A catch up with Sierra Yeo - 2022 UK Brewers Cup Champion
The Brewers Cup is all about manual brewing. Competitors’ recipes, precision and skills are tested as they must prepare three different drinks to a panel of judges.
We recently caught up with Sierra Yeo, 2022 UK Brewers Cup Champion, to know more about her preparation for the championship, coffee of choice and brewing kit (which you can shop at the end of the article).
Tell us a bit about yourself and your story in coffee
I’m Singaporean, but have lived in the U.K. for the last 9 years!
I started on my coffee journey in a dinky little deli cafe in York, where I was doing a university degree. I wasn’t technically allowed on the machine but I pushed to be on it anyway! Fast forward 9 years and many cafes and cities later, I’m based in London, where I’m now the Coffee Specialist for Alpro/Danone U.K., advising on all things plant-based and coffee. But my heart has always been with the specialty industry, which is part of the reason I decided to compete in the Brewers Cup as opposed to the other official coffee competitions, as the focus is on the coffee and the coffee only.
How was your UK Brewers Cup Championship experience? How did you prepare?
I think knowing that I had a distinct lack of competition experience meant that I knew I had to start earlier and work harder than everyone else. It was a case of being brave and a little shameless and tapping into my network to ask for EVERYTHING - kit, sponsorship, financial support, advice, coaching, training space… It was pretty uncomfortable! But everyone was so forthcoming with support that I was blown away.
I started prepping a whole month and a bit before (reading the rules, coming up with a concept for Open service, amassing kit for Compulsory…) but was honestly lazy for a long time before really kicking into gear upon returning from emceeing at the US Brewers’ Cup in Boston this year. I got to see a sterling standard of focus and discipline in the US and knew I needed to get cracking when I got back. I trained for a full month before stepping on stage.
Compulsory training in the mornings (because I rarely spit out coffee if I need to taste it!), then Open training in the afternoons. There were days when I was so sick of drinking coffee, but my coaches advised me to practice even just pouring water into empty carafes when I got to that stage - so there I was, pouring water into V60s with no filters in, at 10pm, like a loony!
Tell us more about the coffee you have used.
The coffees I used in my blend was a 60%-40% split of the Santamaria Anaerobic Natural, and the Janson Anaerobic Washed. We chose the former for its gorgeous red and purple fruit character, and got florality and brightness from the Janson. On the final day, the rose and raspberry were unmissable! The coffee was roasted by Rose Coffee Roasters based in Zurich, Switzerland, on a Stronghold S7X. We roasted the coffee 8 days before finals day, then blended the coffees post-roast. We ground the coffee 30min prior to the moment that water touched the coffee onstage on a conical burr grinder, 8 days off roast for the finals day. My brewer of choice was the matte black metal V60 02 from Hario. The heat conductibility of the V60 meant that it was only keeping the exact temperature I needed during each pulse to ensure just the right rate of extraction, given that my kettles were set to different temps, and the conical brewer contributed to structured acidity without compromising body, given that I was was pulse-pouring into coarse-ground coffee to boost extraction.
You mentioned Hario's V60 02 matte black. Tell us why you chose this kit and what did you like about it?
I’ve always been a fan of the V60, as it’s a basic brewing method in every barista’s toolkit - but what I didn’t realise about competing was that it forced me to realise how much I didn’t know about it, and how much room I had to improve in using that brew method! It’s my go to now for coffees with beautiful acidity and sweetness.
I absolutely would not have been able to compete without the help and sponsorship of the team at Brewed By Hand, who helped me massively with not just V60s and servers but everything else I needed to train with. If you’re a new competitor and are wondering who to ask for support, hit them up as they are the loveliest people with incredible high-quality kit!
Sierra Yeo's Recipe:
We ground the coffee 30min prior to the moment that water touched the coffee onstage, on a Kinu grinder with its standard burrs (not filter), 8 days off roast for the finals day. I had trained on a Comandante before in the lead up to the competition, with an equivalent grind size of 26-28 clix, which really helped with the syrupy body, and I use either grinder depending on the mouthfeel I want on the day. The recipe I used was 20g to300m, or 1:15, across 5 pours, allowing the coffee to drawdown fully before the next pulse.
Shop Sierra Yeo's UK Brewers Cup Brewing Kit: