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World Coffee Events (WCE) has announced new format changes to the 2017 World Barista Championship (WBC) will include flexible table configurations, seating options, table height, set espresso machine temperature, and staggered start times for this year’s event.

Announced on 13 March, for the first time, competition format changes will be introduced for use exclusively at the WBC level, with National Championships continuing with a shared common format.

WCE says the changes have been made to “better balance” values of innovative production and service, and to create new opportunities for competition progression.

As such, to open-up new service possibilities at the WBC, the layout of the presentation stage will no longer be set. Competitors will now be able to select from nine new “flexible” table configurations, with multiple height and seating options.

To allow more espresso extraction control, competitors will be able to request the temperature their espresso machine is set to.

To accommodate the huge growth in competitor numbers, multiple staggered competitors will now perform on stage in the preliminary round, and an increased number will pass through to the semifinal round.

In the semifinal and final rounds, evaluation will shift to sensory and service experience, with no separate technical scoresheet or judge, allowing a focus on the skill and creativity of the world’s top competitors.

“These changes are part of a multi-year process of examination, consideration of feedback, and exploration of future potential, driven by the dedication of industry experts and competition veterans in the WBC Evolution Working Group,” WCE said in a statement.

Evolution began in 2016 in Dublin, with the move from a cappuccino to a milk beverage course, the specification of a common espresso machine and grinder set, and the introduction of the WBC Teams Competition.

Based on positive feedback, more extensive format changes are being introduced in 2017, and more updates are planned for 2018. WCE says this process will include evaluating the progress of these changes and working to introduce their best aspects to the nationals level.

At the WBC, an expanded semi-final round will include performances from the top 15 competitors, plus a 16th wildcard position awarded to the member of the winning team in the WBC Team Competition who has the highest individual score but is not already qualified for semi-finals. The composition of the 2017 teams will be announced in June at the Budapest Championships.

In order to ensure that competitors get to run their entire three-course performance during the preliminary round – while simultaneously wanting to avoid lengthening the overall competition – WCE and the WBC Evolution Group conferred with past Champions and top 2016 competitors to find the best possible solution: staggered start times with multiple competitor routines being run on stage at once. WCE says the resulting running schedule is “more accessible for everyone”, including competitors, volunteers, spectators, and staff.

To prevent “undue live auditory interference”, there will however be only a single shared music soundtrack playing during preliminary round performances, with individual competitor soundtracks remaining as an option in the semi-final and final rounds.

“The WBC Evolution Group and WCE Staff understand that the simultaneous preliminary round presents substantial changes for competitors, and will continue to work on the best ways to maintain the integrity of the WBC experience, while encouraging competitors to embrace the opportunities that are being created for new approaches and new demonstrations of skill,” WCE said in a statement.

Furthermore, WCE says a functional, shared national championship format is critical to guaranteeing the WBC is a fair playing field. For these reasons, national championships will continue with technical evaluation in all rounds and a single station layout.

The language of the 2017 WBC Rules & Regulations documents has been updated to be gender-neutral, in order to better include and support the diverse range of people that make up the coffee community.

Each year national champions from more than 60 countries gather at the WBC, representing depth and diversity of global coffee in a competition of technique, knowledge, and skill.

This year the WBC will take place in Seoul, South Korea at CafeShow from 9 – 12 November 2017.

With these 2017 changes, it is the hope that the WBC will continue to lead the barista profession forward in the most positive way possible.

A full rule-set and summary of changes is available at

Watch a video explaining the new rules and changes here.

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