coffee roaster

U.S. Coffee Roaster Champions!

April 14, 2022

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Who are the US Coffee Roaster Champions for 2022 and what did they have to do to become champions?

The U.S. Coffee Championships (USCC) was conducted, from 7 to 10 April 2022, during the Specialty Coffee Expo in Boston US.

The coffee championships included the U.S. Barista Championship, U.S. Brewers Cup, U.S. Roaster Championship, U.S. Latte Art Championship, U.S. Coffee in Good Spirits, and the U.S. Cup Tasters Championship.

This competition is a great learning experience for coffee enthusiasts and a way for coffee professionals to demonstrate their expertise.

Goodcoffeeplace compliments all the competitors on their efforts and congratulations to all the winners!

In this post, we will cover the U.S. Coffee Roaster Championships (USBC).

The U.S. Roaster Championship (USRC) is a program of the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) U.S. Chapter and the U.S. Coffee Championships (USCC).

Details of the championships including rules and regulations can be found here. However, the competition rules and regulations seem to be from 2021 and not updated to 2022 (except for the title of the document).

Competition Entry Requirements

Any qualified coffee roaster can enter the USRC Roaster Championships. A ‘qualified coffee roaster’ is someone who has previously completed one of the previous qualifier competitions. 

All entrants were required to be over 18 years old and to hold “a valid U.S. Passport, U.S. Green Card, or have 24 months of documented employment or scholastic curriculum in the United States of America.”

Competitors are responsible for all expenses personally incurred that are related to the competition.

The Coffee Roaster Champions

The six top coffee roaster champions for this year’s Specialty Coffee competition were…

  1. Nick Berardi from Mostra Coffee in San Diego, CA
  2. Jen Apodaca from Mother Tongue Coffee in Oakland, CA
  3. Rudy Altamirano from Ilustre in San Diego, CA
  4. Evan Inatome from Elixir Coffee in Philadelphia, PA
  5. Andrew Coe from Elevator Coffee in Portland, OR
  6. Wenbo Yang from Blue Hill Coffee in Seattle, WA

Congratulations Nick Beradi for being the Coffee Roasting Champion for 2022! Well done! Your colleagues at Mostra Coffee must be very proud of you!

The winner of the US Roaster Competition is chosen to represent the U.S. in the World Roaster Competition. Go for it Nick!

What Did the Coffee Roaster Champions Need to Do?

The roaster championship is comprised of one round and three components:

  1. Pre-Roasting – Lab Practice, Green Evaluation, Sample Roasting, Open Cupping, and Roast Plan.
  2. Production Roasting
  3. Production Roast Evaluation

Pre-Roasting Competition

Lab Testing

Competitors are given about 30 minutes to 1 hour of lab time to familiarise themselves with the laboratory and roasting equipment. 

Green Coffee Evaluation

Competitors are given about 30 minutes to 1 hour to evaluate the provided green coffee for moisture, density, screen size, and defect count.

About 350 – 800 grams of green coffee are provided to competitors for their Green Evaluation
and sample roasting.

The green coffee samples provided are randomly pulled from the bulk quantity of each green coffee
option.

Competitors may green grade any of the samples provided for their own reference.

All green coffee in the competition was Coffea Arabica, produced in various countries or regions. The green coffees may have been processed by any of the different processing methods (e.g., wet-process, dry-process or semi-washed).

Sample/Practice Roasting

Competitors are given about 30 minutes – 1 hour of sample or practice roasting time.

They are given about 350-500 grams of green coffee which they use to determine the roast parameters they will use during the competition. 

They can use the practice roasting to determine their roast plan.

Open Cupping

Competitors are given about 30 minutes of open cupping time. This is where the competitors examine and handle their roasted samples in the open cupping area used by the judges to evaluate their roasts. 

Roast Plan

According to the rules and regulations…”A competitor must submit their roast plan at a scheduled time. The Roast Plan is a written log of the proposed roast profile(s) and the reasons for those selected roast profile(s).

Competitors should clearly describe the weight, temperature, color reading of their roasted coffee, and provide a description of what the taste and flavor results of the production roast will be, including the intensity of acidity and body. Competitors are recommended to use the SCA standard flavor wheels as a reference tool.”

Production Roasting

This is where the competition really hits the road. This is where the competitor demonstrates their coffee roasting expertise by roasting the provided green coffee samples.

About 6kg of single-origin green coffee is given to the competitor for the production roast. 

The competitor has about 30 minutes to roast the provided green coffee.

About 2lbs of roasted coffee is then submitted to the judges for their evaluation. (Isn’t it funny that 6 kg of coffee is provided but 2 lbs are submitted for roasting? Why the different weight units?)

Roast Coffee Evaluation

The roasted coffee is evaluated by judges using a scoresheet for the following characteristics…

  • Coffee weight
  • The temperature of the roast
  • Color of the roast
  • Flavor attributes in coffee: Fragrance/Aroma, Flavor, Aftertaste, Acidity, Body, Sweetness, Balance, and Roasted Defects

The competitor is also scored on their ability to grade the green coffee provided to them by the competition.

The flavor attributes are determined by cupping the ground roasted coffee made by the competitor during the main production roast.

There are four distinct steps in the cupping process…

  1. Evaluating the coffee grounds placed into the cup before pouring water onto the coffee
  2. Evaluating the coffee as it steeps and a crust is formed
  3. Evaluating the coffee when breaking the crust
  4. Tasting the coffee by using cupping spoons to scoop the liquid coffee from the cup

Flavor Characteristics of Roasted Coffee

The SCA rules and regulations define the flavor characteristics of the roasted coffee as follows.

Fragrance and Aroma

The fragrance of roasted coffee is defined as the smell of the ground coffee when still dry and
the aroma of roasted coffee is the smell of the coffee when infused with hot water. Fragrance and aroma are evaluated at all steps in the cupping process.

Flavor

“Flavor represents the coffee’s principal character, the “mid-range” notes, in between the first impressions given by the coffee’s first aroma and acidity to its final aftertaste. It is a combined impression of all the gustatory (taste buds) sensations and retro-nasal aromas that go from mouth to nose. The score given for Flavor should account for the intensity, quality, and complexity of its combined taste and aroma, experienced when the coffee is slurped into the mouth vigorously so as to involve the entire palate in the evaluation.”

Aftertaste

“Aftertaste is defined as the length of positive flavor (taste and aroma) qualities emanating from the back of the palate and remaining after the coffee is expectorated or swallowed. If the aftertaste is short or unpleasant, a lower score would be given, and vice versa.”

Acidity

“Acidity is often described as “brightness” when favorable or “sour” when unfavorable. At its best, acidity contributes to a coffee’s liveliness, sweetness, and fresh-fruit character and is almost immediately experienced and evaluated when the coffee is first slurped into the mouth. Acidity that is overly intense or dominating may be unpleasant, however, and excessive acidity may not be appropriate to the flavor profile of the sample. 

Body

“Body is based upon the tactile feeling of the liquid in the mouth, especially as perceived between the
tongue and roof of the mouth. Most samples with heavy Body may also receive a high score in terms of quality due to the presence of brew colloids and sucrose. Some samples with lighter Body may also have a pleasant feeling in the mouth…Coffees expected to be high in Body, such as a Sumatra coffee, or coffees expected to be low in Body, such as a Mexican coffee, can both receive equally high-quality scores although their intensity rankings will be quite different.”

Sweetness

“Sweetness refers to a pleasing fullness of flavor as well as any obvious sweetness, and its perception is the result of the presence of certain carbohydrates. The opposite of sweetness in this context is sour, astringency or “green” flavors. This category is directly affected by how the coffee was roasted and how the sugars were developed during roasting.”

Balance

“Balance is how all the various aspects of Flavor, Aftertaste, Acidity, Sweetness, and Body of the sample work together and complement or contrast each other. If the sample is lacking in certain aromas or taste attributes or if some attributes are lost or overpowering, the Balance score would be reduced.”

Other Evaluations of the Roasted Coffee

The competitor is also judged on cup-to-profile accuracy and defects in the roasted coffee.

The competitor’s description of the roast profile is compared to the actual flavor and taste characteristics of the roasted coffee during cupping. This cup-to-profile description is evaluated by the judges for its accuracy, quality, detail, and relevance.

Multiple Defects may arise from the roasting process, which can affect the quality of the sample
negatively. The main defects are underdevelopment, overdevelopment, baked, and scorched.

“Underdevelopment relates to insufficient development of acidity, sweetness, and flavor through roasting.
It tastes like aggressive acidity and flavors at the front of the palate with no finish or aftertaste. It may also be involved with green/vegetative notes in the SCA Flavor Wheel.”

“Overdevelopment relates to the destruction of flavors via excessive roasting. It tastes like when all acidity
and flavor has been muted. It may also be associated with Roasted references on the SCA Flavor Wheel.”

“Baking relates to the stalling of the caramelization process. It tastes like popcorn, or hard cereal/oat flavors. It may also be involved with cereal notes in the SCA Flavor Wheel.”

“Scorching relates to the application of excessively high heat in roasting. It may taste like ashy or burnt notes in the SCA Flavor Wheel.”

As you can see the competitors are evaluated thoroughly and it is a very painstaking process. It is a very difficult competition and only the best get through it all. 

The winners certainly deserved kudos for all their hard work!

You can also see what is involved in evaluating the roasting completion in the World Roaster Competition.

Championship Equipment

The equipment used in the barista competition is standardized. The competitors can bring their own equipment but it must be the same type as that recommended by the SPA for the USCC and USRC.

Roasting Machine

The roasting machine used during the competition was a Stronghold S7Pro. This is obviously a commercial roaster and not suitable for the home roaster. 

There is also a new and innovative home roasting machine on the market made by Ikawa. We may review this machine later.

Grinders

The type of grinder used to grind the roasted coffee for the cupping evaluation is not mentioned in the rules and regulations. However, the grinders are likely to be the USBC sponsored grinders such as the Mahlkonig Peak, Mahlkonig E65S, and the Mahlkonig EK43s.

The Mahlkonig grinders are excellent but also very expensive. The Mahlkonig E65S retails for about $2300 and the Mahlkonig EK43S retails for about $3150. These grinders may be appropriate if you are a coffee connoisseur, a restauranteur, or a professional barista but you can get a great Mahlkonig grinder for the home for much less. 

The Mahlkonig x54 home grinder is an all-round home grinder so that you can experience expertly ground coffee at home. The x54 grinder enables optimal grinding that meets even the highest demands.

This grinder is suitable for many coffee brewing methods from your aromatic espresso in the morning to your pour-over or French press in the afternoon.

The Mahlkönig X54 all-round home grinder is a great choice for every home barista.

Mahlkonig x54 Home Grinder, Black, 19x42.5x28cm
  • Optimized Acoustics
  • Stepless Adjustment
  • LED Display
  • 4 Timer Presets

Last update on 2022-05-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

If this is too expensive then we recommend hand grinders in our post on the Best Hand Grinders.

Previously we have recommended the Niche grinder. Now, we also recommend the Fellow Ode Brew Grinder. This grinder has over 500 four to five-star reviews on Amazon.

Fellow Ode Brew Grinder - Electric Burr Coffee Grinder, 31 Settings for Drip, French Press, Cold Brew, Small Footprint, Matte Black
  • ODE BREW GRINDER - A powerful, precise, and quieter home coffee grinder with café capabilities, Ode was designed to perfect your daily brewed coffee; grind grounds specifically for AeroPress, pour-over, French press, cold brew, and more
  • CAFE PERFORMANCE FOR YOUR COUNTERTOP - Grind what you need right before you brew with Ode's single dose hopper for maximum bean freshness; This coffee grinder has professional-grade 64 mm flat burrs that deliver consistently ground coffee beans
  • PRECISION GRIND QUALITY - With 11 settings and 31 steps in between, easily adjust Ode’s coffee bean grind settings; Use the low settings to get the perfect consistency and fineness for your morning pour-over, or go for a more coarse grind to make a rich, robust French press or cold brew
  • COFFEE BAR ACCESSORY - Ode transforms a morning chore into a quicker, quieter, and more enjoyable coffee-making experience; This sophisticated and modernly designed coffee grinder will turn your countertop into a barista's coffee corner
  • FULL 1 YEAR WARRANTY - Fellow's outstanding customer service team is here to make sure you are satisfied with your purchase; Ode is warranted against any defects due to faulty material or workmanship for one year after the original date of consumer purchase

Last update on 2022-05-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Fellow Ode Brew Grinder is also used by James Hoffmann the famous coffee author, YouTuber, and entrepreneur. 

What Does it Take to Be a Coffee Roaster Champion?

The judges are looking for coffee roasters who demonstrate a mastery of technical skills, craftspersonship, and communication skills. It would seem obvious that the competitor is also passionate about coffee!

As we have seen the evaluation and scoring procedure is extensive and difficult. 

The top 6 best coffee roasters deserved to be recognized for all their hard work.

Congratulations to all!

Do You Want to Roast Your Own Coffee?

If you want to have a go at roasting your own coffee beans then you may find it useful to read our post on How To Roast Your Own Coffee Beans In 8 Easy Steps and our more detailed post the Ultimate Guide to Home Coffee Roasting.

Sponsors of the USCC and USBC

The USCC has numerous sponsors including Nuova Simonelli, Ally Coffee, GH Grinding & Brewing Solutions, Baratza, Pentair, Rattleware, and Urnex Brands.

The Coffee Roaster Competition was sponsored was Savor Brands.

The other competition sponsors included Lighttells, Ally Coffee, Stronghold, BUNN, GH Grinding & Brewing Solutions, Baratza, Pentair, Rattleware, Urnex Brands, Cropster, Slow Pour, Rancilio, Boomtown, and Abira.

Permissions 

We received permission from the Specialty Coffee Association to reproduce some of their content provided that we cite and acknowledge all sources and list all sponsors.

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