90’s tunes blared through speakers, conversation flowed, and coffees were being brewed at the Irish Aeropress Championships, held in Loam in Galway on Sunday.
It was the first time the event had been held in Galway.
Twenty-seven competitors battled it out for the honour of winning the title of Irish Aeropress Champion 2022 and representing the green at the World Aeropress Championships in Vancouver this December.
In the end, the honour went to Meath man Rowan Markey with William Cavalcante from Mister Magpie Coffee Shop in Dublin as the runner-up and Ciara Barnes from SomeDose Coffee Company in Cork taking third place.
2019 World Aeropress Champion Wendelien Van Bunnik from The Netherlands MC’d the event, with Stephen Houston (former Irish Aeropress Champion), Jess O’Connor (Calendar Coffee) and Rob Dunne (Oatly) on the judging panel.
There was also a panel with former Aeropress champions and two coffee “cupping” tasting sessions hosted by Calendar Coffee at Top Shelf Coffee Bar on the day.
The event was put together by Galway Coffee Connect, a network of coffee shops and a roastery around Galway City and county.
Barista Bus, Coffeewerk and Press, Kali Coffee Bar, Little Lane Coffee Company, Plámás, Ré, Tree Bark Store, Top Shelf, and Urban Grind make up the network, alongside Calendar Coffee, which made the competitors’ official blend.
Event sponsors also included Oatly, Galway Bay Brewery, Hazel Mountain Chocolate, Brewed by Hand, City Bin and Down2Earth Materials.
Excitement and nerves were building among Coffee Connect well before the event was held on Sunday. But how did the network come to be in the first place?
Bringing people together over coffee
“There was a bunch of us who had been meeting up, and that’s when we started chatting about doing events and wanting to expand our community,” said Lana Gormley, a barista at Kali Coffee Bar and Coffee Connect’s Competition Manager.
“The idea to bring everybody together and introduce more of our customer base and Galway to speciality coffee.”
Graham Murray, co-owner of Little Lane Coffee Company and Coffee Connect’s Treasurer, also pointed out how interconnected the Galway coffee community is, pointing out that at one stage or another, they’ve all been regulars at or worked at other coffee shops in Galway.
“It’s very easy to chat with people here, and everyone seems to know each other in the coffee community,” he said.
Enda Johnston, co-owner of Kali Coffee Bar and a technical judge for the competition, added originally, the plan had been to hold a mini coffee festival as the network’s first event.
“It just so happened that we knew that the world championship would be happening in December”, Enda explained. “The championship has never been to Galway before, Ireland hasn’t gone in a few years, and so we thought it would be cool to bring everyone to Galway.”
A funky coffee party
Indeed, all eyes in the Irish coffee community turned to Galway, with big roasteries like Bell Lane and Badger and Dodo registering to attend.
“You see those names coming in, and then you kind of feel the pressure, which is terrifying but great in itself,” said Graham.
Even the event’s MC, Wendelien, felt at home in Galway, having spent a semester studying at the University of Galway. “I feel this event is a combination of both Irish and Aeropress cultures. Irish people know how to throw a party, and that’s exactly what Aeropress is about,” she said.
Enda noted that the Aeropress Championships are known for having “this cool, funky and casual atmosphere.”
An official coffee cup was even designed by a barista at Little Lane, Adam Thibodeau. It was distributed in coffee shops up to the big day. “I wanted something eye-catching and fun,” Adam said of the design.
“I hoped people would feel a sense of joy and inclusivity while enjoying their coffee. I added various icons to represent the various coffee shops that helped put it [the event] together,” added Adam.
Under Pressure with Aeropress
So what exactly is an Aeropress? It is a compact coffee maker in which hot water is poured upon coffee granules. This is done before an airtight plunger is put on top and pressed for fifteen to twenty seconds.
Competitors had three minutes to prepare before brewing with the Aeropress in five minutes. As a technical judge, Enda ensured that no more than 18g of coffee was prepared and at least 150g of brewed coffee was presented to the judges.
In the end, Rowan Mackey was crowned victorious and was “overwhelmed” by the win. “I don’t know what to say; I wasn’t expecting to win at all”, he admitted. “Hopefully, I represent Ireland in Canada well and do a good job.”
So what next for Coffee Connect?
More coffee-related events annually, for a start. A roastery village and a Galway coffee festival are in the cards. They are also hoping to help other coffee shops hold their events are all future ideas on the table.
“The coffee industry in Ireland is catapulting, especially after Covid,” Lana says. “People want to connect, and we can see it in our shops. Everybody can. So that’s our focus for the years to come.”