We may be in the United States, but we’re pretty far north ”almost to Canada, you might say. But given the size and level of enthusiasm of the crowd gathered here in Seattle to cheer for Ben Put of Monogram Coffee, the Barista Champion of Canada, I can safely assume that they would have gone all the way to China to watch this guy. Canada has a history of outstanding and high ranking barista champions ”Sammy Piccolo, anyone? ”and Mr. Put is no exception. My gosh he’s good. Sweet jiminy crickets he’s smart. Like, my brain hurts, I learned so much during his performance.
I saw Ben win his national championship in Toronto last fall. It was his second win nationally, and he made it to the semifinals at the 2014 WBC in Rimini. Dude knows what he’s doing, that’s all I can say. And he wowed everyone, me included, at the Canadian Championship for sure, but what Ben brought to Seattle is a whole different beast of professionalism and awesomeness.
He vacuumed his espresso ”nope, that’s not a typo. He vacuumed it. What does that do to the espresso? Apparently, it takes the carbon dioxide away. He explained it in a really clear way during his post performance interview. He said, have you ever tasted sparkling water that’s gone flat? That distinctive somewhat chemical taste is what he’s taking away from espresso. How did Ben get to this? He was questioning why espresso tastes so different than filter coffee ”why the same coffee can taste so different on these varied brewing devices. And he followed the question, asking everyone he could find about why this is. He found that carbon dioxide adds acidity to filter coffee. Vacuming it removes the creme, which removes the carbonic acid. It’s pretty crazy and it was amazing to watch. (And don’t worry, scoresheet nerds: he had the judges evaluate the creme before he vacuumed the shots.)
Ben made a point of letting the judges know that he actually loves espresso! He wasn’t trying to reinvent the wheel here. He just wanted to geek out in an epic way. Man, it was cool. Ben says the things he loves most about espresso are the mouthfeel, and the complexity and multitude of flavors. His coffee, this Costa Rica from El Pilon that sounds just totally dreamy, had big flavors ”passionfruit and orange ”which he credited in part to the round-the-world journey that the varietal he used, Mocca, made to get to Costa Rica in the first place.
I just loved this performance. Let’s be clear: I’m so not a science person. But I wish Ben had been my high school science teacher because if he had been, I might actually be a science person. He explained this super complex process in a way that even English majors like I could understand. He’s affable and eloquent, endlessly watchable, and smart smart smart smart. Thank you, Ben, for giving us something we’ve never seen again, and something I don’t think anyone could have done as well as you did.