The buzz in the room, a mix of over-caffeinated observers and excited competitors, was impossible to ignore. The third annual Great Lakes Coffee Showcase was a hit! With talented roasters, baristas, and coffee-lovers from all over the Midwest, and an incredible space—the Wilson Abbey in Chicago—how could it not be? The Wilson Abbey is an event space fostering community, music, and the arts. It is a space with Everybody’s Coffee at its forefront: ethical coffee practices and community are our beating heart. Our hope is this event portrayed this. Bringing in over $200 for the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, it wasn’t just about coffee and community, it was also about pursuing ethical practices and social justice through coffee love.  

We began with open doors and a welcoming team of volunteers, educating each curious individual about the featured roasters and competitions. Three roasters at a time were set up at booths brewing coffee, espresso, and even specialty drinks like cortados and cappuccinos. No one could resist visiting all three booths, and learning about each coffee they tasted. There were refreshments provided at a small booth in the corner, because as coffee-drinkers know, it’s important to have something in your stomach when consuming more than one cup of espresso! On the opposite wall was a photo booth—an Everybody’s Coffee backdrop and photo-ready lighting.    

Despite all of this, the star of the room was Rancilio’s booth. The red letters glittered under the ambient lighting, and greenery covered the faux-wall backdrop. It was obvious there was something special here, and indeed, Rancilio’s new machine, The Specialty, gleamed under a spotlight. This was the first time the Midwest had a chance to glimpse this beauty, a perfect collaboration between Momo Designs and Rancilio technology.

Very soon, the Brew Fight was underway! As more observers flooded in to watch the competitors, Harris Nash, our emcee, was energetic and knowledgeable, keeping even those unfamiliar with specialty coffee in the loop. There was some seating for the crowd, but plenty of room to adventure about, tasting coffees as the competitors brewed and judges observed onstage. Some observers pointed out that they enjoyed watching each competitor pick through piles of coffee beans, finding the most identical beans to brew into the most even extraction. It seemed a perfect way the general public was able to learn this new-to-them science behind the coffee they were enjoying. There were four rounds throughout the early afternoon. After these nail-biting rounds, the winner was announced: Dominic Rodriguez, from Ipsento Coffee, held his trophy high!

As new roasters set up their booths to showcase more coffee, the next competition was beginning on the Rancilio Specialty machine. This was the latte art throw-down, hosted by Chicago’s own New Gotham Coffee Community. Baristas pouring latte art were judged by specific criteria: complexity of design, execution, contrast, etc. A go-pro camera was set up to view the artists’ designs as the judges pointed to each rounds’ winner and the ever-growing crowd was able to watch from a large screen. After tulips, rosettas, hearts, and even a swan, the winner was finally announced—Michael Kraft! The full eight-hour day of coffee showcasing came to a close.

After another successful year, fostering coffee knowledge and ethics while strengthening the community of coffee professionals and consumers in the Great Lakes Region, we have many to thank. First, we owe a huge thanks to our incredible sponsors: Rancilio, Bunn, Baratza, Espresso Supply/BonaVita, Oatly, Acaia, Pilcrow, Ruby, Counter Culture, and Madcap! This event would not have happened without you. Second, we owe a big thanks to this years’ featured roasters: Metric, Pilcrow, Groundswell, Big Shoulders, Little Foot, Four Letter Word, Halfwit, Ipsento, Passion House, Madcap, and Ruby! We enjoy your coffee, staff, and each of your commitments to quality and ethical practices. Third, we thank all of our wonderful volunteers—including our emcee, staff, and judges for each competition. And finally, we owe the biggest thanks to the reason this event took place three years’ running: our dear friend Andrew Bettis. Not only did he develop the Third Coast Brew Fight and is a founding member of the Great Lakes Coffee Showcase, but he also was one of the driving forces in making each part happen. We are grateful for his talent in engaging, his love for coffee, and his drive to build a stronger community through specialty coffee.

Congratulations to all our winners! Brew fight: 1st. Dominic Rodriguez, 2nd. Kyle Shepley, 3rd. Adam Snow. Latte Art Throwdown: 1st. Michael Kraft, 2nd. Kristin Smith, 3rd. Tyrone Banks.

Hope to see you all again next year!