05 Feb 2019


Last year, after one of our latest staff sensory nights with Freda Yuan, one of our technicians said he wanted to compete. Lorenzo D’Apolito went to our Managing Director, Ben, and said he wanted to go deeper on the coffee side, understand it more and compete in the UK Brewers Cup Championships.

We build all of our roasters here at IKAWA HQ in London, and we ship them all over the world. To help give context to how they are used when they arrive, we have been doing fun sensory nights, and roasting classes, and other educational and team building activities, for our team since the beginning. It’s essential for us to be able to understand our customer, and for the whole company to see why we’re doing what we’re doing. Plus, it’s fun, and everyone has a great time.

For Lorenzo, who had a previous career as a sound technician, it was the detail oriented, results driven fun he wanted more of. As an Italian, he was also fascinated by the range of coffee flavours he was experiencing. He said to me “I want to show people in Italy there is more than espresso!”

We all agreed that Lorenzo’s learning and progress would filter back into the staff trainings, and he would transfer his knowledge along the way. We also agreed that everyone would contribute to help him gain the most from the experience. I became his coach, our Office Manager Sophie became his props and logistics champion, George in R&D designed and built custom stands for his Hario V60’s, and everyone else chipped in something along the way from tasting notes, help packing, and more.

On May 18th, Lorenzo and 7 of the IKAWA team traveled up to Glasgow for the National Championships after he qualified in the regionals in Stafford. Lorenzo placed 4th overall in the UK, and his Sunday routine was 2nd best on the day. A huge feat, and a full team effort.

The preparation of the competition coincided with our lead up to the release of the PRO V3. Apart from Andrew, our founder and CTO and some Beta Testers many of the team had not seen or used the final version of the PRO V3 and updated app prior to May 2018.

We used the preparations for the brewers cup as an opportunity to train the team and really deepen our understanding of the  PRO V3 before release.

Finally, the whole activity of Lorenzo preparing and competing brought the team together. The team at IKAWA is strong for many reasons individually, but our commitment to what we’re doing, and to each other, really make for a dynamic and impressive group.


Below are a few learnings for anyone who is interested in the process, or competing themselves:

1. Practice for compulsory, a lot.

Understand how different brew ratios affect everything on the score sheet: body, flavour, acidity. Understand how to manipulate different types of coffees and different types of roasts.


2. Chose a coffee early, and before planning too much of your presentation.

This was the longest lead time and it was critical to the other elements.

We chose a stunning naturally processed gesha from Finca Auromar in Panama.

Once you have your coffee, and know roughly how it tastes, you can begin to build your presentation around that. For larger concept presentations, this might not be possible, but have a back up coffee. The concept is very important,  but the taste of the coffee is more important.

3. Choose a roast profile that is tailored for the score sheet.

This isn’t the time for crowd pleasing. Make it bold, make it loud, and make sure it hits all the boxes on the score sheet. I went through 3 full rounds of iterations on Lorenzo’s coffee to understand the direction to go in with the roast. Once we had the flavour profile that we wanted, I made lots and lots of very small changes to dial that in on a finer level. It was at this time that Andrew, our Founder and CTO, introduced us to the PRO V3.

The PRO V3 was still in beta mode but it was all but finished, and he demonstrated the Inlet Temperature Sensor control using Lorenzo’s coffee, and what had been our choice of roast. By taking the Exhaust Temperature Roast Log, and tracing the new profile over top of the Inlet Temperature graph of that roast, he created an Inlet Temperature Sensor profile. We cupped it out, just for fun, and 3 rounds of cupping in a row it was the top cup on the table. That profile is now one of the 4 that comes with the IKAWA PRO App.

I don’t know exactly why the Inlet Temperature Profile tasted better than the Exhaust Sensor version. I do believe that the Inlet Sensor control gives more control to the user – we saw a big spike in the inlet temperature on the Exhaust Sensor profile, where it was trying to get the temperature back on the line as quickly as possible. We edited the Inlet Temperature Profile to avoid that. It meant the temperature applied was more consistent through the beginning and the turnaround was a little slower. It also changed the shape of the exhaust sensor line slightly. You can see both in the screenshots below.

You can also see that the RoR graph was smoother than the Exhaust Sensor version.

Either way, the extra insight in seeing the inlet temperature, as well as the control to adjust the profile using the Inlet Sensor let us make the final touches on the profile, and create an absolutely delicious coffee. Try both profiles yourself – you can find them at the bottom of the post.

4. Work with the brew and presentation to make sure they work together.

The logistics of your brew may need to change to make your presentation work, so keep that in mind when you’re crafting your routine. In addition, make sure to practice presenting to a group of people! Feeling the pressure of people watching for the first time on stage is not something you want to deal with. Be prepared for that nervousness and you can focus on your brewing a lot more.

Lorenzo has moved on from IKAWA now to take his coffee journey further. This winter he will be in Guatemala, working for the coffee exporter De La Gente, and truly getting on the ground training.

The profiles we created for his coffees are below. Try them both and see how the Inlet Temperature Sensor Control differs from the Exhaust Temperature Sensor Control.  

author-img By Geoff Woodley