Seeking the sweet spot at the US Roasting Competition

Black Oak Coffee Roaster’s Steve Cuevas will be competing in the 2019 US Coffee Roasting Championship in Kansas City on March 15-17. Cuevas earned his place to participate in the Championship after placing third in the Roaster Qualifying Competition in Nashville, Tennessee.

The US Coffee Championship is put on by the Specialty Coffee Association, which is a non-profit organization geared towards empowering the world-wide community of professionals in the coffee industry. The coffee roasting competition started in 2009 but has been significantly changed this year to provide a major test of the roaster’s skills.

“I don’t want to say that I’m good at anything, I’m just trying to learn at doing stuff. I feel like that’s part of the whole want to compete against other people. If you don’t try you don’t fail. And to me, the benefit is that I am willing to fail. It doesn’t make me great or good, it makes me curious.”

“It’s a fun challenge. I feel like you don’t know what you’re getting into because we’ve never competed in this format. So it’s fun to get to do it and it’s fun to see where you’re going to stack up.” says Cuevas.

The three-day competition will evaluate the three stages of coffee roasting: green grading, roasting, and presentation.


Day 1: Grading Green Coffee

When green grading coffee, a roaster is looking at colors and scent of beans while also sifting through samples to find defects. Cuevas visited friends at Boot Coffee in San Rafael earlier this month to train with an industry friend and talk about green grading. Measuring the density and moisture also come into play, the goal is to have the beans roast evenly.

Day 2: Creating a Roast Plan

Based on green grading, each participant is expected to have an informed guess at how that coffee is going to roast. Cuevas traveled to Minneapolis in early February to train and roast with Mill City Roasters, the suppliers of the roasting machine that competitors will use.

Day 3: Presentation and Feedback

In the final stage, competitors present their roasted coffee to the audience and judges. They are expected to answer questions and explain their roasting process while accurately describing the taste, body, and mouthfeel of the coffee.

If successful, Steve will represent the US and Black Oak in the World Coffee Championships that will be taking place in Boston in April.

Steve emphasizes a significant value in being able to network within the coffee community. “The people that I’ve started seeing at these conventions have all kinda become friends. We all run the same circuit. We go to people’s coffee shops, we see them, and we follow each other on instagram, so they all kinda have their own personalities and have all become long distant friends.”

Steve has also been working with other roasters to progress with their art.

“I don’t want to say that I’m good at anything, I’m just trying to learn at doing stuff. I feel like that’s part of the whole want to compete against other people. If you don’t try you don’t fail. And to me, the benefit is that I am willing to fail. It doesn’t make me great or good, it makes me curious.”

by Black Oak Team | March 14, 2019 | 0 Comments

Tagged: roasting competitions, specialty coffee association, specialty coffee association roasting competition, steve cuevas, steve cuevas is awesome

Add a Comment