Andy Sprenger: Annapolis Coffee Shop Boasts Award Winning Coffee Brewer

How does one’s career move from biology to environmentalism to cook to coffee roaster?

Andy Sprenger’s life was influenced from all around the world.

Born and raised in Colorado, he graduated from college in Canada with a degree in biology. He married Laurel, a Canadian woman, whom he met when both worked at environmental institute jobs. He was the head cook there for three years.

They lived in England, then Lebanon for a while, where he worked at preserving a wetlands frequented by European birds flying south for the winter. Then, his wife was offered a position with a nonprofit in Annapolis and they moved here, to West Annapolis.

Laurel Sprenger is now a stay-at-home-mom for James, 7, Leila, 3, and Joshua, 1 ½, and they live in Centreville.

Andy’s job hunt led him to on Russell Street in Annapolis.

“I found out about Caffé Pronto while I was looking for a short-term job till I could find something in my (environmental) field,” said Sprenger.

Today he is the head roaster and recently won the 2011 U.S. Brewer's Cup Championship from the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA).

How does one’s career move from biology to environmentalism to cook to coffee roaster?

Caffé Pronto was just about a year old and was hiring for different positions.

“I loved coffee and had considered opening a coffee shop in college,” explained Sprenger, so he looked into the open positions.

He was a barista, a delivery person, and he bagged coffee. In his third year, he expressed interest in becoming a roaster. “We were such a small company,” he said, “we all did whatever needed to be done.”  

Sprenger said he wanted to start roasting to free up time for the owner to work on expanding the business. To that end, he was trained by the owner and other coffee professionals and, within a few months, Sprenger was in control of the roasting operation.

Maybe you’re wondering, ‘What’s so hard about making a good cup of coffee?’ Well, there’s more to it than non-professionals know.

Sprenger explains that brewing coffee has so many variables and anyone of those done wrong can result in a poor quality cup of coffee.

“Brew time, the grind, the method you choose for brewing…the water you use could be too cold…(or) too hot. You could be using too much coffee,” said Sprenger, listing some of the issues to consider when brewing the best cup of coffee.

The SCAA competition allowed the use of any brew method except an electric drip or stove-top percolator. French press, the pour over they use at the café, siphon brew or aeropress are all acceptable methods. Three judges made the final decision--based on the coffee’s taste and how it’s served. Sprenger also made a brief presentation about where the coffee was from, how it was grown, how it was roasted and the brew method, among other things.

“I hadn’t expected to get in the brewers cup (competition). It was a pleasant surprise (to win),” he said. He received a trophy, some small prizes and an all expenses paid trip to The Netherlands for his next competition this month at the International World Brewers Cup.

Sprenger said coffee is an important part of many cultures. In Ethiopia, for example, at an orphanage celebrating the adoption of their son, Joshua, they had an elaborate ceremony with flowers strewn on the ground. Coffee was ground right in front of the guests and brewed fresh and everyone gathered in a circle. A lady poured the coffee in small cups, then everyone drank together; a little like an English high tea.

Sprenger, 38, sees himself still in the coffee business, maybe in quality control and purchasing, as time goes by. He likes traveling and does so to Central America with some regularity.

In his sparse spare time, he leads bird tours where busloads of bird watchers travel to a location locally and elsewhere to look for and identify birds.

Birds are environmental indicators,” said Sprenger. “If you have a healthy environment birds are present.”

The family enjoys gardening, particularly growing heirloom tomatoes.

“We don’t have a huge garden. I wish I had more space and more time… It’s something nice to come home to, and walk with the kids around the garden,” said Sprenger.


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