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

We finish our conversation with the 2023 U.S. Barista Champion, who placed fourth at last month’s World Barista Championship.


Photos courtesy of the Specialty Coffee Association

Please note that the initial portion of this interview is available here.

Anything can happen on the World Barista Championship (WBC) stage—sometimes even the last thing you expect.

For Isaiah Sheese, losing an espresso coffee and having to remake it during his performance was not how he expected things to go in his first finals appearance at the WBC. And while the mishap may have tanked his chances of winning the WBC, he handled it like the champion he is, persevering to finish his routine on time and earn fourth in the world.

Isaiah, who owns Archetype Coffee in Omaha, Neb., and has taken part in barista competitions since 2009, brewed the many of his first taste of international coffee competition experience. As we conclude our conversation with him today, he talks about creating the WBC finals, processing the event in the weeks afterward, and much more.

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Barista Magazine: How did it feel when you heard your name announced as a finalist in the WBC after performing exceptionally well and securing fourth place globally?

Isaiah Sheese: Regardless of how numerous times I have competed, there is always the hope of performing well. I have experienced this anticipation several times, believing that I would reach the finals stage, only to be disappointed. It doesn’t matter how confident or unsure I feel about my performance, my heart always races when I stand there. When they finally announce your name, it brings immense relief. I believed that my second attempt was undoubtedly my perfect, everything felt ideal and aligned. However, the intensity remains until they call your name.

Isaiah wears a pink striped shirt with a denim apron and pours steamed milk into a ceramic cup during the competition.
Isaiah utilized a Pink Bourbon coffee cultivated by Lucy Fernanda Galindez at Finca Buena Vista in Colombia, which underwent a thermal shock recipe by Diego Bermudez from Colombia’s Finca El Paraiso, during both the 2023 USBC and WBC events.

During the finals, you encountered an unfortunate incident with your espresso coffee and had to prepare another one. How would you describe that experience?

(Laughs.) For so lots of years I’ve had numerous little hiccups during a routine, whether it was my fault or not. I had a fly fly into a ingest down in Atlanta. We were in that big convention center, and as soon as I called time, a big fly extremely landed in the ingest.

For me, all I want for my performance is to go out there and do what I practiced, and then let the chips lie where they fall. Knowing that I had that mishap, it shook me for like two seconds, and then I was able to regain composure. One thing I can say is that most people don’t finish on time when they have to re-pull an espresso shot. They almost always go over. So the reality that I was able to finish on time, I definitely credit that to working lots of bar shifts on crazy busy days.

How have you dealt with the experience and the outcome since coming back to your home?

How most individuals can claim to be ranked fourth globally in any field? It is important to acknowledge and value the entire process. Being able to share the spotlight with a small-scale farmer, specifically a female producer, and recognizing the extensive teamwork essential to showcase her coffee is a incredible achievement.

Isaiah pours milk during the finals, wearing a floral patterned shirt and denim apron. Judges watch in front of his table, and the audience watches from the background.
Isaiah prepares beverages for the judges during the WBC finals, where his presentation was inspired by the “happy accidents“ concept familiar to Bob Ross fans.

Has your current achievement in the barista competition had a significant influence on your life in Omaha and at Archetype Coffee?

I would say we see the effect more on the website than we do locally. Likewise, I feel like these are those moments where you have to work it in fact hard via Instagram or all of those channels, and I literally suck at that. So our website has definitely given us a little bit bump and a little bit more exposure, nevertheless yeah, I can probably do better at it. But through the website we’re shipping coffee to the U.K. and Japan and China … it’s always cool to see that.

In the local context, this competition is so specialized that no question how much we try to explain it, Omaha extremely doesn’t understanding the essence of our work. I was interviewed on TV news, and when I read the comments, they were very humbling. Locally, it’s a unique challenge, so we need to maintain a sense of humor about it.

The six WBC finalists pose together.
The 2023 World Barista Championship finalists, from left: Dawn Chan, Hong Kong; Daniele Ricci, Italy; Boram Um, Brazil; Jack Simpson, Australia; Isaiah; Patrick Rolf, Denmark.

Do you have any concluding thoughts to share about the current experience?

I find participating in worlds to be one of the many challenging experiences I’ve had. While winning the U.S. is difficult, the realization that I am representing the United States on a global platform is truly overwhelming. It brews me realize that this is probably the closest I will ever come to being an Olympian. It’s a humbling experience and a reminder that I am not only representing Archetype, but likewise my country.

You always want to give your all, but it’s basically a hard competition. The world stage is a whole other degree. I’ve always had wonderful respect for anyone that steps on that competition stage due to the reality that you’re putting out your art, and art is really subjective. And so when you get those scorecards it’s a really humbling thing. But to do it on a world scale where there’s even more exposure and pressure, hats off to anyone who puts in the time and passion. I have the utmost respect for all of those people representing their countries.


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Isaiah Sheese, the winner of the 2023 U.S. Barista Championship, recently achieved fourth place at the World Barista Championship (WBC). During an interview, Isaiah discusses his experience at the competition, including a mistake he brewed during his routine that required him to remake an espresso coffee shot. Despite this setback, Isaiah persevered and successfully completed his routine within the allotted time, earning him fourth place in the world. He reflects on the exhilarating sensation of being announced as a WBC finalist and the journey he undertook to reach that degree. In the competition, Isaiah utilized a Pink Bourbon coffee variety cultivated by Lucy Fernanda Galindez and processed with a thermal shock process by Diego Bermudez. He attributes his ability to finish on time after the mishap to his experience working in busy bar shifts. Since returning home, Isaiah has celebrated his achievement and the efforts it took to reach that point. Locally, he has observed some impact on his coffee shop, Archetype Coffee, with increased website traffic and international orders. But, he acknowledges that barista competitions are still not fully comprehended in Omaha. Isaiah concludes by expressing his admiration for all baristas who compete on the global stage, acknowledging the pressure and exposure they face while representing their respective countries.

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