Scenes from the USCC Preliminaries—Denver

Three preliminary events took place Sept. 22-24, and we’re covering each one with pictures, highlights, and results. First up: the Denver Qualifying Event!


Photos by Elizabeth Avila

This weekend, three preliminary events of the United States Coffee Championships (USCC) took place leading up to the Qualifying Competitions and the USCC national competition to take place in April 2018. We’ll be providing coverage of all three events, starting in Denver with a competition hosted by the Rocky Mountain Craft Coffee Alliance and taking place at the Novo Coffee roasting facility.

We’ve covered the previous three preliminary events in Rancho Cucamonga, Seattle, and Portland, Ore., in August and September, and will provide coverage of the last two preliminaries happening this weekend in Louisville, Ky., and Tulsa, Okla. In Denver, competitors from across the country came together to brew down, party on, and earn a spot in the next round of competition. Here are some of our favorite moments; a full list of those baristas moving on to the next round is provided at the end.

Competitor Kathryn Melheim of Logan House Coffee with judges Miguel Vicuna, Ori Tuler, and Carissa Niemeyer looking on. Barista-approved Topo Chico sparkling water makes a guest appearance.


Seasoned competitor Derrick Wessels of Beagle Coffee Company pouring milk drinks. He’ll be moving on to the Qualifying Competition.


Espresso drinks served by Karson Hallaway of Little Owl.


Goods and swag from the event sponsors, including some creative trophies—a theme at this year’s USCC preliminary events.


Judges Stevie Maury and Carissa Niemeyer. Each competitor had one head judge, two sensory judges, and a technical judge.


Competitor Johanna Hirschboeck of Crema Coffee pouring milk for her milk drink.


Judge Leah Shinkle and competitor Sam Neely of Switchback Roasters. Sam will be moving on to the Qualifying Competition.


Competitor Matt Stevens of Thump Coffee tamping for the espresso drink.


Derrick’s presentation included white roses for the judges, showing that even with the stripped-down rules and presentation standards, baristas could still be creative.


1. Brandon Acuña, Fleet Coffee
2. Josh McNeilly, Black Black Coffee
3. Sam Neely, Switchback Roasters
4. Joel Bigelow, Messenger Coffee 
5. Derrick Wessels, Beagle Coffee Company
6. Macallie Atkinson, Verve Coffee Roasters
7. Shep Wadley, Huckleberry Coffee Roasters
8. Michael Slomzenski, Huckleberry Coffee Roasters

1. Kaley Gann, Messenger Coffee
2. Sloane Wachob, Novo Coffee
3. Avery Leith, Huckleberry Coffee Roasters
4. Sebastian Legner, Café Pomarrosa

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


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