Barista Interview: Carolina Ibarra, 2018 World Aeropress Champion

Carolina Ibarra Of all of the varied coffee competitions in the world, there’s little question which one is the most fun: the World Aeropress Championship. The Aeropress enjoys a cult-like following around the globe, and the WAC, which puts baristas head-to-head-to-head in a bracket-style tournament, does an amazing job of showcasing both the versatility of the device and the creativity of coffee professionals from around the globe. 

Barista Carolina Ibarra of the United States won the 2018 WAC in Sydney, Australia. Originally from Colombia, Ibarra started working in specialty coffee after immigrating to Los Angeles. We asked Ibarra to share her recipe and what it was like when she was crowned champion. 

First of all, congratulations on winning the World Aeropress Championship! What was it like when you heard them call your name?

The feelings when you are up there waiting for your name to hopefully be called are crazy intense. Michelle Johnson, the MC, was holding both mine and Clay’s hand, one of us was going to be the first place.  I thought they would call second place first, then I heard Marcus saying ‘Okay, we will call the champion first’, then they did the 3, 2, 1 count and my arm was raised while the name of the United States was being called. It all happened so fast, I jumped, cried and laugh, I was overwhelmed with all the emotion that I could not contain the tear coming out of my eyes… I looked at the crowd and my boyfriend’s face was there holding his phone taking a video and at the same time screaming. I saw the faces a tons of people and everybody was screaming my name and taking photos of me. It’s was one of the most amazing moments of my life, I was a ball of nerves during the entire competition so to be at this moment, taking first place felt like a dream to me.

Compared to other coffee competitions, the Aeropress championship is famous for its party-like vibe. What was the energy like at the competition?

It’s true, the Aeropress championship has its own unique personality, we all get to be ourselves and even though I believe we are all pretty nervous, the vibe of the event and the coordinators are constantly cheering for you and making you feel special. For me as a competitor, since I was in all the rounds, it didn’t felt like a party! I didn’t get to be where the public is and didn’t get to be at the brewing bar. I was pretty much upstairs the entire event listening to Queen on my phone trying to relax and stay focused. The party was after but I was so exhausted for all the feelings and emotions that I just wanted to rest.

How did you approach your recipe? Do you mind sharing it with us?

I used the same recipe that helped me win the US competition. Since we didn’t have beans to practice I knew that I will had to do changes to my recipe when at the practice rounds. After cupping I knew exactly what I had to do to bring up the best of the competition coffee. Kenyan coffees are usually very fruity with high acidity so I knew that I had to find a perfect balance between that acidity and a creamy syrupy after taste. I used a high dose, very similar to the 2016 World Champion. 34.9 grams of coffee, medium-fine grind, 100 grams of 84 Celsius degrees, yield water total 100 gram, 50 grams of those at room temperature, final volume around 190gr at 68 Celsius degrees. The room temperature water was crucial for my recipe, I knew that I had to present the coffee to the judges ready to drink, to a temperature that will allow them to taste the best of that coffee.

Carolina Ibarra Aeropress

You simultaneously are representing multiple communities that have been notoriously under-represented at coffee competitions– women, Latinas, immigrants. Does your win feel more significant because of that?

It does! It’s basically everything. The current politics situation in our country is not necessarily the most respectful to immigrants and women and I agree with you that we have been notoriously under-represented in the coffee industry. I believe the hard work starts now after winning the world title. I carry with me a huge responsibility to encourage women and women immigrants to make a presence in the coffee industry. I want us to be seen and to be heard. Competitions definitely need more female presence and I think that’s slowly changing. The coffee industry now has a woman World Barista Champion and two women World Aeropress Champions. Cheers for more!

Now that you’re a world champion, what’s next? Do you have any other goals in the coffee industry?

Certainly lots of goals, but mostly just to serve as a educator. I have a big passion for teaching others about coffee and I certainly hope I can dedicate my life to that. I also want to coach any women who wants to compete, again! We need more presence in the industry and I hope to be a part of that.


All photos by Abigail Varney.

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