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Barista Battles

May 26, 2017

Judging ain’t easy but it’s necessary.

Last night, it was a thrill to have a front row seat at the judges table for Stacks’ Thursday Night Throwdown. It brought baristas out from all of my favorite regional coffee shops: Superior Merchandise Company, little pecks, kru coffee, 3 Fish, and of course Stacks.

The contest was broken into four rounds. Round one was in large, forgiving 12 ounce cups. Round two got a little tighter with the move to 8 ounce cups. The semi-finals were in 4.5 ounce gibraltar glasses. And in the finals, each barista had to shimmy their way into an espresso cup to make a beautiful macchiato.

Nine Pin Cider was the cider sponsor. Tall Ass Matt was spinning tunes. Barista magazine had schwag. Coffee was given away. There was a dance off. And the place was packed.

Judging was based on contrast, composition, and degree of difficulty. The other judges last night were local food personality, cooking instructor, and freelance journalist Deanna Fox; and Hudson Valley BBQ owner Brandon Snooks.

If I were a real journalist, I would have gotten the correct spelling of the baristas’ names. But the competition was fast and furious. What I did get were some pictures, so I could share with you all how it went down.

Emma from 3 Fish won the first showdown of round one. It came fast and furious, so I can’t say who she beat. But her sister Abby also won her battle against Andrew, and her latte is in the foreground below.

Katryn from little pecks won the next showdown against Grace.

This was the first of many hard calls of the night, because it was a battle of giants. Ryan from kru verus Hernan from Stacks. Both were gorgeous, but Ryan took it by a nose.

The battle between Andrew and Grace was also challenging to judge. In the end Andrew, who has competed in the past but never made it past the first round, came away with the victory.

Next up was Marley against Matthew from Superior Merchandise Co. Matthew who more carefully positioned his artwork came out on top.

As judges we were mostly unanimous when it came to picking the winner. In the case of Alisha versus Patrick we were split. I voted for Alisha, but Patrick from Stacks took the win with the other two judges choosing in favor of his drink.

The final battle of round one was Sara versus Kayla. And Kayla took the victory. I’m pretty sure her drink was on the right.

Round Two

The first showdown was a battle between two sisters. Abby and Emma of 3 Fish. Again, this round gets harder, not just because the competition is steeper, but because the cups get smaller. Last night, it was Abby who came out on top

If there was any controversy with the judging, it was with the showdown between Katryn and Ryan. Katryn went for a difficult and daring pour which by design is asymmetrical. But even though I took both of those into account, I still gave my vote to Ryan’s nearly perfect tulip.

Matthew from Superior Merchandise Co. beat Andrew in their second round match up. Andrew drank his coffee before I had the chance to take a picture of it. But Matthew handily took that round. Below are the drinks presented by Kayla and Patrick of Stacks. Patrick’s drink on the right took the win, and he moved on to the semis.

The Semi Finals: Cortado Battle

First showdown was Abby of 3 Fish against Ryan of kru. It’s the upstart versus the veteran. Ryan, you may remember, is the fellow who opened Caffe Vero on Lark Street. But enough history, let’s talk about the drinks. Abby, to her credit, went for something difficult in the small cup. Ryan played it safe with a simple heart. But in the end, it comes down to execution and Ryan was the one moving into the finals.

Then it was Patrick of Stacks against Matthew of Superior Merchandise Co. Both of them went for something difficult. Both of them were able to make it work. But Patrick’s came out with cleaner lines and deeper contrasts.


Two men enter, one man leaves. You didn’t need judges for this round. It’s a near impossible task. And honestly, I don’t even know how Ryan was able to execute this clean little design in a cup so tiny.

So Ryan from kru walked away with a sweet scale, a wad of cash, and I think a subscription to Barista magazine. Congratulations to him! But Patrick from Stacks, has revealed himself to be a tremendous talent. And frankly, looking up at the results above, there are a lot of talented baristas in the Capital Region. More than we’ve ever had. More than I ever imagined.

And as competitions like this continue to happen, that talent pool is just going to grow and expand. And that’s a beautiful thing for all the coffee loving people of the area.

Thanks to everyone who helped to make this happen. It was an honor and a privilege to be able to participate.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 3, 2017 12:08 pm

    I hear that Abby is soon moving out of state. Very sad. I hope others get to see her talents!

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