Hosting a successful latte art throwdown or other competition or event can be a great way to build community and camaraderie. Here’s a helpful to-do list to make sure your event goes off without a hitch.


  • Milk and coffee: This one’s obvious. (If you buy from another roaster, ask them to donate the coffee as part of a sponsorship.)
  • Bar supplies: Pitchers, ceramics, etc. You run a coffee shop—you know what you need! 
  • “Hello, My Name Is” tags: Great for breaking the ice. 
  • Projector, and camera/phone that can connect to it: Throwdowns are way more fun when the audience can see the pours. Consider projecting images of the pours on a white wall or sheet so even those not crowding around in the front can see. Test this out ahead of time—trust us.
  • Prizes and swag: Baristas’ “buy-ins” can become a prize pot, but there are plenty of companies who’d love to help you sweeten the deal while promoting their brands. Ask some of your favorite companies if they can donate anything from stickers to a home espresso machine. You’ll be surprised how many are happy to help. 
  • Roll of tickets: Get these at the office supply store. They’re fun and versatile, and can be used for everything from giveaways to raffles to admission tickets. 
  • Food truck: Peeps need to eat, so give them the option! Often if you call a food truck and let them know you’ll have a hungry crowd, they’ll be happy to park in front of the shop for a few hours. 
  • PA system: Pair with a fun-loving emcee to keep the event rolling and rollicking.


  • Three months out: Contact potential sponsors with rough details on your event, why you’re hosting it, and who it will benefit.
  • Two months out: Confirm sponsors and what they’ll be contributing; begin promoting with a “save the date” communication on social media. 
  • Six weeks out: Contact area shops directly, via phone call, snail mail, or an in-person visit, to pro- mote your event and extend a personal invitation.
  • Four weeks out: Begin rounding up volunteers, especially your judges; promote via actual posters and detailed social media, and include an option to pre-register. 
  • Two weeks out: Put together an equipment list; start planning the actual logistics of the event (what goes where, and when).
  • The night before: Walk through your event space and sketch out placement for every part of the event; double check your equipment list in case you forgot anything; test any audio-visual equipment. 
  • The day of the event: Deal with any pressing issues discovered the day before, then take a deep breath! Gather your volunteers an hour before the event, make sure everyone’s on the same page and in an awesome frame of mind. 


  • Sign-ups: Someone’s gotta stand at the table in the front to take buy-in money and sign people in. Decide ahead of time on a maximum number of competitors (for a first-time throwdown, 32 is solid). 
  • Gofer: Someone who’ll commit to orbiting your event space, checking in on all the stations, and running back and forth to get peeps what they need.
  • Judges: Typically you’ll want three of these. Make sure they a) represent different shops; b) are as diverse as is feasible; c) are calibrated as a group prior to the event, so that everyone’s judging based on the same criteria; and d) are treated well during the event itself!
  • Bracket: There are lots of ways to do this, but we recommend (yes, with an “O”).
  • Emcee: Someone to announce over a loudspeaker when competitors need to come forward, as well as to keep the hype going throughout.
  • Setup and teardown: Unless you wanna move all those tables and chairs yourself, this one’s a no-brainer.
  • Promotion: Choose someone who makes the rounds in your community already to hang up posters and help push your event on social media. 

Don’t forget you can request event support from Barista Magazine here, and we will send you swag, prizes, magazines, and more.

This article originally appeared in the April + May 2019 issue of Barista Magazine.

Read our guide on hosting a great throwdown here.