Mikaela Wallgren of Finland, runner up in the 2016 World Brewers Cup Championship, talks to us about following passion, her favorite brewing methods, and if you’ll see her on the world stage competing again…
BY JOSHUA DUSK-PEEBLES
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
Mikaela Wallgren started her 2016 World Brewers Cup routine by calling coffee the adult version of candy. She went on to explain that her particular competition coffee ”an SL28 & SL34 Kenyan Coffee from the Kieni Cooperative wet mill ”has a fresh vivid sweetness that makes your mouth water. She proved these fun and impressive claims by winning a silver kettle, which makes her the second best brewer in the world! And if you take a look at the final rankings, you can see that she was neck and neck with Tetsu Kasuya, the World Champion ”finishing less than a tenth of a point behind him. Recently, I was fortunate enough to get a few moments to pick her brain about all things coffee.
Joshua Dusk-Peebles: Congratulations of your second place finish! Your routine was great. What inspired you to compete in the World Brewers Cup (WBrC) this year?
Mikaela Wallgren: This year I competed for the third time in Finland’s National Brewers Cup. I had won the competition last year and done ok in WBrC 2015 so I decided to not let all the things I learnt go to waste. Therefore, I really wanted to compete again in the Nationals to try reach to the World Championship again. I succeeded and won in Finland, and got to go to WBrC! For me competitions have been way of breaking the routine, getting out of my comfort zone, and connecting more with the coffee community.
JDP: What would you say to someone who is trying to decide if they want to compete next year?
MW: Go for it! You’ll come out many discoveries, feelings, and connections.
JDP: How did you start working at Coffee Collective? What is your favorite thing about working there?
MW: I followed love to Copenhagen, and a couple months in, The Coffee Collective was hiring. I was nervous if I had a chance of getting work there but sent an application in anyway. I got a part-time barista position to start with. My favorite thing is the team I get to work together with ”welcoming, kind, and passionate people.
JDP: What is the hardest thing about a career in coffee? Do you have any ideas on how to make it better?
MW: Working hands-on with coffee can be really tough for your body (shoulders, wrists, elbows, etc.). It’s a lot of repetitive movements when you work behind a bar or a roaster. It’s especially hard if coffee is the only product you serve/produce, otherwise finding a variety of tasks to rotate through could be the cure. I’m still trying to figure this one out!
JDP: What motivates you to keep pushing yourself?
MW: Getting myself out of my comfort zone opens up new opportunities, allows new relationships, broadens my perspective. I guess that’s very appealing to me and that’s why I keep pushing myself to grow.
JDP: What other advice would you give to someone else wanting to push themselves to grow as a brewer?
MW: For me things are easier to comprehend when I break them into pieces ”work flow, brew technique, and flavor for example. Record what you did, write flavor notes, TDS, and other comments. It will help you figuring out what affects what. Then test different things to strengthen your understanding.
JDP: Do you have any fun stories from your WBrC competition preparation and/or at the competition?
MW: I think the funniest moments for me were when my coach Astrid Gulstad-Johnston made me act, yell, whisper, run, and jump while we practiced my speech. Also it was pretty hilarious when my WBrC crew (boyfriend, coach, boss, co-workers) all lost their voices from cheering so much!
JDP: You used the small Kalita Wave during the competition. What is your favorite brew method other than the Wave? Why?
MW: I enjoy AeroPress when I’m looking for a great one cup with more body. I find that a thicker body can enhance the sensation of sweetness sometimes and I like AeroPress for that. During my holiday travels I also enjoyed using the Clever. I found it super easy to use and the coffee tasted great.
JDP: Do you think you will compete in WBrC or any other coffee competitions next year?
MW: I will compete again, I’m definite. Maybe I’ll switch things around and next year I’ll press in the AeroPress Championships! Let’s see!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joshua Dusk-Peebles is a lifelong explorer, experimenter, and learner. He enjoys nothing more than sharing what he is learning with other people. When he was young, he would get legitimately angry if his dad forgot to let him smell the coffee every time a new bag was opened. Unfortunately, the much less pleasant corresponding beverage kept him away from coffee until his 30s, when he smelled and then tasted a well-handled natural process Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, and everything made sense again. He plans on getting his own new-born son started much sooner. He can be reached at email@example.com or found online at duskcoffee.com.