MILAN – From Berlin, where she currently works with Rancilio Group Deutschland GmbH, Nicole Battefeld talks about her great experience in the sector: she is a bartender, trainer, competitor in bartending competitions, but above all she is a disseminator of the culture of the speciality in the world in a truly prolific activity of sharing educational and curious contents around the drink. Her curriculum is truly vast and solid, testimony to a professional growth that still doesn’t stop.
Nicole Battefeld, you are a bartender, roaster, trainer and competitor: let’s take a step back, can you tell us how you became part of this industry?
“My name is Nicole Battefeld-Montgomery, I live in Berlin, work as a brand ambassador and head of education for Rancilio Germany and I love to make coffee. At work I am trying to be the creative and motivating part of the company that connects all aspects of coffee. From customerservice to roasting, profiling, teaching and also selling equipment and coffee machines.
I can’t really put a date on the exact moment when coffee took over my life, I guess it is just something that I was naturally good and comfortable with and over the years I realised how much this job changed my life.
I would say that I am obsessed with knowing as much as possible about the field of coffee for maybe 5-6 years and over the years I constantly pushed my boundaries. It’s like a really intense hobby. First you buy an espresso machine, then heaps of filter machines, then all the equipment that you can get your hands on until now when I just bought a home roaster. And this is just my free time! At work I am obviously involved in the topic all the time.
It basically became my life and I am still not even close to knowing anything about coffee. I feel like it is a never ending search and so much information on it all the time and coffee evolves so quickly that it will not get boring.
I started my journey directly after I graduated from school and since then the topic fascinated me. I am a qualified chef, worked in very fancy restaurants but nothing ever gave me as much joy as working with coffee. In 2014 I started working as a full time barista again and in 2016 I competed for the first time. Since then I just dove deeper and deeper in the nerdiness of the coffee universe.”
Which of these professional roles most reflects you?
“Being a trainer. My goal is to research and to share my research. If I am dialing in, I make everyone around me try the coffees, if I get new coffee, I want to share the flavors with everyone I know, hwen I serve a customer, I want them to have a great experience and lately I have had the chance to intensively train Vlad Demonenkov and together and with a lot of hard work we placed 2nd in the world in the world CigS championship after just 2 weeks of training.
I feel like I am good at motivating and pushing people to discover their full potential.”
How has the specialty scene changed since you started working in it?
“A lot. In 2006 when I started no one was weighing their coffee, we never heard of single origin and espresso had to be dark and chocolaty. Also I used the flappy grinders with a dosing chamber and that was considered professional. What has changed in my coffee bubble was the understanding of the right equipment and technique that is related to certain coffee. Also the understanding of the immense work that farmers put into every bag of coffee. Unfortunately the wider public still needs to understand that as well.”
In Germany, the Third Wave has exploded and spread for some time now: we are moving more and more towards a standardisation of the specialty. How do you see the new possibilities and trends for these products?
“I love them. After years and years of training people and understanding that different people can never serve a constant quality I love products that help us to serve a more constant quality as the customers always pay the same. I am a huge fan of automatic milk dispensers that program the milk not just to a certain weight but also temperature to reduce milk waste. Inbuilt scales are very practical and will become better and better over the years and automatic tampers help us to work more ergonomically. I see the future of coffee in automation as it gives us the chance to focus on the important things: coffee quality and customer service.”
You run an interesting podcast where you interview several female coffee professionals: what have you noticed with this continuous comparison?
“I do have to say I also interview men as I believ you can not push feminism with excluding men. Feminism means equality and not seperating. I have found the common passion, the grip that the industry has on us that makes us very happy. Coffee unites us and we can use it like a common language. Everyone of us works very hard but also very passionately and we decided actively to pursue a career where we had no idea if it is financially successful, just because we love what we do.
Can you tell us about your experience as a trainer at the last World Cup in Milan, as a coach supporting Ukraine?
“It was amazing! One of the best experiences in my life. I work very hard when I train by myself for my own competitions and I have never had a trainer. When Vlad and I worked together, I just made him train as much as I would do by myself. We worked for 14 days straight at 8h per day. I am sure he must have hated me at times but I also invested a big deal of my time so we kind of were in it together. He had great drink ideas and together it was very easy to come up with great recipes. I felt very proud that I could improve his workflow and text, based on my experience from the last 6 years and 11 competitions I have had.
I didn’t realise how much I was in it, it was as if I would be competing myself. When we were in Milan I was more nervous than if I would have gone on stage myself. And I am so unbelievably proud of Vlad, of his presentation and he is just a great and joyful person. It was a strong message during this time and I really wanted to help him, he had to flee his own country and leave everything behind, arriving in Berlin with just a backpack and some clothes. He never complained, he trained super hard and he represented the strength and the Ukrainian spirit. He showed me that life might be unfair but it doesn’t define you, it doesn’t break you. He is an inspiration to the whole coffee world.”
And now? What are the next projects for Nicole Battefeld?
“I have to invest all my time and energy in the World Brewers Cup in Melbourne in September this year. I want to inspire other people as much as Vlad has inspired me and I want to give a great experience to the audience. For me, the brewers cup isn’t just about brewing coffee, it is about passion and love for a product and sharing this passion with other people. After that, I will focus on the Rancilio Showroom in Berlin that we are currently building.”