I like to give myself regular coffee challenges. About three weeks ago, I received a reminder that the Swiss Aeropress Championship would be taking place on September 28 in Lausanne. Cool I thought. As I read through the event information, I noticed that the World Aeropress Final would take place in Sydney, my home town. Within minutes I had completed my registration. As luck would have it, I managed to secure the last place to participate in the competition.
The Aeropress Champsionship takes place every year in cities around the world. It is the most relaxed of the coffee competitions, where baristas, roasters and coffee freaks get 8 minutes to brew the coffee provided. They have to use their own recipe and are free to use whatever Aeropress brewing method they like. It’s fun they say. With a trip to Sydney on the line, for me it meant fun and focus.
Once registered, I went into panic mode. I have no Aeropress which means no equipment to train. Charm alone was not going to get me to the Swiss final. After a few deeps breaths, I thought the best thing to do would be to call on my coffee friends for help.
The next morning, I went for coffee at one of my favorites local places, Bros Beans and Beats. Over a Flatwhite, I told my exciting story that I had signed up for the Swiss Aeropress Championship, with no Aeropress. It only took Barista Ceszar a few minutes to reply ‘You can use mine.. wait’. He grabbed the Aeropress and a few filters and whalla, I was on my way.
Next, the scales. As a creative person with Italian blood, I usually use my Nonna instinct and estimate the amount of coffee and water. Although I am usually almost right, this time I had to be 100% accurate. I messaged my friend Milo from the Coffee Lab and dropped by to pick up one of his old scales. I tested it out but wanted something a little different as I wanted it to be as easy as possible on competition day. My friends at the Coffee Shack Evi and George had the pleasure of hearing my story and panic a few times (sorry guys), and came to my rescue by giving me two Hario scales. With a total of three scales to train with, I was happy.
Aeropress, check. Scales, check. Grinder – well I have a great automatic Wilfa grinder at home so I thought I would grind the coffee easily with my Aeropress setting. But no. After catching up with my friend Philip, who is the manager of Boreal coffee in Zurich, he said you need to use a hand grinder. Oh and you also need a new kettle and a temperature gauge. Again within minutes I had his Comandante hand grinde, a new Hario kettle and a temperature thingie. Now I think I had everything I needed, except the coffee and a recipe.
I decided to do some research by watching some YouTube videos of past Aeropress winners. I thought the first recipe using 30g of coffee was interesting. So too was the use of chopsticks to stir. The 30g didn’t work for me, but the chopsticks I decided to keep and use in my recipe.
The competition coffee arrived on the Tuesday before the competition. After opening the package and smelling the coffee, it was time to work on the recipe. I thought the best way to start would be to include my favorite number 8 in my recipe. Why 8 – because it was my mum’s birthday. I tried a total of 4 different recipes throughout the week. I even had a test run with my friend and colleague Annika from Cheer Up Schwiiz. The tastes I was after were of maple syrup, peaches and lime. I had no idea at that stage where the coffee was from. On Saturday morning before the competition, I had my final practice and secured my recipe with my instinct.
18g coffee: – medium to course setting on the Comandante
200ml water: – fresh from the tap!
Water temperature: 85 degrees
Brewing method: Inverted Aeropress
Total Brewing time: 2 minutes 30 seconds
Preparation: Grind the coffee and weigh after grinding to 18g, brew the water and water down the Aeropress filter. I used 1 filter only on the day, although I trained with 2. Make sure your chopsticks and timer and close by.
Brewing Process: With the Aeropress inverted, pour in the group coffee and place on the scale. Start the timer and slower commence pouring in the water. Stop at 30 seconds. With the chop sticks, stir the coffee 8 times. Then recommence slowly pouring the water, keeping your eye on the timer. Stop every few seconds, as the total pour should take you up to 1 min 50 seconds. At this time, screw on and secure the filter. Turn onto the tasting cup and commence to press slowly. Keep your eye on the timer as you press, as you need to make sure you go until the timer reaches 2 mins 30 seconds. Stop, wait and enjoy.
On the day, my aim was to get past my nerves and excitement, to focus and not make a mess on the stage. Especially with such talented coffee people in the competition. I made it through round one and round two, focusing on my recipe. I didn’t taste my coffee on the day. Why, because I trusted in how I wanted them to taste. In the end, this got me to the final. In the end, I won second place and have a lovely Silver Aeropress of my own.
Thank you to everyone who joined me on the ride.. and who continue to celebrate with me cause that it was it’s all about.