The AeroPress was first invented in the early 2000s and has since become a fixture in every coffee enthusiasts' home setup. It's portable and lightweight which makes it very easy to travel with but more importantly, it allows you to have full control over the brewing variables. The perfect device for experimentation.
Its popularity has risen so much that it's now recognised on the global coffee competition scene with events taking place across the world. Last year in November, our very own Ryohji Hope won the 2021 UK AeroPress Championship in Sheffield. we caught up with him recently to talk all things AeroPress ahead of his debut at the World Championships in March.
Hi Ryohji, before we start, tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a Barista Trainer at Origin and I’m also a coffee geek… I’ve only ever worked in the coffee industry and I love it so much because its never boring. There’s always something new or something that you can learn about! I do also Breakdance in my free time, competing in that half too. Perhaps that says a lot about me!
How did you first get into coffee?
I once saw a barista in a café pour a swan in a cup and I just wanted to do that really! I used to absolutely hate coffee… and then I was lucky enough to have been offered a barista position at my local bakery called The Almond Thief, who also used Origin at the time. Here I realised how deep coffee goes. I fell in love with the art, the science and the dedication behind brewing a cup of coffee!
What do you value about the UK coffee community?
I love how everyone is your friend. Even those that you’ve met once at a coffee festival or a brief encounter at a competition, everyone is so friendly that you instantly feel that you belong. Also, everyone loves sharing coffee! If they taste something good they’re excited to share that with you. I also feel very supported in it, I feel that no one is out to get you, even if you’re competing in a championship you still cheer each other on because everyone wants everyone to do well.
Last year you won the UK AeroPress Championship, how did it feel?
INSANE… I wasn’t expecting it so it was a roller coaster of emotions! I was first surprised and then excited and then I wanted to cry and then I was excited again. Yeah it was such an awesome moment I will never forget that day. Having your name called out for the first place, it doesn’t happen very often!
For those who don’t know, could you summarise the competition format?
Sure. So everyone gets a retail bag of a competition coffee a couple of weeks before the competition day. And you’re only allowed (obviously) an AeroPress to brew the competition coffee. You’re very limited in how many times you can brew that coffee because you only have 200g to dial in which adds to that stressful but a fun process! My recipe used 18g so only got about 10 attempts. On the day, you have mini heats building up to the final. This year it was done slightly differently. Usually there are 3 people per heat and from the heat goes through to the semi-final and then the final. This year they had 6 people per heat and then the top 6 straight to the final. The judges taste the coffees blind and pick the best tasting one out of the selection!
What do you like about the AeroPress?
I love the AeroPress because you can isolate every single variable. So it’s a great tool if you’re into exploring the mechanics of brewing coffee. But it can also be super simple to use as well because you’re in full control of the way it works and there are so many recipes or guides on how to use it. It is also super portable! I LOVE THAT. I take it with me every time I go away.
What was the reason you used the inverted AeroPress method vs the traditional with your winning recipe?
Inverted method allows me to steep all the water with the ground coffee for the entire time where as with the traditional method some water passes though before you place the plunger into the brewer. And normally if I was brewing at home I’d say a little bit of water seeping through won’t affect the coffee too much but in a competition scenario I think consistency is really important and the inverted method provided that for me.
The World AeroPress Championship is scheduled to be in Melbourne on March 5, has COVID affected your preparation and travel plans?
Urgh, unfortunately yes… so this year the World championship is done remotely. So, no one who won their country’s championship gets to actually go to Melbourne. We all get sent the competition coffee with some Third Wave water sachets and we have to make and send the recipe for both water and your coffee. This then is passed onto a surrogate barista who brews it for you in Melbourne instead… I feel really gutted about this because a) I’ve been wanting to go to Australia for a V long time and b) I really wanted to stand on that stage representing England for the world.
Follow Ryohji's progress on Instagram - here