Highlights from the Spro-Down Throwdown at Chattahoochee Coffee Company

On Friday, February 21, the newly opened Chattahoochee Coffee Company at the Eddy hosted a Spro-Down Throwdown competition.

Atlanta Coffee Shops was invited to attend this event as an observer and to gain some perspective on what happens in a throwdown competition (as well as to capture some candids/behind-the-scenes).

This post provides a detailed recap of this Spro-Down Throwdown and is organized into the following sections:

Please enjoy!

The Rules

This Spro-Down Throwdown had the following rules:

  • Teams of two participants (baristas) made up a team ($5 buy-in per person to compete)

  • One barista pulled espresso shots and dialed in, while the other barista steamed milk and created latte art

  • The final presentation for the judges was a 1 shot cappuccino + 1 shot espresso

  • Teams had the chance to dial in their own coffee (or be assigned a random one) for the first round

  • Teams were judged on three components: taste/quality of espresso, taste/texture of the cappuccino, and quality/neatness/beauty of the latte art

  • Each team was given 5 minutes to dial in espresso; following this 5 minute mark, the teams had to complete their one-shot espresso pour and complete the latte art on the one-shot cappuccino

  • The top 5 teams with the highest scores would move on to the second and final round (however, if there were multiple teams with the same score, more than 5 teams would advance to Round 2)

  • For the second and final round, the host of the event (Chattahoochee Coffee Co.) would supply an unknown-to-the-participants coffee for dialing in

  • The top two scoring teams in the second round were declared the winners (1st and 2nd prize)

Unlike the more traditional latte art throwdowns, this competition had the added component of baristas showcasing their skills in dialing in espresso. The challenge in this competition was that the grinder used (the Nuova Simonelli Mythos Clima Pro) had the grind size dial gage taped up—no participants would know what the grind setting was during the course of the competition.

Additionally, in between each team competing, the host of the competition (Brian, on behalf of Chattahoochee Coffee Co.) would randomly turn the grind size dial on the grinder to prevent the next team from reusing the setting used by the previous team. Therefore, visual inspection (of grind size) and taste testing the espresso were used by the baristas to dial in their espresso.

The judges in this Spro-Down Throwdown competition were Ethan (Valor Coffee), Park (Counter Culture Coffee), and Kylene (owner of Chattahoochee Coffee Company)—they were judging on latte art, espresso taste, and cappuccino taste/texture, respectively.

The winning team would take home the cash pot (from the total buy-in, $110) plus some swag/merchandise. The second place team would take home the runner-up swag/merchandise prize.

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Prizes for the 2nd place winner.

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Prizes for the 1st place winner! Not pictured: the cash prize.

The Participants

There were 11 teams competing in this Spro-Down Throwdown:

  1. Brian M. and Sid G. of Chattahoochee Coffee Co.

  2. Zac J. and Dane M. of Herd Coffee

  3. Lauren B. and Sam S. of Cold Brew Bar

  4. Reno B. of Honeysuckle Biscuits & Bakery + Macie P. of Good Kitchen + Market

  5. Charles N. and Joel N. of Bellwood Coffee

  6. Riley W. and Meredith R. of Valor Coffee (Valor Team #1)

  7. Ross W. and Mykie C. of Valor Coffee (Valor Team #2)

  8. Matt S. of Valor Coffee + Emma R. of Peach Coffee Roasters

  9. Andrew M. and Matt L. of Chattahoochee Coffee Co.

  10. Mark S. and Chris D. (the independents)

  11. Marvin D. and Jared K. of East Pole Coffee Co.

Of the teams above, Valor Coffee had the largest representation (5 competitors) plus a huge support squad in the audience. Chattahoochee Coffee Co. fielded four participants as hosts of the event. Mark S. and Chris D. entered as independents—they did not represent any coffee shop. Mark and Chris learned how to dial in espresso, steam milk, and pour latte art by watching YouTube videos online, and this was their first ever competitive event. Very impressive for a first-time showing!

Spro-Down Throwdown: Round 1

Following are some photos from Round 1 of the competition. The photos presented below are in the chronological order of the competition.

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Sid of Chattahoochee Coffee Co. begins the dialing in of espresso.

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Brian of Chattahoochee Coffee Co. with the milk pour.

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Presentation for the judges from Chattahoochee Coffee Co. team #1 (Brian and Sid).

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Zac of Herd Coffee behind the bar.

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Dane of Herd Coffee with his pour.

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The judging process for team 2, Herd Coffee.

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Sam of Cold Brew Bar dialing in…

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Lauren of Cold Brew Bar behind the bar.

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Team Cold Brew Bar’s cappuccino at the judges’s table.

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A pause before tasting the espresso.

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Macie of Good Kitchen + Market behind the bar.

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Reno of Honeysuckle Biscuits & Bakery with the pour.

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Team 4 (Reno and Macie) at the judges’s table.

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The “Bellwood boys” (Joel, left; Charles, right) behind the bar representing Bellwood Coffee.

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Charles with the very slow landing…

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Latte art from Charles of Bellwood Coffee.

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Judging in progress…

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Team 6 (Valor Team #1: Riley and Meredith) brings their espresso and cappuccino to the judges’s table.

Well, the scene below was an interesting one! Ross picked up his iPhone in the middle of his team competing and brought out a few laughs from the crowd. ACS decided to conduct a poll on Instagram for the best caption for the photo below. There were four great nominees, and the winning caption was voted over a 24 hour period by the followers of @atlantacoffeeshops. Congratulations to @zoeschubert for winning this fun caption contest!

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“Mom, can I call you back when I’m on my break?” (Winning caption submission by @zoeschubert on Instagram).

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Mykie of Valor Coffee is all smiles in the dialing in of espresso.

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Ross and Mykie complete their first round.

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Very intense judging in progress…

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Valor team #2 (Ross + Mykie) scores a 13/15 in the first round.

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Team #8 behind the bar: Matt of Valor Coffee and Emma of Peach Coffee Roasters.

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Matt prepares to bring his pour to the judges…

Chattahoochee Coffee Co. did a great job with the technology / visuals. As soon as the competitors brought their espresso and cappuccino to the table, an overhead photo was captured by iPhone and then the photo was uploaded/projected to a big-screen TV inside Chattahoochee Coffee Co. for the spectators to get a closer look. Doing it in this way allowed the judges’s table to not be overcrowded with spectators.

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Team 8 (Matt + Emma). This is a photo taken of a photo projected on the big screen during the competition.

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Team #9, representing Chattahoochee Coffee Co.: Matt (foreground) and Andrew (background).

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Team #10 in the competition: Mark and Chris (the independents).

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Team #10 behind the bar.

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The first pour ever in competition…it was one for the memories.

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Last team of the evening prepares to compete. Marvin (right) and Jared (center), as Brian clarifies some rules.

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Jared of East Pole Coffee Co. with the pour. (Jared didn’t know he was competing until about ten minutes before his team’s turn).

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Marvin delivers the the espresso and one shot cappuccino to the judges’ table.

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Judging in progress…

The rules called for top 5 teams to advance to the next round. However, several teams were tied in the standings, and there was an audible called by Chattahoochee Coffee Co. to allow for the six highest-scoring teams to advance. The teams listed below moved on to Round 2:

  1. Lauren B. and Sam S. of Cold Brew Bar

  2. Reno B. of Honeysuckle + Macie P. of Good Kitchen + Market

  3. Charles N. and Joel N. of Bellwood Coffee

  4. Riley W. and Meredith R. of Valor Coffee

  5. Ross W. and Mykie C. of Valor Coffee

  6. Marvin D. and Jared K. of East Pole Coffee Co.

Spro-Down Throwdown: Round 2

Following are photos of the Spro-Down Throwdown competition from Round 2. The photos presented below are also in the chronological order of the competition.

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Lauren and Sam from Cold Brew Bar compete in Round 2 of the Spro-Down Throwdown at Chattahoochee Coffee Co.

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Judges evaluating the espresso and cappuccino from the Cold Brew Bar team.

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Macie and Reno compete in Round 2 of the Spro-Down Throwdown at Chattahoochee Coffee Co.

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Delivery for the judges…

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Judges inspecting Macie and Reno’s cappuccino…

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Close-up from team Macie + Reno in Round 2 of the Spro-Down Throwdown at Chattahoochee Coffee Co.

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Team Bellwood competes in Round 2 of the Spro-Down Throwdown at Chattahoochee Coffee Co.

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Charles of Bellwood Coffee completes the pour in Round 2 of the Spro-Down Throwdown at Chattahoochee Coffee Co.

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The judges are impressed! Well-done, Team Bellwood Coffee!

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Meredith of Team Valor measuring out the coffee dose in Round 2 of the Spro-Down Throwdown at Chattahoochee Coffee Co.

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Riley of Team Valor completes the pour as teammate Meredith and spectators observe the tense moment…

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Team Valor #1 (Riley and Meredith) present their espresso and cappuccino to the judges in Round 2 of the Spro-Down Throwdown at Chattahoochee Coffee Co.

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Team Valor #2 competes in Round 2 of the Spro-Down Throwdown at Chattahoochee Coffee Co.. Ross appears serious about steaming the milk.

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Judges evaluating the cappuccino and espresso from Team Valor #2 (Ross and Mykie) in Round 2 of the Spro-Down Throwdown at Chattahoochee Coffee Co.

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Marvin of East Pole Coffee Co. begins in Round 2 of the Spro-Down Throwdown at Chattahoochee Coffee Co.

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Jared settling down his pour carefully in Round 2 of the Spro-Down Throwdown at Chattahoochee Coffee Co.

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Presented for the judges: cappuccino and espresso from the East Pole Coffee Co. team (Marvin + Jared) in Round 2 of the Spro-Down Throwdown at Chattahoochee Coffee Co.

And near the final moment of the evening, the judges present their marks for the East Pole Coffee Co. team in Round 2:

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A combined score of 13/15, with a 5 on espresso! The 5 on espresso is the first of the night (see Final Takeaways below). Combined with the high marks on cappuccino and latte art, the final combined score is enough to catapult team East Pole Coffee Co. to the highest score of Round 2 and secure a 1st place finish!

Spro-Down Throwdown: The Winners

Team East Pole Coffee Co. (Marvin + Jared) won the Spro-Down Throwdown competition. The runners-up were Team Valor #1, Riley and Meredith.

Congrats East Pole and Valor!

A group photo of the winners at the end of the evening:

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1st and 2nd place finishers in the Spro-Down Throwdown at Chattahoochee Coffee Co. From left to right: Riley and Meredith (Valor Team #1) — 2nd place Finishers; and Marvin and Jared of East Pole Coffee Co.— Winners.

Final Takeaways

Following are some ACS takeaways from a first-ever attendance of a competition of this sort:

  • The event was well-attended! A total of 11 teams competed, with some 25 to 35 people in the audience who came to support their baristas/friends.

  • There is a wonderful sense of camaraderie amongst the Atlanta coffee community. Everyone was friendly and supportive of each other.

  • Dialing in is stressful! But it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun behind the bar. Perhaps both teams from Valor best exemplified this during the night—serious, but also smiling and enjoying the process (also, picking up a phone call while dialing in espresso?).

  • The second round featured an unknown coffee to the participants. It turned out to be decaf. Perhaps team Bellwood best exemplified in figuring it out very quickly and moving forward with the dialing in of espresso.

  • Getting a 5/5 score on espresso was arguably the challenge of the night. Team East Pole was the only team during the course of the event to secure this venerated mark (in Round 2).

  • It was a fun and well-organized event all-around:

    • Kudos to Ashley from Chattahoochee Coffee Co. as MC of the evening (and organizing the music playlist).

    • A laudatory note to Brian from Chattahoochee Coffee Co. for helping the competitors figure out the tools of the trade and answering their questions throughout the night (as well as cleaning up the espresso bar, switching out the coffees in the hopper, and purging/emptying out the remaining coffee inside the grinder in between each team competing)—it was a lot of work behind the scenes!

    • Thanks to the judges (Ethan, Park, and Kylene) for their impartial reviews/judging throughout the night.

    • And finally, thanks to Chattahoochee Coffee Co. for being the host of this awesome event.

  • Congrats to East Pole Coffee Co. and Valor Coffee on their 1st and 2nd place finishes, respectively!

Did you attend this Spro-Down Throwdown at Chattahoochee Coffee Co.? If so, what was your favorite part/memory? Do you have any takeaways of your own that you want to share? Feel free to leave a comment below.


Editor’s Note: if you want a higher resolution of any of these photos, please get in touch. Alternatively, if you want any of these photos taken down from this blog post, contact ACS.