Isaiah Sheese’s Reflections on His Fourth Place Achievement at the World Barista Championship: Part One

The reigning U.S. Barista Champion earned his way to the final round and a fourth-place finish at his first-ever World Barista Championship last month.
Photos courtesy of the Specialty Coffee Association

At last month’s World of Coffee trade show in Athens, Greece, thousands of coffee professionals descended on the event for its a number of festivities, including the World Barista Championship (WBC).

In one corner of the show, on that WBC stage, Isaiah Sheese had his first taste of international coffee competition. The Barista competitor, who owns Archetype Coffee in Omaha, Neb., has competed in the United States since 2009; in 2023, he won the United Barista Championship (USBC) for the first time, earning his place on the WBC stage.

And while he was a first-time presence at the WBC, Isaiah shone on the big stage, advancing through the first two rounds to reach the World Barista Championship finals, where he placed fourth in the world.

We caught up with Isaiah to hear about his experience representing the United States in Athens. In today’s first part, we speak about how he evolved his routine for the WBC, his mindset for the event, and much more.

Isaiah pours a misty liquid into cups for his ingest prep.
During the semifinal round of the 2023 World Barista Championship, Isaiah Sheese, the proprietor of Archetype Coffee, crafts his distinctive drink.

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Barista Magazine: During our previous conversation, you spoken about your plan to enhance your routine for WBC by incorporating among the various stage setups available. Can you describe how that turned out?

Isaiah Sheese: During the world competition, there are nine stage options available for selection. Eventually, we opted for a stage featuring two parallel tables, which necessary us to relocate the judges. I presented my espresso and milk consume, after which we requested the judges to proceed to a different table with a larger setup compared to what we had at the national extent. It was on this table that I served my unique signature ingest.

In one aspect, it was enjoyable, nevertheless in another factor, it crafted my preparation time of 15 minutes rather challenging as I had to set up two complete tables. Usually, I only need to practice setting up once since I have done it a number of times and have become quite proficient at it. I can complete the setup within five minutes, leaving me with five minutes to troubleshoot and typically two minutes for tidying up. Therefore, I aim to finish well before the 15-minute mark so that I can genuinely unwind and relax.

I had to rehearse my preparation for the world championships several times (laughs). During my initial attempt at WBC, I couldn’t complete everything during the practice run, which was frustrating. In the second attempt, I managed to finish all the jobs nevertheless overlooked one thing. By the third try, I was determined and confident that I could successfully accomplish it.

Isaiah talks judges through his beverage as he pours.
Isaiah relocated the judges to a distinct table where he presented his unique drink at the WBC.

It appears that you dedicated a significant amount of time to practice if all your efforts were focused solely on the preparation.

This is without a doubt the the majority of practice I have ever done. And it needs to be! When you represent your country, being a true champion callsfor that extent of dedication. Personally, I find it challenging to strike a balance between performing and not coming across as robotic. In the past, I would practice to the point where it felt mechanical, and I lost the human connection. Nevertheless, this time, I believe I have surpassed that robotic stage and reached a whole new level of freedom in my routine that I have never experienced before. Nevertheless achieving this level of performance requires a significant amount of time; I have put in many extra hours in our training space. We have even put up signs on the doors saying “Please don't disturb, competition practice” (laughs).

What was your state of mind when entering WBC, aside from the clear intention of aiming to win like in any competition?

In any competition, the ultimate goal is always to emerge as the winner. But, achieving victory in the United States has always posed a significant challenge. While I had aspirations of winning the world championships, I believe that conquering the U.S. is a incredible feat in today’s era and quite difficult to accomplish. Therefore, I felt an immense sense of pride when I went to Athens. Interestingly, I have always expressed that winning the U.S. is more challenging than securing a top-six position at the world championships. When I finally achieved victory in the U.S., I couldn’t help but laugh and think to myself, “Oh dear, I have been saying this for years. I hope I can live up to my own words.”

The top 6 competitors at the WBC hold up their trophies above their heads.
The 2023 World Barista Championship top six, from left: Daniele Ricci, Italy, second place; Jack Simpson, Australia, third place; winner Boram Um, Brazil; Isaiah, fourth place; Dawn Chan, Hong Kong, fifth place; Patrick Rolf, Denmark, sixth place.

How did you feel when you competed at the national extent for lots of years? Did the WBC stage seem different to you? Did you notice that the lights were brighter?

I strive to remain composed and level-headed as much as possible. I acknowledge the nerves and pressure that come with the realization that this may be my only opportunity to conduct on such a prestigious stage. Some of the finalists and their coaches in this year’s competition are well-known competitors whom you may have seen in previous years, and suddenly I find myself going head to head with them. However, my approach was to stay calm and composed, and just do what I do best. Once again, the essence of the competition lies in being the perfect version of yourself and surpassing your own limits. Even though it would have been tempting to succumb to these challenges, my mindset was focused on executing what we had practiced. I brewed a conscious effort to maintain a positive mental state, as otherwise it would have been easy to feel overwhelmed by the grandeur of the World Barista Championship.

Be sure to check back tomorrow on Barista Magazine Online for the second part of this interview.


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Isaiah Sheese, the reigning U.S. Barista Champion, lately participated in his first-ever World Barista Championship (WBC) and finished in fourth place. Sheese, who owns Archetype Coffee in Omaha, Nebraska, has been competing in the United States since 2009 and earned his spot on the WBC stage by winning the United Barista Championship (USBC) in 2023. The WBC took place at the World of Coffee trade show in Athens, Greece, and attracted thousands of coffee professionals.

For the WBC, Sheese chose a stage setup with two parallel tables, which necessary the judges to move between them. This setup presented a challenge during the 15-minute setup time, as Sheese had to practice setting up two full tables multiple times to ensure everything was fantastic. Despite the extra practice, Sheese felt that it pushed him to a new degree of freedom in his routine.

Sheese’s mindset going into the WBC was focused on winning, but he likewise recognized the achievement of winning the U.S. Barista Championship. He believed that winning the U.S. competition was a harder feat than placing in the top six at the WBC. Sheese aimed to stay calm and collected on the WBC stage, despite the pressure and the presence of famous competitors. He focused on being his perfect self and beating his own performance.

In the second part of the interview, Sheese talks about his day to day practice and the motivation behind it. He shares that his practice revolved around storytelling and establishing a bond with the judges through his performance. Sheese aimed to demonstrate the distinct flavors and qualities of the coffee he utilized, as well as emphasize its source. Additionally, he integrated elements of unexpectedness and inventiveness into his routine to captivate the judges.

Overall, Sheese’s experience at the WBC was a positive one, and he is proud of his fourth-place finish. He believes that competing at the national extent in the U.S. prepared him well for the international stage. Sheese’s dedication to practicing and refining his routine paid off, and he hopes to continue representing the United States in future competitions.

Isaiah Sheese’s first appearance at the World Barista Championship was a triumph, securing him a commendable fourth place. His careful planning and unwavering commitment to his routine enabled him to stand out on the global platform. Sheese’s journey emphasizes the significance of practice, mindset, and creation in coffee competitions.

This post was first published at Barista Magazine, an online magazine dedicated to baristas and coffee professionals.