Our 2012 NERBC coverage made possible by Dallis Bros. Coffee.

Jordan Barber of Third Rail Coffee / Citizen Of The World – Mr. Barber finaled in both the Brewers Cup and Barista Competitions this weekend, and was enormously impressive in both. More than a few folks on the livestream predicted a Devin Chapman “Winner, Winner” scenario, and we would not have been surprised by that outcome in the least.

He came close; Jordan placed 2nd in the NERBC, and won the Brewers Cup outright with a mic-less performance that featured Coffee Collective’s Kenya Kieri. Mr. Barber’s Brewer’s Cup technique was a variation on the “modified cupping” method we’ve seen at all three Brewers Cup events so far this year: he brewed the Kieri on an Espro french press, cracked the bloom in a double-spoon cupping style, then utilized the Espro’s press-filter-thingamajig to clear out any remaining fines. The result was a coffee we were lucky to try…delicate, like strawberry fluff, a cup that stopped all those who tried it in its tracks.

We steer clear of playing the prediction game when we cover events, but one taste of this coffee, and there was no doubt in our minds that Jordan would win the Brewers Cup. Turns out the esteemed judging panel thought so too!

Erin McCarthy of Gimme! Coffee was last year’s NE Brewers Cup winner, and this year he did Gimme! proud by placing in the Brewers Cup finals. Erin competed using a Honduran coffee that was DQ’d from this year’s Cup Of Excellence competition, due to defects that presented in one single cup. Gimme! Coffee’s buyers took a chance on that coffee, and have been delighted with the results – a coffee that was almost overlooked, but that has gone on to extraordinarily special for Gimme! and Erin. His routine at the NE Brewers Cup was among the most informative and personal we’ve seen all year.

This was a huge weekend for Park Brannen and Handsome Coffee Roasters. On both Saturday and Sunday of NERBC, Mr. Brannen offered the audience an immensely professional routine, highlighting the flavors of Handsome’s San Sebastian Colombian coffee. His routine was notable for its keen consideration of hospitality, a graceful service that made us jealous of all four sensory judges.

Consider Mr. Brannen’s work this weekend to be Handsome’s introduction to the competition world; there’s so much more to come. It’s bittersweet for Mr. Brannen and Mike Phillips to have been in New York during Handsome Coffee Roaster’s opening in Los Angeles, but temper that with how special it was for us to interact and enjoy their presence this weekend in New York.

That’s The Brew Station: but Chang Cho is the Jazzytrain. Coming out of nowhere to reach the finals at this year’s NE Brewers Cup, Mr. Cho’s performance featured a custom brew bar, plenty of technical knowledge on temperature stability, and no shortage of pure heart. Learn more about Jazzytrain by visiting his Tumblr.

Brandon Duff was just enormously impressive in both of his performances this weekend. Mr. Duff is a bit of a sleeper; his performance style is understated, his demeanor conservative, but the information and skill demonstrated in Mr. Duff’s performances this weekend were nothing short of fireworks.

Brandon’s signature drink was a standout: a challenging infusion of chili water, carbonation and cardamom, the results of which could be served at finer Indian restaurants worldwide. Brandon, it was a pleasure to watch you perform twice this weekend, and we look forward to seeing you compete again in the future.


Tamara Vigil of Irving Farm was another double competitor. She competed first on Finals Sunday in the Brewers Cup, leading off with a much-needed dose of humble honesty: “I did not expect to be here. In fact, I almost dropped out before the Brewers Cup yesterday.” It’s to our benefit she didn’t. Sprudge is a website based on the West Coast, and as such, it’s rare for us to experience coffees from Irving Farm. Tamara packed a ton of information into her Brewers Cup routine; it’s a performance that everyone at Irving Farm should be proud of, and it earned her a 3rd Place finish in the NE Brewers Cup competition.

This is Matt – he’s one of many of the tireless volunteers who worked this weekend to ensure that the baristas had all the equipment they needed. His thankless efforts are what make events like the NERBC possible. People like Matt are what made the Northeast Barista Competition such a success.

The city of Boston was enormously well-represented at this year’s NERBC, and it came away with a 2nd place finish for Brady Guinn, of Pavement Coffeehouse. Sprudge.com has yet to have a chance to experience the cafes of Boston, but ambassadors like Mr. Guinn are worth their weight in gold. It was a pleasure to meet Brady, Daria, Wolfie, and the rest of the Boston crew at this year’s NERBC.

Brian Gelletly’s routine at this year’s NERBC brought a casual fine dining vibe to the competition. Imagine the white table cloth restaurant of your dreams…you get done with dinner, and now it’s time for dessert. A friendly, smiling, affable steward approaches your table, equipped with fine coffees and expertly sourced additional ingredients. In 15 minutes, he makes you an exemplary espresso, a delicious cappuccino, and a complex signature dessert drink that delights your sweet tooth. Best of all, you come away from his service both charmed and educated. That was Mr. Gelletly’s routine, a 15 minute moment that charmed both of your Sprudge editors. The pride of Philadelphia, it’s our sincere hope to see Mr. Gelletly compete again soon.

Sam Lewontin’s performance this weekend was intense, educational, poised, and passionate. Competing with a coffee equal parts Papua New Guinea and Ecuador, his routine had a singular focal point: balance. Balance of flavors, balance of nuance, and that delicate balancing act all competitors must walk in their 15 minutes in the spotlight. It was a joy to watch his performance twice this weekend, and it’s something to look forward to again for the USBC in Portland. Mark our words: Sam Lewontin will win a barista competition, perhaps sooner than you think.

An enviable sense of poise…

A ludicrously high score…

For 30 minutes on stage this weekend, Katie Carguilo entranced an audience with her insight, passion and solid routine. It would have taken a hurricane to knock this girl down; once she hit that gold star, not a single doubt or concern clouded her mind. This is what a young life dedicated to specialty coffee looks like – an intensely honed performance that educated a roomful of experts, an informal panel of judges who found themselves, to a person, remarking “wow, I didn’t know that.” Katie took us to Ethiopia this weekend. Her 2012 performance will take her to Portland, Costa Rica, and perhaps Vienna. You just can’t look away when she’s on stage…