How will sponsor changes affect future World Barista Championships?
On 12 January 2022, the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) announced the qualified sponsors for the 2022 to 2025 World Barista Championships (WBC). These sponsors provide the equipment and products that WBC competitors use in their routines, making them an integral part of how the competition develops over time.
In their announcement, the SCA stated that the sponsors for the WBC’s espresso machine, espresso grinder, and water filtration system had all changed from the previous multi-year agreement. However, it was the new espresso machine and grinder sponsors that attracted the most attention from both WBC competitors and the wider specialty coffee community.
With the 2022 WBC set to take place in Melbourne in just over two months, many are asking how these changes will affect upcoming competitions. To learn more, I spoke with several coffee professionals. Read on to find out what they had to say about the new WBC qualified sponsors.
You may also like our article on whether the World Barista Championship needs to change.
Why are there new WBC sponsors?
Firstly, we need to understand why the World Barista Championships qualified sponsors have changed.
Yannis Apostolopoulos is the CEO of the SCA. He tells me that the selection of new qualified sponsors is based on a number of different criteria – not just the equipment or products that the company provides.
“Selecting a qualified sponsor is a process that happens every three to five years,” he says. “Manufacturers must submit their equipment and products to undergo a rigorous testing process.”
He explains how each application is assessed.
“Qualified sponsor candidates must provide a standardised set of equipment for competitors to use on stage,” he adds. “As well as this, each company’s application is evaluated based on machine testing, capacity for financial support, the ability to support the WBC community, and whether the company aligns with the SCA’s mission.”
Ultimately, competitions like the WBC rely on sponsors to provide the majority of equipment for competitors to use, especially costly equipment such as espresso machines and grinders. As well as equipment and products, funding is essential to support the competition.
Mikael Jasin is the 2021 WBC competitor from Indonesia and founder of So So Good Coffee Company. He is also the 2019 and 2020 Indonesian Barista Champion.
He explains how some national barista championships select their sponsors.
“[Sometimes] we choose whichever company is willing to pay the sponsorship package,” he says. “It can be as simple as that, because competitions need money to run.”
Marco Feliziani is the Vice President of Simonelli Group. The company’s Victoria Arduino Mythos MY75 grinder was selected as the WBC espresso grinder sponsor from 2022 to 2025.
He says the sponsor selection is based on more than just the ability to provide financial support and equipment.
“What the sponsor brings to the WBC is not just equipment, it’s also knowledge, awareness, and community spirit,” he explains. “World Coffee Events (WCE) doesn’t just choose a company for its equipment, they want the whole package.”
An overview of the sponsor changes
While the water filtration sponsor has changed to BWT water + more for 2022 to 2025, for many the most significant changes are the new espresso machine and grinder sponsors.
Tempesta by Barista Attitude
The Tempesta espresso machine by Barista Attitude is the qualified espresso machine sponsor for 2022 to 2025. The Tempesta will replace Victoria Arduino’s VA388 Black Eagle espresso machine.
Barista Attitude is owned by Ryoma Holdings, which also owns other espresso machine brands such as Astoria and Wega. However, the Tempesta is a relatively new espresso machine.
“I haven’t used the Tempesta yet,” Mikael says. “But I have seen it in a few coffee shops around the world.
“[I’m not anxious to use one], but the sponsor change seemed like it came out of nowhere,” he adds.
Mythos MY75 by Victoria Arduino
The Mythos MY75 by Victoria Arduino is the new qualified espresso grinder sponsor, replacing Mahlkönig’s Peak and EK43 (S) grinders.
In contrast to the new Tempesta espresso machine, the Mythos MY75 grinder will be a more familiar model for many baristas working in specialty coffee shops. The new grinder is similar to the widely-used Mythos One, which can be found in many coffee shops around the world.
However, when the new espresso grinder sponsor was announced, it became clear that many in the coffee community were concerned about the decision to switch from Mahlkönig to Victoria Arduino.
In previous WBCs, competitors were able to use several grinders from Mahlkönig, including the single-dose EK43 option. This not only allowed baristas to choose the grinder that worked better for their coffee, but meant they could also single-dose several different coffees instead of just one. Ultimately, this provided more flexibility for each competitor.
With the Mythos MY75 as the new grinder sponsor, WBC competitors will only be able to work with one type of grinder. However, a single-dose funnel designed specifically for Mythos grinders will still allow WBC competitors to single-dose their coffee – meaning they won’t lose the freedom to brew several different coffees in their routine.
A question of accessibility
Although the WBC is a competition which assesses both barista and service skills, it doesn’t represent a typical barista shift in a coffee shop. WBC competitors perform in a tightly-controlled and high-pressure environment, which makes any changes to equipment and products even more important than in a coffee shop.
There are claims from professionals in the coffee industry that selecting the Mythos MY75 could make the competition more accessible for many given that it is more widely used in coffee shops.
This is because the Mahlkönig EK43 is more expensive than the Mythos MY75. In turn, this may help to make the competition more accessible for those who don’t work in high-budget specialty coffee shops.
What’s more, the Mythos MY75 is designed to be used in high-volume coffee shops, so they are often more widely used.
“Competitors need to use the same equipment,” Marco explains. “Some baristas can’t afford to buy or use more expensive grinders, [which puts them at a disadvantage to baristas who can spend more money.]
“If WBC competitors all use the same grinder, then the competition is focused on coffee quality and their skills,” he adds. “It’s a barista competition, not an equipment competition.”
Furthermore, it can be argued that a large part of barista training is the ability to successfully and efficiently use more than one type of espresso machine or grinder.
Luisa Quintero is the Quality Director at Campesino Specialty Coffee in Colombia. She agrees that baristas need to be able to adapt to any equipment changes.
“A good barista must have the ability to prepare good coffee, regardless of the espresso machine or grinder,” she tells me. “They must understand what they are looking for from their coffee and be able to showcase it to customers and WBC judges using any machine or grinder.”
Mikael believes the grinder change is a positive one.
“It means you could innovate in the way that you extract your coffee,” he adds. “You already play within a set of rules at the WBC, so you will have to be more creative and try to innovate even further.”
How might these changes affect the wider coffee sector?
It’s evident that the WBC has a significant influence on trends in the specialty coffee industry – from using rare arabica varieties and coffee species, to innovative new brewing techniques.
So, how could the World Barista Championship sponsor changes affect the wider coffee sector?
Marco believes that the changes will benefit barista communities in origin countries the most.
“The WBC should connect coffee professionals and equipment and bring them both to the next level, in terms of innovation and sustainability,” he says. “There needs to be a connection between all coffee communities, including those in coffee-growing countries.
“Without coffee professionals at origin, we wouldn’t be able to have high-quality coffee to judge and taste in these competitions,” he adds.
Yannis says that the changes push for further innovation in the wider coffee community.
“The SCA is excited to see more cutting-edge equipment on the WCC stages over the next few years, especially to see what kinds of innovation can come from these multi-year partnerships,” he tells me.
However, Mikael believes that more communication is essential when implementing these changes – especially between the competition organisers and the general coffee community.
“I think it would be [beneficial for baristas to be more involved in choosing the WBC sponsors, potentially via a questionnaire or survey],” he says.
Ultimately, competitors play a significant role in shaping the future of the WBC – something which Mikael agrees with.
“As a community, we have to ask ourselves how we want to develop the WBC,” he concludes, “Do we want to make it more about coffee-making skills, or do we want to encourage innovation and the sharing of knowledge?”
There’s no doubt that the WBC stage will continue to be a platform to promote and showcase excellence in the global specialty coffee industry – no matter which equipment is used.
Naturally, the World Barista Championship sponsor changes won’t align with everyone’s vision of the competition.
However, it will certainly lead to new and interesting ways for baristas to prepare espresso.
With the next WBC set to take place from 27 to 30 September 2022 in Melbourne, it’s only a matter of time until we see the full impact of the new espresso machine and grinder on the world stage.
Enjoyed this? Then read our article on whether we should allow plant milks in the World Barista Championship.
Photo credits: Mikael Jasin, Jordan Montgomery
Perfect Daily Grind
Want to read more articles like this? Sign up for our newsletter!