Welcome to our complete recap coverage from Semi-Finals Saturday at the 2014 United States Barista Championship. Now that the dust has settled and a new champion has been declared, let’s look back together at the routines and memorable moments from before we knew how the story would end.
Sprudge.com’s coverage of the 2014 United States Barista Championship was made possible by direct support from The Wilbur Curtis Company and Cafe Imports, whose patronage aided us in the production of our in-depth competition content all weekend long in Seattle. All of Sprudge.com’s 2014 live competition coverage around the world is underwritten by the generous support of Nuova Simonelli.
We’re proud to produce this content in partnership with the Specialty Coffee Association of America.
All photos by Charlie Burt for Sprudge.com. Notes culled from our @SprudgeLive Twitter feed.
1. Hadassah Wilson, Square One Coffee, Lancaster, PA
Hadassah Wilson competes with Square One Coffee‘s Kenya Gatura, from the Gatura wet mill in the revered Nyeri region. For more, please enjoy this short film produced by Square One.
This is Hadassah Wilson’s first USBC Semi-Finals appearance. Capp notes: “a harmonious blend of sweet milk that manages to showcase a complex ingredient: espresso.” Espresso notes: “tart yet sweet nectarine high note, pleasant grapefruit rind finish.” Signature drink: unrefined cane sugar & lemon zest, clove infusion, served over sphered ice.
This routine is full of really beautiful, frankly moving script moments from Hadassah Wilson. On her role: “As a barista, I represent the last chain in a long set of hands. It’s my pleasure to serve you this Kenya Gatura.” On her trip to Kenya: “Laughing, smiling, sharing the common thread of our humanity…” On passing on a message to the crowd: “We are more than consumers. We help set a standard for what coffee is worth.” On quoting the mantra of the farmers she met in Kenya: “Quality coffee, quality price, quality life.”
Hadassah Wilson calls time at 14:48.
2. Josh Wismans, Colectivo Coffee, Milwaukee
“Put on your hard hat and steel toe boots, judges–we’re going to the olfactory!” The role of smell in the enjoyment of coffee runs throughout this routine, in which Mr. Wismans competes with Colectivo Coffee’s Ethiopia Yirgacheffe–learn more, go shopping.
Mr. Wismans’ capp course involves serving capps next to the bloom of a pour over. “Coffee at its most aromatic,” during the bloom of a brewed cup. Presenting capps with a secondary coffee for enhanced aromatics is not something you see often at competition, and plays back in to the overall theme of this routine.
As always with barista competition events, there’s a large Wisconsin cheering section to cheer on the Colectivo Coffee competitor, a proud tradition for the Milwaukee-based company that stretches back to before their rebranding last year.
Signature drink: centennial hop pellets adhered to a glass with honey, espresso, hibiscus tea, mango & grapefruit.
“Judges, I hope you enjoyed your tour of the olfactory. Smell ya later!” Mr. Wismans calls time at 14:59.
3. Eden-Marie Abramowicz, Intelligentsia Coffee, Los Angeles
Ms. Abramowicz is serving the famed Intelligentsia Boliva Takesi, grown at what’s believed to be the highest elevation farm in the world. As espresso for Ms. Abramowicz, Takesi tastes like nectarine, flan, and chamomile, with a crisp malic acidity.
“Black tea, bergamot oil, and sugar cookie” in Eden-Marie Abramowicz’s cappuccinos.
Signature drink includes an infusion of cinnamon, maple syrup, and lime, with a nectarine foam–“It tastes like Christmas to me,” she tells the judges. She prepares an additional sig drink for herself so she can sip along with her judging panel.
Eden-Marie Abramowicz calls time at 15:07
4. Sam Schroeder, Olympia Coffee Roasting Co., Olympia, Washington
Mr. Schroeder competes here at #USBC2014 with Olympia Coffee Roasting’s Ethiopia Koke–learn more, take some of this delicious coffee home.
Sam’s the co-owner of Olympia Coffee Roasting Co., alongside Oliver Stormshak. Oly Coffee (as they’re affectionately referred to) are also fielding a US Brewers Cup national competitor this weekend: Honor Forte, who took home NW Regional Brewers Cup champion honors in that competition.
Apricot nectar and candied lemon notes in Mr. Schroeder’s espressos, paired with a discussion about how his Ethiopia Koke has been roasted “in a way that prioritizes caramelization and sweetness.”
Mr. Schroeder’s signature drink includes milk chocolate and Koke espresso, chilled.
Sam Schroeder calls time at 14:48.
5. Tyler Rovenstine, Oddly Correct Coffee, KCMO
Mr. Rovenstine’s routine here at USBC devoted considerable script time to the story of El Roble Lavado in Costa Rica, where his coffee was grown. This farm is located in Costa Rica’s renowned Tarrazu department, well-loved for the many fine coffees produced there. Mr. Rovenstine’s was processed at the Rio Jorco micromill, and imported for Oddly Correct by Tim O’Brien at The Green Coffee Vault.
Both hoppers of the Mahlkönig K30 Twin grinder are in use by Mr. Rovenstine, who employed two distinct roast profiles of Costa Rica El Roble. As a cappuccino, this coffee has “a distinct malty character, graham cracker honey sweetness, and an almond nutty note in the finish.” As an espresso, it’s got “orangey brightness, velvety body, and an almond note that lingers.”
Mr. Rovenstine’s sig drink includes thyme, oleo saccharum, and hot water to expand the drink out a bit more, “giving it room to breath and stretch its legs.” A cocktail-influenced signature drink.
Tyler Rovenstine calls time at 14:57.
6. Charles Babinski, G & B, Los Angeles *Advanced to finals
Charles Babinski competes this year as the 2014 Southwest champion, his first-ever regional win. Going into this weekend Charles had made 2 consecutive USBC Finals appearances, placing 2nd both times. It was, as you might expect, a complex and thought-provoking routine, full of seemingly contradictory statements.
“Great coffee is all about the farm. Once the cherry’s been picked, the quality can only go down.”
“Great coffee, unequivocally, is about the extraction. It’s the make or break point for espresso.”
“Great coffee is not amazing because of the farm, or extraction–it’s because of something that’s very important for where I’m at in my life right now. It’s because we make a promise for how people experience things in our cafes.”
Mr. Babinski competed with a post-roast blend from two distinct roasters, not mentioned by name in the routine. Coffee itself was a Colombia washed–“floral & complex”–and a Guatemala Antigua, with notes of “clean, rich sweetness.” All of Mr. Babinski’s coffee was ground during prep time. “It’s what we do in our shops.”
Espresso notes: “jasmine, strawberry rhubarb, and cacao bitterness.” Capp notes: “dark chocolate, raisin.” Signature drink components for Mr. Babinski include apricot kernal milk, grapefurit rind syrup & cacao nib syrup.
Charles Babinski calls time at 14:49.
7. Andrew Grassmick, MADCAP Coffee, Grand Rapids
Andrew Grassmick begins his routine by laying out a bevy of ingredients for his judges: cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, bitter orange & lemon, and vanilla bean. Alone they’re each distinctive, but together they combine for that most harmonious of beverages–cola!
Mr. Grassmick competes with here at USBC with a coffee marked as Ethiopia Reko and roasted by Madcap Coffee. It’s comprised of heirloom varieties, and is fully washed, hailing from Yirgacheffe.
“Sometimes there’s nothing better and more soothing than a cappuccino,” he tells the judges. His have “a hidden flavor of gingerbread,” which sounds great, right?
Mr. Grassmick’s signature drink involves a flavor exercise: consecutive sips of soda water with salt, simple syrup & navel orange oil.
Andrew Grassmick calls time at 14:48
8. J. Park Brannen, Counter Culture Coffee, New York, NY
“Sometimes the relationships behind the coffee we serve get lost in the conversation.”
Mr. Brannen competes here at #USBC2014 using Counter Culture Coffee’s Burundi Buziraguhindwa. “What you’re tasting is the first natural processed coffee to leave the nation of Burundi.”
Signature drink for Mr. Brannen: fruit & citrus steep, cinchona bark & herbs steep, sparkling water, espresso.
J. Park Brannen calls time at 15:02
9. Jesse Raub, Intelligentsia Coffee, Chicago
Most Brazilian coffee is grown low altitude & mechanically harvested, but Mr. Raub’s Fazenda Monte Verde by Intelligentsia Coffee is hand harvested & sorted. In his espresso, Mr. Raub says to expect fig jam sweetness, silky body, and a pleasing roundness–instructs judges to let espressos cool.
“No matter how dense the coffee we use, as espresso, we drink them at about the same concentration–I want to play with that.”
For his sig drink, Mr. Raub prepares a Juniper berry infusion to dilute his espressos, a play on the cardamom spice notes in his Brazilian coffee. He then uses a partially dehydrated olive oil to bring more body back into the beverage.
Jesse Raub calls time at 15:04.
10. Sam Brown, Stone Creek Coffee, Milwaukee
Sam Brown, like a great many competitors at #usbc2014 has a comprehensive info booklet at table for each judge, in case they miss anything. Mr. Brown traces the steps of his coffee–Stone Creek Coffee‘s Costa Rica Cerro Verde–all the way back to Francisco Mena at Exclusive Coffees in Costa Rica. “His job is to get the great coffee into my hands.”
Home fermentation 202 going on here at #usbc2014. “Malolactic fermentation isn’t so much a fermentation, it’s a conversion of acids.”
11. Camila Ramos, Panther Coffee, Miami FL *Advanced to finals.
Ms. Ramos begins by presenting her judges with cooled cupping bowls of her competition coffee. “Espresso extraction turns up the volume on flavors–nuances in cupping become much more pronounced.”
Ms. Ramos now playing the judges a video message from her producer, in Spanish–then translates the message in English. She’s using Panther Coffee’s roast of Nicaragua Kailash, from producer Maximo Ramos in northern Nicaragua, imported by Virmax.
One of our favorite quotes from the weekend: “Espresso is a cacophony of flavor and texture at once.”
Signature drink includes xanthan gum solution and diluted panela, served chilled with orange, lychee & lilac notes.
12. Erika Vonie, Ultimo Coffee, Philadelphia
Ms. Vonie comeptes using Counter Culture Coffee‘s Taroira Baroida, part of the Baroida Project in Papua New Guinea Her routine contained a remarkable amount of detail on this coffee’s journey from Papua New Guinea to the USBC stage.
Kind of a call and response thing happening between Ms. Vonie and her judges–they’ve got verbal commands to repeat throughout her routine, synching up with key moments in her routine.
“Brown butter shortbread, creamy praline” in Erika Vonie’s cappuccinos. “Toasted clove, red berry sweetness, silky mouthfeel” in the espressos.
Sig drink: lovage soda, espresso, chilled in a shaker; adds cucumber and spearmint water, then carbonates the mixture.
Erika Vonie calls time at 14:58
13. Nora Brady, Blueprint Coffee, St. Louis *Advanced to finals.
“Texture adds brilliance and depth to our daily lives”–Nora Brady introduces her routine’s conceit to judges as the 15 minutes begin.
Ms. Brady’s coffee is from Tolima, Colombia producer Victor Molano, sourced by Cafe Imports and roasted by the team at Blueprint Coffee in St. Louis. Learn more and try this coffee for yourself.
“Apricot, caramel, and lots of cherry” in Nora Brady’s Colombia Tolima espressos.
On her cappuccinos: “From the time we’re born, we’re comfortable with milk. it’s our lifeline throughout infancy and into childhood. This steamed milk becomes a canvas for the sweetness and smoothness of espresso.”
Ms. Brady skims the crema from espresso in her sig drink–paired w/meyer lemon juice, beet & turbinado syrup, charged with No2. The end result is “balanced, creamy, complex.”
Nora Brady calls time at 14:42
14. Laila Ghambari, Cherry Street Coffee House, Seattle *Advanced to finals.
Laila Ghambari competes here at #USBC2014 with coffee from El Manzano, from producer Emilio Lopez Diaz of Cuatro M Cafes in El Salvador, roasted by Phil Beattie at Dillanos Coffee. In her espresso course, Ms. Ghambari transferred her espressos to a secondary vessel to help incorporate and cool the shots.
“What I’m serving to you is specifically a 3.25 milk fat”–“This milk I’m serving to you is fresh. Like, those girls were milked yesterday.” Milk for Laila Ghambari’s routine was sourced from Pure Eire Dairy in Othello, Washington.
Signature drink includes coffee cherry jam, coffee blossom honey, and wood smoke from a coffee tree–she burns the wood live on stage using a smoke gun. A lot of signature drink synergy there.
Laila Ghambari calls time at 14:53
15. Brenna Kail, Intelligentsia Coffee, Chicago
“Timing is how I connect with coffee. It’s always present, always guiding our decisions.”
Brenna Kail competes here at USBC with Intelligentsia Coffee’s Flecha Roja Costa Rica. As an espresso this yielded notes of “bitter orange rind and a cocoa finish, wrapped up in a round body with a little bit of heft.” As a cappuccino it had notes of “orange creamsicle and milk chocolate. Learn more about Flecha Roja here, and take some home.
Signature drink includes a sprig of thyme for aromatics, but espresso is still “the key component.”
Brenna Kail calls time at 15:01.
16. Trevor Corlett, Madcap Coffee Co., Washington, DC *Advanced to finals.
The Madcap Coffee Colombia San Sebastian Mr. Corlett is using here at #USBC2014 is a blend of 30 top micro-micro lots from the La Plata region. Mr. Corlett begins by pulling shots for his sig drink, sets them aside to chill to tame acidity and bring forward chocolate notes.
As part of the espresso service, Mr. Corlett tells the jduges: “Remember the three S’s: Swirl, Sniff, Sip. ” He’s serving those shots in distinctive brandy snifters.
An absolutely delicious sounding signature drink here, featuring a “Nougat foam” made with egg whites, vanilla extract, and raw honey. Yes please.
17. Cole McBride, PublicUs/Velton’s, Seattle *Advanced to finals.
Cole McBride’s competition personae is defined by his strong partnership with Velton Ross, of Velton’s Coffee in Seattle. “Three years ago Velton Ross and I starting competing in these events together as a partnership,” he tells the judges. “The biggest reason why we keep coming back is because every year we become better specialty coffee representatives.”
Surely this is one of the most distinctive stage settings of the weekend here at #USBC2014–all neon green napkins and emerald glassware.
Cole McBride competes with Costa Rica Las Lajas, a honey processed coffee selected for him and Velton Ross by Joe Marrocco of Cafe Imports. Learn more about this coffee here.
This is a script-heavy routine from Mr. McBride, who is multi-tasking his way through service and script with the judges. That’s hard to do, the multi-tasking thing – pulling shots, handling station maintenance while verbalizing.
Mr. McBride uses an entirely different coffee for capps — Ecuador typica & caturra, also imported by Cafe Imports, and yielding notes of “caramel and dark chocolate” with milk.
Signature drink: espresso chilled “just below room temp” in a decanter, paired with honey water, cascara & green tea concentrates, and a yuzu drinking vinegar. These ingredients are then charged with No2 to create “a nice foam.”
Cole McBride calls time at 14:20
18. David Fasman, Kaldi’s Coffee, St. Louis
“Today I’d like to share with you how I experience taste: in musical terms.” The son of professional musicians, musicality is the dominant theme of David Fasman’s routine here at USBC. “My goal in extracting coffee is to produce the most harmonious chord possible.”
Mr. Fasman competes with a Kaldi’s Coffee Tanzania. As a cappuccino it’s got “milk chocolate, toffee, and butterscotch pudding” notes. Cappuccinos are “like a feeling of comfort, or a song that calms you down.”
“Espresso is like the root chord in a piece of music — it can stand alone, or create a base for other notes.” Mr. Fasman’s espresso has notes of “red wine, grilled pineapple, and mango.”
“Simple music played well is some of my favorite, and the same goes for coffee.” For his signature drink, Fasman combines a strawberry and brown sugar simple syrup with espresso and shaved white chocolate.
David Fasman calls time at 14:51.
Want more coverage? Delve in to our archives from the 2014 USBC.