What’s going on with UK Brewers Cup Finalist – Jo Lopez?
The Brewers Cup tests the manual brewing and service skills of baristas. Those up to the challenge prepare and present three individual drinks to a panel of judges. Hario was grateful for the opportunity to sponsor champion baristas with coffee equipment that helped them compete at their best.
We just got the chance to catch up with Finalist, Jo Lopez. While representing Intermission Coffee at the competition, Jo also advocated for baristas starting their coffee careers, most likely without access to expensive equipment and ample training time. He often uses his social platforms to argue against the assumptions made about what it takes to properly compete and succeed in the coffee industry. During our catch-up, we learned about Jo’s career in coffee and go-to competition kit (stick around to shop at the end of the article).
Tell us about your career and story in coffee.
My career in coffee started in the UK and it didn’t start good. It started in a restaurant and my one and only training was with a magazine explaining which beans and equipment were the best, simply because we used it. We made two cappuccinos, they explained how latte art works, and then said, “Okay help me fix the ice machine”. It was about 20 minutes of training to 2 hours of fixing an ice machine. That was my only training there, and I was interested in coffee because I was a Chef before.
I joined Intermission almost a year ago, and they went “We believe in you. You can have anything you want as long as you prove that you’re actually working for it”, and so far, that’s been true. If I wanted to do shifts in the roastery to learn how to roast, they’ve given it to me. If I wanted to do events, they’ve allowed me. My own boss drove me to Sheffield and paid for my hotel room. I like to think of Intermission as a coffee shop for people who don’t like coffee because we engage with people who are local, people who went from buying the specialty coffee pods, and to people coming and getting a full kit. People are actually bringing me beans now!
What is in your competition kit for the Brewers Cup?
The piece of kit that makes the biggest difference in practicing and then come competition is the grinder. My whole routine in the Brewer’s was “this can be cheap”, and then add the coffee and the brewers and then the water. My water is Volvic. That’s what I used, and I thought it was amazing. If you like more sweet brews, get Volvic.
I chose to use the Hario Mugen because there is no channeling. Whatever water you put in the brewer will go through the coffee and nowhere else. For me to get a recipe that is very coarse grind, you don’t get any clogging with a coarse grind, the coffee will go straight through it. So, if you get a good pouring technique, you can do an even pour. I pour from the outside in because if you pour from the center, coffee will dig a hole, and if you pour around, coffee will carry to the middle. So, naturally you’ll need to pour a spiral till you get to the center. That’s a technique I use, but I’ve done many different techniques on the Mugen.
The three things you should spend money on: scales, a kettle, and a grinder. I prefer a plastic Mugen because they keep temperature better and they won’t break. They last forever. I used a Comandante Grinder for the recipes.
We get asked questions like, “Why should I pay 200 quid for a Comandante Grinder?” or “Why should I pay 300 for a scale?”. Obviously, we need to be able to tell because we’re not going to say “Oh, it’s just better”. Wendelin van Bunnik was saying coffee recipes are stupid because obviously two people are not going to use the exact same things to make a cup of coffee: water will be different, coffee grinder will be different, or the coffee itself. Nat Denham and I did a livestream and used exactly the same things to do a coffee and it still didn’t taste right. We were using the same grinder, same settings for the grinder, because that’s the beauty of the Comandante Grinder everyone can use the same grind size, and the only same thing we weren’t using was the water.
We are proving you need to understand that it’s not the price that you pay, and obviously recipes are silly, but you are paying for consistency and quality. Comandante is a lifetime brand. You’re probably not going to upgrade from that, you might need to change the burrs, but when you buy a Comandante Grinder then you buy quality. That’s what people who compete have.