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If you are planning any sort of event at the moment, my heart goes out to you.
Thanks to omicron finally arriving in New Zealand, and going into traffic light level red, events are capped at 100 if everyone is vaccinated. Events like the Tarawera Ultra Marathon, Lake Taupō Cycle Race, Round the Bays in Wellington, have all been cancelled, after already having to deal with organising events in COVID times.
The coffee world is being impacted too, including the 2021 AeroPress Champs.
Before we get into that though, you may be asking, what is an AeroPress and why are there champs?
The AeroPress - a magic little coffee brewer
The AeroPress is a pretty simple little coffee brewer, invented by American Alan Adler - a toy inventor who made the Aerobie, the amazing flying disc.
Alan wanted to make a coffee brewer that made ‘espresso’, or at least very strong coffee, really easily. He wanted hot, tasty, easy coffee to drink when we was doing his inventing.
Well, he did that! At it’s core, the AeroPress combines two types of coffee brewing, both of which you’ll probably be familiar with - immersion and percolation.
Immersion brewing (like a plunger/French Press): where water and coffee hang with each other, making sweet, sweet coffee love.
You don’t need any special skills, gadgets, care or time to make amazing coffee. It’s the coffee brewer for the people (like the Mokapot).
Alan’s own AeroPress method is very, very simple:
Simple, but flexible
Trust the coffee world to take something so simple and try to complicate it!
The amazing thing about the AeroPress is that you can change all sorts of variables and get different results. Water temp, coffee grind, the amount of times you stir, the filters you use, the amount of time the coffee and water hang - all of these things, individually, change the taste of the coffee in the cup.
If you get 10 people, with the same bag of coffee, they will make 10 different tasting coffees. No other coffee brewer gives you that easy flexibility.
It’s this amazing flexibility and ease that meant the AeroPress was always going to be a massive hit, both within and outside of the coffee industry.
If you have to own one coffee brewer, I’d say the AeroPress has to be it.
Competitions, but not as we know it
So, the AeroPress blew up. So much so, three dudes in the back of a coffee shop in Europe, decided to run a wee competition. And with that, the World AeroPress Champs were born.
Coffee championships aren’t new in the coffee world, but they are generally very formal, very structured, very serious. These competitions are important to the industry, and can launch winners and competitors into the coffee stratosphere (see James Hoffman and Cupping Room’s Kapo Chiu), but they are largely not designed for the average coffee drinker or general viewer. Which is fine by the way - they’re coffee champs for coffee people.
Just like the brewer itself, the AeroPress Champs are just built different. They are fun, not very formal, taste based competitions with party atmospheres. They’re great fun and a great experience for people like me who can compete against coffee pros, and do well (I made the quarterfinals of the 2019 AeroPress Champs - beating actual coffee pros! And, well, this year’s winner… see below).
They’re really popular, really fun, and Ozone Coffee just hosted the 2021 (*cough*) New Zealand AeroPress Champs in Auckland, 24hours before we went into traffic light level alert level danger red. Wow.
A Review - the 2021 or 2022 New Zealand AeroPress Champs
This year’s winners of the NZ AeroPress Champs 2021 are:
I got to speak with Alex and An about their AeroPress journey - two very different journeys, such is the accessibility of the AeroPress.
Your 2022 NZ AeroPress Winners
Thanks for being here with me today (all a ruse, it was done by email - but still, imagine COVID-19 isn’t a thing, and we’re all chatting around a camp fire, drinking AeroPress!)…
TMR: First off, how long have you been involved in the coffee industry, and what drew you into it?
An: I’ve been in the coffee industry since 2005, like most students I needed to get work while studying.
Alex: So I don't actually work in the coffee industry, I'm a youth pastor/youth worker. Coffee has purely been a hobby with a bit of a nerdy obsession. Although I have volunteered in previous years with Mt Atkinsons and Hamodava at Festival One as well as some other events here and there. If you find yourself working full time and then spending time volunteering at cafes at events, there's definitely something that pulls you to it. Who knows what the future holds, but I do love being in youth work and have been in it for 10 years.
For now I am just a home brewer always striving for a better cup and, more importantly, enjoying the connections we share with the people around the cup.
TMR: What first drew you to the AeroPress? Can you remember your first AeroPress brew?
An: It would be 2018 when I tried to compete in the NZ Supreme Aeropress Comp 18 and won it. Very lucky to be honest! Never used the Aeropress before that.
TMR: Luck? I’ve seen your resume, luck had nothing to do with it An! Alex, wbu?
Alex: Honestly, what drew me to first by my AeroPres was the idea of being able to have a brew outside in beautiful places. I have always been a fan of pour over and brewing at home but many of those brewers are fragile and less forgiving. I love that the AeroPress is so durable and can go on tramps and beaches to enjoy a coffee at some pretty epic places.
Of course our recipes in competitions can get specific and complex, but the AeroPress can be simplified and still make a great brew. AeroPress tends to be one of the main brewers I recommend to people who have an interest in home brewing but not sure about all the gear for something like the v60. It's so accessible and maybe that's one of the best things about it. Although I couldn't tell you what my first brew was, but I bet it wasn't that good.
TMR: Brewing in beautiful places - I’m down with that.
TMR: How important in the landscape of coffee are the AeroPress Champs?
An: It's a fun, casual event/competition beside the cup taster. It's for everyone even who is not working in the coffee industry, as you noticed last two winners.
Alex: The AeroPress Championships is the only competition I feel someone like me has access in competing in… For someone who is just an enthusiast like me, being able to just compete is a dream come true. And whether you win or get smashed first round, you always learn something new and meet really great people along the way.
Not to mention the AeroPress is such a supportive and encouraging atmosphere with the other competitors. Everyone wants to win, but at the same time everyone supports each other and is there have a good time. The culture is part of what draws me back to compete each year.
TMR: I’m down with that - I had a blast when I competed. It was such a great atmosphere and people were super supportive.
TMR: What went into your preparation for the competition? Late night brews or just went with the casualness of the comp?
An: I always started off with my daily recipe than tweaked it base on how I would like it to be ( kind off - coffee is complex - result changes all the time).
I kind-of put myself into judges' shoes so practice started from 4pm after downing couple of savs or hazy ipas.
TMR: Gold. You have to practice for real world conditions.
Alex: I was in such a state of shock when I won that it took me a few days to get my head around everything and acknowledge that I did put in the mahi and earned the win.
There is so much that goes into preparing but the key things really are lots of practice and taking meticulous notes. I have a whole notebook of every trial I did in preparation for the last three AeroPress Championships. I made sure I wrote down every recipe, even the bad ones, so I can figure out what made those beans tastier and what didn't.
Leading up to the competition, I woke up earlier so I could practice before work and then when I got home, I would practice some more. Even when I find a recipe I really like, there is that question floating in my head "how can I make it better." Honestly that questions is still in my head now and would love to get my hands on the competition beans again to see if I can make it better.
TMR: Righto - 2021 is done. Where to next?
An: Next? Apart from work, I will try to be involved in any coffee event that i know of. It's always great to catch up with people in the same industry.
Alex: The World AeroPress Championship!
I took two days off the AeroPress and now back to practicing and fine tuning. Even though the competition will be virtual, I am still just stoked to be a part of it with people all around the world. I will definitely be back for the 2022 NZ AeroPress Championship and would love to one day compete in the WAC in person.
TMR: And finally, a question I ask everyone I talk to, what has been your favourite coffee experience ever? It doesn't have to be the competition, it could be the best place you've had coffee, or the greatest coffee you've ever had. Anything goes.
An: It's too many to draw out one but it would be Ona coffee in Sydney - simply it was mind blowing.
Alex: There's been too many to name just one, although I know winning the 2021 NZ AeroPress will be up there. I will say every memory that is popping in my head is tied to the people rather than the brew. One of my favorites that comes to mind was being part of the team at Festival One. We really had the best team of people there that felt like family. It's one of those coffee experiences I will never forget.
Look at these legends
Wow - these lads are champs in every sense of the word. Smashing out an amazing competition this year, and still had the time to share some of their thoughts with me. So so amazing.
Give them, and everyone who competed this year, a massive round of applause.
I’ll keep you across Alex’s journey to the virtual World Aeropress Champs - so keep tuned for more!
Until then, try these out!
Here are Alex and An’s competition recipes
Two very different takes to this year’s competition - both with winning results!
An Nguyen - 3rd place
Alex Escobar - 1st place
Want to fall more in love with the Aeropress?
The chaps from European Coffee Trip did an amazing documentary on the AeroPress back in 2018. They speak to Alan Adler and the organizers of the first World AeroPress Champs. It’s really good, and worth paying a few bucks to watch.
Check out the trailer: