Rancilio Specialty’s community-focused road tour makes its second-to-last stop in rural Pennsylvania.
BY ANGELA FERRARA
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of Caleb Hamernick
Rancilio Specialty is winding down a packed summer of dates on their competition-workshop tour Ramp Up, and one of their final stops included a visit to Lancaster, Pa.
The day started with two information-packed sessions led by members of the Rancilio Specialty North America team. First up was Maciej Ostrowski with a barista-focused, non-brand-specific guide to espresso machine technology. Are you unsure of why your left grouphead has been dripping? Or how to check if the flow rates of your groupheads are the same? Maciej broke down the internal systems of espresso machines (separated into two categories—steam and coffee) into a comprehensive session that included preventative maintenance, how to identify problems if they do arise, and how these things actually affect your coffee.
And just when I thought, “Wait! Tell me more about coffee!” Rancilio’s Andrew Bettis stepped up to talk about extraction theory. Extraction theory is a hefty term that most people in specialty coffee have probably seen go awry with over-complicated speculations and scientific terminology. Andrew’s talk, however, was refreshingly unpretentious, engaging, and knowledgeable, leaving both veteran baristas and new baristas in attendance with a better understanding of what’s happening when they brew coffee. Like Maciej, Andrew covered an enormous amount in just about an hour, including the basics of how to prepare a proper shot of espresso, how to identify and troubleshoot shot-channeling, the chemical compounds that make up espresso, and the importance of developing your palate. “Take care of your palate. Cup as often as you can. Taste coffee blind! Our palates are really the only thing that can determine quality. Refractometers are important for quantitative research, but they cannot measure quality,” Andrew assured the group.
The evening’s panel discussion, led by Andreas Willhoff of Rancilio Specialty, featured Cassie Ash of Small Planes Coffee, Kendra Sledzinski of Joe Coffee Company, and Jess Steffy of Square One Coffee Roasters. They discussed their career trajectories, their shared background in coffee competitions, and tips on how to get more involved in the industry. All three panelists started in specialty coffee part-time and self-identified as doing a lot of different coffee-related jobs within their respective positions.
The day came to a close with a latte art throwdown—but not what you might imagine for your typical throwdown. Attendees milled about introducing themselves to one another, and many high-fives were given in recognition of pours both “winning” and “losing.” Competitors consisted of all ages and experience levels, too; a 10-year-old actually learned how to use the Rancilio Specialty RS1 on the spot and participated in the competition! Ramp Up: Lancaster was truly a crash course into espresso machine tech, extraction, and active community building. The Ramp Up tour was free to attend and open to the public; for those who couldn’t make it to one of the cities, Rancilio has uploaded all slides from the two presentations here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angela Ferrara is the director of communications and social media at The Barista League. She’s based in Baltimore.