This week our quest for unique industry perspectives has taken us all the way to Australia – home of 2014/2015 Queensland Barista Champion, and creator of the BigStep tamper: Adam Metelmann. Adam has been involved in the coffee industry in one form or another for the past two decades, and began competing in 2012 when he placed 3rd in the Queensland Barista Championship on his first go-around.
I had the pleasure of meeting Adam at the 2015 SCAA show this year, and I asked if he’d like to contribute something to our blog – and he was into it!
Adam wrote a great piece about focusing on the things that really matter, which we’ll post this coming Monday the 6th.
In the meantime, we focused on poking Adams brain so you could get to know him a bit better.
Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Born in Kingaroy, a country town in Queensland but spent most my teen years on the Gold Coast, Queensland.
What was your first coffee job?
I dabbled on coffee machines during my teens in various hospitality jobs, but it was ’96 when I got my first real coffee role. I started hanging out at a relatively unknown cafe that was managed by a Canadian guy. He served the thickest Caps and Lattes I’d ever seen… And really up until that point, I’d never seen anyone freepour before (locally everybody was spooning their milk into their beverages).
All the staff seemed to be adored by their regulars and I wanted to be a part of that. A position finally came up, and the interview was a series of questions about what books I was reading and what music I was into, not really about my previous hospitality experience or what I expected. Thankfully I guess he connected with my wide music tastes and they offered me the job.
How long have you been competing for?
I only started in 2012, placing in my first regional. Looking back I cannot believe I placed in this first attempt. Even though I thought I was prepared, I really knew nothing about the Comp frame of mind or understood the scoresheets.
What made you fall in love with coffee?
In my childhood, I adored spending time with my Grandfather as he went about his morning ritual. In later years, it was more about the lifestyle and the way people were so drawn to their favourite coffee shop.
The coffee certainly wasn’t memorable in those days, but the having your favourite barista (who magically knew your name and your order) serve you, the ‘family’ environment that you shared with other regulars, the feeling of sitting in your favourite seat and watching the world go by… This ritual that so many people of all ages and walks of life still mesmerises me.
Tell us one thing about yourself that most people probably don’t know.
In ’82, I was selected as one of 3 kids in my school to take part in a secret Apple computer programming course, apparently because of my high IQ for my age. I don’t know what happened since then because now I struggle to remember where I put my keys.
Introvert or Extrovert?
Kinda in between, an intro-extrovert. I can turn the extro on if needed, but prefer the quieter volumes of the intro lifestyle.
What do you do when you’re not making coffee?
Hmmm. I selfishly admit that everything seems to revolve around coffee at the moment. I’m trying to educate myself further, testing and future competition scheming. Music, movies, cooking, spending time with my wife as we prepare for our first child!
Whats one piece of advice for someone new to coffee who has aspirations to turn coffee into a career?
I wish the huge amount of resources now available was around when I started… You cannot ever read or learn enough. Even though my first job was basically running beverages and washing dishes, I soon realised that this was the most powerful position. From here you can see exactly how any business runs. Watch, study, listen and always take note of whats happening around you. Hospitality is not for the faint of heart, but if you can work hard and stick with it, it can be a hugely rewarding path to take.
How did you come up with the Big Step?
I first discovered Pullman when I decided to buy my first tamp. I had just moved from a huge Commercial coffee company to a Specialty coffee focussed small business. It was time to buy my own tools, and learning their concept of fitting the tamp base as accurately as possible to the baskets blew my mind. It made perfect sense.
After my first purchase, I consequently harassed the folks at Pullman to know more about the effects and consequences of tamp sizes but also saw past the ‘sales’ pitch of this idea, seeing the true quality of their product. As with everything now in my life, its all about the details. I later met Mark from Pullman at a coffee event, we hit it off both personally and professionally, and the conversations always turned to my obsession with details.
Asking him to specifically make larger base sizes for me hit a point where we couldn’t go any further, so he suggested we come up with a new design. What if the Binding and Vacuum issues associated with my big surface (but standard design) tamp base tolerances were countered with a larger diameter stepped ridge extending from the base, coupled with less surface area on the main body of the tamp base?
When I received the first prototype, I literally couldn’t believe it. It worked like a charm and the Bigstep base was born (I named it both from its appearance of the bigger step section, and also as a play on words that Mark was taking a Big Step both working with me as well as releasing such a different design). What started out really as something that was intended as personal use, I still now can’t believe that the BigStep is being shipped and used around the world.
Tell us a little bit about your sneaker habit?
Hahaha! WHAT IS A SNEAKER HABIT?!? It’s true, I do love sneakers. Primarily Nike. I’m not as crazy as I used to be in the purchase department, but I certainly cannot help myself, especially if the stores are on sale. And the secret of a good collection is having your rotation sorted, making them last a long time. I’m still wearing kicks I bought over 5 years ago. I always said I would never be that person to go crazy spoiling my soon-to-arrive child, but with the selection available now for tiny feet… SERIOUSLY?
My bank account is in big trouble.
Have a great weekend everyone, we’ll see you Monday.