The AeroPress competitions have been gaining enormously in popularity since the Day 1. Started in Oslo in 2008, where Tim Wendelboe’s cafe hosted the first year’s competition attended by just three competitors, it has grown into a worldwide competition scene with 50 champions attending the world finals in 2016 and over 60 champions coming this year.
Since 2012, the events’ organisation was joined by Tim Williams helping Tim Varney—both based in Melbourne, Australia with their Bureaux Collective project—to put on a number of national and world competitions that have been established as fun, fast-paced, and no-nonsense events open to all competitors and lovers of AeroPress.
With the support of Aerobie, Inc. the company founded by the inventor of AeroPress Alan Adler, the winning competitors are now awarded a personalised trophy of the device. And the interest in the competition, as well as the level of the competition have been growing tremendously.
Big countries open regional rounds
The structure of the AeroPress Championships is growing with the interest of a wide barista audience. This makes especially sense in the countries so big that travelling to only one final round, usually held in the most cosmopolitan city, or in the capital, is an advantage for some, but a reason not to compete for others. We have seen countries such as France, Spain or the UK hold their regional rounds, inviting competitors and talented brewers from all corners of the countries to participate. And it is a very welcome invitation to brewers who might have felt like they could not attend due to financial or time-scheduling issues. And that is exactly what the World AeroPress Championships organisers do not want.
They aim for an inclusive, no-bullshit competition that is fun and does not cost the baristas a fortune. They even recommend the organisers to—if need be—price the entry at a price equal to the wages a barista earns in 3 hours. That is quite fair and affordable!
In Poland, the Polish AeroPress Championship remains to be the largest competition that is yet undivided into regional rounds, which is huge with their 108 competitors in 2017’s edition!
The Dutch threw an enormous party for their Dutch AeroPress championship which took part during the Amsterdam Coffee Festival. Looking at the photos, it is clear how much fun, party and community can the AeroPress competition bring together. The W.A.C. call their events ‘AeroParty' for a good reason and it is a reason why the event grows each year.
The French organised themselves into qualification rounds already in 2016. From those 6 rounds, 18 best competitors went onto the final round held in Paris. This year, the French interest in taking part in the AeroPress competition grew even bigger and saw many regions organising themselves into regional rounds. They held them for instance in Tours, Bordeaux, Paris, Rennes, … almost all French regions were covered thanks to the great effort of the Réseau des Baristas de France. And from 96 competitors who entered the championships this year, after 2 months of qualifiers across 10 cities, 21 best brewers are going for the title on 17th September in Lyon.
Spain got equally motivated to give enough space and time to its growing number of competitors and threw seven regional competitions before the final round held in Barcelona, 10th June. They brought the competition to Valencia, Madrid, Baleares or Catalunya, among other regions. 22 competitors from the seven regions went to the national finals. Their winner is already known and probably practising, like some others, for his trip to Seoul, South Korea.
The judges that come from across Europe to judge the national rounds are also speaking highly about the events. Cory Andreen (Brewbox Berlin), 2012 Cup Tasters Champion told us: “In the broad world of unpaid special coffee gigs they [AeroPress Championships] never fail to be the most fun. Each country manages to maintain the playful, irreverent spirit of the event while reflecting the unique attitude and feeling of each country’s coffee community.”
Cory also judged the aforementioned Polish AeroPress Championship 2017: “You really get a sense of where the baristas are hungriest for professional glory – who’s obsessing over any small technique to give them an edge. The Polish competition is always impressive with it’s 100+ competitors, almost all of whom are showing up with the cutting-edge techniques of online coffee forums.”
The US regional rounds inspired by the qualification rounds in Europe
We were excited to see the organisers of the World AeroPress championship to take the format to the US, where the community is huge and very competitive. For such a big nation to compete in one compact round is a huge restriction and a bit of a miss out on all the good fun that every regional round brings to all attendees.
“The W.A.C. events are all about bringing people together for a good time, whether they're competing, spectating, or just hanging out. It's ridiculous to expect people to travel huge distances and spend a small fortune to do any of those things,…” told us Tim Williams about the motivations behind expanding the US competition into 9 regionals and 1 final round.
How did the US react to this new structure? Positively, although with a little bit of confusion, admitted Tim Williams: “A few people got really confused because what the SCA [Specialty Coffee Association] does is basically gospel there, and we were saying ‘it doesn't have to be like that—it can be better'. Despite some confusion (and maybe an aversion to change), the response has been amazing, and we have 9 regionals happening, plus the final in Seattle. Tim Varney is dreaming of a season with an event in every state.”
What is the core idea of all AeroPress Championships? Tim Williams sees it this way: “The thing is, it really is just a coffee competition, and instead of making it this hugely expensive, restrictive, fussy and difficult thing, we should be looking at how we can get more people involved, and bring more people together.” As it is currently happening around Europe.
Tim continues: “Coffee competitions are a great opportunity to build (or rebuild) bonds in our communities, and to have a good time together, but it's not going to work if we price people out, and make participation an even more exclusive, inaccessible thing. That's why we have the structure we do, and why we're doing 120+ events in 60+ countries this year.”
“This year will see no fewer than nine qualifying regionals taking place across the United States, from, Billings to Bellingham, Texas to Tampa, Honolulu and beyond… We’ve partnered with an able, willing, and enthusiastic cadre of hosts – all eager to bring their local coffee communities together for a night of light-hearted and spirited AeroPress action,” told us Tim Williams with excitement.
The finals in Seoul will really see a whole spectrum of competitors chosen from a large pole of national competitors who had, hopefully, equal chance to participate. And that is a great success!
Come together and participate
As the organisers say: “So much congregating. So many people together.” We invite you to take part this year, be it in Europe or the US, or other parts of the world. As spectators, competitors or organisers. This event really is like no other: community-building, yet diverse specifically thanks to the local communities and their ability to cooperate and bring great partners together. It always is a party though! An AeroParty!