U.S. Coffee Championship Qualifying Event in Knoxville—it’s a blast!

Hundreds of coffee folks gather in Knoxville for the Qualifying Event

With the U.S. Coffee Championship qualifying event descended on Knoxville, Tenn. this weekend, hundreds of members of the national specialty-coffee community have traveled from all points across the country to be a part of it, whether as competitors, judges, or attendees. Starting with a pre-competition kick-off party hosted by Wild Love Bakehouse and Old City Java on Friday night, activities have continued throughout the weekend to keep everyone in attendance entertained throughout the days and evenings.

The event, which is being held at the Knoxville Convention Center downtown, has been set up with a few exhibitors interspersed in a large room, broken up by stages for the various competitions, which include the first of two qualifying events for the U.S. Barista, Brewers Cup, Cup Tasters, and Roasters Championships. (The second qualifying event takes place in Austin, Texas, in three weeks). The top six from each competition earn spots in the U.S. Barista, Brewers Cup, Cup Tasters, and Roaster Championships which will be held in April in Seattle in conjunction with the Global Specialty Coffee Expo (formerly known as the SCAA Expo). Other competitors will have their scores tallied with Austin competitors, and the approximately 50 best scorers will move on to the national competitions, as well.

The vibe among the coffee folks gathered in Knoxville has been relaxed and celebratory, with event attendees meandering from the Roaster Village through the Vendors Village, which was essentially a mini trade show, between competitors on the various stages.

Thanks to Pacific Foods, the Livestream feed has been broadcasting the barista competition to thousands of online viewers. We’ve also got live scoring back after it debuted last year. Rankings for the first of the two days of competition are included below, but of course, all of this could change after today, when another 29 baristas will compete and have their scores added to Saturday’s tally.

Stay tuned to Barista Magazine’s Instagram account later today for the final scoring!

Jess Hobbs of The Genuine Origin Project making coffee from a variety of awesome roasters at the Roaster Village.
Competitor Bethany Hargrove of Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters makes coffee at the BGA Cafe for reigning U.S. Barista Champ Lem Butler of Counter Culture.
Longtime barista competitor Jon Lewis of Deeper Roots gets some practice before his Sunday competition time.
Sam Brown of Stone Creek Coffee Co. in Milwaukee, Wisc. is feeling good just before rolling his cart on stage to compete in the abbreviated qualifying round of the U.S. Barista Championship.
Samuel Demisse of Keffa Coffee gets six out of six cups correct in the first flight of the Cup Tasters Championship qualifying round. Ben Helfen emcees.
Crowds gather at the Roasters Championship qualifying event space.
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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.