2014 Big Central Barista Competition: Day One


Welcome to Sprudge.com’s recap coverage of Day One from the 2014 Big Central Regional Barista Competition in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Sprudge.com’s coverage of this event is made possible by direct support from the event’s hosts, Cafe ImportsWilbur Curtis Co., and Nuova Simonelli, whose Aurelia T3 espresso machine is the competition standard machine of the 2014 US Barista Championship cycle and the 2014 World Barista Championship. We are proud to serve as official media partners of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, who put in the long hours to create and execute these extraordinary events.

What follows is the very best live Twitter coverage from #BIGCENTRAL, culled from our @SprudgeLive Twitter feed. All photos are by the talented Charlie Burt (@tiger_friend) for Sprudge.com. This our our third season covering the United States Barista Championship season – thank you, to new readers and longtime followers alike, for your support and appreciation of our ongoing competition coverage.

1. Amy Nelson, Spyhouse Coffee, MPLS @SpyhouseCoffee @touchof_flair


Spyhouse Coffee just opened a gorgeous – really gorgeous – new cafe here in MPLS – check it out here in our photo essay, shot by Gabriel Dunn of Cafe Imports for Sprudge. Spyhouse Coffee is just blocks from the #BIGCENTRAL event. 

Ms. Nelson competes using a @CafeImports Costa Rica washed Las Lajas, roasted by @SpyhouseCoffee – it has a “mallic apple flavor – bright without being harsh – and a nice, spiced clove finish” according to Ms. Nelson.

“The cappuccino is the perfect beverage – warm, comfortable, all the elements that make coffee approachable” – hers has “apple pie and date sweetness, clove finish – like an apple dessert.”

Sig drink is a take on the affogato, including ice cream made live on stage, with apple cider vinegar added over the top of her espresso.

2. Bud Patterson, Kaldi’s Coffee, St. Louis @Kaldis_Coffee @BudPatterson86


Mr. Patterson competes at #BIGCENTRAL using @kaldis_coffee Panama Lerida Estate, in Boquete, Panama – learn more here – it’s a catuai variety, and Lerida is one of the oldest estates in all of Panama.

Mr. Patterson’s capps yield a “honey-like sweetness, the qualities of a cheesecake w/ a cherry like acidity.” Capp course was down at 7:30 – this routine was really cruising, poised and practiced. Mr. Petterson also personally roasted the coffee he used here at comp.

Sig drink: honey in the bottom of each glass w/ muddled cherry “mash”, spro, lavender whip cream – “like biting into a cheesecake, with a nice cherry topping.” All drinks were down at 13:15, leaving plenty of time to clean and address the judges before calling time at 14:20.

3. Jackson O’Brien, Peace Coffee, MPLS @sprobeforebros @Peace_Coffee


Mr. O’Brien kicks off his #BIGCENTRAL routine with the lost Prince classic “Le Grind” – later in his routine he’ll play Prince’s “Starfish And Coffee”, which put together are basically the two most perfect Prince songs to play at a barista competition.

Mr. O’Brien competes using a coffee from Chajul– the Asociación Chajulense Va’l Vaq Qujol in Guatemala, about which you can learn more here. 

At the beginning of his cappuccino course, he says: “As the great American philosopher Larry David once said, “milk and coffee, oh my God! Who’d have thought! Milk and coffee!”


Sig drink: blueberry juice, honey, and a washed process espresso “like a Tawny Port” – the blueberry juice is pre-squeezed, because otherwise it would “look like I murdered a Smurf.”

“Most baristas really want to be specialty bartenders; this just gives me a good excuse.” – Jackson O’Brien.

4. Andrea Allen, Onyx Coffee Lab, Springdale, Arkansas @OnyxCoffeeLab


Ms. Allen is the owner of @OnyxCoffeeLab, featured in our Build Outs Of Summer series – they’re the proud owner of a new ModBar system, bringing fine speciality coffee to Northwestern Arkansas. 

What a beautiful signature drink setting from Ms. Allen – peaches, honey, wood, butter, rocks glass – simple and stunning. She competes using coffee from Graciano Cruz’s Las Lajones, in Boquete, Panama.

5. Jordan Hubred, Parka, MPLS @parkampls @jmhubred


Jordan Hubred is competing on behalf of Parka, a fine restaurant and coffee bar in Minneapolis. He competes usingFinca Plan de la Batea, an orange bourbon coffee from El Salvador roasted by @DogwoodCoffee and yielding notes of “orange blossom aromatics, tangerine sweetness, and a malty caramel finish.”

“For elite coffee producers, their influences into the social climate of El Salvador must be acknowledged” – Jordan Hubred.

Sig drink featured chilled espresso shots, simple syrup, orange blossom water, stirred – a pronounced cocktail influence, simple and elegantly focused.

6. Lorenzo Perkins, Cuvee Coffee, Austin @cuveecoffee @LorenzoPerkins


“I find espresso to be fascinating – it’s unusual for a beverage so small to be so many things simultaneously. Espresso is espresso, and must be viewed as a whole substance unto itself.” – Lorenzo Perkins

Mr. Perkins’ espresso is tri-processed – washed, pulp natural, natural processed San Francisco Estate, processed at Beneficio Las Cruces in El Salvador, roasted by Cuvee Coffee – he’s incorporating those multiple processes into an enormously complex routine here on stage, including the use of a coffee-filled syringe during one part of his sig drink.

“I love cappuccinos – who doesn’t love a great milk mustache now and again?” His cappuccinos are poured tableside, two at a time, ladies first – and this is just a clinic on station maintenance. This is a very professional competition routine from Mr. Perkins.

7. Benjamin MerrickSump Coffee, St. Louis @sumpcoffee


Mr. Merrick competes at #BIGCENTRAL using a pacamara variety coffee grown in Mexico, roasted by @SumpCoffee.

Check off your bingo cards, folks – Benjamin Merrick is singing along to his soundtrack under his breath…

Sig drink: pine, bay leaf, and cinnamon aromatics from a fig & tangerine infusion, with espresso added.

8. Simeon Bricker, The Roasterie, KCMO @TheRoasterie @SimBricks


Mr. Bricker starts his routine with great detail on why milk art matters – “latte art is a sign of practiced precision and milk mastery,” he tells the judges, and he considers latte art as “a visual enhancement.”

Mr. Bricker competes w/ washed Kenyan coffee-“black fruit, cherry, currant, rich chocolate, with a champagne acidity”

Sig drink: called “Turbulence”, it’s carbonated water & black cherry concentrate, paired with rosemary extract made with herbs from his mother’s garden. To create the extract, he consulted with a chef at Kansas City’s excellent Novel restaurant.

9. Lindsay Bailey, HalfWit Coffee, CHI @HalfWitCoffee


Ms. Bailey competes at #BIGCENTRAL using an Ethiopian coffee from Uraga, in the Guji tribal zone of Ethiopia.

Ms. Bailey’s sig drink: “corn-based milk” – boiled sweet corn w/ water, pureed – organic sugar, combined over heat, to which she then adds Tahitian vanilla bean.

Lindsay Bailey is a house DJ in Chicago. Here necklace bling is unstoppable – really, all the visuals in this performance were stunning. A highlight.

10. Brenna Kail, Intelligentsia Coffee, CHI @Intelligentsia


Ms. Kail competes using @Intelligentsia Tres Santos, from the Tolima volcano in SW Colombia – yet to be released to the public

The focus of this routine is timing – the timing of harvest, roast, production, and of course competition – “the rain falls, flowers bloom – fruit follows, and then the harvest.”


Ms. Kail’s sig drink: date reduction w/ orange peel & cinnamon, brown sage butter w/ fresh sage leaves, espresso. “It takes time to make quality coffee, but it only takes a few minutes to drink.”

11. Josh Wismans, Colectivo Coffee, Milwaukee @ColectivoCoffee


Mr. Wismans has the distinction of being the first-ever Colectivo Coffee competitor since their name change from Alterra Coffee.

“Put on your hard hat and boots, judges – we’re going to the olfactory!” – Josh Wismans, Colectivo Coffee.

Mr. Wismans presents capps with dry grounds – “sip it, smell the dried grounds immediately after” – there’s a focus throughout this routine on biology and anatomy, how the olfactory glands work and how smell affects taste.

Sig drink: lavender tea, raw sugar simple syrup, and concord grapes steeped in hot water, served in a glass rimmed with honey and mosaic hops.

“judges, I hope you’ve enjoyed this olfactory tour – smell ya’ later!” – Josh Wismans, Colectivo Coffee.

12. Blair Bachman, Victory 44, MPLS @Victory_44


We’ve enjoyed watching Mr. Bachman compete previously for @Victory_44, which is among the best coffee & restaurant hybrids in the United States. He competes today using a Panama Don Pepe coffee roasted by Dogwood Coffee Company.

Don Pepe is a typica variety – “there’s lots of tartaric acids in this coffee,” yielding sweet cherry and milk chocolate notes in his cappuccinos.

“I pulled my espressos much more ristretto because I love that tartaric acid.” – Blair Bachman, Victory 44

Sig drink: “a nice espresso soda” w/ carbonated cold brew and carbonated green coffee extract, both made from the Panama Don Pepe.

13. Talya Strader, Bow Truss Coffee, CHI @BowTruss @TalyaStrader


“I love rules. They’re these nice standards that inform our expectations.” – Talya Strader, Bow Truss Coffee Roasters.

Ms. Strader competes at #BIGCENTRAL with a honey processed coffee from Boquete, Panama – a lot that includes caturra, yellow catuai, yellow pacamara coffee varieties, grown by Graciano Cruz at Los Lajones and yielding notes of “raspberry, lemon, and nutmeg.”

Talya Strader with *the* capp notes of the day: “raspberry tart, lemon bars, and Teddy Grahams” – mmm Teddy Grahams…

Enormously complete w/ her details in this routine, touching on everything from roast profiling, variety differentiation, origin info, processing notes…a dense and kind of gently professiorial routine, teacher-y, right down to the apples and cork board on stage, and charming for it.

14. Laura Clark, Latteland Espresso & Tea, KCMO @LattelandKC @azn_barista


“Coffee itself is an art, passed from one person to the next to create a beautiful end product.” – Laura Clark, Latteland KC.

Can I just say, this is like night and day from Ms. Clark’s #BIGCENTRAL run last year – so much more poise verbally. Confidence! Plus there’s kind of a formal service vibe here – “Use the spoons at your setting, working from outside in.”

This routine highlights artistry -at origin, in the roastworks, and behind the bar. A reverent routine.

15. Sam Brown, Stone Creek Coffee, Milwaukee @stonecreekcoffe


Green samples, dried grounds – a top to bottom complete performance from Sam Brown, who roasted his own #BIGCENTRAL coffee this year.

Capps taste like “sweet butter and graham cracker.”

Sam Brown’s sig drink: dried cherry & blueberry maceration, egg white, espresso – all chilled – dry shake. This is convincingly one of the best performances of the day.

16. Andrew Grassmick, MADCAP Coffee, Grand Rapids @agentpilgrim @madcapcoffee


“I think we can all agree that coffee is pretty amazing in its scope and depth.” – Andrew Grassmick, MadCap Coffee

Mr. Grassmick starts the judges with three sodas: cinnamon, coriander and nutmeg; vanilla bean; and orange & lemon citrus. Tasted together, they combine to form an unexpected cola flavor.

Mr. Grassmick competes using @madcapcoffee Yirgacheffe Borana – learn more & buy here – yielding “strawberry sweetness into a balanced orange” notes.

“The addition of milk gives my cappuccinos this wonderful almond flavor…I don’t fully understand the science behind it, but it’s delicious.”

After a wonderfully complex signature drink – in which certain flavors are accentuated and hidden in yet-another series of sodas – Mr. Grassmick tells the judges, “Please, ignore me as you enjoy these drinks, but it’s been a pleasure.”

17. Joshua Longsdorf, Anthology Coffee, Detroit @anthologycoffee @JoshuaLongsdorf


Mr. Longsdorf competes using a coffee from El Carmen, Huehuetenango, Guatemala for his espressos, switching to a Sumatran coffee for capps – a timor and caturra hybrid for which “the spice shines through in milk.”

Mr. Longsdorf’s shop, @anthologycoffee, is a fine microroaster in Detroit – learn more: http://www.anthologycoffee.com/#shop


Fashion watch: seriously digging the denim shirt, denim jeans & denim apron look here from Mr. Longsdorf. The apron & jeans are by Detroit Denim.

18. Eric Faust, Duluth Coffee, Duluth, MN @duluthcoffee @duluthcoffeeguy


Mr. Faust competes using Duluth Coffee’s  Zenith Blend, a blend of semi-washed Brazil, natural Ethiopian Yirg, and washed Huehuetenango Guatemalan coffees. You can learn more about it here.

The milk in Mr. Faust’s capps come from Dahl’s Sunrise Dairy in Babbitt, MN – learn more: http://www.dahlssunrisedairy.com

Sig drink from @duluthcoffeeguy: “The Aged Gouda Apple Blossom Macchiato” – yes, he’s using real cheese. This is not a typo.

19. Helena Shanks, River Rock Coffee, St. Peter, MN @riverrockcoffee @HelenaShanks


“Every coffee is full of potential, and each has its own unique flavors.” – Helena Shanks, River Rock Coffee.

Ms. Shanks competes at #BIGCENTRAL w/ coffee from Chiapas, Mexico – a caturra variety grown by Augustin Gomez, and roasted by Kickapoo Coffee in Viroqua, Wisconsin.

Capps: “Butter, toffee, golden raisin, with a mild citrus acidity.” Espresso: “honey, caramel, fudge, and citrus – a flavor I can only describe as a tootsie pop.”

20. Shannon Steele-Knuckles, Passion House Coffee, CHI @passionhousecr @steeleknuckles


Ms. Steele-Knuckles is changing her espresso doses throughout – very intentional with her judges, explaining details and providing a kind of verbal narrative.

“One of my favorite parts of a cappuccino is in that final, last, cold sip” – it’s all well and good to say this, but she goes one step further by first pouring her standard capps for visual evaluation, then pouring out the majority of each beverage before the judges can evaluate taste. We’ve uh, we’ve never seen anyone do this before, which is saying something because usually we’ve seen all of this shit before in one form or another.

Ms. Steele-Knuckles competes using a @cafeimports Las Lajas from Terrazu, Costa Rica, roasted by Passion House Coffee. Las Lajas is an organic female-owned farm.

There are approximately 70 million interesting ideas and approaches to competition in this routine.

Photos by Charlie Burt for Sprudge.com. Follow @SprudgeLive for Twitter play-by-play from Big Central, and all the US Barista Competition events leading up to the World Barista Championship 2014 in Rimini, Italy. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *