2020 US Barista Championship Day One Recap

And away we go! The 2020 US Barista Championship hit the ground running today here at the OC Fair & Event Center for Day One. 24 coffee professionals took the stage over the course of the first eight hours of National stage competition, with the pool comprised of newcomers like Miranda Haney, newish overachievers like Rodrigo Vargas and Gisel Alvarez, and ole competition souls Jenna Gotthelf and Reef Bessette.

Only six competitors will move on to the Semi-Final round tomorrow to join the other 12 coffee professionals that earned byes into the middle round via top finishes in the Qualifying Events. And in a day that could have just as easily been the Semi-Finals, there’s no telling who those six will be. But while we are waiting for the announcements, let’s take a look back at Day One of the 2020 US Barista Championship in Orange County, California.

Sprudge Media Network’s coverage of the 2020 US Coffee Championships is presented by Cafe ImportsAcaiaIKAWAPacific Barista SeriesBellwether, and Baratza

Rodrigo Vargas, Elixr Coffee Roasters

And here we go! Our first competitor at the 2020 USBC is Rodrigo Vargas of Elixr Coffee Roasters

“I want to have a conversation about motivation” – Rodrigo Vargas.

Starting off with a milk course, Vargas’ first drink has notes of dried strawberry and panella.

We’ve already got our first freeze distilled milk. I think this will be the start of a theme…

For the espresso course, Vargas is using a frozen natural processed Gesha with flavors of apricot, ruby red grapefruit, and 54% milk chocolate, stirred exactly 6 times of course.

Raspberry juice filtered through a siphon using dry ice, honey, espresso, and a passionfruit dry ice infusion. There’s a lot going on with Vargas’ sig bev.

Miranda Haney, Greater Goods Coffee

A first time competitor, Haney tells the judges, “I wasn’t really expecting to be here today.”

Haney competes today with a double-fermented, honeyed Gesha grown by Rigoberto Herrera of the esteemed Café Granja La Esperanza in Valle del Cauca, Colombia.

Tart cherry, wildflower honey, white tea with a chardonnay-like finish in Haney’s Granja la Esperanza Gesha espresso course.

1:2 espresso to milk, Haney’s milk bev has notes of lemon custard, freeze dried raspberry, and sweet graham cracker crust

Luxardo cherry syrup, spro, white tea ice cubes, nitro charge, egg whites, finished with a vanilla spritz for Haney’s sig bev.

Jason Yeo, Saint Frank Coffee

Yeo is competing with Las Nubes, a semi-aerobic processed coffee from Alexi Moreno in Santa Bárbara, Honduras.

Apricot, red cherry, and dark chocolate in the Santa Bárbara espresso course, stirred for each judge by Yeo himself with a frozen spoon.

Yeo’s sig bev today includes light muscovado syrup, dried mango juice, clarified lime juice, aged balsamic vinegar, and elderflower syrup, all blended with precisely 60g ice.

Another freeze distilled shout out. We’re 3 for 3 folks.

Caramel, mascarpone, and waffle batter notes in Yeo’s maybe freeze distilled milk course.

Elisabeth Johnson, Hagen Coffee Roasters

Fun fact: this is the first of two competitions Johnson will be competing in this weekend. You can also see her in Cup Tasters on Sunday (and maybe USBC too???)

A natural carbonic maceration Gesha variety from Western Colombia, Johnson’s espresso course has notes of sweet lemon, nectarine, fresh raspberry, and a long, black tea-like finish.

Caramel, vanilla cream, and lemon custard in Johnson’s *freeze distilled* whole milk course.

Hyper chilled espresso, CO2 fermented strawberry juice, passionfruit puree, coconut palm sugar simple, all nitrogen infused for Johnson’s sig bev here at USBC

Ryan Moser, Blanchard’s Coffee Roasting Co

Moser competes today with a natural processed Gesha produced in the Nariño department of Colombia

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but we’ve got a natural processed Gesha and freeze distilled milk drink being served here at USBC.

Raspberry ice cream, dark chocolate, and cashew butter in Moser’s milk course.

“Failure is a garden path to success… walking a straight line a garden defeats the purpose of walking in the garden at all”

I fear there are ice spheres for Moser’s sig bev

Leah Ritsema, Madcap Coffee Company

Using “standard whole milk,” Ritsema is serving four oz cortados for her milk course

Ritsema competes with the Ejo Heza, a Bourbon and Jackson variety coffee from the Kopakama washing station in Rutsiro District of Western Rwanda.

Cranberry, brown sugar, and dandelion root notes in Ritsema’s espresso course.

Plum syrup, spiced simple, and anise syrup, shaken with spro over ice for Ritsema’s sig bev, finished with a smoke sphere.

Topher Ou, Little Collins

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth, and three weeks ago I was literally punched in the mouth by this sweet, juicy coffee”

That punchy coffee for Ou is a washed Gesha from Peru imported by Centrocafe and roasted by

Apricot, ruby red grapefruit, and brown sugar in the Washed Peru Gesha espresso course for Ou.

It is at this point we need to figure out how to freeze distill an entire cow so that the milk they produce will come out of the teat coffee competition ready

Sig bev for Ou includes a tea concentrate, simple syrup, and emon rim, stirred 20 times over ice.

Reef Bessette, The Coffee Movement

For his DNA sequence-themed routine, @bessettereef starts his soundtrack with a Kendrick Lamar DNA remix.

Bessette competes today with a native Ethiopian variety coffee that made its way to Pitalito, Colombia, where it was grown by Leo Garcia.

A tart cherry acidity and wildflower finish in Bessette’s Ethiopia-ish kinda Colombia espresso course.

If you wanna please you gotta freeze, and other milk course wisdom I’ve learned a quarter of the way through day one of the USBC

Neapolitan ice cream tasting note in Bessette’s 1:2 coffee to freeze distilled milk bev.

Honey and lemongrass simple, dry ice cooled 3:1 espresso, topped with a citric acid “air” for Bessette’s sig bev today at USBC

Tyler Montague, Brew Coffee Bar

Montague competes today with the natural carbonic processed Daye Bensa from Ethiopia.

Starting off by pulling shots for his sig bev course later on, Montague’s first course will be the milk bevs. Using freeze distilled milk (obvz), his drinks have notes of buttercream frosting, raspberries, and a subtle cocoa nib finish.

Montague’s Daye Bensa espresso course has notes of raspberry, orange, and cocoa nib

Charred grapefruit tonic, blueberry syrup, Daye Bensa espresso, all nitrogen charged, finished off with a lemon mist for Montague’s sig bev here in OC.

David Castillo, Go Get Em Tiger

Castillo competes with a naturally processed coffee produced by Benjamin Paz at Beneficio San Vicente in Santa Barbara, Honduras.

Sage honey syrup and chilled espresso get blended together for Castillo’s sig bev, with tasting notes mandarin orange, pink lady apple, and eucalyptus.

Freeze distilled milk bevs for Castillo express notes of vanilla custard, Swiss Miss, and toasted almonds.

Green apple, grilled peach, and lemongrass notes in Castillo’s espresso course.

Castillo got all three courses down in under 14 minutes, giving him nearly a minute and a half to clean and give his finishing remarks to the judges.

Grace Rathbone, Ada’s Discovery Cafe

Rathbone competes today with a washed Bourbon from the Gitwe Hills of Burundi, grown by Long Miles Coffee

Starting it off with the milk course, Rathbone’s cappuccinos have notes of butterscotch, salted caramel, and toffee

Orange, apricot, and brown sugar in Rathbone’s tea-like Burundian espresso course.

Sig bev for Rathbone is comprised of clarified mango juice, dragonfruit syrup, honey, malic acid, and citric acid, all given all ntirous charge.

Kae Bonaguro, Collective Espresso

Bonaguro competes today with a naturally processed coffee from the Kimini village in northern Rwanda.

Stirred 10 times, Bonaguro’s Rwandan espressos have notes of Blood orange, dried cherry, and cola

I have to be honest, I’m not really sure what to call the music in Bonaguro’s soundtrack. Electro klezmer video game pop maybe?

Date, creme brulee caramelization, and chocolate malt in Bonaguro’s milk course.

Cinnamon simple, fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, egg white, and Rwandan espresso get shaken together over ice for Bonaguro’s sig bev

“The dancing is necessary. It’s part of my sig bev” – Kae Bonaguro

Kristi Persinger

Persinger competes with an anaerobic processed Red Gesha grown by Mauricio Shattah at Finca La Negrita in Tolima, Colombia

Notes of strawberries and cream and salted caramel and buttery flavors akin to caramel corn in Persinger’s milk course.

As an espresso, Persinger’s Red Gesha expresses notes of sweet red grapefruit, tangerine, strawberry hard candy, and a 70% dark chocolate and fresh blackberry finish

Persinger’s sig bev is Old Fashioned-inspired and includes Colombian panella simple, NA angostura-like bitters, chilled barley tea, and Red Gesha spro.

Thanks to T. Ben Fischer, who has generously provided us with a freeze distilled milk beverage, and ok fine it’s great and we get why everyone is doing it

Hugo Cano, Amberson Coffee/Bar Nine

Hugo Cano’s apron game is very strong with a wrap around denim number that I am currently coveting.

Cano is the first competitor of the day to use two different coffees—both anaerobic processed—one for the milk course and another for the espresso and sig bev courses.

For the milk course, Cano is using an anaerobic fermented natural processed Yirgacheffe, with notes of blueberry muffin, banana bread, and pine nut.

Moving to the espresso course, Cano switches to an anaerobic fermented coffee from Sidama, Ethiopia, expressing an oolong tea aroma, navel orange acidity, panella sugar sweetness, and lemon verbena

Dry ice carbonated Sidama espresso, cacao nib tea, panella juice, milk foam, and lemon zest in Cano’s sig bev.

Gisel Alvarez, Monarch Coffee

For her coffee, Alvarez opted for a cold fermentation washed Gesha from Finca Monteblanco in Huila, Colombia, grown by Rodrigo Sanchez and sourced through Ally Coffee

Stirred 15 times, Alvarez’s espresso course expresses a light florality, lime, cane sugar, raspberry, and a lingering juniper finish.

2:1 milk to espresso, Alvarez’s milk drinks have notes of peach, shortbread cookie, and vanilla cream. And yes, that milk is freeze distilled

To chilled espresso, Alvarez adds a grapefruit simple, fresh passionfruit juice, and blackberry puree to complete her sig bev, which is then cut with a sparkling water and garnished with fresh flowers spritzed with a vanilla infusion

Michelle Johnson, Red Bay Coffee

Michelle Johnson to the USBC stage. I repeat, Michelle Johnson to the USBC stage.

“If we try to put a box around what a coffee professional should be or is supposed to look like, we’re going to be exclusionary to who could be the next great innovator in the industry”

I would personally like to thank Michelle from the bottom of my Dallasite heart for the Erykah Badu on the soundtrack

Johnson competes with a natural processed Bourbon variety from Kayanza, Burundi

Vanilla cream, milk chocolate, and raisin in Johnson’s Jersey cow milk course.

A Dr. Pepper inspired sig bev, Johnson incorporates black walnut bitters, chinese date syrup, apricot date syrup, all topped off with Topo Chico

Casey Wilson, Boxcar Coffee Roasters

Malt, milk chocolate, and raw sugar in Wilson’s freeze distilled milk course using a naturally processed Gesha

Wilson’s natural processed Gesha was produced by Pablo Andres Guerrero at Hacienda El Obraje in Nariño, Colombia, and as an espresso has notes of blueberry, lime, and bittersweet chocolate.

Mango puree, coconut creme, hibiscus tea, and natural Colombian Gesha spro all blended together for Wilson’s sig bev.

Nathan Ngo, Dune Coffee Roasters

Ngo starts off his run with the milk course, having notes of caramel, chocolate malt ball, and orange zest.

Switching from the washed Ethiopia from the previous drink, Ngo switches to a coffee from Wilfred Lamastus and the Elida Estate in Boquete, Panama, having notes of cooked strawberry, green apple, and cocoa powder

Ngo switching back to the washed Ethiopia for the sig bev, adding malic acid and diluted maple syrup, pouring into cara cara orange syrup spritzed long stem glassware.

Adam JacksonBey, Tell Coffee

“Change is the only constant in life” – Adam JacksonBey

JacksonBey of course has Phantom Planet’s California in his soundtrack because it’s as close to a pun as you can get in music form

For the espresso, JacksonBey’s coffee has notes of apricot, baking spice, and chocolate

Milk beverages for JacksonBey have flavors reminiscent of Whoppers and nougat.

Clarified milk, hibiscus spritz, and bicarb drink drops for JacksonBey’s sig bev, instructing the judges to pour the espresso into the drink themselves.

Meg Skop

Skop competes with a wash processed peaberry from Nyeri, Kenya that as an espresso has notes of lemon, lime, and brown sugar. Skop will be stirring the espressos for the judges using frozen spoons.

The milk course for Skop’s Peaberry Kenya has notes of buttercream frosting, vanilla sponge cake, and a light lemon finish

Skop’s sig bev contains a grapefruit shrub, cane sugar simple, and black tea concentrate, all chilled and mixed with a homemade tonic water.

Kylan Reasoner, Sayso Coffee

Using a carbonic macerated Colombia, Reasoner’s espressos have notes of bergamot, meyer lemon, raspberry, and black tea, stirred 7 times in a clockwise motion

Caramel, vanilla custard, and a hint of milk chocolate in Reasoner’s mostly freeze distilled milk beverage course.

Lactic acid, almond orgeat, and Colombia espresso all get a nitro charge for Reasoner’s sig bev.

Kylan Reasoner of Sayso Coffee calls time at 13:41

Reyna Callejo, Olympia Coffee

For the milk course, Callejo uses a 1:3 ratio natural processed Yirgacheffe to freeze distilled milk.

Notes of creamy peanut butter, chocolate hazelnut spread, buttery caramel, and a sweet, tart strawberry in Callejo’s freeze distilled milk course.

After serving her milk bev in traditional glassware for the judges to inspect the crema, Callejo then pours each drink into largemouth glasses, incorporated the liquid and foam.

Callejo now switches to a coffee produced in America, a mere 20 minutes from her childhood home on the east side of Oahu, Hawaii.

Callejo’s Oahu espressos have notes of sweet, tart passionfruit, pineapple acidity, and a crisp white wine finish

Yeast fermented pineapple, pink peppercorn, sea salt—all ingredients Callejo found back in Oahu—lightly carbonated water and coconut milk gelatin all get a nitro charge for Callejo’s sig bev

Jenna Gotthelf, Counter Culture Coffee

“Did you know you underextract 100% of the shots you never pull”

Gotthelf competes with a Gesha variety coffee from Finca Nuguo in Boquete, Panama, produced by Jose Gallardo

Gotthelf’s “extra small lattes” made with freeze distilled milk have notes of salted caramel, dark chocolate pudding, and buttercream frosting

Naturally processed, Gotthelf’s Finca Nuguo espresso has a lime like acidity and jasmine tea flavors

Kumquat marmelade, jasmine ice cubes, coconut water, and Finca Nuguo espresso, all blended together, strained and served with a lychee-infused water for Gotthelf’s sig bev

Juan Diaz, Santo Coffee Co

Diaz is doing some real science up there. He’s distilling his espresso for his sig bev using an open flame and a beaker.

Vanilla milkshake and buttery shortbread cookie notes in Diaz’s freeze distilled milk beverage course.

Cherry, key lime, and 70% cocoa in Diaz’s Sudan Rume espresso course.

Distilled espresso, chilled, topped with an aromatic fog for Diaz’s sig bev

Thanks for tuning in with us today. We’ll be back tomorrow for the Semi-Finals of the US Barista Championship!