approval.

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. Also, it should be noted that the price of some coffees can't be accurately determined (i.e., if they are not for sale on the open market, etc.) so some coffees were not even entered in this category. In the event of a tie, the overall score was used as the determining factor.
EntryEntered byScore
Baltimoron Blend Just Ken 1.03
Papua New Guinea Kinjibi Peaberry Steve 0.92
Victor's Seattle Dark Otto Eyebiter 0.84
Ultra Dark Sumatra Qubit 0.8
MT Special Andy Hall 0.71
Colombian Gold Joe Blow 0.70
Victor's Celtic Italian Larry Gadallah 0.58
Estate Java Joshua Fritsch 0.53
Uncle Alberts Guatamalan Doom [sic] The Finn 0.51
Stumptown Hairbender gpetme 0.50
Toby's Estate-Rico Jeremy 0.36
Rojo's Roastery's Midwire Moonshine Nous 0.29
Red Lion Kona Dr. Vann Harl 0.26 (Overall: 7.67)
Peets Jay Dyson 0.26 (Overall: 6.5)
Foglifter RavenloftGM 0.26 (Overall: 4.67)
Sumatra French CIR 0.24
Exotic Octane Spyboy 0.19
The average score was 0.53, and the standard deviation was 0.27. This means that our winner in this category won by a mile. Note that some of the top coffees in the competition this year fell fairly far down in this category, because they were so darn expensive. Still, as the overall winner, Dr. Vann Harl can be satisfied that his funds were invested wisely. It should also be noted that The Finn's price includes a bribe to a Guatamalan customs official (if it's as hard to get things out of there as it is Guatemala, he might have scored higher... heh). Also note that cheapness alone doesn't win: the least expensive beans overall were Joe Blow's.

A Couple of Footnotes

Some folks wrote me to say they were entering, so I set aside entry forms for them. Then either they didn't show up, or they entered under different names. What's up with that, Lionel, Lei, and Tytjaws?

Also, my apologies to those who have been patiently awaiting the results. And to those who have been impatiently awaiting them. Shouts out to Otto Eyebiter, Joe Blow (I think he is the REAL Joe Blow that you always hear about in examples!), and Jeremy Rasmussen.

The List of Entries

1: Andy Hall : MT Special
2: Larry Gadallah : Victor's Celtic Italian
3: Qubit : Ultra Dark Sumatra
8: Otto Eyebiter : Victor's Seattle Dark
10: Gurney Halleck : Equal Exchange
12: Dog : Bob
13: gpetme : Stumptown Hairbender
14: Joshua Fritsch : Estate Java
15: RavenloftGM : Foglifter
16: Joe Blow : Colombian Gold
17: CIR : Sumatra French
18: Jay Dyson : Peets
19: Dr. Vann Harl : Red Lion Kona
20: Jeremy : Toby's Estate Rico
21: The Finn : Uncle Albert's Guatamalan Doom [sic]
22: Spyboy : Exotic Octane
23: Steve : Papua New Guinea Kinjibi Peaberry
24: Just Ken : Baltimoron Blend
25: Michael Tiffany : Rojo's Roastery Mavis Bank Mill Jamaican Blue Mountain)
26: Nous : Rojo's Roastery's Midwire Moonshine


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