Rancilio Specialty is in the midst of an East Coast and Midwest barista tour through August.
BY KATRINA YENTCH
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of Rancilio Specialty
Espresso machine manufacturer Rancilio Specialty is well in the midst of a three-month-long summer road tour—titled Ramp Up—that promotes the sparkling new RS1 in their product line. The tour consists of 16 dates throughout the Midwest and East Coast, and the first event kicked off in Chicago on June 13. The tour is now six cities in; its next stop will be in Indianapolis on Friday, July 19.
Remaining tour dates include:
Nashville, Tenn.—July 20
Birmingham, Ala.—July 24
Louisville, Ky.—July 27
New York—Aug. 15
Lancaster, Pa.—Aug. 16
Ramp Up and the RS1 were created with the barista in mind. Think of “power-ups” behind old-school video games when you check out the branding for the tour, as each event is aimed at “powering up” the barista; with every installment, Ramp Up hosts classes for professional development, along with a “technical skills throwdown” to help baristas sharpen those skills behind the bar.
The day starts off with the classes. The first is a basic espresso tech class, in which participants learn about espresso machine components and how they operate. The second class goes over espresso theory, but it’s from the perspective of the espresso machine, and what the espresso is actually experiencing once it’s in the machine. The final class is a community panel, in which featured speakers give their takes on creating a career in the specialty-coffee industry.
Andrew Bettis, a coffee specialist at Rancilio who has been organizing the tour, says the community panel has regularly been a highlight of the event. “We thought this was going to be very competition-focused, with the technical throwdowns and espresso competition rounds,” he says, “but we’ve found that what the arc of Ramp Up is is really the panel that we’ve been doing at every stop, looking at career paths in specialty coffee and seeing how people have advanced—whether it’s into sales for an importer or a roaster or a shop owner, looking at how they can give insight to baristas who are in love with coffee, really passionate about it, and how this can be a sustainable career.”
Speakers have included coffee professionals like Boss Barista’s Ashley Rodriguez, Melissa Stinson of Chicago’s Everybody’s Busy, and Brooke McNeill from Atlas Coffee Importers.
“We knew we didn’t just want to do a bunch of throwdowns. There’s a time and a place for that,” adds Caleb Hamernick, marketing manager at Rancilio. “But we wanted to go and see what was out there in these smaller cities that don’t typically have as much exposure as L.A., New York, and Chicago. So far we’ve seen some really great little communities that are growing and super interested.”
Ramp Up finishes each tour date with a technical skills throwdown, which places a strong focus on skills behind the bar. Sign-ups take place at the event, and the first round includes maintaining a clean work station while serving superb drinks; points deducted result in “handicaps,” which include challenges like pouring with a non-dominant hand and steaming with 30% steam power. Competitors better make sure they’re dialed in, too, because there’s also a round in which judges drink their espresso shots sans milk. Prizes include a range of goodies like the Rancilio Rocky grinder, Slow Pour Supply pitchers, AeroPresses, Barista Magazine merch, and other coffee swag.
Ramp Up is free to attend, but you must register in advance on Facebook. You can find links to your city’s tour date on Rancilio’s blog. If you’re unable to make it to Ramp Up, you can still follow the coverage on Rancilio’s Instagram account, as well as download the presentation slides on the blog. Rancilio also encourages folks in any role within the coffee industry to be a part of the discussion panels by direct-messaging them on Instagram.