Monogram Coffee’s Ben Put is One of the Best Baristas in the World

The co-owner of Monogram Coffee is a six-time Canadian National Barista Championship winner and has represented Canada on the world stage.

Photo by Chris Landry.

If the mere smell of coffee can be enough to wake people up in the morning, just imagine what it must do for Calgary coffee powerhouse Ben Put.

Put wears many hats. He’s a co-owner (and barista and roaster) of Monogram Coffee, which has four Calgary café locations. The Monogram team also opened Soon Coffee in 2021 in Burnaby B.C., and last year, teamed up with chef Matthias Fong (formerly of River Café) to open Calgary restaurant Primary Colours Café.

Put’s biggest claim to fame, however, is his competitive prowess. He has been competing at national and international barista championships for more than a decade, winning the Canadian National Barista Championship (CNBC) a record six times and placing in the top five at the World Barista Championship (WBC) four times.

Put recently competed at the 2023 WBC in Athens, where he created one drink in three categories — espresso, milk-based and signature beverage — within a 15-minute timeframe. Because of the nuanced nature of coffee, much of the competition preparation involves perfecting one’s game plan through testing, tasting, roasting and refining routine timing. It’s an ongoing, year-round process for Put, who says it all comes down to controlling the finest details, while creating an engaging story.

“A big thing with competition is you need to have a message,” he says. “It’s like a meal where all the courses are connected under some kind of theme. That’s really hard to do and have it be meaningful, interesting and innovative.”

Because of strict rules around the ingredients themselves, innovation for competitive baristas often comes in the form of ingredient manipulation. In 2017, Put pioneered the use of freeze-distilled milk, a technique that has since become a standard at barista competitions and a phenomenon amongst home baristas looking to step up their coffee game.

Now, Put is putting his experience as the winningest barista in CNBC history to good use by coaching others from around the world, including Monogram baristas, and competitors from Mexico.

And he plans to keep competing.

“[The competitions are] like the TED of coffee where there are a lot of brains in one place,” he says. “I always come back inspired.”

 

What is Freeze-Distilled Milk?

A process pioneered by Monogram Coffee’s Ben Put, freeze-distilled milk is the first run-off from frozen milk as it thaws. The sugars and fats in the milk thaw quicker than the water, creating a thicker, more concentrated “milky” milk.

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This article appears in the January 2024 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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