Grassroots camaraderie presses on (pun intended) at this year’s U.S. championship.
BY JOSH TAVES
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
Photos by Josh Taves
The AeroPress championships have been the monarch of grassroots coffee championships for a long time now—14 years to be exact. While just about every other form of coffee sports has been co-opted and grown by our social-media-frenzied generation’s desire to take something fun and minor and ”make it a thing,” the AeroPress championships have retained the grassroots nature people love it for.
Honestly, I think that’s why people like it. At the end of the day, no matter how many Instagram followers, sponsors, or media writers the AeroPress championships attract, they still consist of a group of folks getting together to brew coffee simply and deliciously. For over a decade now I’ve been waiting for AeroPress championships to go mainstream; they just won’t. I love that.
I’ve never typed out a laugh in an article before, as I feel those are best left for abbreviated guffaws between friends, but I think this quote from the World Aeropress Championship website might deserve just that:
“We’re not particularly fond of rules and regulations—they’ve sucked the fun and inclusivity out of other coffee competitions.”
So, when the U.S. AeroPress Championship came within driving distance of where I live, I decided to make the trek to see it for myself. Now to be fair, I had seen the U.S. AeroPress Championship before, but it usually involved a few beers, lots of folks to chat with, and me not really paying attention. I was excited to spend a little more focused time seeing the action firsthand. There is no qualifying event for the U.S. AeroPress Championship, so stakes were high, as one of the 17 competitors from around the country would go on to represent the USA at the World AeroPress Championship.
Tinker Coffee Co. in Indianapolis hosted the event in their training lab, which had plenty of bar space for heats of three competitors brewing at the same time head-to-head. Competitors had 5 minutes to make and serve their coffee. All the competitors used the same coffee (provided by Tinker), and it was up to them to apply the recipe, technique, and preparation style that best fit that coffee. Some brought their own grinders, some groomed the whole beans, and some sifted the grounds. All worked hard, put their heart into it, and had a great time.
A Judicious Approach
The judging format was about as loosey-goosey and soulful as the quote above would lead you to believe. The three judges had varying degrees of coffee experience (one was Hugo Cano, the 2021 U.S. AeroPress Champion). They took a few minutes to taste all three coffees in each heat, do some spitting and thinking, and then on the count of three pointed to their favorite. The lucky brewer who had the most fingers pointed at their cup got to advance to the next heat in the hopes of more fingers being pointed at their submission. Three heats later and a champion was crowned.
The U.S. AeroPress Championship lived up to its grassroots hype. Tasting the same coffee being interpreted many different ways by many different folks with many different personalities—using a brewer as dynamic as the AeroPress—is one of the more interesting experiences I’ve had in the coffee world.
At the end of the weekend, three competitors stood on stage and received recognition for their recipes. Cecil Cope of Stone Creek Coffee in Milwaukee finished third, hometown hero Luke Speers of Amberson Coffee finished second, and taking top honors was Daniel Soria from Typica Chicago. The final heats were done on the larger stage in front of a full audience (Tinker was hosting the U.S. CoffeeChamps preliminaries the same weekend), and it made for an entertaining event.
Daniel Soria will be representing the USA in the World AeroPress Championship in Vancouver, B.C., in a few weeks, thanks to the host of sponsors that continue to invest in this groundswell culture.
Long live the AeroPress championships.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Taves is the head of business development for Stovetop Roasters in Michigan and the
creator of CuppingBrewer.com. He is also a 2017 USBC finalist, so he knows his way around
lots of different coffee gadgets. He’s been working in the coffee industry since 2006 and enjoys
taking advantage of all the great adventures the outdoors have to offer.