Over the last few years, Morgan Eckroth has become one of the most recognisable names in the specialty coffee world. With a social media following that boasts millions of followers, the Content Marketing Specialist of Onyx Coffee Lab has inspired countless numbers with their gentle and inclusive approach to coffee knowledge, service and day-to-day interactions.

Outside of social media and quality content creation, Morgan is a successful coffee competitor and has competed in the US Barista Championship multiple times. In 2022, they won the national competition and placed 2nd in the World Barista Championships in Melbourne, Australia. This year, Morgan returned to the stage once again to give a presentation about the future of coffee and how ‘care’ is central to it.

Just before the 2024 US Barista Championships, in which Morgan placed 2nd, we spoke to them briefly before the competition about coffee careers, competitions, the future of coffee, and extract chilling techniques.

 

How did you begin working in the coffee industry, and what has your experience been so far?

I began working in coffee as a barista in early 2017. At the time, I was starting my degree in marketing and wanted to ultimately work somewhere in the creative sector of the coffee industry post-graduation. I began competing in the US Barista Championship in late 2018 and it fully hooked me into coffee. My love of coffee stems equally from the hospitality side of the industry as well as the scientific and data-driven hard skills of brewing. After winning the US Barista Championship in 2022, I joined Onyx Coffee Lab on the creative/marketing team and have been working for them ever since.

Additionally, my online coffee work as @MorganDrinksCoffee on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube has been developing since 2019.


What is your fondest memory so far as a coffee professional?

Genuinely, I think walking behind bar on my first day as a barista. To this day, I get a thrill when getting behind a new machine for the first time and I think a lot of it relates back to that first moment where I realized that I was finally working in coffee after wanting to for so long.


You’ve been competing for a number of years, and placed 2nd in the 2022 World Barista Championships. What made you want to compete in coffee competitions in the first place?

I stumbled onto competition on YouTube originally, I believe. In my recommended bar there was a WBC routine that I clicked into and I was a goner after that. Having grownup in both the performing arts and competitive sports, a coffee competition was the perfect storm of all of my interests at the time. That feeling was further affirmed after I competed in my first qualifying event.


What has your ‘coffee competitor’ career been like so far? 

I competed for the first time in late 2018, leading into the 2019 USBC season. I barely made it to nationals as I came in 18th, which is the last spot eligible to move on. At nationals, I didn’t make it past the first round but I left the venue already planning what I wanted to do next time.

I do think that making it to nationals my first year gave me a false sense of confidence though, I took that placement for granted which led to pitfalls the following year. When I competed in the qualifying event for the 2020 season, I didn’t make it to nationals and that forced me to do some hard evaluation on why I was competing and if I chose to compete again, what was I going to do differently.

2021 was, of course, an off year due to Covid and then in 2022, I won. I had the incredible support of Onyx Coffee Lab, Lance Hedrick, and Andrea Allen behind me but also, in my time off, I had forced myself to develop the skills that I had been lacking previously as a barista. I didn’t expect to win that year, my goal was just to prove to myself that I could do better if I seriously applied myself. I then went on to take the runner up position at the World Barista Championships in 2022.

I also competed in the 2023 season of USBC and took runner up.

 

"...it’s clear that in order for the industry to move forward, specialty coffee needs more eyes and more people to care about it."

How are you feeling about competing in the US Barista Championship this year?

I’m incredibly excited. I really think this year’s routine is the one I’m the most proud of (I’m sure I say this every year, haha)

I say this to new competitors all the time but I believe you have to have some other goal in competing besides just winning. For me, that’s pushing myself to learn new skills in the preparation and creation process of a routine. I do genuinely feel like I’ve learned so much this year and it’s been incredibly gratifying to apply it to my routine and see positive results. It has already been a super fun season and we’re just getting started.


Where do you see the future of coffee heading in the next 5 years?

Ah, the big question. This is actually what my routine is about this year and in it, I make it pretty clear that I struggle to definitively say what the future will be. However, it’s clear that in order for the industry to move forward, specialty coffee needs more eyes and more people to care about it. We need even more people to put value on coffee as something more than a simple commodity in the future.


You used the Paragon Espresso and extract chilling in your nationals routine. How did it impact the taste of your coffee, and why did you choose to use it? 

I was talking to Isaiah Sheese after my qualifiers routine and I think he said it best in that the Paragon Espresso “takes the edges off” of your espresso. I initially wanted to use the Paragon Espresso primarily as a cooling tool instead of the usual chaos of chilling cups and spoons. However, one of the benefits that most surprised me when I began practicing with it is that it really enhanced the tactile of my shots. In side by side comparisons, the shots off of the Paragon were significantly creamier, softer, and more pillowy. The flavor and aroma were great too, of course, but it was the tactile that was the most surprising to me.


Is there anything special about your coffee, or barista approach, you’re passionate about sharing, which you may not have time to share in your barista routine?

I really think I could make an hour long barista routine if they let me, I feel like I never get all of my words out. The main thing that I try to emphasize in all of my routines is that we can move forward as an industry while also meeting new customers where they are. Fighting the frustrating “pretentious” barista stereotype through warm hospitality while also still presenting innovations in coffee is a weird line to tread in competition but I think it’s an important one.


What do you believe will be the biggest challenge for you this year (in competition), or in the years ahead?

My biggest challenge this year is to remove all variables that have caused me trouble in past years. From tech to flavor to presentation, I’m focusing on streamlining and optimizing absolutely every aspect of my routine and that’s proved to be a constant process. It seems like every day I’m discovering a new “problem” or pain point in my routine that has to be sorted out.


Is there anything else you believe to be important, relevant, or that you wish to share with the Nucleus Coffee Tools community?

I think I would just close out by saying that as baristas, we should always be curious and experiment. The evolution of coffee and what we know about it is ongoing and that journey is one of the most fun parts of this industry.

 

To watch Morgan’s second place-winning competition routine with the Paragon Espresso, click here.

Images: @nikiweegens

"...as baristas, we should always be curious and experiment."

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Outside of social media and quality content creation, Morgan is a successful coffee competitor and has competed in the US Barista Championship multiple times. In 2022, they won the national competition and placed 2nd in the World Barista Championships in Melbourne, Australia. This year, Morgan returned to the stage once again to give a presentation about the future of coffee and how ‘care’ is central to it.

Just before the 2024 US Barista Championships, in which Morgan placed 2nd, we spoke to them briefly before the competition about coffee careers, competitions, the future of coffee, and extract chilling techniques.