Brewing in the Mile-High City

We got to the venue early Sunday morning and immediately got to brewing. As it turns out, brewing in Denver is hard! The air is so dry and the elevation is so high that my coffee tasted a lot different at my normal recipe. We ended up coarsening my grind, changing my ratio, AND brewing at even lower temperature (197 degrees) in order to balance out the acidity and sweetness and also to get rid of the wonky aftertaste we were getting. Afterwards, all that was left to do was go through my script over and over until I felt 110% awesome.

Photo by Elizabeth Chai

Finally, it was time to present. Each competitor gets 5 minutes to set their stage before the judges come out and start your 10-minute presentation time. During the few minutes in between my set-up and presentation time, my electric kettles turned off. Without missing a beat, I continued with my routine (mostly) as rehearsed and hoped for the best. I knew that the lower brew temperature would no doubt affect some of my flavor notes but I still did my best.

The rest is kind of a blur. I said what I needed to say and felt great once it was done. Then came the waiting part. There were still a few hours to kill before announcements were made. Camilla and I grabbed some food with friends and then Camilla had to get to the airport so she could be home in time to roast the next morning. Waiting for announcements is one of the worst parts, especially when you’re alone. I kept going back and forth in my head about how well I did. I was afraid I felt TOO good about my performance and that I would end up in last place.

But that wasn’t the case! My name was the first one called of the top 12 competitors, meaning I qualified for the national competition! Despite the technical issues, my scores were good enough. I received a 9.5/10 for my workflow, which meant a lot to me. I scored about a point less on acidity than I expected. Overall, my feedback from the judges was positive and I walked away feeling really proud of what I had done. The national competition will be in March in Kansas City!

Becoming a Brewers Cup competitor was something I never expected to do even after I became familiar with these competitions. I have learned so much about myself and what it takes to step out of your comfort zone. The connections I’ve made and the performances I have witnessed have made me feel empowered. I’m excited to share what we do as baristas with others. Coffee is such an incredible plant/industry/beverage that brings so many people together, whether it’s specialty or from a can in your pantry. I am proud to help highlight the work that goes into it all, all while supporting my personal growth. I am excited that my competition coffee will be served in the cafes and available to customers this month (click here to read more about our Ethiopia Sidamo Gora Kone offering). I really hope you enjoy it!