Dani Hofstetter Is Out to Prove You Can Brew Beautiful Off-the-Shelf Coffee

Dani Hofstetter, the Brewers Cup champion of Switzerland, talks about going against the grain and competing with an accessible coffee on the world stage.


Photos by Shaunté Glover for World Coffee Events

We all know the types of coffees that usually win competitions. You cant even enter the competition stage without hearing buzzwords like “anaerobic fermentation” or “Gesha varietal.” Dani Hofstetter decided he wanted to be different.

Dani is the Brewers Cup champion of Switzerland—where 2018 World Brewers Cup (WBrC) winner Emi Fukahori resides—and he decided he wanted to brew a coffee that he could literally pull of the shelf. And he did, placing sixth at this years World Brewers Cup Championship held in Boston this past April. In this interview, Dani talks about how he picked his coffee, and what it was like to follow in the footsteps of a world champion.

Ashley Rodriguez: What are your first memories of coffee? Did you grow up drinking it? 

My first memory was making coffee for my parents on a really simple semi-auto machine at home—I must have been 6 years old or so. Drinking coffee myself only started when I was a professional triathlete—the iconic café-stop is deeply rooted in the cycling community. That was in 1999.

Dani Hofstetter is the Brewers Cup champion of Switzerland. He placed sixth at this year’s World Brewers Cup Championship in Boston.

How did you get into coffee? What is your current position and how did you get there? 

I hold a master’s in Food Science from the Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich. Coffee was often in the curriculum—yet I realized only later the fruits of this labor, when I started working as head product management and innovation in equipment manufacturers. I held this position at Hemro (Mahlkönig, Ditting, Anfim grinders) until recently, but after we split up, I’m a free agent.

What have you learned about competition through the years?

It might sound strange, but my most valuable competition lessons come from sports. It taught me so much that I can apply to coffee too (how to organize things, how to really peak when the gun goes off, how to succeed under pressure). I think the most valuable lesson is always to take it one step further, don’t settle for less, to believe in myself and not focus on others, and last but not least to have fun. This was my third year in Brewers Cup and my second participation in WBrC (after Budapest 2017).

Dani has competed in the past and relied on guidance from Emi Fukahori, the 2018 WBrC champion.

Tell us about your coffee—what did you choose and why? What did it taste like? What did you tell the judges about your coffee?

I used a washed red Catuai from Finca Takesi (Bolivia). I chose this coffee for it was that one cup I could never forget when I had it in March 2016 in Melbourne. Takesi only sells to four roasters globally and thus has a very close relationship with its customers. Mariana Iturralde, the owner, is such a lovely, passionate person and along with the team of The Coffee Collective (who roasted the coffee), they created such a nice product that I was able to compete with an “off-the-shelf-roast” and score the best open service of the entire competition.

I always wanted to choose this “underdog strategy” and prove what I can do as a brewer with good, yet affordable coffee and not rely on an extremely pricey, bespoke coffee. It tasted of apricot, orange, brown sugar, red apples, and had a lovely black tea note.  

Dani used a coffee from Bolivia—he wanted to use a coffee that was readily accessible and could be pulled off any shelf.

Did you focus on a theme or central idea in your routine? 

It was more of a subliminal message, but as much as coffee in Bolivia is an underdog crop (I didn’t want to be too political, but still), the choice of the coffee (washed, not natural or anaerobic fermentation, non-Gesha) was to stand out a little bit. I focused 100 percent on all the factors along the value chain and their impact to the cup experience, and it seemed to work well.

Why did you choose the brewing method you did? What was the process of refining your brewing method and recipe? 

I used a metal V60: Metal because it is not too big of a heat sink and you never know how long you have to wait after prep (backstage and on stage) so heating the dripper is not really an option. V60 works best in my opinion for such a delicate coffee. Plus, to be honest, it is what I have the most experience in.

The tricky part is that I brewed my competition coffee only four days before competition for the first time. I had only 500g of the competition roast, so it was kind of like a compulsory service for the open service. I brewed this super-high-grown (2,600m) washed coffee eventually with only 91°C—this was a surprise and a finding we only made on the day prior to comp.

Did you change anything from the national competition to worlds? 

I had no time to prepare for nationals. Thanks to my friend and roaster Philipp Henauer, we had two remarkable coffees to chose from—a Colombian Castillo, same lot, two processing methods. I flipped a coin on stage to decide what to serve the judges and prepared two storylines for my presentation; that gave me an alternative kick to go the extra mile in only two weeks.

For WBrC we knew that it takes more to be a factor in the tournament. But I only had one month in total to prepare. I reached out to my friends at the Coffee Collective and they were a huge support, providing me awesome green coffee and great roasts, along with getting me in touch with the farm. It was a tight schedule, but I am lucky to speak often and feel rather relaxed in public, so it all came together nicely.

What do you want people to know about you? What do you do in your spare time? 

I think I have a general interest in people because every encounter is a lesson in your life as long as you’re open. I’m always in for a good laugh, curious by nature, and I cannot sit still. That explains also my spare time—if you don’t find me brewing coffee, I am on my bike, in the gym, or with good friends.

Dani describes himself as a perfectionist, and someone who is always on the move. Will he be competing again in 2020? He’s still deciding.

What does it mean to do so well in competition? What did it mean to you to represent your country? 

I’m notoriously a perfectionist and ambitious, so of course it is a huge honor and satisfaction to place amongst the best brewers in the world. Much more, I was happy to prove that Switzerland has very good brewers after Emi Fukahori won the WBrC title in November 2018. We are good friends and learnt a lot together, so she was a huge motivator and large shoes to fill at the same time.

Will you compete again?

I recommend competition to everyone because it is such a steep learning curve. At the moment, I [am focused] on setting sail again in my professional career in the coffee industry. We will see later this year what 2020 will bring for me.

About Ashley Rodriguez 413 Articles
Ashley is the Online Editor for Barista Magazine. She's based in Chicago. If you want to share a story or have a comment, you can reach her at ashley@baristamagazine.com.