Counter Culture’s Pro Tips on Coffee Competitions

Counter Culture Coffee presents Pro Tips, guiding folks through the ins and outs of coffee competitions, at their numerous training centers across the nation.


Photos courtesy of Counter Culture Coffee

We’re smack in the middle of coffee competition season! With coffee preliminaries done and the upcoming CoffeeChamps in Denver and Nashville, Tenn., respectively, there are hundreds of coffee professionals thinking about brew ratios, point sheets, and what music to play during their routines.

No matter how many times one competes, there are always ways to improve—and with that, there are always questions to ask. Counter Culture Coffee will host a workshop called Pro Tips aimed at providing information and advice to potential competitors. They will host virtual sessions November 1 at their training centers across the nation.

Counter Culture Coffee will host a Q&A and meet-up session for interested competitors across the nation.

“Participating in a coffee competition for the first time can feel a bit like playing a game you have read about but never actually played, or even seen played,” shares Joshua Dusk-Peebles, a technician who manages the Chicago Counter Culture office (and who won his regional heat competing in Brewers Cup in Grand Rapids, Mich.). “You understand it in theory, but you have no muscle memory for it or knowledge of the best strategies for success.”

Along with asking questions, Pro Tips is meant to connect local coffee folks with other interested competitors. There will be sessions hosted at 12 of Counter Culture’s regional training centers.

Pro Tips is meant to demystify the often confusing and overwhelming process of preparing for competition in two ways: through a Q&A with seasoned competitors and competition runners, and by connecting potential competitors to folks in their city who are also thinking about competition. “The main goal of Pro Tips is to connect folks who want to learn how to play well with people who have direct experience doing so. Half the time will be spent asking questions of successful national competitors, judges, and stage managers through a virtual panel. The other half will be dedicated to connecting and brainstorming with other folks in the local community who have something to do with competing—as a judge, a new competitor, a rules expert, or a seasoned competition veteran,” says Joshua.

Katie Carguilo, pictured above, is just one of the panelists who will be available to answer questions and provide insights. Katie is the 2012 United States Barista Champion.

Counter Culture is especially positioned to lead this discussion because they have fielded a number of competitors, including 2012 United States Barista Champion Katie Carguilo, 2013 World Brewers Cup Champion James McCarthy, and 2014 U.S. Barista Champion (and perhaps the winningest barista competitor ever) Lem Butler. Joining this esteemed group are:

    • Brent Hall (Barista Competition head judge)
    • Jenny Bonchak (Brewers Cup competitor, multiple U.S. finals appearances and regional titles)
    • Jonathan Bonchak (Brewers Cup competitor, U.S. finalist, and regional titles)
    • Kathy Altamirano (Brewers Cup judge)
    • Audre Langebartel (Brewers Cup judge)
    • Sam Lewontin (decorated Barista Competitor, multiple U.S. finals appearances)
    • Sara Frinak (Brewers Cup stage runner for many years)
    • Mallory Roth (Barista head judge)

The event takes place November 1, starting at 4:00 EST (1:00 PST), and is free for participants. You can register here or head to one of the 12 locations hosting this web seminar, including Counter Culture’s training centers in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Seattle.

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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