Video: The 2015 Eastern Regional Aeropress Championship
This past weekend, we had the pleasure of helping to arrange and sponsor the 2015 US Eastern Regional Aeropress Championship, or #ERAC2015 for short. Coffee locals and out-of-towners, professionals and home brewers all came together to enjoy an evening of friendly competition as they ground, dripped, stirred, and plunged their way to victory. The event was hosted by the ineffably gracious Quills Coffee Roasters in our hometown of Louisville, KY. Open to the entire Eastern U.S. region, we saw 18 competitors from 7 different states (plus D.C.!) brew their hearts out. With over 70 folks in attendance, a jam-packed cafe, and lots of energy in the room (even before the caffeine was a-flowin’), we think this year’s ERAC was a resounding success.
Louisville’s own Michael Butterworth, of Quills Coffee and The Coffee Compass, was the chief organizer and emcee of the competition. Meanwhile, Chris Deferio of Sunergos (Louisville, KY), Rachel Lehman of Crema (Nashville, TN), Lee Sill of Barista Parlor (Nashville, TN), and Prima's own Steve Rhinehart (Louisville, KY) filled out the judges table. Sponsors including Sunergos Coffee, Able Brewing, Acaia, Baratza, Barista Magazine, Mahlkonig USA, and of course, Aerobie provided prizes, support, and a ticket for the winner to attend the U.S. Aeropress Championship in Long Beach in just a few weeks.
So how exactly did this whole thing work, you ask? It’s really quite simple! Aeropress tournaments are carried out in a single elimination bracket structure, with 18 total competitors and three overall victors. Each round, groups of three competitors have a total of 8 minutes to, quite simply, fix their best Aeropress brew. They’re provided with a brewing station, access to water and an EK43 grinder, and the house coffee - should they choose to use it. Those cups are then presented to the judges, who will be tasting them blind. Using cupping spoons, judges taste each group of three coffees, and pick the best extraction based on acidity, sweetness, balance, etc. The determined victor then moves on to the next round. During semifinals, first place moves on to the final round, while second place moves onto a consolation round to determine the third place finalist.
As you may know, the Aeropress is a unique brewer which makes room for creative and versatile brewing recipes and methods. Because of this, the competition is always fascinating to watch. We observed participants using inverted and standard methods, water being added in pulses or in constant slurries, some pressing at 1:00 minute and others pressing at 3:00 minutes, and water temperatures all over the place - including well outside the old “Gold Cup” range of 195-205 F. The diversity in brewing styles made for many lively discussions among the audience, and some very surprising cups of coffee!
In the end, an impressive gang of home baristas swept the winning lineup. Chris Heiniger took 1st, with Dmitriy Zhigunov in 2nd, Brian Beyke in 3rd, and Jay Keywood in 4th. Of those four, only Jay is currently an active barista, here at Louisville’s Vint Coffee. 1st place winner Chris Heiniger even home-roasted his winning coffee, using his Hottop and green beans from Sweet Maria’s. Want to brew an award-winning cup like Chris’s with your Aeropress? Here’s the winning recipe:
1st Place - Chris Heiniger
- 22 grams of Ethiopia Kochere Zonegediyo
- 200 ml of water at 183.5 F
- Normal Aeropress configuration, Able Brewing Disk Fine Filter
- Grind coffee at 28 setting on Baratza Encore (very coarse)
- 30 ml, 30 second bloom
- Pour remaining water, finishing at 1:15
- Cap plunger and pull up to create suction
- Press at 2:45 finishing at 3 minutes.
If you fancy taking a look at the other top recipes, here are the finalists’ brews in their own words, up for your consideration.
2nd Place - Dmitriy Zhigunov
- 17.5 g of coffee (Madcap Borana Ethiopia)
- non-inverted method
- 200 grams of water at 80 C
- Pour water in for 1 minute
- Stir and wait 2:30, then press
3rd Place - Brian Beyke
- Place the Aeropress inverted.
- Grind out 19 grams of coffee slightly finer than drip (4R on Vario with Steel Burrs).
- Prepare a second kettle or pitcher with water at 107 degrees.
- Place 3 paper filters in the Aeropress lid.
- Place 18.2 grams of coffee in the inverted Aeropress and level.
- Start timer and begin pouring 80 grams of the 107 water on the bed of coffee.
- Gently stir and let steep until 2:45 where you will flip the press over onto a carafe, remove the plunger, and retare the scale.
- Rinse the remaining coffee from the plunger while adding 150 grams of water at 200 degrees onto the bed.
- Re-add the plunger by 3:15 and press until 3:45.
Runner-up - Jay Keywood
- Coffee: Vint’s Ethiopia Sidama Natural
- Grinder: Baratza Encore
- Water: filtered Louisville water at 200 F
- Modified Chemex filter, cut in a circle a little larger than the stock filter to keep the sediment from escaping the side of the plastic filter cap
- Prewet filter. Invert the Aeropress, and add 19 grams of coffee, ground at a 10 on the Encore
- Add 40 grams of water, then agitate until all of the coffee is saturated, about 3 or 4 times over 30 seconds, allowing the coffee to bloom
- Fill Aeropress until 226 grams
- Agitate two more times to give it a swirl to double make sure there are no dry areas At 1:00, cap and flip the Aeropress onto the serving vessel
- At 1:25 begin pressing until 2:00. Stop just before the hiss
To those of you who were able to come out and join in the fun, thanks so much for taking part. We hope to see y’all next year, wherever the ERAC may be!