In September 2021, in-person coffee events were finally welcomed back into our calendars and with that came the joy of welcoming back to Belfast the NI AeroPress Championships hosted in Black Box.
Over 40 competitors had signed up to battle it out on a Sunday evening to see one Champion crowned as the victor of the humble but brilliant brewing invention. Hours and many coffees went by the judges table manned by, Sarah Hannaway Bailies Coffee AST, Phillipa Jordan (formerly) Root & Branch, and Hannah Whitton of Crafthouse Coffee.
Heats were performed with the winners of these moving onto the quarters, semi-finals and eventually the finals. A fun twist in the AeroPress Championships is that in the quarter and semi-final rounds, any competitor has the opportunity to get back into the competition with a second chance at reaching the finals and even winning by being selected as a ‘wildcard’ pick. One such wildcard entrant in 2021 was, Alice Parsons. Alice entered her first coffee competition, just, “for a bit of fun”.
Alice won, being crowned NI’s first female winner of the AeroPress Championships. Her journey didn’t stop there, with the wheels set in motion for Alice to compete next on an even bigger stage at the World Aeropress Championships in Australia. Before the WAC finals on the 5th March 2022, we chatted with Alice about how it felt to win the NI competition and then be placed into an even bigger competition against competitors from across the World, and the difficulties of competing from the other side of the World.
How many competitions had you entered before the NI AeroPress Championships in 2021, or was this your first and if so, what was your motivation, aim or goal behind entering?
The NI AeroPress Championship was my first ever competition. I only entered for a bit of fun - and I was heavily persuaded by Andy, one of the other engineers here at Bailies, but never in a million years did I expect to win!
How long have you been in the coffee industry?
I have been in the coffee industry for maybe 4 or 5 years. I started off working in a coffee shop called the Gallery in Belfast as a waitress, and this was my first experience of speciality coffee. I then managed to get a job in General Merchants where I was able to make coffee every day and I began to realise how much there is to learn in the world of speciality coffee. I applied and started with Bailies about 3 years ago as an Apprentice Engineer.
What’s your favourite brewing method?
My favourite brew method probably is the AeroPress simply because it is so versatile. I can make a coffee for 2, I can make a coffee in less than 2 minutes or I can make something super tasty and complex. Inverted, regular set up, stir or don’t stir, bypass… the possibilities are endless!
What’s the one piece of coffee equipment that you absolutely must have when brewing at home?
My one piece of coffee equipment I absolutely need to have at home is my Peak water jug! I only got one a few months ago but now I couldn’t be without it. A coffee is 98% water so it’s great to be able to start with great basics.
How have the last months been in the lead up to the World Championships?
The last few months in the lead up to the AeroPress Championships have been so exciting. Things were much different to usual as the competition was online instead of in real life and we had to submit our recipes and then have a surrogate brewer brew them for us. For me this was a bit more difficult because I had to think about every little thing I would do and how to translate that into exact instructions for somebody else to follow. I would have loved to have been able to go to Australia and represent Northern Ireland but honestly I was so over the moon to have actually won and be in the world finals at all that I didn’t mind!
Would you enter more competitions after this, and would there be any that you would like to venture into outside of AeroPress?
I would definitely enter the AeroPress Championship again. It was such a fun and chilled competition and I’d love to see what it would be like outside of coronavirus rules. I would love to try out Brewers Cup or the Barista Championships too but I know they require a lot more training and preparation!
What prep have you gone through for the World Championships that you wouldn’t have even thought of doing for the previous competition?
When prepping for the World Championships I ended up going really deep into water composition. We were allowed to use third wave water classic or espresso blend, distilled water or a mix. My natural thought would have been to use 100% classic blend as that’s the recommended blend for filter coffee. However, upon trying them out I really enjoyed the brews I was making with the espresso blend too. I ended up using 75% classic blend and 25% distilled water because I loved the juicy body it was giving me. I also learnt a lot about what effect changing different variables had to the body, the acidity and sweetness which was really interesting.
What advice would you give any baristas, people within the coffee community or coffee enthusiasts who are thinking with perhaps entering a competition?
My advice to anybody thinking about entering a competition is just do it! As a naturally very nervous person, AeroPress is definitely a good first step into competitions because of its casual nature. No fancy presentation to make, no TDSing of the coffee, all that matters is if it tastes good!
Lastly, can you share your winning recipe with us?
13g coffee at 33 clicks on Commandante grinder
2 rinsed filter papers
180g 100% classic third wave water at 90 degrees
Inverted AeroPress Recipe:
Add coffee to AeroPress and shake to even out the bed
Start the timer and bloom with 35g of water, stir 5 times gently at 30 seconds pour to 180g and stir 5 times again
Press out the extra air and add the cap
At 1 minute 30 seconds flip and slow press for a minute - the yield should be 160g
Serve and enjoy!