Barista Profile: Stephen Houston

by Mark Vecchiarelli //
Coffee roaster, Quality Control, and Production Assistant 
Bailies Coffee, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Irish Brewers Cup Champion 2017
25th in World Brewers Cup 2017
Twitter/Insta: @stphnhstn

Stephen Houston

What was it like preparing for the 2017 World Brewers Cup (WBrC)?

My experience preparing for WBrC was very intense and very exciting. After winning the Irish brewers cup, I had just over 5 weeks to get ready for the worlds.
These 5 weeks were non stop, travelling over to Probat in Germany several times for training on roasting. While there, I spent all my free time practicing in my hotel room using hand grinders, the KRUVE sifter, and bottled water. Putting things together wherever we could! This was when I started to really develop how to use my Sifter, I knew it was going to be a valuable tool for the compulsory round of the competition, as well as being used for my main routine.
It was also a pretty short time to source a really amazing coffee to use in the WBrC. Luckily, our green coffee buyer had heard of Santa Felisa, so we reached out and they were amazing. They delivered my coffee in a relatively quick time, as it had only been milled a few days before shipping!
Once I had the coffee, it was up to me to get the roasting right and start to really understand it and see what I can get out of it during roasting and then through my brewing. Once I got the right profile for a test coffee, I knew where i needed to go for the competition roast. 
A big part of the preparation was helped greatly by my Sifter. After a few experiments and tastings, we realized that with my brewing style, we were getting some nice flavours. However, we were losing a bit in the aftertaste, especially as it cooled. Using the 1100 and 700 micron sieves, I managed to get all the fines out and created a more uniformed size for a really great extraction. The fines were what was causing the slightly bitter, over-extracted flavours and once removed, the coffee became very balanced, sweet and beautifully clean. I then had to put the whole thing together for my competition and refine my run-through. 
Coffee Gear

Can you share your strategy for the 2017 World Brewers Cup (WBrC)?


  • FarmGuatemala Santa Felisa
  • Region: Acatanango
  • Process: Aneaerobic Fermentation Natural 
  • Variety: Geisha
  • Altitude: 1600 - 1800masl
  • Tasting: Blueberries, Bergamot, Creamy Body


  • Grinder: EK43 Grind Setting - 7
  • KRUVE Sifter: 1100 - 700 microns 
  • Kalita Wave: 155 - Glass (Rinsed filter papers and Pre-heated)
  • Coffee: 12g 
With a flow restrictor in my kettle I added 30g and let bloom for 30 seconds. Added the rest of the water, with a slow continuous pour, finishing at 1:15. Let water draw down for a total contact time of 2:20 mins

Overall, how did you feel about your presentation?

I felt my presentation went well. I was pretty nervous (first time ever on a world stage), but got out there and really enjoyed every second of it. I knew once the judges came out, I settled and just did what was natural, talking about and brewing some great coffee!
I didn't get into the final, but learned so much from all my experiences leading up to and during my time at WBrC. The level of competition was incredible and to be up there with the best people in the world was truly humbling. 
I ended up finishing 25th, which I'm super proud of and wouldn't of been able to get here with out my incredible team at Bailies, my family, fiancee and friends, for all their love and support. A big thanks to Annabella from Santa Felisa for her beautiful coffee, Probat for all their hospitality and knowledge and, of course, a big thanks to Karol and the KRUVE team! 


  • What was your water temp?

  • Hi Justin, I added another 180g of water after the bloom, its a ratio of 1:17.5 I feel it usually gives me great results in the cup!

    let me know if you want to know any more information!

    Stephen Houston
  • How much water is the “the rest of the water”?


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