Welcome to the Sweet 18 Semi-Finals at the 2013 United States Barista Championship. Tweets in this feature are taken from our @SprudgeLive Twitter feed, providing competition play-by-play for every last competitor of the 2013 USBC regional and national cycle, with international coverage coming this May at the World Barista Championship in Melbourne.
Original competition photography by Charlie Burt for Sprudge.com.
1. Charles Babinski, G&B, Los Angeles, CA
10:28 mr. babinski is competing using pre-ground, pre-weighed little silver cannisters of coffee for his espressos.
10:29 mr. babinski’s competition coffee is Colombia El Descanso, roasted by
@49thParallel in Vancouver, BC
10:30 “we’re in no rush to taste them…as they cool, the flavors will reveal themselves” –
@charlesbabinski on his competition espressos
10:33 two distinct sig drinks, two very different espresso preps – 70g shots vs. 30g shots – he’s got a point to make.
2. Lem Butler, Counter Culture Coffee, Durham, NC
10:42 lem’s one of the architects of how we understand competition today – an important part of this culture
10:46 sig drink “the illusion” – 4oz water, 19 grams organic sugar, 19 grams hibiscus, 1.5 grams lemon zest, espresso, pistachio
10:48 it’s such fun watching
@sexyfoam work – the easy physicality, his verbal comfort with his judges, the dreads, all that confidence…
3. Josh Taves, Dogwood Coffee Company, MPLS
10:58 “instead of you taking notes, I’ve taken notes for you” –
@coffeeuphigh has a series of chalkboard instructional props for his judges
11:01 mr. taves’ sig drink building blocks: cacao, dark brown sugar, extra virgin olive oil, cascara
11:05 mr. taves competes at
#USBC using @dogwoodcoffee‘s Colombia Finca Miranda, not currently one of their online offerings … Finca Miranda is an 100% Colombia varietal – we’re hearing a lot about variety specificity here at #USBC
11:09 every single tasting note
@coffeeuphigh gives the judges is anchored by text written on a series of blackboards.
4. Michael Harwood, Independent, Carrboro, NC
11:16 as per the encyclopedic USBC knowledge of Nick Cho – Mr. Harwood is the first-ever independent competitor to earn an appearance at USBC semi-finals.
11:17 “my name is Michael, and I’ll be your guide to Bufcafe Natural today” – Mr. Harwood competes using Counter Culture’s groundbreaking Rwandan Natural processed coffee from Bufcafe – learn more from our Fruit Bombs & Fermentation archives
11:20 “chocolate, berry on the nose, and even deeper in the cup” – mr. harwood on his espressos
11:24 mr. harwood has little tiny corked bottles of glycerine & sparkling water, dunkable spoons…I’m gonna call it now, Michael Harwood has the cutest sig drink at USBC
5. Charlie Habegger, Intelligentsia Coffee, Chicago, IL
11:35 “no biological thing is monolithic, including coffee – it’s a complex series of systems.”
11:40 and there they are, the handleless espresso cups. before 2013, the use of handleless demitasse cost a competitor multiple points on the judges’ scoresheets – this rule has now been changed on account of Mr. Habegger’s 2012 USBC routine, when he through caution to the wind and served handleless espressos despite the point loss. we call it “the habegger rule” – it’s VERY rare for a single individual to influence a rule change, and that’s why the rule bears his name.
11:44 each judge has a lovely basil, blackberry & vanilla fruit bowl in front of them –
@brainofcharlie pulls elements from each to build his sig drink – vanilla bean in simmering water, espresso shots pulled on top of blackberry & basil jam
6. Travis Beckett, Peregrine Espresso, Washington DC
11:54 Mr. Beckett competes with a blend of two coffees in his
#USBC routine – both by @counter_culture – Bolivia Nueva Llusta and Rwanda Buf Cafe natural. “I think it’s just a pretty stinkin’ awesome coffee.”
12:02 Buf Cafe note: Sam & Epiphanie Muhirwa own a restaurant in nearby Karaba. great goat & plantain brochettes with scotch bonnet sauce. For more on Buf Cafe, check out our trip report from last summer, when we visited with Fair Trade USA and Counter Culture green buyer Tim Hill.
7. Katie Carguilo, Counter Culture Coffee, NYC
12:17 tiny technical called here by
@katiecarguilo – her mic pack came off. quick fix, right back to work, NBD you do you girl.
12:22 conceit behind
@katiecarguilo‘s routine – “coffee gets made 3 times” – producing, roasting, brewing – each equally important
12:25 the little cider bowls
@katiecarguilo serves her sig drink in are adorbs.
8. Pete Licata, Parisi Coffee, KCMO
12:32 you can kind of tell,
@petelicata has been itching to get back on stage for the last two months – never more comfortable he is here under the lights. and he’s wearing the same power shirt that got him into SC Finals in Kansas City!
12:35 “a full-bodied red wine, like a zinfandel; green grape acidity; a deep, heavy sweetness” –
@petelicata on his espressos
12:41 pete cruising into his sig drink course – gorgeous cocktail-esque set-up here for him. coup glasses, pitchers, rocks…drink itself is chilled espresso, palm sugar simple syrup, non-alcoholic orange peel & lemongrass bitters
12:44 “i don’t think a drink has to be incredibly complicated to be incredibly delicious”
12:46 pete is so pro – drinks down at 14:15, time to wrack up those attention to detail points & clean – calls time at 14:52
9. Collin Schneider, Sterling Coffee Roasters, PDX
12:51 “i chose my coffee not for its acidity – which I love – but for its versatility” – mr. schneider competes using Sterling Coffee Roaster’s Colombia Pedregal Palmera – learn more.
12:52 this routine is built around the notion of respecting customer’s preferences. it’s what they want that matters.
1:01 mr. schneider is so detail oriented – stopping to clean around the knock box, brush the grinder, keeping his set perfect as he goes
1:03 sig drink: diluted gastrique, mallic apple cider vinegar, whipped crema cream, espresso – yum.
10. Kevin Bohlin, Saint Frank Coffee, San Francisco
1:14 mr. bohlin competes using a coffee from San Vicente, Honduras – “super fresh and sparkling, still in harvest right now”
1:16 mr. bohlin is about to open his own cafe in San Francisco, called Saint Frank Coffee – learn more!
1:18 mr. bohlin is dedicated to a unique synergy with producers – he travels to honduras to expertly brew coffee for folks there.
11. Devin Chapman, Coava Coffee Roasters, PDX
1:38 “at @coavacoffee, we have the best customers – they come out of the way because they love our service & sensory experience”
1:47: sig drink: milk infused with cedar & honey comb, filtered into whey, then strawberries charged with co2
1:49 mr. chapman calls time at 15:01 – “@coavacoffee is my farm. you’re my consumers.”
12. Scott Lucey, Alterra Coffee Roasters, Milwaukee, WI
1:52 “coffee shouldn’t be free – there’s so much that goes into a good cup of coffee, you can’t just give it away!”
1:53 starts with two cups of milk – straight milk and date-infused milk – “My coffee in the cappuccino tastes like date”
2:02 mr. lucy’s coffee is a caturra & bourbon – from Finca Las Acacias and producer Nelson Melo, roasted by @alterracoffee
2:04 on the coup glasses in his sig drink: “can you believe this glass was designed in the 1600s? that’s a long time ago!” … cocktail-focused sig drink from @scottlucey– “a prolonged experience of these flavors”
2:05 all drinks down at an astonishing 13:15 for @scottlucey– one of the quickest & most efficient services i’ve ever seen frankly
13. Nick Purvis, The French Press, Santa Barbara, CA
2:21 “flavor builds trust, and that’s the most important gateway in building appreciation of specialty coffee” -Nick Purvis
2:28 nick purvis’ sig drink station is VERY complex – siphons, reamers, sauce pans, coup glasses, baby chemexes…
14. Sam Lewontin, Everyman Espresso, NYC
2:45 sig drink portion is structured as a kind of “build your own adventure” – learn more – “the drink i’m about to prepare for you is one of 16 possible variations.” how’s that for degree of difficulty?
15. Jacque DesMarais, Kaldi’s Coffee, St. Louis, MO
3:04 appreciating the respect @jacquedesmaraishas for her producers – mr. medina and mr. sanchez, both in Huila, Colombia
3:07 layering shots in her portafilter throughout – technically difficult, ambitious … sweetness from mr. sanchez’s coffee, acidity from mr. medina’s coffee – different varieties, 75 miles apart in Huila
3:14 ms. desmarais keeps saying “cherry soda” as one of her espresso notes. this is possibly the best espresso note ever.
16. Collin Whitcomb, MadCap Coffee Roasters, Washington DC
3:24 “cappuccinos are delicious but they’re not always super-smelly, right? i’m trying to introduce some fragrance.”
3:27 mr. whitcomb competes using @madcapcoffee‘s Luis Reinoso, a caturra & bourbon from Colombia
3:33 sig drink: heavy whipping cream, plum sugar, dark brown sugar syrup – cinnamon aromatic foam
17. Eden-Marie Abramowicz, Intelligentsia Coffee, Los Angeles, CA
3:41 ms. abramowicz competes here at #USBCsemi’s with @intelligentsia‘s Tres Santos Limited Edition – learn more – Tres Santos LE is grown in Cauca, Colombia – caturra and bourbon varieties, 1750-1850 meters
3:42 dancing as she pulls shots…serves an extra one for the head judge and an extra for herself
3:45 a stacked tray of brown sugar, grapefruit, and raspberry – @missedenmarie raises & lowers them as they appear in her drinks’ flavors
3:51 “a coffee’s innate characteristics are always going to be present, no matter how we brew it”
18. Trevor Corlett, MadCap Coffee Roasters, Washington DC
3:57 mr. corlett closes the day w/ routine centered around “seasonality” – old crop, fresh crop, what does it mean?
4:03 watching @tjorlet compete is also fun because you are pretty much guaranteed to get some 90’s radio buttrock.
4:09 mr. corlett’s sig drink: egg white, maple syrup for “past crop” – “fresh crop” w/ just a bit of reduced grapefruit juice … grapefruit used as a garnish in @tjorlet‘s “fresh crop” sig drink, with burnt sugars on top – there’s a blowtorch on stage at #usbc