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Erwin Mierisch Named Executive Director of ACE and Cup of Excellence

Erwin Mierisch

Erwin Mierisch. ACE/COE promotional photo.

Longtime specialty coffee professional Erwin Mierisch has been appointed executive director of the sibling nonprofits Cup of Excellence (COE) and the Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE). 

The Portland-based groups began the search for a new leader following the resignation of Darrin Daniel in March. Mierisch will assume the role beginning Aug. 14. 

Despite a relatively small staff and its nonprofit status, the Cup of Excellence holds an influential place in the global specialty coffee industry, maintaining approximately a dozen prestigious countrywide green coffee competitions and auctions that consistently fetch prices that exponentially eclipse traditional market value. 


A cupping at a COE competition in Brazil. Daily Coffee News photo by Howard Bryman.

COE’s sibling nonprofit, ACE, is tasked with promoting the COE platform while also engaging in numerous other activities designed to promote global coffee quality, and to celebrate and remunerate coffee producers. The group maintains the Private Collection Auction series

With a career spanning the Americas, Mierisch has acted as a farmer, exporter, roaster and consultant. He was most recently a partner at the Texas-based specialty coffee consultancy Farm Direct Coffee. Part of a multi-generational coffee-farming family with roots in Nicaragua and the United States, Mierisch brings deep familiarity with COE and ACE programming to the both groups’ top executive position. 

In 2002, Mierisch helped bring the inaugural Nicaragua COE to life, and has since been the competition’s in-country operations manager. Representing the fourth generation of the Mierisch family in coffee, he has previously served as a COE head judge and trainer. He’s also been a COE-winning farmer and has helped coordinate the Los Favoritos Private Collection Auction.  


A cupping at a COE competition in Brazil. Daily Coffee News photo by Howard Bryman.

“With first-hand experience and skill in all aspects of Cup of Excellence and with an empathy for coffee producers, the program will be in good hands,” COE Chair Noelia Villalobos said in an announcement from ACE today. “We are grateful that he is willing to invest his long coffee history and expertise in developing an exciting future.”

After debuting in Brazil, the 23-year-old Cup of Excellence has been held in 15 different countries.

“As a coffee producer I have seen first-hand the benefits that COE and ACE have brought to the countries and to the farmers,” Mierisch said in today’s announcement. “My goal is to expand those benefits but also to make certain that companies are successful with their support.” 

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1 Comment


This family, the Mierisch family, are long-time high end producers. After being nitorduced to air popcorn coffee roasting, I began persuing it myself managed to cadge a few pounds of poor quality beans from local shops, which I then tortured in my Poppery. Curious about the possibilities I began attempting to contact some of the West Coast coffee importers, none of which would even talk to me because I was not yet “in the business”. I came across one more importer, and, feeling desparate, I rang. A crackly and sparkling old woman’s voice came on to the other end of the line, and I hesitanty began to explainm one more time, my desire and dilemma. We chatted for some time, she asked what coffees I had found and liked, and didn’t like. She asked about my “business’ and I had to admit it was non-existent. The conversation got so involvond I was forced tp pull off the road so I could concentrate on our conversation and not crash the car. After some further words she said OK, I will sell you one bag. I have this one recently in, I believe it will perfectly suit your needs. She wanted me to drive into San Francisco to pay for it, then she would send the release to the warehouse, just a few miles down the freeway from where I was parked on the shoulder. I knew San Francisco and traffic isssues, and admitted I was not keen on driving into the City then back out to East Bay. She said ALright I will send the release to the warehouse, and you just mail me a check. She did not even know my last name!!! I got the coffee.. it was from Finca Limoncillo, one of the Mierisch properties in Jinotega. I had spent some time there in the wake of Hurricane Mitch, a few years prevously. The coffee was wonderful, and my quest to learn how to roast that one sparked a major turn in my life’s direction. I subsequently went ito business and bought quite a lot of coffee from Erna Knutsen, ending only when she passed away at some amazing advanced old age. Seems she had had a VERY longstanding and close relationship with this family, and almost always had some of their offerings on her floors. Since her passing I’ve not been able to locate a source anywhere on the west coast. Perhaps some day…..
Looking back, I cinsider myself to have been uniquely blessed by starting out in such great company as Erna Knutsen and the Mierisch family. In my mind they are inextricably linked. Quite the “break” for a totally ignorant stars in my eyes know nothing kid.
I have always respected ACE and the COE organisations, and have managed to purchase quite a number of COE lots over the years. As a group, they do well in setting the standards bar where it should be. I also used to know a previous director of the COE programme, Grant Rattray formerly of Mercanta. He was my “inside guy” before they established a boots on the ground presence here in North America. Grant graciously took me under his wing and was another major influence in my journey in the world of coffee. His passing was a great shock, and I remain very thankful for HIS influence.
This is one of the things that is so important about this industry: a cnsistant willingness to share, teach, help, support, others as we all further the industry each in our own way.

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