Ben Helfen’s Legacy: ATL TNT Turns 6!

The top five, from left to right:

Even though it might seem to some younger baristas that Thursday Night Throwdowns have been around forever, they’re relatively young. In fact, they only began six years ago! It was Ben Helfen and M’lissa Muckerman who started the Thursday Night Throwdown concept at Octane Coffee, where they both worked at the time.

Ben Helfen—who with M'lissa Muckerman made TNTs happen for the first time in this very location, Octane Coffee in ATL, in 2008—welcomed folks to the 6-year anniversary party for TNT.

Ben Helfen—who with M’lissa Muckerman made TNTs happen for the first time in this very location, Octane Coffee in ATL, in 2008—welcomed folks to the 6-year anniversary party for TNT. Photo by Sterling Graves.

M’lissa is now slinging coffee in Melbourne, and Ben is still in Atlanta, only now he works for Counter Culture Coffee. But he and Octane—like the whole ATL coffee community—are still very close.

There's a lot of love in the Atlanta coffee community, as evidenced by the number of people and the amount of enthusiasm at last week's TNT, the 6th anniversary of the original TNT which took place right there, at Octane Coffee, in 2008.

There’s a lot of love in the Atlanta coffee community, as evidenced by the number of people and the amount of enthusiasm at last week’s TNT, the 6th anniversary of the original TNT which took place right there, at Octane Coffee, in 2008. Photo by Sterling Graves.

He was excited when the sixth anniversary of the very first TNT was upon him, and it was even set for the exact same date as that first TNT: March 20! He enlisted the help of the super capable Tess Ottinger, who has been very active in getting the TNTs in Atlanta running smoothly. Barista Magazine was excited to support the event with magazines to give away as well as prizes for the winners. And we were in great company — other sponsors were La Marzocco, Baratza, Counter Culture, Batdorf & Bronson, Octane, Barista Varietals, and Hop City Craft Beer Market.

Friends had a blast catching up, making coffee, and cheering each other on in the throwdown.

Friends John Fogleman of Octane Coffee Westside, ad Keelan Lyons, founder of Barista Vaietals, had a blast catching up, making coffee, and cheering each other on in the throwdown. Photo by Sterling Graves.

There was room for 32 competitors on the sign up sheet, and it filled up in 5 minutes! Seriously, Tess and Ben made this TNT a BIG DEAL, which drew an enormous crowd from Atlanta’s vibrant coffee community. Approximately 100 people crammed into Octane for the event.

Tyler Brown pours what will be the winning art of the evening.

Tyler Brown of Octane Westside pours what will be the winning art of the evening. Photo by Sterling Graves.

1st: Tyler Brown of Octane Westside
2nd: Brandon Camarda of Octane Westside
3rd: Taylor Castle of Cafe Benz
4th: Kyle Logan of Octane Birmingham
Redemption prize draw: Randy Harrell of Octane Westside

The TNT was judged by David LaMont, Counter Culture; Chandler Rentz, Batdorf & Bronson, and Dustin Mattson, Octane Coffee

The TNT was judged by Dustin Mattson, Octane Coffee; Chandler Rentz, Batdorf & Bronson Coffee; and David LaMont, Counter Culture. Photo by Sterling Graves.

“Obviously it was a great night for Octane baristas, which is awesome since we were on their turf,” says Tess. “Local coffee attendees were Counter Culture, Batdorf & Bronson, Rev Coffee, Thrive, Land of a Thousand Hills, Atlanta Coffee Roasters, 5&10, and Safe House, just to name the majority. The best part [about events like these] is seeing the way everyone comes together as a family and just has the best time catching up, competition aside.”

Fierce concentrate for the pour that will earn him th place.

Kyle Logan of Octane Birmingham was focused as he poured a drink that went on to earn him 4th place. Photo by Sterling Graves.

The top five, from left to right:

The top five, from left to right: Redemption draw winner Randy Harrell; fourth place finisher Kyle Logan; winner Tyler Brown; third place finisher Taylor Castle; and 2nd place finisher Brandon Camarda. Photo by Sterling Graves.

About the Author

Sarah

Sarah Allen is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.