10 Minutes With Fakhri Muhammad: Part One

We chat with the 2019 Indonesian Brewers Cup champion about being a home brewer and having a physical disability.

BY TANYA NANETTI
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE

Photos courtesy of Fakhri Muhammad

Fakhri Muhammad is not your everyday barista, but he won the Indonesian Brewers Cup in 2019. What’s so uncommon about him? Well, first of all, he’s not a barista at all.

He’s a psychologist.

And there’s so much more about him to discover … that’s why we got in touch—to talk about Brewers Cup, the ability to brew any coffee regardless of physical circumstances, and much more.

Fakhri was the 2019 Indonesian Brewers Cup champion.

Tanya Nanetti: Let’s start with the Indonesian Brewers Cup in 2019. How cool was it to win the competition, without ever having been a barista?

First of all, let me explain something. We all know there are many myths regarding the local coffee competitions: The winners should come from big companies, have a large amount of money to buy expensive beans, or even more political sponsorship issues. So, when I won the Indonesian Brewers Cup 2019, many people called me the myth breaker. Because I’m just a home brewer, I’ve never worked as a barista, and I’m not the owner of some coffee shop. 

From my point of view, of course it was beyond my expectation. The Indonesian Brewers Cup 2019 was my second year in the competition, so honestly at that time I still didn’t have the goal to win. And the last thing that made it even more cool is that I’m a person with a disability, and I was able to win in the competition for “normal“ people.

Why did you decide to compete?

I’ve always thought that a competition is the best place to learn fast and gain knowledge in the world of manual-brew coffee. Before joining the competition, I never had interest in roast profile, water minerals, post harvest, etc. After the competition, I realized how important it is to know A to Z about coffee.

Do you want to attend another competition one of these days?

I have unfinished business with World Brewers Cup, so I will try to compete again next year. After that, maybe in 2023, I want to try to compete in the Indonesian Barista Championship, because I believe that this is the competition that can change the world perspective: I want to show people that also a person with a disability can participate in the World Barista Championship (WBC).

In my own humble way, I want to make history. Can you imagine how wonderful it would be if a simple guy from Indonesia with a disability will one day be able to win the WBC?

And now, let’s go to the beginning of all of it. Where does this love for specialty coffee come from? When and why did you start brewing?

In 2015, after graduating with a psychology degree, I continued my study to get a master’s degree in Jakarta. While I was in Jakarta, I loved to hang out at the coffee shops near my apartment. 

After one week, I became a regular customer in one of these coffee shops in South Jakarta, and I felt really interested in the hospitality they provided to customers. At that point, I understood that the coffee world was probably a friendly industry. It was in the same place that the owner introduced filter coffee to me: the first time I was really shocked, because I had never before tried a coffee that was fruity, floral, and tea-like. After that first cup, I understood that I wanted to know more: starting with how was it possible to brew such an amazing cup … and the rest is history.

Fakhri came into competition purely from a home brewer’s background.

So at that point, you started to brew coffee, and we all know that it can be a hard and complicated task. Talking about brewing with your disability, can you share a little bit more with us?

When my barista friends allowed me to brew “manual brewed” coffee itself, I realized that I could actually do it even though it took a long time to prepare the equipment to be used. After that, I tried to find a way to brew my own coffee that was easier and more efficient but still had optimal results. 

For example, due to my physical condition, I can’t do stir and swirl on the dripper like people usually do—all I can do to get agitation is just circle pour. Therefore in order for this circle pour to be optimal, I must find another way (like using a flat bottom and a smaller dose of coffee, for instance) so the bed becomes low and easy to agitate. I always believed that brewing optimal coffee can be done in a simple way; that’s why I have a slogan that is inspired from the Ratatouille movie: Anyone Can Brew.

We will conclude this interview tomorrow, discussing Indonesian specialty coffee, psychology, Midnight Diner, and more.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tanya Nanetti (she/her) is a specialty-coffee barista, a traveler, and a dreamer. When she’s not behind the coffee machine (or visiting some hidden corner of the world), she’s busy writing for Coffee Insurrection, a website about specialty coffee that she’s creating along with her boyfriend. 

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