Championships

Believe it or not… but coffee making is a competitive thing… you can find the latest on the world championships over at World Aeropress Championship

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You may not have heard of the Aeropress coffee maker world championships, and indeed you may never even heard of an Aeropress coffee maker – and that’s perhaps understandable as the Aeropress coffee maker has been on the market for barely even a decade. In fact given its relative novelty (in coffee making terms, it really is almost a newborn) is remarkable how rapidly the Aeropress coffee maker has spread in popularity throughout the world. Bear in mind that the device was only invented in 2005 – and in less than a decade it has gained enormous cult (and increasingly mainstream) recognition in every continent of the world. Before we go on to the championships themselves, it is maybe worth briefly looking at the reasons for this rapid increase in popularity.

The Aeropress coffee maker was a quietly revolutionary innovation in coffee making. By using its unique syringe/plunger-type operation, it allow quality, espresso-style coffee to be produced in about the same time it takes to make a cup of instant coffee. It takes literally about 30 seconds for the water to pass from a freshly boiled kettle, through the Aeropress coffee maker and into the cup ready for drinking.

Not only this, but the actual coffee it produces has a uniquely smooth taste, with less acidity and bitterness than many other methods of coffee making. For this reason it is replacing not only many people’s preference for instant coffee making (convenient but fairly awful), but is also elbowing out traditional coffee making methods such as cafetieres, percolators and espresso machines – which can all produce good “real” coffee but are a bit of a palaver. The Aeropress coffee makers, by combining the speed and efficiency of the former with the delicious fresh coffee taste of the latter, are proving a real contender at both ends of the market.

Additionally, the price point puts them firmly in reach of most ordinary people; bear in mind that some home coffee making machines retail for hundreds of pounds and produce an arguably inferior product, and also that the Aeropress coffee maker requires no electricity so has no running costs beside replacement filters. So the appeal is clear.

But the most important attribute, as mentioned, is the actual taste. Aeropress coffee makers produce what many fans regard as among the finest rendering of the essence of the coffee bean that it is possible to obtain. So maybe it is no surprise that, all over the world, numerous Aeropress coffee maker championships have sprung up. People get together to share ideas, enjoy great coffee and engage in good-natured but fiercely fought competition. There are regional and national championships and every year the national champions may travel to compete to be Aeropress coffee maker world champion. Last year, 2014, the world finals were held in Italy. This year, 2015, they are scheduled to be held in Seattle, which is in the north-west corner of the United States. If you’re there or thereabouts, try to get yourself along. They are great fun events and you’ll meet some fellow coffee lovers and of course get to taste some world-beating coffee.

Some people say they wouldn’t expect that the Aeropress coffee maker could form the basis for a world championship – not that it doesn’t produce excellent coffee, but the instructions are so simple, what is there to compete over? It’s a fair question. For those readers who are unfamiliar with the standard Aeropress coffee maker coffee making process, it is probably worth us going over it briefly.

First finely ground, roasted coffee beans are spooned into the base of the larger of the two cylinders, on top of the filter (which can be made of paper or metal). Then the required quantity of freshly boiled water – but just off the boil, of course – is poured onto this ground coffee. This mixture is then gently stirred for 10 seconds, and then the smaller of the two cylinders is inserted into the larger one and the plunger pressed slowly and firmly down, forcing the coffee down through the filter and into the cup. The recommended time for this plunging action is 20 seconds, making the entire time for making a cup of exceptional, fresh hot coffee is only 30 seconds – which of course is one of the Aeropress coffee makers main selling points. So if it’s so simple, where’s the competition?

Well, you have to bear in mind that some Aeropress coffee maker aficionados really, really love their coffee. They can appreciate all kinds of subtleties and nuances in the way that a sommelier might appreciate fine wines. And while the 30 second guidelines outlined above are a great way to produce consistently delicious coffee with minimal effort, there are numerous twists that baristas, coffee experts or just enthusiastic amateurs can impart to the process. For instance, the water can be at slightly different temperatures. Or even, very different temperatures. Some Aeropress coffee maker world champions routinely use water that is not merely “off the boil”, but has been allowed to cool to as little as for example 75 degrees centigrade. This is the kind of temperature normally reserved for making delicate green and white teas – coffee and (black) tea makers rarely go near such craziness. Also, the grind of the roasted beans can be tweaked coarser or finer. The steeping times can be varied. The plunging time and pressure can be modified. Even the angle the Aeropress coffee maker is held at during operation can have some subtle effect on the resultant product. And something as seemingly arbitrary as the number of times the steeping mixture is stirred (five times? seven times? fewer times? more?) can have a profound effect on that heavenly elixir we call coffee – certainly to the initiates who attend these soul-affirming events. And to those who aren’t initiates? Become initiated! Come along, it’s terrific stuff and as well as great chat and banter (which are assuredly not the same thing, notwithstanding what certain parvenus may suggest) you will enjoy what Agent Dale Cooper, a fictional character from David Lynch’s ‘Twin Peaks’ (look it up kids… or save yourself the bother and watch the upcoming reboot, which sounds terrible on paper but Lynch himself is collaborating on this particular project, and he knows his way around audiovisual entertainment so I suggest we give it a go) as “a damn fine cup of coffee”.

In fact, all of these elements and myriad more can lead to literally infinite varieties of delicious coffee. And what do human beings do when they can produce literally infinite varieties of something? How do they sort the sheep from the goats, so to speak, and how do they reward the finest producers? Well, when it’s something quantifiable – the sweetest honey, the hardest glass, the hottest chilli – then an objective, empirical test can be conducted. But when it’s something subjective – the tastiest olive, the best TV talent show singer and yes, the most delicious Aeropress coffee maker coffee recipe – then what generally happens is that all the brightest and best competitors, or simply the most hopeful ones, gather together to present their product before some knowledgeable, expert judges. And these judges will hopefully reach an objective and fair verdict, rewarding the virtuous and creating a fairer world for all. And this is pretty much exactly what happens at the world Aeropress coffee maker coffee making championships.

There are other, very refined techniques, some simply too complex to be gone into here. There really is no substitute for actually going along to an Aeropress coffee maker world championship event – some things just have to be experienced first-hand. And remember, while there are the rather more stuffy “world barista championships” held each year, at the Aeropress coffee maker world championships you don’t actually have to be a barista or even involved in the coffee industry at all; enthusiastic amateurs are welcome. That means you, bud! Whether you are a true coffee lover or just a love who is true and drinks coffee, come along – it is fun. Drink coffee, enjoy coffee, maybe ponder on the paucity of truly good sports broadcasters in an age when professional, top-tier sport is bloated with money. Really, at at the Aeropress coffee maker world championship there is almost no limit to what you might like to talk about. In fact, there is literally no limit to what you might like to talk about. There may however be a limit if the things you’d like to talk about are less than legal and you choose to actually talk about them, but that is true of most events in the world – but certainly there is no limit to what you might like to talk about. There may be a nominal entrance fee of a few bucks or so, but equipment (including an Aeropress coffee maker) and coffee beans are provided, as is water and of course there are refreshments available. At the very least, there’s award-winning coffee! No, only kidding, there is indeed great coffee but you can also get fresh water, almost certainly some snacks and access to wifi where available. But don’t worry too much about those things: this one really is about the coffee. And not just the coffee, but the best Aeropress coffee maker coffee on the planet. World championship standard, in fact.

Of course though, there are rules. There are always rules my friend. In the case of the world championships of the Aeropress coffee making machine, here are some of the rules.

You will be provided with water. The organisers will endeavour to provide you with the freshest, cleanest and best quality water available. However, you may prefer your own water – say bottled, filtered or handled in your own favoured way. That’s fine. But do try to raise it with the organisers, and get what they tend to call the “A-OK”.

Secondly, you should approach the tournament in a spirit of fair and honest competition.

But sadly, I see time is now upon us and this expansion of what to the uninitiated can (incorrectly) seem like a complex set of rules for the Aeropress coffee maker world championship will have to continue in a future article.

I hope this has been of use to you, my loyal and appreciated coffee compadres.