The Day One Recap of the United States Barista Championship

Twenty-four baristas competed in the first round of the United States Barista Championship—heres a recap of Round One.


Photos courtesy of the SCA

On Friday, 24 baristas competed for six spots at the United States Barista Championship. Heres a photo recap of their routines.

Mike Greene, Stovetop Coffee Roaster, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Mike uses a 100 percent Bourbon coffee, grown between 1,400-1,600m, and dry-processed from Burundi. Mikes coffee is “fantastically sweet and floral.” His espresso notes are tart basil and lime. Light weight, juicy texture. Mike advances to the next round of competition.

Steph Caronna, North Carolina Museum of Art, Apex, N.C.

Steph uses an Ecuadorian coffee thats a blend of two different hybrids. She drops so much knowledge about the coffee—only the ripest cherries, greenhouse-dried for three days, 10 percent moisture, roasted for about nine minutes. Steph is in control; clear flavor calls, instructions to judges. Very confident. When talking about the milk drink, she says, “Take one sip, then lick your lips, then take another sip.” A short milk drink, without latte art.

Amy Trompeter, Ultimo Coffee, Philadelphia

Amy is a first-year competitor, and wrote about her experiences for us at Barista Magazine. A jam-packed routine with lots of information. Amy about coffee: “Coffee tastes good, coffee tastes bad—simple, right? Coffee is more complex than that.” Espresso notes: fruited-like strawberry sweetness, lingering finish like amaro. 

Erin Tarectecan, Crema Coffee House, Denver

Erin is the first competitor of MANY from Colorado, and the community came out to cheer her on! In her cappuccino course, Erin uses an extra-long extraction. Notes of caramel, stone fruit, and wildflower. Erins coffee is a natural Ethiopia from Gesha Village roasted by Sweet Bloom, and the coffee is screen-sorted.

Radames Roldan, Blueprint Coffee, St. Louis

Radames serves milk drinks first, which he says are the most accessible to all coffee drinkers because they “remind me of home”; they are, warm, inviting, and comforting. “I’m always happy to return home,” he says. Signature drinks for Radames: chilled espresso, peach syrup with fermented honey, jasmine spritz, charged with nitrogen.

Tae-Wan Kim, Take Flight Coffee, Arcadia, Calif.

Tae-Wan Kim uses coffee from Take Flight, and is coached by folks at Intelligentsia and Equator. A routine showcasing collaboration. Sig drink with six chilled shots, removed crema, blueberry reduction, date infusion, hop soda.

Macallie Atkinson, Verve Coffee, Santa Cruz, Calif.

“We all have our own impacts on specialty coffee, not only as an industry but as a culture.” Macallie had a jam-packed routine designed to celebrate the connections that give specialty coffee life. This Bourbon and Pacas coffee comes from Finca la Mina, at 1,800m, on the southwest side of Santa Barbara, Hondura, cooled by a nearby lake. “This experience is for you,” Macallie says.

Lizzie Johnson, Bluebeard Coffee Roasters, Tacoma, Wash.

Lizzie uses a fully washed coffee dried on raised beds, a Bourbon with a creamy, buttery taste, notes of caramel, and a soft honeydew melon finish, with a big 6 percent fat milk. In Lizzies espressos there are notes of red delicious apple, pomegranate molasses, syrupy and sweeter as it cools.

Dakota Graff, Airship Coffee, Bentonville, Ark.

Using coffee from the Long Miles Coffee Project in Burundi, Dakota beings by quoting the producer: “I guess the truth is our coffee tastes like comfort and hope. The hope that summer will eventually come no matter what February feels like.” Dakota roasted this coffee to 399F for 11 minutes for fragrance and sweetness.

Sam Schaefer, Stovetop Coffee Roasters, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Sam uses a coffee from Nyeri, Kenya, grown at 1,600-1,900m on Mt Kenya, SL-28/34 Ririru 11, a rust-resistant cultivar. This coffee is complex; the rainfall and cool temperatures created vibrancy in the espresso. Medium weight, texture, and a finish of red wine.

Chelsea Rae, The Roost, Lawrence, Kan.

“One of lifes very simple pleasures: coffee.” So begins Chelsea, continuing, “too often we conflate simplicity with lack of nuance.” Natural- processed Ethiopian, 1,800m, heirloom varieties from the Adado washing station. To achieve quality they refine existing, traditional techniques. Dried on raised, mesh beds, allows for consistent turning of the coffee.

Bailey Arnold, Gregory’s Coffee, New York

Bailey is working to get “the most predictable extraction, pre-dosed coffee. I would prefer as few surprises as possible.” Bailey uses a Grade One Ethiopian coffee and calls the milk drink “The Milk Snack.” Notes of bright lemon acidity, jasmine, and green tea. Bailey starts the routine giving some facts about herself: “I have a cat named Joey Tribbiani.”

Shepherd Wadley, Huckleberry Roasters, Denver

First thing Shepherd says after finishing: “Boy, I’m sweaty.” Coffee for Shepherd is called Ardi, Grade One Ethiopian, imported by Keffa Coffee. Dried on raised beds. Notes of juniper, blackberry, and dark chocolate, with orange peel sweetness. Cleaning up his station, Shepherd finishes with a return to a focus on water, positing that dry-processed coffee has global impacts because it uses less water.

Brandon Acuña, Fleet Coffee, Austin, Texas

“I crave to create,” begins Brandon, adding, “What more can I do?” and “I wanted to make something just for you.” Brandon introduces the idea of psycho-taste: Everything that goes into taste except for taste. Brandon asked his customers, What’s the first thing that sets an expectation for taste? They told him: aroma. Each course highlights this sense.

Sam Brown, Pilcrow Coffee, Milwaukee

Sam uses a Brazilian coffee from the Minas Gerais region, grown at 1,400m, 100 percent yellow Catuai, naturally processed. Accessible coffee, cappuccinos are the perfect example of that. Sam’s milk course comes in a small Gibraltar, with notes of Fig Newton, chocolate milk: “It’s quite delicious.”

Joel Bigelow, Messenger Coffee Co, Kansas City, Mo.

Joel sees this routine as an avenue for the expression of beauty, and uses an heirloom varietal, naturally processed. Espresso has notes of orange citrus, ripe strawberries, grape Jolly Ranchers, lingering sweet finish. Joel asks the judges to “Reflect on the effort to make this day possible. Take a moment to be grateful.”

David Castillo, Joe Coffee Co., New York

David competes using a Gesha coffee grown in conditions considered ideal for the variety: volcanic soils, indigenous forest cover, slowing down metabolism. Washed, with notes of jasmine, strawberry, and toasted almonds. M-L body, juicy texture, long, persistent finish. Roast profile applies a lot of energy as the coffee reaches first crack. Tasting notes for milk course: creamy texture, buttery shortbread, and almond butter. Served at 125F for optimal sweetness and balance. Lower milk fat percentage, 3.25 percent, the espresso really permeates the milk.

Emily Orendorff, Boxcar Coffee Roasters, Denver

“I want to take you on a journey through the unknown,” begins Emily. Emily asks judges to take a look at the actual coffee beans, a Java variety — one of the original varieties to emerge after coffee made its way out of Africa. This coffee was frozen for three years! A honey-processed coffee, this espresso has a slightly slower roast, and notes of dark purple fruit like prune, cocoa, orange acidity and aroma. Emily’s milk drink has notes of milk chocolate, allspice, and hint of orange zest.

Howard Chang, Space Craft Coffee, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Howard got into coffee because of watching competitions online, today using a Kenyan coffee, sourced with fair and transparent systems. This coffee was cryogenically frozen, with a roast development to highlight sweetness and acidity. A calm routine, starting with espresso, notes of blood orange, pineapple, a pleasant, tannic aftertaste. Mouth-coating, smooth finish.

Heather McCullough, Novo Coffee, Denver

“It’s unlike any coffee I’ve ever had before,” begins Heather, who is using a natural processed, controlled fermentation Gesha from the 90+ Gesha Estate. Novo initially had only 10 pounds of the coffee to work with! Heather, with a background in beer, was inspired by beer brewing. Using steeped grains, pilsner malt, white wheat, malt, honey simple syrup, this drink has bright fruit notes, and is carbonated to mimic the bubbles of beer. Because beer, like coffee, was discovered by accident, but continues to evolve as people find new techniques. Heather’s drink has notes of cola, tart cherry, malt, Tootsie Roll.

Oodie Taliaferro, Independent, Dallas

Oodie had one of the most powerful routines all day. Oodie starts by calling attention “to the mass of working baristas out there, just like me.” Embu, Kenya, is the home of Oodie’s coffee. “Double washed in classic Kenyan style,” Oodie says, giving brightness in the cup. Pushed the roast into development as soon as they could to develop sweetness to balance the brightness. “Coffee is not just for white people. Coffee is for everyone.” Powerful words from this first-time competitor.

Jenna Gotthelf, Everyman Espresso, New York

“My first boss in coffee told me I couldn’t be a barista,” begins Jenna, continuing, “there is something to be said for those willing to take risks in other people.” This is a routine about overcoming adversity. This washing station was the first in Burundi to produce natural-processed coffee. Made up of Bourbon-lineage cultivars at 1,900m. This coffee was picked sightly underripe, making fermentation easier to control. Dried for 40 days, turned, sorted constantly. Jenna’s espresso notes: fresh raspberry pomegranate, toasted almond sweetness, hibiscus florality, medium body, round, smooth, mouthfeel, clean finish.

Samantha Spillman, Dillanos Coffee Roasters, Seattle

Samantha competes using a washed Gesha grown at 2,000m, in Nariño, Colombia. She ends by saying, “We should be inviting people into our experience of coffee using a language that they know. What is knowledge if we’re not sharing it? What is coffee if we’re not sharing it?”

Dylan Siemens, Onyx Coffee Lab, Springdale, Ark.

“I’m honored and humbled to be here,” starts Dylan. Moving right into espressos, Dylan calls out notes of cherry, orange peel, brown sugar, and lemonade in a coffee that was pre-fermented, which increases acidity, gives red fruit sweetness. Drying locks in sweetness. He ends by calling attention to coating mouthfeel. Speaking of his work doing wholesale training, Dylan waxes about the importance of serving community: “We all are part of an industry that is larger than ourselves.” Dylan gets big with his final thoughts in this final presentation from Friday.
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  1. Hey my name is spelled wrong in this article – it’s Steph Caronna, any chance of updating it?

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