U.S. Coffee Championships 2023 Denver Qualifiers Reach New Heights

U.S. Coffee Championships 2023 Denver Qualifiers Reach New Heights

U.S. Coffee Championships 2023 Denver Qualifiers Reach New Heights

U.S. Coffee Championships 2023 Denver Qualifiers Reach New Heights

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U.S. Coffee Championships 2023 Denver Qualifiers Reach New Heights

U.S. Coffee Championships 2023 Denver Qualifiers Reach New Heights

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U.S. Coffee Championships 2023 Denver Qualifiers Reach New Heights

The next group of coffee champions moves on to nationals at the Denver qualifiers.


Photos by Matthew Temple and courtesy of Specialty Coffee Association

The high-flying world of U.S. CoffeeChamps competitions reached new heights as coffee professionals flocked to the Denver qualifiers for the 2023 season, hosted in the magnificent Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum. The hangar’s historic planes in a wide-open hangar provided a backdrop for baristas to spread their wings and soar through their coffee craft, all while dreaming big and imagining their own flights of fancy. Now, with the results in, the coffee professionals who have earned their wings are ready to take off to the national competition at the Speciality Coffee Expo in Portland, Ore.

A roaster in a black tee shirt gives a hang ten sign while offering coffee samples. The coffee is in a metal urn, and served in small paper cups. Museum paraphernalia is just visible behind the coffee table.
Roasters, including Steve Cuevas of Black Oak Coffee, offered samples of their roasts to attendees at the competition.

Hosting a coffee competition in a museum and airplane hangar comes with its own unique set of challenges. The event was not without its hiccups—there were a few unexpected obstacles that added to the complexity of the already difficult task of hosting a high-stakes coffee competition. For example, the venue’s location was far outside of the city, making it a challenging destination for competitors and attendees alike. Additionally, the event’s festival-style pump sinks were not equipped to handle the high volume of water required for a competition of this scale, and the organizers ran out of water at many points. The slanted floors, likely designed to help clean the planes housed there, added another layer of difficulty for competitors as they navigated their way around the competition area.

A barista in the brewer's cup category pours water from a silver kettle into a pour over. He wears a gray beanie, glasses and denim shirt.
Coffee being prepared at the Brewers Cup qualifiers.

Despite these challenges, the competitors persevered, and the event proved to be a success, showcasing the incredible skill and passion of coffee professionals who are pushing the limits of what is possible in the specialty-coffee industry.


The Denver qualifiers for the national United States Coffee Championships saw an influx of first-time competitors. Many of them were given the opportunity to compete thanks to the support of Glitter Cat, an organization that provides resources and support to coffee professionals on the margins. Glitter Cat’s mission to create more inclusive and equitable spaces in the coffee industry was on full display. Many of the competitors who took the stage for the first time expressed how they were able to pursue their dreams with the organization’s help.

A barista in bright colors pours a coffee mixture from a blender into a glass server, while discusiing the story behind the drink.
Barista competitors brought their personal stories along with their skills and signature drinks.

Diversity and Accessibility

One standout moment came in the form of Barista competitor Cajal Rutti, founder of Steam Valve Espresso, who is deaf and took part using American Sign Language (ASL). With the help of the coffee community, this competitor was able to secure funding for their expenses, an interpreter, and more, proving that the power of community and support can open up new opportunities and make the world of coffee more accessible for all. Inspiring stories like this one highlight the importance of inclusivity and support within the coffee industry, and show that with the right tools and resources, anyone can achieve their dreams.

A barista competitor wears a pink floral apron and shakes a cocktail shaker with ingredients for her beverage. The coffee set up includes matching pink flowers, info cards and clear water glasses.
Each setup brought out the personality and expertise of competitors.


On Saturday night, attendees gathered for an after-party hosted by Sweet Bloom Coffee Roasters, La Marzocco, and Minor Figures at Great Divide Brewing in Denver. Alix Walper of Minor Figures shares, “There was dancing, playing cards, drinking IPAs, and throwing back slices of pizza all night. You could feel the precious nature of it all. The years of not being able to gather quite like this have taken their toll. You could feel the appreciation for being together.”

Miguel Vicuna of Sweet Bloom shared that they hosted one of their first coffee events with Great Divide brewing many years ago, before the brand grew. They shared their excitement to grow alongside the beer community and celebrate each others’ wins. Attendees danced the night away alongside local beer, pizza, and a live DJ.

Here are the competitors moving on from the qualifiers to nationals in Portland at the Speciality Coffee Expo:

Winners at the Denver Qualifiers


  1. Seidy Selivanow | Kafiex Roasters | Vancouver, Wash.
  2. Isaiah Sheese | Archetype Coffee | Omaha, Neb.
  3. Anthony Ragler | Black & White Coffee | Zebulon, N.C.
  4. Jenna Gotthelf | Counter Culture Coffee | New York
  5. Nora Brady | Blueprint Coffee | St. Louis
  6. Gray Kauffman | Caffe Vita | Seattle
  7. Becky Reeves | Creature Coffee Co | Austin, Texas
  8. Kay Cheon | Dune Coffee | Santa Barbara, Calif.
  9. Frank La | Be Bright Coffee | Los Angeles
  10. Veronica Pearl | Futura Coffee Roasters | Los Angeles
  11. Maja Balabanova | Novo Coffee | Denver
  12. Reyna Callejo | Olympia Coffee Roasting | Seattle
  13. Reef Bessette | The Coffee Movement | San Francisco
  14. Phillip White-Jackson | Little Lunch Coffee | Los Angeles
  15. Adrian Gomez | Independent | Chula Vista, Calif.
  16. Heather McCullough | Novo Coffee | Denver
  17. Jason Yeo | Saint Frank Coffee | San Francisco
  18. Keziah Hjellen | Narrative Coffee | Everett, Wash.


  1. Korachai Silpavitanku | Amberson Coffee | Indianapolis
  2. Danesha Toro | Greater Goods Roasting | Austin, Texas
  3. Jesus Iniquez | Archetype Coffee | Omaha, Neb.
  4. Heather McCullough | Novo Coffee | Denver
  5. Wenbo Yang | Independent | Vancouver, Wash.
  6. Yudi G. | Fellow | Los Angeles
  7. Marissa Childers | Tanbrown Coffee | Atlanta
  8. Hugo Cano | Amberson Coffee | Indianapolis
  9. Eduardo Padilla | Pair Cupworks | Mesa, Ariz.
  10. Daniel Teplitz | Klatch Coffee | Los Angeles
  11. Will Johnson | Messenger Coffee | Kansas City, Mo.
  12. Justin Bull | Helm Coffee Roasters | Indianapolis


  1. Thomas Chandler | Black Oak Coffee | Ukiah, Calif.
  2. Sebastián Legner | Coda Coffee | Denver
  3. Mehmet Sogan | Memli Coffee | San Diego
  4. Jake Donaghy | Olympia Coffee Roasting | Olympia, Wash.
  5. Ryan Jie Jiang | Less & More Coffee | Beaverton, Ore.
  6. Steve Cuevas | Black Oak Coffee | Ukiah, Calif.
  7. Andy Sprenger | Sweet Bloom Coffee Roasters | Lakewood, Colo.
  8. Kimhak Em | Pair Cupworks | Tempe, Ariz.
  9. Reuben Villagomez | Paloma Craft Coffee | Brooklyn, N.Y.
  10. Rooney | Luce Coffee Roasters | Houston
  11. Rachel Stanich | Red Fox Coffee Merchants | Porta Costa, Calif.
  12. Genifer Ness | BRC Inc | Manchester, Tenn.
  13. Jasmine Rangel Rodriguez | Stereoscope Coffee | Arcadia, Calif.
  14. Aaron Rollins | Caffe Ibis | Logan, Utah
  15. Andrew Shelley | Brio Coffeeworks | Burlington, Vt.


  1. Garrett VanWambeke | Independent | Atlanta
  2. Natasha Solowoniuk | Caffe Vita | Seattle
  3. Edwin Gorritz | Barista Squared | Orlando, Fla.
  4. Linea True | Boxcar Coffee Roasters | Arvada, Colo.
  5. Kyle Hamlin | Jubala Coffee | Raleigh, N.C.
  6. Kebechet Moxen | Independent | Boston


  1. Wenbo Yang | Artly Coffee | Portland, Ore.
  2. Truc Ngo | IO Coffea | Los Angeles
  3. Piyapat Lapteerawaut | Coffee Project NY | New York
  4. Kayla Herrera | Iconik Coffee Roasters | Santa Fe, N.M.
  5. Benjamin Parham | Independent | Denver
  6. Patrick Gibbs | Luce Coffee Roasters | Houston


  1. Kiara Freysinger | Huckleberry Roasters | Denver
  2. Kimhak Em | Pair Cupworks | Mesa, Ariz.
  3. Steve Cuevas | Black Oak Coffee | Ukiah, Calif.
  4. Matthew Selivanow | Kafiex Roasters | Vancouver, Wash.
  5. Andrew Coe | Elevator Coffee | Portland, Ore.
  6. Alex Huang | Aroma Craft | Walnut City, Calif.
  7. Mark Kove | White Nene Coffee Roasters | Kona, Hawaii
  8. Sam Larobardier | Theory Coffee Roasters | Redding, Calif.


Kate Van Petten (they/them) is a writer, musician, and coffee professional based in Seattle. They have worked in the specialty-coffee industry for years with a focus on creative storytelling through marketing. You can find their songs and poems in Coffee People Zine and you can listen to their debut audiobook, For Someone, on cassette tape or online via Hello America Stereo Cassette. They are currently an editor and publicist for Poetry Northwest, the Pacific Northwest’s longest-running literary journal. If you want to share a story or connect, you can reach them at katevanpetten@gmail.com or find them at katevanpetten.com.

The post U.S. Coffee Championships 2023 Denver Qualifiers Reach New Heights appeared first on Barista Magazine Online.

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