Here we are, we’ve made it. Sunday, April 23rd, the Finals for the 2023 US Barista Championship. Today marks the culmination of eight months worth of work, these six coffee professionals honing their craft all season long hoping to be right where they are right this very moment. And now we’re here.
Over the course of the two days prior, 35 competitors took the stage in Round One and the Semi-Finals, each day narrowing the field just a little bit more. From 35 to 18 and now six. We’ve come to expect a high-level of execution at this stage of competition, but even still, this year’s field completely blew past even our most lofty of expectations. We’ve seen so many memorable routines this year, but there are still a few more to go.
Half the field took the scenic route to get here, having competed in Round One on their way to the Semi-Finals and now the Finals. Will that extra run through give them the upper hand? Or is smart money on the other three Finalists, who earned a bye directly to the Semi-Finals by placing at one of the Qualifying Events?
We’ll have that answer in just a few short hours, but in the meantime, follow along with us as we bring you live and updating blow-by-blow accounts of the six Finalists routines here at the 2023 US Barista Championship.
Morgan Eckroth (she/they), Onyx Coffee Lab, Portland, OR
May as well start off the US Barista Championship Finals with a bang, with none other than the current champion, Morgan Eckroth. Eckroth is looking to be the first back-to-back USBC champion since Michael Phillips in 2009-10, who went on to win Worlds on his second attempt, if we are looking at precedent.
The theme for Eckroth’s performance today is relationship, particularly those built between the barista and the customer. “In this relationship that you and I have, it doesn’t start with names. It crescendos to them,” she tells the judges, after having them write their names on cards provided.
For their first course, Eckroth has opted to kick things off with the signature beverage. It’s a deeply layered and complex drink, made my combining clarified whole milk, tart green apple juice, kiwi-infused caramel, and chilled espresso, all combined via CO2 infusion and finished with a flamed grapefruit peel. Flavors include orange sherbet, cream soda, dark chocolate, and yuzu. It’s a significantly different style of sig bev from Eckroth’s winning drink last year, where she wanted to make a drink the millions of @morgandrinkscoffee fans following along could make at home.
Moving onto the milk beverage, Eckroth has dropped a few hints about their espresso—it has undergone a 100+ hour natural carbonic maceration and it was roasted to a 375 degree drop temp in nine-plus minutes—but the whole truth has yet to be revealed. Combined with freeze-distilled milk, it has flavors of yellow cake batter, chocolate soft serve, and white chocolate, with almond undertones and a warm powdered cocoa finish.
At long last, Eckroth reveals the mystery espresso. It’s a Gesha variety from the Chiriquí region of Panama called the Valley of Flowers and Eternal Spring, from the esteemed producer Jameson Savage. Pulled in a ratio of 18.5g in to 40g out in a total of 25 seconds, Eckroth’s Gesha has flavors of strawberry, bright cherry, grapefruit, panela, and cacao nib.
It’s yet another clinical routine from Eckroth. The script was well-paced and purposefully delivered, full of the quiet command and stage presence that are hallmarks of Eckroth’s routines. It’s a champion-caliber performance, and we’re only getting started.
All photos by Liz Chai