28 Feb 2023

Why are IKAWA Sample Roasters so great for Coffee Competitions?

In the second post of our look back at the 2022 World Coffee Championships, we take a look at the experiences of the participants we supported in the runup to Melbourne. You can read more about the different national champions here

One key take-out from talking with the competitors is that many of the benefits that competitors find with IKAWA are very similar to what most roasteries experience too – it’s just that stakes are much higher: Competition coffee is very very expensive and scarce, the pressure is extremely high, and the palate of those tasting the coffee are more refined than your everyday regulars. Therefore it’s critical that the equipment can deliver, and we consistently see competitors choosing IKAWA.

The main benefits of using IKAWA in World Barista Championship (WBC) and World Brewers Cup (WBrC) boiled down to:

1. Best for Sample Evaluation
2. Accessibility: Cost Saving and Simplicity
3. The Power of Collaboration
4. Quality of Roast: Achieving the Full Potential of the Coffee

In this post, we dive into this in more detail.

Best for Sample Evaluation

In world-level competitions like this the coffee you start with is fundamental to your chance of placing highly.
So making that initial selection is a big deal.

Elysia Tan chose a coffee she knows and loves from her roastery, and Adán had also chosen his coffee early on, but all the other participants used their IKAWAs heavily in the sample evaluation process.

For Kevin David, sample evaluation on an IKAWA is a core part of their processes already; “IKAWA was my first sample roaster and it’s my current one still. Before, I had roasted samples from green importers.
It’s better, it’s more convenient to receive green samples. You can roast when you want to cup it. It’s changed the way we do our schedule.”

These benefits go beyond simply being great for sample roasting – IKAWA adds value by fundamentally shifting what is possible to do with the finite amount of time and money we all have.

To decide which coffee to use, competitors often wanted to sample more coffees than you would have for a regular purchase decision at the roastery. Agneszka Rojewska ordered several coffees in 1kg packs from Forward Coffee and was quickly able to evaluate them, as well as exploring their potential with a couple of different roasts.

“IKAWA gives me the possibility to buy a few of those, roast the samples and play with the profiles, so I was mostly using the IKAWA to choose the coffee and choose the roast profile – and I was actually roasting for two other competitors!”

“For me, the IKAWA is mostly a tool of checking the potential of coffee on a very small amount. It’s much easier to roast 50g and know.”

Accessibility: Cost Saving and Simplicity

Agneszka Rojewska communicated this really clearly when she explained: “I’ve known IKAWA from 2017 – until then, I didn’t want to cross that line to sourcing my own coffee as it’s just not efficient or sustainable… it’s a much better experience – and opened up an opportunity not only for people to learn, but also for competitors to actually have access to great quality coffee because you don’t need that much.

Its lowering cost of entry to competing on the world stage.
You used to need a 60kg bag – which was prohibitively expensive.
Now, 1kg for brewers cup is enough.”

Elysia Tan’s routine demonstrated this really clearly. She did fantastically well in the WBrC placing third, yet she only took 2kg of green coffee to Melbourne, such was her confidence in the IKAWA to turn out the optimal roasts – and of course being able to roast on the road (or in her apartment!).

Natalia Kwiatkowska also appreciated the portability of IKAWA roasters. “It’s a tool you can travel with” she says; “I think that’s the biggest thing – you can use it pretty much everywhere, so it helps you deliver results wherever you are”

The Power of Collaboration

In competition, as well as in business, success often comes from having a great team around you.
This became clear talking with the competitors.

Adán’s brother Uriel Oropeza is Mexican Roasting Champion and based in Mexico City with the Pro100, while Adán was based elsewhere with an IKAWA he borrowed from a friend. “We had communication – IKAWA allowed this. This communication and consistency is really important for me.” The sharability of IKAWA roast profiles enabled a whole new level of collaboration – and gave Adán confidence to do his own roasting in Melbourne.

Agnieszka Rojewska also talked about a similar game-changing collaboration in her early days with an IKAWA: “Before roasting myself I was working with Standout Coffee in Sweden. They also use an IKAWA and would send her roasted 50g samples that she would cup. We figured out that it doesn’t make sense financially to send roasted 50g samples back and forth. So he became more of a roast profile consultant – helping guide Aganeszka how to adapt her profile on her IKAWA based on her own feedback.

“It was a cooperation between my tongue and his knowledge’

We can do overseas cooperation in roasting coffees with very small samples, which is great. He has his own IKAWA, I have one too, and it was super efficient without the delays of shipping parcels between us”

Elysia’s team from Homeground Coffee has a super strong collaboration working from much closer proximity. Elysia’s partner Ho Ming was responsible for the roasting, and used the Pro100 for the profiling and roasting. They found the ideal roast in around 7-8 iterations, using just 800g of coffee.

Quality of Roast: Achieving the Full Potential of the Coffee


Kevin David sums things up nicely: “You can roast in a nice way with IKAWA for geisha, and it’s perfect for them. Use a 50g roaster so you can roast and profile 10 times to get the perfect roast – and still only use a tiny amount of the coffee; you can really play with it and find the roast.”

And this approach was echoed by Natalia Kwiatkowska who over the years has won so many championships by optimising the great coffees she selects: “The possibility to have samples of 50g is really valuable – for exclusive coffees, especially if you want to try different ways to roast the coffee, this is really useful.”

In competition Elysia Tan found the IKAWA gave them a competitive advantage for their open service round. They found that Day 4 freshness was optimal, which meant they couldn’t roast before travelling. The profiles they created in Singapore travelled really well and needed very little dialling in. IKAWA’s inherent portability and plug & play nature is fundamental to this approach.

“We love it because it’s very consistent for duplicating the roast profile; I can roast 10 batches and get consistent outcomes”

“The best thing about IKAWA is that it’s portable. We understand that coffee actually changes and behaves differently in different climates, in different weather, in different humidity. Bringing IKAWA gives ua a huge advantage when it comes to roasting our coffee for Open Service”

We found it fascinating to get these in depth insights from some of the best at what they do in the world, and loved learning how IKAWA roasters help raise the bar even higher in competitions – but also how relatable these benefits are to day to day use in roasteries, where excellent sample evaluation, cost saving and simplicity, collaboration and enabling coffee to achieve its potential are the name of the game.

And on the subject of collaboration, Elysia Tan Agnieszka Rojewska Natalia Kwiatkowska and José Adán Gutierrez have been generous enough to share their roast profiles – which you can try too.

IKAWA Sponsorship Programme

IKAWA will run a similar World Coffee Championships programme for national champions in Barista and Brewer’s Cup, where we will organise a loan of an IKAWA Pro Sample Roaster to help with preparation for the World Championships.

If you have won your national championship and would like to apply, please complete this short form.


“Inlet Profiles for 50g roasters do not translate exactly to a 100g roaster. The Inlet Profile featured here is for 50g roasters. It will work well on IKAWA ProV3 and Pro50 roasters, but will need to be adjusted for Pro100.

Learn more about the IKAWA Pro Series?

Talk to the team, or read more about the Pro Series of Pro50 and Pro100 and the IKAWA Pro App here

author-img By Alex Georgiou