Get to know Filip Kucharczyk, the 2016 World AeroPress Champion
BY JOSHUA DUSK-PEEBLES
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MACIEJ WRZALIK
Filip Kucharczyk doesn’t take things too seriously. As the winner of the 2016 World AeroPress Championship, he threw out all the typical rules of brewing and found success through experimentation and taste. He graciously took time away from his shop, Café Targowa in Wroclaw, Poland, to talk to us about his beginnings, the coffee scene in Poland, and how being light and fun in brewing brought him victory on the world stage.
Joshua Dusk-Peebles: Congratulations on your 2016 World AeroPress Championship (WAC) victory! Can you tell us more about how you started working in coffee?
Filip Kucharczyk: It was a coincidence really. I was on a cycle trip from London to Wroclaw with the aim to cycle further east or south, but somehow I decided to stay in Wroclaw. To be honest I didn’t know what to do ”and the idea came to mind to start the coffee business. The funny thing was that my friend had an espresso machine (old Gaggia) that he didn’t use and he let me have it. So I had no choice then…
At the beginning, I wanted to start the coffee track [food truck] but it didn’t work out. Then I found this small place in Wroclaw historical Market Hall and made this spontaneous decision to open up the shop there ”Café Targowa. At the beginning, people there told me that I must be crazy to do this…obviously they were wrong and now enjoy my coffee very much.
JDP: What is one trick you have learned that makes your job easier?
FK: Don’t drink too much beer the day before and never estimate the amount of guests by the weather condition!
JDP: What are your thoughts on the coffee scene in Poland? In your city?
FK: WrocÅ‚aw is quite strong when it comes to coffee. There are quite a few specialty cafés and two local roasters. We have strong presence in most of the barista competitions, too. But what I like about this city most is the local community ”coffee people, craft beer people, bike people; we are just one big family. Or maybe I’m too romantic about it right now.
JDP: You won the world competition with a very, very different technique ”can you us more about that?
FK: I wanted to not follow all the ‘rules’ there are in coffee brewing. So I ground my coffee the day before, I didn’t sieve it, I plunged all the air, I used the water provided by sponsors, I had only 10% extraction instead of 21% or higher, I used random grinders, different temperatures, doses, sometimes different grind settings (in Poland). If I think about it, I didn’t make the same brew ”not even once. And it still worked. The idea is to be able to make good cup anywhere you are with the equipment you have at hand. In a way, I have more questions than answers now.
JDP: That was another unique feature of your method ”diluting the brew and tasting it before you served it. Once you begin tasting, how did you decide whether or not to add more water? What flavors were you looking for?
FK: Well, this is the most important part of this method ”there is this sweet spot, and it is quite a big one. If you add enough water to get there, your coffee will be juicy, sweet, balanced, and clean, and with so many flavors in it that it’s just unbelievable. And this was what I was looking for. I could imagine my ‘strangely’ extracted coffee against ‘perfectly’ extracted ones, and I knew my coffee would very much stand out. Simple stuff: add as much water as you like ”just like adding salt to soup. In the numbers department it would be 1.3 to 1.4 TDS (total dissolved solids).
JDP: I’ve seen more and more AeroPressers adding water after they press. Can you talk a little bit about the advantages of doing that?
FK: It is the convenience of it ”just make the concentrate, taste it, and dilute it. You can only go wrong by adding the wrong amount of water. Also, it can be easily transferred to outside of coffee shops. You can take the AeroPress for a trip and make awesome coffee without scales, thermometer, boiling water, etc. Wasn’t that Alan Adler’s idea behind AeroPress anyway?
Inventor Portrait: Alan Adler (AeroPress; Aerobie) from David Friedman on Vimeo.
JDP: You mentioned that you plunged all the air through the coffee? What was your reasoning with that?
FK: My main goal was to go to Dublin and have fun there. The method had to be easy and fuss free. I wanted to forget about sieving, mixing up my own water, or doing some other magic. I pressed all the way because the coffee still tasted good and I had one less thing to worry about: ‘stop or not to stop already?’
I can imagine that most of the competitors were trying to make this perfect cup of coffee according to current standards of coffee extraction using equipment that is told to be the only one you can achieve it with. There is nothing wrong with that when you go to a different style competition, but here ”where there are no points to be given, the more interesting coffee wins. And that was my main goal: brew something different then perfect, more interesting then perfect!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org