Kyle Sweetland knows his joe. The owner of RedTree Art Gallery and Coffee Shop in Oakley started out as a barista at the establishment in 2013 before taking the reigns four years ago. He recently put all of his coffee knowledge and skills to the test at the 2021 USA National AeroPress Championship in Indianapolis, where he took home bronze last month.
“It is super exciting to get an award focused on coffee preparation,” Sweetland says. “At Redtree, we focus a ton of our energy on engaging with our customers. We think we have some amazing coffee as well, but to compete and win something focused on how well we brew coffee just goes to show that we have something to offer.”
This year’s event was hosted Indianapolis’s Tinker Coffee, which also roasted all of the coffee used in the competition. Thirty-six contestants prepared their coffee concoctions using AeroPress equipment, but the dose, grind size, water, and temperature can be different. Each coffee is blind tasted and judged by a panel of judges who determine a winner. The first-place winner of this bracket-style competition will represent the United States at the World AeroPress Championship next March in Melbourne, Australia.
The fan-driven competition, which boasts competitors from more than 65 countries, has been running since 2008.
The AeroPress brewing method makes for versatile and repeatable brewing techniques—users can brew with standard, inverted, and alternative filters, and recipes can change based on how much coffee, water, and at what temperatures they use.
Sweetland, who has competed in local latte art events in the past but never competed in anything on a national scale, says he thinks his entry hit just the right notes to push him into the top three finishers.
“My recipe really brought out the juicy, fruity notes of the competition coffee,” Sweetland explains. “My secret was adding a low temperature water at the end of the brew.”