Brewing in the Mile-High City

By Kelly Hill, Temple Coffee Director of Education

In early December, I was lucky enough to participate in the U.S. Coffee Champs Qualifying event in Denver, CO. For a little background on what that is, check out my blog post from when I first started my competition journey here.

Since then, I have competed in the 2017 Brewers Cup Qualifying Event in Reno, where I qualified to compete at the U.S. Brewers Cup in Seattle. After not doing great in Seattle, I was unsure if I’d compete again for the 2018-19 season. I had a lot of issues with my coffee, and my coach had recently moved for a new job, so I felt a little lost leading up to the event. I still did my best and definitely learned a lot. With that said, it felt like I needed to compete again to at least put what I had learned into action.

I went to the Brewers Cup Preliminary Competition (again, see my first competition blog for a refresher) in Seattle. La Marzocco hosted both Barista and Brewers Cup preliminary competitions to many first timers and seasoned competitors. From there I got 4th place, which guaranteed me a spot at one of the qualifying events in either Denver or Nashville, TN. The top 12 competitors (out of 32) qualified to move on to the National Brewers Cup Competition in Kansas City, MO.

Leading up to Denver, I had to work with our Director of Coffee to find an amazing coffee to bring for my open service. I also had to prepare for a compulsory round where all competitors had to brew a mystery coffee to the best of their abilities to be served for a blind sensory judgement. Coffee is scored on acidity, balance, body, flavor, and aftertaste. Acidity, body, and balance scores are worth double, so I had to make sure those qualities were prominent in my coffee and that I could adjust my brew to highlight them in the mystery coffee.

I chose a naturally processed Ethiopian coffee from the Gora Kone washing station in the region of Sidamo. This coffee stood out to me because it was simply a great coffee that was easy to drink. It had its complexities without being overly complex. It is important to choose a competition coffee that can be described easily to the judges and that actually tastes like how it’s described (I get judged on that, too). It had notes of red apple, cooked strawberry, and chocolate fudge.

I practiced brewing this coffee on several brewing devices before deciding to use the Kalita Wave dripper for my open service. The elevation in Denver is so high that water boils at about 201-202 degrees Fahrenheit. Coffee brews best between 195-205 degrees, which doesn’t leave much room for any heat loss during the brewing process. With this in mind, I practiced brewing my coffee at a starting temperature of 201 degrees.