Stephen Houston shares what it takes to become the Irish Brewers Cup champion

Stephen Houston shares what it takes to become the Irish Brewers Cup champion
Walking on air from his win at the Irish Brewers Cup last weekend Stephen Houston was more than happy to share what it takes to win, live the dream and prepare for the world stage. 

Stephen Houston Coffee Roaster Bailies Coffee

The story behind the coffee

The variety is not indigenous to Colombia and the seeds have made their way originally from Yemen. The coffee is characterised by its journey and its unique processing. Handpicked, fermented, then wrapped in cloths for 24 hours so the beans reach high temperatures, further speeding up fermentation enhancing the sweetness and exotic fruit flavours. It is then dried for 33 days alternating sun and shade. Mr Gutierrez has dubbed this as “the honey technique for Naturals”.

The coffee (The main subject after all!)

  • Variety: Moka
  • Process: Natural
  • Farm: Finca Monte Verde – Herrera, Tolima
  • Altitude: 1800masl


  • Aromas - Pineapple juice, floral, buttery
  • Flavours - Pineapple, strawberry, blueberries, muscovado sugar
  • Acidity - Malic, green apple, ripe blueberries
  • Body/mouthfeel – Light body, Tea like yet rounded with a creamy mouthfeel
  • Balance - Sweet, juicy, rounded
Ashbeck mineral water – 80ppm 6.2pH
92°c with a flow restricted kettle (Bonavita)
Brewer & Scales
Kalita Wave glass 155 Brewer
Hario 1-cup server
Hario drip scales
12g coffee – Ground on EK43 - setting 6
210g water added
30g water > 30-second bloom
Pour up to 210g by 1:10
Let water draw through (Total contact time 1:50)
TDS - 1.25 | Ext - 20.1%

Stephen Houston Coffee Roaster Bailies Coffee IBRC

When did you begin preparing for IBrC?

Around 4 months ago since signing up in January!

What went into the preparation?

Out of hours, in the evenings and weekends mostly. I work in a very busy environment, roasting, profiling, testing and tasting amongst other things. So it was tough to get a balance. Practicing as much as I could, working on my routine and memorising the important information about the coffee.

I'm a firm believer of 'hard work pays off' and getting to win the IBrC is a testament to that, makes all those hours worth it!

How does it feel to be this year’s Irish Brewers Cup Champion?

Amazing! I still can't believe it, up against tough competition this year I was proud and humbled to be considered in the final. It was also a great result for my colleague Julia who came 3rd, shows that the coffee we source and roast is capable of being up there with the best.

Stephen Houston Coffee Roaster Bailies Coffee IBRC Brewers cup Julia McKenna

What advice would you give to anyone considering competing?

I believe anything is possible if you put your mind to it, I have always dedicated a lot of my own time into learning and research, from reading, going to other events, speaking with other baristas and pushing myself to learn as much as I can about the whole coffee process.

But a big part of it is experimentation and having fun, try different recipes, different brew methods & different coffees. It’s amazing how experimentation can have a big impact on the taste, aroma and quality of the brew.

Also read up on the rules, know where you can gain / loose points, when you compete against the best in your country all those little mistakes can add up!

Summarise your win in 3 words


What’s the next challenge for Stephen Houston?

Next is CoLab in Berlin (2nd-4th May) but I have already started on my campaign to the World Brewers Cup, organising logistics, what coffee & equipment I’m bringing and of course drilling my routine to represent Ireland and the coffee community!

Thank you to SCA Ireland & Cloud Picker Roastery that organised and hosted this event, to all of the competitors and those that came to support the coffee community!
Next stop, world finals!

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