As I am currently living in Indonesia, there have been two times that I have needed to leave the country for visa things. We always go to Singapore during these times. Six months ago I made my first trip there, and as the beginning of April grew closer, it was time to go again. Immediately after I settled on dates, I discovered this competition. Drats! I missed it by one week…Then a few days later my friend that was helping me revealed that flights the next week were much cheaper because of Easter. Remembering the competition, I immediately looked up the date again aaaaand perfect! The dates of my trip matched the date of the competition perfectly.
Without further ado, here are a few memorable moments from the 2016 Singapore AeroPress Championship (held at Common Man Coffee Roasters), my very first coffee competition experience (although not as a competitor).
1. Very Lively
The first thing I noticed was just how lively the atmosphere was. There was a DJ there bumping some hip-hop tracks, and the place was filled with people. Between rounds, they had little timed-contests using volunteers from the crowd, of which were the “headpress” and blind assembly and brew. All-in-all, it lasted almost four and a half hours (27 competitors), but there was never really a dull moment.
2. Crazy Brewing Methods
Some of the people did some pretty crazy things with the AeroPress. One guy had some strange, little piece he put on top, into which he poured the water. The eventual winner let the coffee bloom with the AeroPress right-side up before plunging and continuing with the brew using the inverted method, completely discarding the water used for the bloom. Some used manual grinders. A few brewed concentrated coffee and added water after. They constantly measured the temperature before, during, and after the brew. Some poured the brewed coffee between containers to lower the drinking temperature and aerate it. Some simply stirred, while others just put it out as is. Pouring varied as some poured one stream into the center. Some poured circles. Some even just poured water down the inside wall. The creativity and diversity of it all was very interesting.
3. Coffee Equipment
While of course everyone used the standard AeroPress, there was a very wide array of equipment there, the most noticeable being the kettles. Of course there were many Harios, Bonavitas, and a few Kalitas, there were also some of the rare variety including a couple Artisan Smith copper creations and one Stagg Kettle by Fellow (used by the winner). It was cool to see these products in person because most of which I had yet to see outside of the Internet.
4. Judges’ Reactions
I stood close enough to the judges that I could see their faces pretty well, and when it was quiet, I could hear them as well. I remember one moment early on when the three cups were set before them. One of the cups was steaming quite a bit. They were a bit taken aback and started making jokes about how it might not be safe to drink. I thought that was funny and cool to see the judges having fun with it. Funny enough, one of the judges ended up voting for that cup but to no avail.
5. Range of Contestants
Some people seemed to be very amateur, while others were clearly much more practiced. There were many baristas in the field, but many home brewers as well. There was a cool mix.
6. The Community
The competition was super chill and fun. It felt more like just a fun game with no real prize up for grabs, but far from it. The prize was a paid trip to Dublin, Ireland for the World AeroPress Championships. Normally at events with a prize that big, there is a much greater emphasis on it. Not here. Of course everyone knew it, but the emphasis wasn’t on the prize. It was on the coffee, or perhaps better said, the coffee community. Seeing the winner cry was a reminder of how much was up for grabs and how much they love their craft. I still think it was crazy just how chill the atmosphere was for a competition that was sending the winner to the World Championships to represent the entire country of Singapore (even if it is just one city), and how that person could have been just a normal, home-brewing coffee lover. I think that’s a cool reflection on the coffee community.
7. The Prize
So I already knew what the prize was going to be because I had seen pictures of past competitions, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. The trophy is a gold, silver, or bronze AeroPress, but the prize is an Aerobie flying disk (essentially a frisbee). If you didn’t know, the creator of the AeroPress is a toy inventor with his most popular being said “frisbee”. How funny is it that one day he just decided to make a coffee brewing device, and it became one of the most popular out there? To this day, it’s the only non-toy he has made.
The moral of the story is that if you ever have the chance to go to one of these competitions, GO. If you’ve already been to one, you should consider entering one if you can. Seriously, JUST DO IT. I hope that one day I will be able to enter into one…who knows what could happen.