World Barista Championship FINALIST #3



Michael Phillips is a good guy ”just a solid, honest, fun-loving, smart good guy. He’s the kind of guy you call at the last minute if you need someone to help move a couch. He’ll take a beer as payment for the chore, and insist that you have one with him. He’s that kind of guy.


He is using one coffee and serving it five ways today. Mike has never been one to shy away from complexity and difficulty of the task at hand ”he pulls out all the stops. On stage he’s like a professor as he explains his coffee and his objective. He launches right into his coffee by introducing the judges to this coffee, which is from a small coop in Rwanda called Maraba. He serve the judges coffee from an Eva Solo as he pours their waters ”this is the first of five ways he will serve the Rwandan.


He tells the judges that, during his 15 minutes he intends to change up a ton of variables that will highlight different nuances in his coffees. He will play with dose, extraction time, temperature, and even grind setting. He tells the judges that there is a point and purpose to each of these changes, but they will all be fun, and they will all effect the coffees.


He moves into his espresso preparation, and tells the judges that he will have a 17-gram dose and a slightly longer flush time. On the table in front of the judges are some of the ingredients Mike will incorporate in the final two flights of his service: dark brown muscavado sugar, a 62% bittersweet dark chocolate from Vahlrona, diced almonds, sea salt, and heavy cream. As he serves the espressos, he asks that the judges look for the red fruit taste, sour tamarind and baking spice in the finish. He says his coffee has a complexity and is “articulate” ”a great cffee descriptor.


As he moves into cappuccino service, his hands are shaking hard, and yet it doesn’t disturb any of his drinks. He tells the judges that a hallmark of a good cappuccino is balance. To achieve this, he updoses to 18 grams to achieve a nuttiness and a buttery sweetness at the end.


So for his Michael’s signature drink, we get really academic, as Mike launches into an exercise he des with his staff at his cafe in Chicago. He gets the judges excited about it, telling them he will be splitting the shot into 2 parts to highlight the different complexities in the first part of the shot and then the second part of the shot. To the aforementioned ingredients, he adds the first half of the espresso shots he has pulled into little ceramic boats (like the serving dish you would use for a banana split, only smaller). To do this, he actually just pulled the boats right out from under the spiouts halfway through the shots.

Then he tells the judges that as the shot progresses, it changes to have a tart bitterness and a very juicy body, For this part of the performance, by the way, he has updosed to 19 grams. He serves one part cold, and one part hot, with pressed blackberries to enhance that tart bitterness.

I think this was Mike’s best performance to date. He’s bold and unafraid, yet humble and just happily passionate about all things coffee. It’s been a true pleasure to watch you succeed here this weekend, Mike. Bravo.

About Sarah 934 Articles
Sarah Allen (she/her) is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.