Brewers Cup - How to Prepare for the National Championships?
I participated in Brewer Cup 2020 Finnish Nationals and I wanted to share how I prepared and trained for the Brewers Cup 2020. Read my tips how to prepare Brewers Cup coffee, roasting, water, brewing and presentation.
I decided already in early 2019 that I am going to compete in the next years Brewers Cup. My colleague Tomi competed in Brewers Cup 2019 and finished 2nd which inspired me to participate as well. Mental preparations I started already in September 2019 so looking for some tips online and planning training sessions. Actual trainings I wasn't able to start earlier than late January 2020 because my coffee was late and I didn't have any coffee to train with. Although, I could have easily trained before the coffee arrived but more about that later on.
Choosing the coffee
Choosing the coffee was probably the easiest part of the preparations; I had told our Green Coffee Sourcing Manager Anna that I'm going to be competing this year and she sourced me a few samples try out. I told her that I would prefer a coffee from a farm that provided my colleague Tomi's competition coffee in 2019 and they had supplied us with four experimental lots. In the cupping table one of them stood out by far and at that moment it was clear to me that this is the coffee I'm using. Also our Head of Cupping Marja was blown away by the coffee. The coffee that used in the competition was:
- Origin: Columbia
- Region: Piendamó, Cauca
- Farmer: Diego Bermudez
- Farm: Finca El Paraiso
- Elevation: 1930 masl
- Variety: Castillo & Colombia
- Processing method: Controlled Anaerobic Fermentation - 28 hours in cherry in 5-10 °C, pulping and another fermentation 40 hours beans and mucilage together
All I can say is that this coffee is the best best coffee I have ever tasted.
Choosing the coffee was made in October 2019 but I took quite long to get it in Finland. The ship was late for a month because of storms in the Atlantic so I got the coffee in late January 2020.
First we started with the roast with my trainer Tomi. Tomi roasted a few samples in our labratory to see how light or "dark" (we weren't planning on going dark but there are also different shades of light roast) should we go with the coffee. We noticed right away that this coffee shines as really light so Tomi tried out again sample roasts with our 5kg Probat roasting machine in Paulig Kulma. Those roasts started to be really delicious but we were missing complexity as the flavor was full on raspberry and juicy. To try out as many profiles as possible, we loaned Ikawa Pro sample roaster from Robert Paulig Roastery and roasted with at least 8 different profiles from fast roast to slow roast and everything in between. One of the fast roasts stood out when we first time tasted the new profiles; it was complex, less raspberry and super sweet.
- Roasting machine: Ikawa Pro
- Batch size: 50 grams
- Roast time: 4min 38sec
- End temperature: 208°C
I started to try out different recipes for brewing right away when I got the first roast samples but it didn't take long to find out a great recipe. Actually I think the brew recipe was the easiest part of the preparations. I chose right from the start that I'm going to brew with Hario v60 because of two reasons; I'm really familiar with it and I didn't have enough time to start testing with other brewing methods.
The final recipe is the same recipe I use to brew coffee at home. Using really coarse grind decreases the amount of fines and gives out a clean final cup. Long brew time and many pulses enhances the evenennes of extraction maximising sweetness in final cup.
- Brew method: Hario v60
- Dose: 15 grams
- Water: 250 grams in 94 °C
- Brew ratio: 1:16,66
- Brew time: 3:00min
- Five pulses - 50 grams each - every 30sec
First I wasn't sure if I was going to make my own water. But Tomi encouraged me that we should at least try out. So one evening we stayed late in our roastery's labratory and made two concentrates which we could then use to make the final water. To be honest, I had no idea what were we doing (I don't think Tomi either) but our colleague Sampo had calculated the correct amounts for us and made us instructions how to make the concentrates.
Making your own water is in the end pretty simple; all you need is magnesium sulfate (can be easily bought online), bicarbonate (in other words baking powder - can be found in every supermarket) and distilled water (can be found in pharmacies, hardware stores).
Read more about water and coffee from Karkki's blog.
And oh boy, it really paid out to make the water! At the same time we had been trying out the different roasts and we had one final cupping; to choose which roasting profile to use and whether we should continue with own water. One of the cups shone from the cupping table; the profile I was talking earlier and brewed with our own water. It was juicy, super clean, sweet and everything I'm looking for in coffee. I was in love.
- Distilled water with added magnesium sulfate and bicarbonates.
- Total Hardness: 82ppm
- Total Alkalinity: 41ppm
This I should have started training way earlier. If you are ever planning to compete, start with the presentation. This doesn't mean that you need to have the presentation ready 3 months before the competition but it's easier the earlier you start planning the presentation and then in the competition you don't have to feel nervous if you will remember everything you were planning to say to the judges.
I started with my presentation a month before the competition when I made a frame of what I want to be talking in front of the judges. The frame didn't change during the preparations but words did. The frame for the presentation was:
- introducing myself
- the coffee I'm brewing
- why did I choose the coffee
- flavour notes (aroma, hot, warm and cool)
During the preparations I tried to train the presentation at least once a day. Either just reading it out loud or doing the whole routine with brewing. Closer to the competition I started training the presentation at least three times a day; the record was two days before the competition when I did four whole routines for colleagues in our roastery and also I presented the routine out loud on my own six times during that day. :D
I must give huge thanks to our Head of Cupping Marja who was a great help when planning and practising the presentation and routine. Her years experience for judging competition was extremely valuable and her tips gave a lot confidence to me.
Checklist for preparations for Brewers Cup:
- get good coffee
- start training presentation right away
- make your own water
- choose a brewing method that you are familiar with