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New Preliminary Events Coming to 2018 US Coffee Championships

us coffee championships

The 2016 US Coffee Championships in Atlanta. Lem Butler of Counter Culture Coffee is awarded the US Barista Champion trophy. Daily Coffee News photo.

One of the major challenges with any primarily volunteer-led competition that spans as far as, say, the United States, is competitor accessibility.

This has been an ongoing issue with the U.S. Coffee Championships, composed of the U.S. Barista Championship, Brewers Cup Championship, Roaster Championship, Cup Tasters Championship and Latte Art Throwdown. Nearly every year since 2012, the qualifying-event structure for the single-location U.S. Championships has expanded or contracted into different forms to accommodate interest among competitors or budget restrictions, respectively. There were once six annual qualifying events, then three, then one, now two.

For the 2018 season, the U.S. Competitions Working Group has unveiled the basic outline for a new component to the qualifying structure called U.S. CoffeeChamps Preliminaries (not to be confused with Qualifiers), designed to expand the field of Barista and Brewers Cup competitors by hosting three to six events in different markets of the United States at local Specialty Coffee Association Campuses or member facilities.

The preliminary events will involve compulsory coffees, while competitors will have the option to bring their own grinders or use the provided grinder, according to an announcement signed by U.S. Competitions Working Group Chair Miguel Vicuna. From the preliminaries, eight Barista Championship and four Brewers Cup Championship competitors will be guaranteed spots at the U.S. Coffee Championship qualifying events.

Last year, those events were held in Knoxville, Tenn, and Austin, Texas, open to a capped number of competitors from anywhere in the country.

So, just to recap: The U.S. Coffee Championships will now have three to six Preliminaries hosted at SCA member facilities or certified campuses, followed by Qualifiers, followed by the U.S. Coffee Championships, which will take place next April in Seattle.

While the working committee is describing the preliminaries as “fun, low-cost competitions at the local level,” it seems competitors wishing to move all the way through the competition cycle will need to muster some serious travel money.

Click here for more on the U.S. CoffeeChamps Preliminaries. And here is the letter from the U.S. Competitions Working Group in full:

Dear U.S. Coffee Community,

Exciting new developments are coming to U.S. Coffee Championships for the 2018 season! The Barista Guild of America and U.S. Competitions Working Group have been listening to your feedback and working diligently to create this next evolution of U.S. coffee competitions. Our goal is to make competing more accessible to everyone in the coffee community.

We are pleased to announce the new U.S. CoffeeChamps Preliminaries. The Preliminaries will be Member Driven Events – fun, low-cost competitions at the local level.

Making Competitions More Accessible

This August and September, depending on community interest, there will be 3 to 6 Preliminaries across the United States, organized and hosted by local SCA Campuses or member facilities. Hosts will offer compulsory versions of the Barista Competition and/or Brewers Cup.

This means that for Barista competitors all wares, equipment, and coffee will be provided. Competitors may bring their own wares or grinder, if they would like, but this is not required. Competitors are required to use a host-provided coffee.

Equipment and coffee will be provided for Brewers Cup competitors. Competitors will need to bring their own manual brewing devices, filter media, and kettle(s). Brewers may bring their own grinder, if they prefer, but this is not required. Competitors are required to use the host-provided coffee(s).

The Road to The Qualifying Competitions

The top 8 Baristas and top 4 Brewers from each of the Preliminaries will receive a guaranteed spot at the CoffeeChamps Qualifying Competitions. All remaining spots will be open registration, like in the 2017 season. Visit our website for more information on the competition structure.

Please join us for an Information Session this Friday, June 23, at 9:00 a.m. PDT. We’ll review the competition structure and Host requirements and we will have plenty of time to answer your questions.

Register for the Information Session

How to Host

Host a U.S. CoffeeChamps Preliminary event in your hometown! As a host, you will have the opportunity to help vet competitors for the U.S. CoffeeChamps Qualifying Competition, make competitions more accessible accessible for competitors and judges, and to create events in a format that works best for your local coffee community. Application deadline is June 30, 2017.

How to Compete or Judge

Interested in competing in or judging a USCC Preliminary? The U.S. CoffeeChamps Preliminaries offer great opportunities for new competitors and judges to get involved. SCA will announce the dates and locations of all U.S. CoffeeChamps Preliminaries mid-July. Join our information session on Friday, June 23 at 9:00 a.m. to stay informed.

The U.S. CoffeeChamps Preliminaries will be a great opportunity for local coffee communities to come together and put on awesome events! If you have any questions, please email [email protected]. You can find more details and competition overviews on the U.S. Coffee Championships website.

I look forward to seeing you in the 2018 season!

All the Best,

Miguel Vicuna
U.S. Competitions Working Group Chair


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