Modern Coffee Series | S1. Ep2. Matteo D’Ottavio
Brodie Roberts | Head Barista Spitalfields
Modern Coffee Series | S1. Ep2. UK Brewers Cup Champion 2020, Matteo D’Ottavio
Our second guest on our Instagram Live Modern Coffee Series was with the one and only Matteo D’Ottavio. Having worked in the industry for more years than some would like to admit, Matteo was eager to push himself this year. Having won the UK Brewers Cup of 2020 we all wanted to know the finer details of he’s competition journey.
Above: Matteo competing at the UKBCC 2020
1. What made you choose the Ninety Plus Gesha Estate, Lot 1997?
We needed a good coffee for the Open Service Round and with two weeks to the Finals, it was very hard to find a big selection of coffee. Fortunately, Evangelos aka Vag, managed to contact Underdog in Athens and they were able to send us a selection of coffee to cup in a very short time frame. When the samples arrived, we roasted and cupped them. All coffees on offer were delicious however, Ninety Plus Frontiers Lot#1997 was the one stand out. The origin Panama, a Geisha variety subjected to a specific anaerobic fermentation, this gives the coffee an incredible complexity with incredible potential. I knew that it was the right coffee for the Brewers Cup.
2. How did you decide on your brewing method for the competition?
For the Compulsory Round I used an Aeropress but decided to change for the Open Service. I chose to use a flatbed brewer as they can produce a more even extraction by exposing more of the coffee bed. This made my brew uniform, highlighting the sweetness and overall balance of the coffee. We tried different brewers and we found the Kalita Wave was giving the best performance with our #1997.
3. Why did you choose an Aeropress to begin with?
With years of experience working behind the bar, I chose the AeroPress as immersion brewing methods remove a lot of the human error factor from pour over methods. With the added benefit of the Aeropress being a time friendly brewing method and the use of the Bypass technique is allowed it was a win win really. I found this helped balance out my brew with a very high level of precision.
4. What grinder did you use for the competition and why?
I used a Comandante C4 hand grinder, it is known for giving the best particle size distribution, perfect for a consistent brew. Also, it’s very good for logistics because it's very easy to carry.
5. Did you roast the coffee yourself?
We roasted the #1997 with Ryan (Watch House Head of Coffee) and some of the Watch House Crew at the Watch House Roastery with an Ikawa machine. It’s an electric sample roaster that is able to produce great quality and consistency. We actually received the beans 4 days before the competition so you can imagine the stress. We ended up roasting with the same profile from the samples we had received earlier in the week.
Above: Watch House Roaster, scaling up from the Ikawa sample roasting machine.
6. How did you select and/or create your water for the final brew?
Water makes up to 98.5% of filter coffee, so you can imagine how important is this element on the cup impact. Regular London tap water is very hard with an incredibly high mineral content so it isn’t really suitable for brewing as it’s not able to highlight the sensory characteristic of the beans. So we built some water with different profiles of mineral contents, we cupped the coffee to taste the difference between them and at the end we chose the one that highlighted the coffee attributes the most.
7. How did you create your speech for your final performance?
The team and I wanted to create a speech that was simple and easy for the judges to digest. We wanted to share the history and production of the coffee whilst highlighting the cup profile. We made a few tweaks right before the final performance and I was so nervous, I thought for sure I would get stumble but keeping cool, calm and collected really paid off.
8. What do you think was the most critical element to bring together your final performance?
Making sure that all the little details were on point to avoid the stress that would have affected the final performance. For example, making sure that all the equipment was checked twice before to leave the training room for the event or to organise carefully the trolley before going to the stage because even a little item missed can increase the stress and create a negative mindset.
9. What did you find most challenging throughout the competition?
Keeping my head focused. Between stress, tiredness and emotions, it is very easy to lose control.
10. What was the biggest lesson you learnt from competing?
Hard work and team collaboration can give you an incredible result. Not only the victory but I learnt so many other things about coffee, the industry and what you can make work in a small amount of time.
More about Matteo's Championship experience here.