After the SERJ, notes from the weekend

•November 17, 2009 • 3 Comments

Wow, what a weekend.

Lots has already been said about the big bash – the Saturday Night latte art Throwdown & “coffee family reunion”. A great party, a great night, a great way to cap off a weekend chock-full of coffee greatness. The tagged pictures, uploaded videos, and blog posts attempting to capture the evening are still flowing. It’s already been called “EPIC”. Sound like a movie? OK, get ready for the prequel…

We called it “The SERJ”.

Thursday night, a little before 7:00. James Spano of Cup to Cup in Savannah wanders in to The Coffee Garden, the first to arrive for the welcome party. Luckily, he brought an iPod, as I’d forgotten to line up music… so we chilled to Miles Davis for a while. The fact that his was only the first of several guest playlists to provide backdrop for the night was a fitting preview of things to come. It was a barista DIY coffee weekend: organized by, financed by, researched by, presented by, and attended by baristas, for baristas.

Friday morning at Counter Culture’s Charlotte Training Center. Coffee and bananas. Lots and lots of bananas. Did you know that the potassium in bananas helps the human body deal with the effects of caffeine? Brent Hall of Counter Culture Coffee follows this tidbit up with the first half of a session “Breaking Down the Blend”. He leads the group through a series of shots pulled with the different SO components of an espresso blend, discussing the contributions that each will make to the final cup: body, acidity, flavors, crema. Now its up to Lem Butler, also of Counter Culture Coffee, to discuss dialing in strategies. He talks lipids and cyclic organic acids, diagrams roast degree and brew temperature, he balances grind and dose. We use the +4U to full advantage. We balance body and acidity. We have many espressos, and the banana population suffers.

Friday afternoon. Equipment basics. Brent talks while I draw pictures. Boiler configurations. Machine basics. Grinders. Cleaning schedules. Then, almost as quickly as it begins, we are off to Dilworth Coffee Company for a class on Customer Service. This is one of many opportunities for the group attending the SouthEast Regional Jam to combine with the group attending the SouthEast Skill Building Workshop. Lots of tips from Lydia Iannetti of Counter Culture. Did we mention roleplay? Sorry, Jason, no chocolate chip cookie dough cappuccinos for you today.

Friday evening. Some time to play on the Aurelias at Dilworth, then going our separate ways. Tomorrow’s hangover will be brought to you by Van Gogh’s Double Espresso Vodka.

Saturday morning, back at Counter Culture. We’re joined by a freshly-married Ben Helfen of Atlanta’s Octane Coffee. Ben and Lem join forces to share their thoughts, tips, stories, and strategies for success at barista competition. Great thoughts on creating signature drinks, preparing, packing, and presenting at regionals and beyond. Look out, 2010 USBC, the SouthEast is rising…

Saturday afternoon. Shannon Hudgens of Greenville SC’s Coffee and Crema joins us for the afternoon. We flock to the manual brew bar to take turns making Chemex, french press, and pourover. We taste the results of a Clever Dripper head-to-head showdown. Shannon demos a siphon, and we marvel at the differences seen in the resulting brews. Mmmm… beefy. After a break, we’re joined by The Coffee Institute’s Chris Deferio, Dilworth Coffee’s Jason Dominy, and Octane’s Tony Riffle for a community building roundtable. We share experiences organizing barista and customer oriented events and learn how to unlock the promotional power of Facebook. The seeds of new coffee communities are planted.

Then, we jam. At Counter Culture, the FB-80, Paddle Group Linea, and +4U get a workout. Fundamentals are practiced, preinfusion dabbled in, and milk texture refined. Meanwhile, across I-77 at Dilworth, Aurelias are being warmed up, art is being practiced, and beer is being chilled for the evening’s extravaganza.

Saturday night. Hard to beat “EPIC” as a description. Lem Butler is the DJ, Jason Dominy the MC. MJ lives again, Bon Jovi went M.I.A. Nashville, Asheville, Charlotte, Greenville, Atlanta… they all brought it. City vs City? in the end it was too close to call…

My overall impression? I was struck by the amazing talent and depth of knowledge of the baristas in our community It was inspiring to see so many take pride in our community to the point that they would drive all night, sleep on sofas and floors, spend time away from loved ones, and work their tails off just to help make it stronger. As Ben Helfen reminded us, a rising tide floats all boats. This weekend, we all saw the tide rise.

Ready for the credits?

Thanks to everyone that took time to attend: Paul Yates, James Spano, Scott Satterwhite, Katie Porter, Patty Parris, Angela Poe, Dan Pabst, Liz Gilliom, Tripp Gandy, Dave Delchamps, and Jonathan Taylor. Thanks to presenters: Lem Butler, Brent Hall, Lydia Iannetti, Ben Helfen, Shannon Hudgens, Jason Dominy, Tony Riffle.

Thanks to Brent Hall, for working out all of the details, keeping the momentum going, and letting us invade your training center for a few days. Thanks to Jason Dominy for getting this whole thing started, and for working out the BGA and SCAA details. Thanks to Sandy May for being Switzerland when we needed it. Thanks to Jerry Butler for hosting us Thursday night. Thanks to Mary, for doing all of the little things that needed to be done. Oh, and thanks to the rest of you, for reading this and keeping me motivated (the blog got HOW MANY HITS!?).

We couldn’t have done it without you all.


A couple of notes

•November 13, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Day one is well underway. We’ve just completed a great first session with Brent Hall and Lem Butler on dialing in espresso. We’ll be posting their notes on here in a few days, but until then, here’s a link to the organic acids page that Lem referenced:

More later.

Notes on registration at the event

•November 11, 2009 • Leave a Comment

We’re pretty excited to see that so many of you are planning to attend the event this weekend. We’ve been busy over the past couple of days bringing in coffee, hooking up equipment, and getting everything ready for a great event.

Thanks as well to those that have registered ahead of time using our online registration form at

Those that plan to register once they arrive at the event have three options:
1. If you arrive in time to attend the welcome reception we can process your credit card at The Coffee Garden and register with a paper form.
2. If you plan to register at the CC Training Center, we’ll be using a laptop and for credit card registration.
3. If you plan to register using a check or cash, we’ll have paper forms onsite.

If you do plan to register with a credit card, doing so in advance will save you time once you’ve arrived at the event. Trust me, you’ll have more interesting things to do once you are here.

Again, looking forward to seeing everyone this weekend. Safe travels, everyone.

Locations, locations, locations

•November 8, 2009 • Leave a Comment

We’re getting closer to the event, can you believe it is this coming weekend?

To help you find your way around Charlotte, we’ve created a Google map. It contains the locations of the various event venues, as well as some local restaurants and coffeehouses. Please check it out HERE when you get a chance.

The educational sessions for the SERJ will be hosted by Counter Culture Coffee, at their Charlotte Training Center, on Friday and Saturday. The CCC Training Center is located at 1435 W Morehead St in Charlotte, NC.

The SERJ Welcome Reception will be hosted by The Coffee Garden in Matthews NC on Thursday night. The Coffee Garden is located at 7900-L Stevens Mill Rd in Matthews, NC (about 20 minutes Southeast of Charlotte).

The SCAA’s educational sessions for the SE-SBW will be hosted by Dilworth Coffee at their Roastery/Training Center. This is also the location for the Level 1 Certification Exam. The Dilworth Coffee Company is located at 2400 Distribution St in Charlotte, NC.

The Saturday Night Throwdown event will be hosted by Dilworth Coffee at their Roastery/Training Center.

As always, please contact us if you have any questions about the event.

An Important Schedule Change

•November 8, 2009 • Leave a Comment

As some of you may have noticed, we’ve made a change to the schedule of events for Friday afternoon. In order to make the BGA Customer Service class accessible to both SERJ and SE-SBW attendees, we’ve changed its time to 3-5pm. We’ve also moved the class to join the rest of the SCAA offerings at the Dilworth Coffee Training Center.

There will be no additional fee to attend this class if you are a paid registrant of either the SERJ or the SE-SBW. If you are a SERJ registrant that is interested in attending this class, please email the SCAA Event Manager Melissa Bula at .

In its place, we will be offering a session on espresso equipment from 1-2:45. We’ll discuss espresso machine and grinder principles of operation, different boiler configurations, burr styles, care and feeding, advanced features, and tweaks to obtain best possible performance. Presenters for this class will be Authorized La Marzocco Tech Brent Hall of Counter Culture and Authorized Rancilio Tech Brady Butler of Carolina Espresso Services.

For those that do not plan to attend the BGA Customer Service class, we’ll be having open jam time at Counter Culture. This session will allow attendees to try out the various equipment and techniques discussed earlier in the day.

If anyone has any questions about this change, please contact me at .

Thanks again for your interest in this great event. Looking forward to seeing you all there.

Presenting… our presenters

•November 4, 2009 • Leave a Comment

With the event a little more than a week away, we’ thought we’d share a little info on our outstanding presenters. There is a real wealth of coffee knowledge in our area, and we’re really happy that these volunteers have agreed to spend a weekend sharing their knowledge with us. So here are some introductions:

Lem Butler is part of the Customer Relations team at Counter Culture Coffee. He is a two-time SERBC Champion and teaches Intro Espresso, Intermediate Espresso, and Milk Chemistry as part of the Counter Intelligence program. He’s traveled to origin on several occasion, so will bring a great perspective to the single-origin coffees discussed in “Dial in In”. Lem will also be sharing some of his winning strategies as part of the “Competition Preparation” session. As a bonus, he’ll also be the DJ for the Saturday Night Throwdown event.

Brent Hall is a Customer Relations Rep for Counter Culture Coffee, and is based in Charlotte NC. As a CR, he spends his days training baristas, repairing equipment, cupping coffees, and helping to build coffee communities around the Southeast. As a former roaster, Brent has a great perspective on the flavor characteristics of different coffees, which he’ll share with us in the “Dial it In” advanced espresso session. Brent will also be sharing his knowledge of coffee extraction in the “Manual Brew” workshop.

Ben Helfen is Coffee Boss at Octane in Atlanta, and is also a BGA Executive Council member. Ben is a former Millrock Latte Art Competition Champ, former Southeast Regional Barista competitor, has helped other baristas prepare for SERBC as Octane’s coach in 2009, and has helped judge at regional competition. Ben will discuss some of his preparation strategies and judging experiences as a presenter in the “Competition Preparation” session.

Lydia Troxler Iannetti is Lead Customer Relations Rep for Counter Culture Coffee. Her focus at Counter Culture is on coffee knowledge and barista training. She is also a SCAA Certified Lead Instructor. Lydia will share some of her strategies for providing great customer service a the presenter of the “BGA Customer Service” class.

Shannon Hudgens runs the Coffee & Crema shops in Greenville SC where he’s been elevating the craft of coffee for the last five years. Well poured lattes and made-to-order coffees are Coffee & Crema’s specialty. Shannon will share his methods for brewing exceptional coffees to-order, as well as his experiences implementing these methods in a retail environment, as a presenter in the “Manual Brew Methods” workshop.

Thanks again to everyone that has volunteered their time to make this event possible. We’re looking forward to a great, fun, and educational weekend for everyone. Hope to see you all there!

SERJ registration is now open.

•October 12, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Advance registration is now open for the SouthEast Regional Jam. For registration information, please click “Registration” on the right side of the main page and follow the instructions there.


2009 Southeast Regional Jam, hosted by your friendly neighborhood BGA Chapter

•September 16, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Baristas of the Southeast, please join us in Charlotte this November for the 2009 SERJ.  We’ve invited some of the regions top baristas to share their knowledge.  We’re hooking up some great espresso equipment.  We’re lining up some outstanding coffees…. and we’re throwing a big party too.

This 2-day educational jam will include sessions on barista competition preparation, dialing in espresso, manual brew methods, community building, as well as plenty of open jam time. It will be capped off with a Latte Art Throwdown featuring individual competition and a regional City vs. City Showdown.  So please join us in Charlotte NC from Thursday, November 12th thru Sunday November 15th.  The events will be held at the Counter Culture Coffee Charlotte Training Center and at the Dilworth Coffee Training Center.

More information will be posted here as we get closer to the event, so please check back often.


Brady Butler, Southeast Regional BGA Chapter Rep.

Events Schedule:
Thursday, 11/12:
7pm-10pm Reception. A reception to welcome visiting baristas and acknowledge sponsors and presenters. Appetizers and beverages will be served.

Friday 11/13:
8-9 Morning Coffee – An informal tasting to ease into the day.
9-12 Espresso Workshop: “Dialing It In”  – A hands-on session where attendees share strategies for bringing out different characteristics of a variety of SO and blended coffees.
1-3 ***UPDATED*** Espresso Equipment, In Depth – An in-depth look at care, feeding, and tweaking of a variety of espresso equipment.
3-4:30 Open Jam – An opportunity for attendees to play with the machines, pull shots for each other, try the available coffees, and share techniques.
5 -7 Movie Screening – Black Gold: A film about coffee and trade.
***The Customer Service class has been moved, and will be taking place on Friday from 3-5 at Dilworth Coffee. See update for details.
Saturday 11/14:
8-9 Morning Coffee – An informal tasting to ease into the day.
9-12 Lecture: “Competition Preparation” – Presentations by a judge, a coach, and past competitor. Discussions to include preparation strategies, judging criteria, espresso selection, signature beverages, etc.
1-3:30 Workshop: “Manual Brew Methods” – Sharing best-practices for getting the most out of some manual brew methods (press, pourover, vac-pot). Also discuss strategies for implementation in a retail setting.
3:30-5:30 Roundtable Discussion: “Building a Coffee Community” – A panel discussion of effective strategies for starting, publicizing, running, and growing latte art throwdowns, cuppings, etc.
5:30-7:00 Open Jam – Dilworth Coffee Company Training Center OR Counter Culture Coffee Training Center.
8-11 Latte Art Throwdown. Freepour latte art competition. DJ, food, beverages, cool prizes, and good competition.  Individual competition as well as the first-ever Southeast Regional City vs City Throwdown. ***There is no cost or registration required for the Throwdown, though baristas that want to compete will pay to pour.

Sunday 11/15:
1-3 BGA Level 1 Certification Testing.  Administered at Dilworth Coffee as part of the SCAA-SBW. ***No cost for BGA members, but advanced registration is required. Use the SCAA’s SBW form to register.