two coffee cups

Sarah Anderson elevates the humble cup of joe to an art form

When she was 7, Sarah Anderson offered to make a second pot of coffee for a family gathering. Everyone hated it. No wonder — she reused the old grounds. So began the career of a champion.

In February, Anderson ’10 showed how far she’s come in her coffee-making prowess, as she earned the title of U.S. Brewers Cup Champion. She defeated 37 other national finalists from around the country in the manual (pour-over) competition before a crowd of 1,300 at the Long Beach Arena.

woman holding a coffee cup

Sarah Anderson ’10 is an award winning coffee maker, and shares her best tips and recipe to get the perfect cup. (Photo by Troy Nikolic)

It’s the first time a woman has won the title, and the victory earned Anderson the chance to represent the United States in the World Brewers Cup in Gothenburg, Sweden, in June.

Anderson is a specialty coffee barista at
Intelligentsia Coffee
, a company that sources, develops, roasts and delivers some of the top coffee in the world. Her dedication to her customers and passion for specialty coffee drives her to seek out the perfect pour at Intelligentsia’s Pasadena location.

Consider these excerpts from Intelligentsia’s description of her championship technique:

“After steeping the grounds in hot water for five minutes, she decanted through a V60 filter, cleaning up the mouthfeel of the brew and enabling great articulation of flavor. This mitigated the risk of variance in pouring hot water over the grounds, allowing Sarah to focus on her dialogue (with judges), telling the story of a Geisha (coffee) grown at the highest coffee farm in the world. Her water was prepared at our Pasadena location, using its reverse osmosis system.”

“Some girls want a pony,” Anderson said. “I want a water filtration system.”

Anderson developed her passion for specialty coffee as a Chapman University sociology major during an internship with
Kéan Coffee
in Newport Beach. She gained a fondness for “cupping” — evaluating coffee on a 100-point scale — especially after seeing how her developing expertise enhanced her customers’ satisfaction.

Meanwhile, her sociology classes provided insights on the definition of success, encouraging her to pursue her dreams. Now she works on streamlining and replicating her techniques as she trains new Intelligentsia baristas. There’s always room for improvement, she notes. “I was taught in my sorority, Phi Sigma Sigma, to be a lifelong learner and feel that I’m living up to that every day,” Anderson said.

A Better Brew

Make sure your coffee is fresh. “The freshness and aromas are what give coffee its unique flavor and terroir,” Sarah Anderson says. Her other tips follow.

    • Brew with water at 195-200 degrees F. “Water is key! I recommend bottled spring water or a home filtration system to get total dissolved solids to 150 ppm.”


    • Choose coffee wisely. “I love coffees from Ethiopia, where coffee originates and nature has created some beautiful varieties. The coffee I used in the U.S. Brewers Cup is a Geisha variety, grown at high altitudes on a farm called Takesi. I also love the Tres Santos from Colombia.”


    • Grind right before brewing. “Under a minute is best. The goal is to capture all of those wonderful aromas that escape the bean when it’s ground.”


    • Use a good kitchen scale to measure the grounds. “Scales are more accurate than scoops for the best coffee-to-water ratio – 1:16 is good when using a French press.”


Add comment