Welcome to Creators on the Rise, where—in partnership with global creator company Jellysmack—we find and profile breakout creators who are in the midst of extraordinary growth.
Morgan Eckroth loves coffee.
And we mean they really love coffee. It takes a strong love–and a strong, expertly made cup of joe–to get to the World Barista Championship, and back in September, that’s exactly where Eckroth was. They came in second place, representing the entire United States with a 15-minute presentation that involved an entire scripted speech and three distinct coffee-based drinks made in real time (with coffee from their sponsor Onyx Coffee Labs, where they also work as a content marketing specialist) and served to a tough panel of judges.
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Eckroth didn’t originally plan for coffee to become their career. They also didn’t think joining TikTok–long enough ago that the still remember it being musical.ly–would pour some essential espresso on that career.
Eckroth originally went to college for marketing, and, as we mentioned above, still works in the field at Onyx Coffee Labs. But they also spend three days a week working as a barista in a local coffee shop, where they film most of their near-daily videos for YouTube and TikTok during off hours. And, of course, they train for competition.
For them, TikTok was the start of making coffee content. They expanded to YouTube after that, and could see they had a ready and willing audience on both platforms, but didn’t know how to make that into a cohesive thing.
That’s when a manager reached out to them, asking if they were looking for representation. Eckroth responded, “Well, I am, but I don’t know how to make this what I want it to be. I just don’t have to know how to turn this into a job.”
“They were like, ‘No problem. That’s what we do,'” Eckroth says.
Since signing on with their manager, Eckroth has grown their YouTube channel to nearly one million subscribers, and has committed long-term to barista competitions. They’re already developing their presentation for next year’s world championship–a lengthy undertaking that starts with figuring out exactly what kind of coffee they’re going to use.
Somehow we suspect they’ll enjoy all the taste-testing.
Check out our chat with them below.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tubefilter: For people who are reading this and might not be familiar with you, can you give me a little background about you, where you’re from, and how you ended up on social media?
Morgan Eckroth: Absolutely. My name is Morgan Eckroth and I grew up in Corvallis, Oregon. I started content creation in 2019 while I was getting my marketing degree and also working as a barista. I initially started on TikTok, and that’s where I grew my platform at first. Then in I believe January 2020, I began on YouTube, and it was an experiment to learn longer-form video editing, to learn how to do longer-form content in general, but also to dive into deeper topics around coffee and education and gear review and all that stuff. I started YouTube while simultaneously doing TikTok and Instagram as well. It began to do well.
Initially on TikTok, I was doing a lot of sketch content. It’s still what I do. YouTube was very different. It was a lot more like recipes and as I mentioned before, education and career. I grew a very different audience on YouTube than I did on TikTok. They grew very separately for a while, which was fun.
Nowadays, I still work as an active barista on the floor. I actually have a job in marketing outside of any internet stuff for a coffee company. Then I work for myself under MorganDrinksCoffee, which is essentially my full-time job nowadays. It’s quite a fun combination.
Tubefilter: Your full-time job on top of the three other jobs that you have.
Morgan Eckroth: Essentially. [laughs]
Tubefilter: Do you feel like your YouTube and TikTok audiences are still separate?
Morgan Eckroth: They’ve definitely come together more in the last year. Initially, when I started out, the types of content were so different, I didn’t benefit as much from my TikTok platform as people might have anticipated. Growing on YouTube was very organic and very separate to TikTok for a long time. They have certainly come more together, and I think that is partially to do with YouTube Shorts as well, because now I’m integrating similar sketch content on YouTube. Then just naturally over time, people have found that crossover of like, “Oh, this person I watch on TikTok also happens to be on YouTube.” Nowadays, it’s a lot more homogenous.
Tubefilter: You were a pretty early TikTok user then?
Morgan Eckroth: Oh, yes. I was watching content on there right after it had been turned into TikTok from musical.ly. Then a few months later, I began. I was in that first early wave where it was embarrassing to be on there.
Tubefilter: What made you want to go from watching videos on TikTok to making videos on TikTok?
Morgan Eckroth: It was literally a challenge for myself. I knew at that point in time, because I was getting my marketing degree, that I wanted to go into some sort of field of advertising/content creation. At the time, I thought it would be for another company, and I had a lot of experience in photography and copywriting, but I had very little experience in video of any type. That’s where I saw most social media going at that point.
I literally looked at TikTok and went, “Well, this seems like a simple enough platform that I could get my toes wet with some of these video editing skills. I could begin somewhere here.” I literally took it on as a challenge and just practiced for myself to get used to a new platform and also dip my toe in the video. Then it just took off from there and had a mind of its own.
Tubefilter: How are things working nowadays? Do you cross-post short content from TikTok to YouTube, or do you still make different content for each platform? How’s it working for you?
Morgan Eckroth: A minority of the time, I will do, I suppose “personalized” content for each platform. There was a time where I was doing a lot of YouTube Shorts very separately from TikTok. Nowadays, a lot of my content is cross-posted just because of the amount I have to create. It’s a lot easier to share across platforms, but it depends. There are times where I will make things specifically for one audience versus another.
Tubefilter: What are the kinds of trends that you notice in audiences on TikTok and YouTube now?
Morgan Eckroth: They are becoming closer together. I think for a very long time, at least within my audience, I noticed a very big difference in age between the two, especially with my types of content being a little bit different from channel to channel. On TikTok, it certainly skews a bit younger. I would say a majority of my audience is probably in the 18 to 24 age bracket. On YouTube, still to this day, my primary demographic is 25 to 34-ish, and that has to do a little bit with the fact that I do a lot of gear review, which tends to skew older just because it’s the people who can afford to buy these things. They are getting closer together.
I think the addition of YouTube Shorts has made it so there’s a lot more crossover, which is really fun personally for me because it gets to these people who I want to talk to about coffee things rather than necessarily an older demographic. It invites them in a little bit more. It starts them out with Shorts so that it’s like, “All right, let’s work you to the longer videos.”
Tubefilter: I’m curious what you think. I’ve talked to a lot of creators specifically for this column who got on YouTube to try and do longer-form content, and found it really difficult to take off, and then Shorts came out, and they feel like Shorts made it more accessible, establishing a YouTube audiences. I was wondering if you had any opinions or thoughts about that.
Morgan Eckroth: Yes. I have many thoughts.
For sure, short-form content, I think in general, it is a skill, and it’s a completely different skill than long-form content. I never want to diminish it at all because it’s where I started, and it is hard. Any video creation is hard. That being said, I feel like short-form content nowadays, what people want it to be is a lot more authentic than the structured long-form, highly edited stuff. In that way, it’s very easy to break into. I think an interesting dynamic that’s been created now on YouTube with the addition of Shorts is that at least in my experience, my audience is very much split up into two different sub-audiences.
The folks who watch my Shorts more often than not don’t even know about my long-form content or don’t watch it. Then the folks who are subscribed to watch long-form content usually don’t watch my Shorts. There’s this weird divide where I have my subscriber number, but I know personally within that subscriber number, there’s two different numbers that play out into these different categories of content. That’s been something really interesting to see form with the addition of Shorts.
Tubefilter: I’ve seen a lot of people say that like, “I’m getting hella views off my Shorts, but nobody’s subscribing.” Is that what you’re seeing, too?
Morgan Eckroth: I think so. You look at a channel with nearly one million subscribers and you already have an expectation of what their view count should be just across industry standard. You’re probably going to see them getting 200,000 to maybe 300,000 views on average. However, with this divide of maybe most of their people are subscribing for short content, when you go look at their long-form content, you’ll often see much lower view counts than you’d expect.
Without the knowledge that there is now these two different lines of content you can view on YouTube, it would be very easy to assume that this channel is maybe not doing well or something is happening or they’re on a downturn where that’s not really true. The proportion of audience that is subscribed for their long-form content is still watching their long-form content. There’s just been this addition of a new audience, and so it inflates subscriber numbers to what the expected view counts are, if that makes sense.
Tubefilter: In terms of production, are you leaning more into Shorts now?
Morgan Eckroth: I definitely do more short-form content than I do long. My current workflow is I will put out three to four pieces of short content a week, and I usually post every other day with that. Then I do one long-form video a week. That’s usually a longer production. That’s the current pace that’s been working.
Tubefilter: Do you edit all your own stuff? Do you have anybody working with you?
Morgan Eckroth: I do have an editor, at long last. For a very, very long time. I edited everything. I pretty much shot everything as well. Then finally, about a year and a half ago, I believe I brought on a really fantastic editor because I was like, “I need help. I can’t do this anymore.”
Tubefilter: Understandable. What was that overwhelming point where you were like, “I’m done. I need help”?
Morgan Eckroth: Honestly, it was the realization that my editing skills only went so far, and if I wanted to continue editing all my own videos, I was going to have to take the time to learn how to be like a proper editor, and that was going to be another full-time job. I just had this realization that I can’t add another job onto everything I’m doing. I was like, “All right, it’s time to go find someone who does this professionally, and hand it off.”
Tubefilter: Is that the only member of the team you have? Who’s the MorganDrinksCoffee team?
Morgan Eckroth: It’s very small. It’s myself, my partner helps me a good deal with various odds and ends with filming and stuff. I have an editor, who works remotely for me. Then I do have management as well. That’s pretty much it. It is still mostly just me. I don’t have anyone else in my accounts anywhere. I do all my own posting, all my own moderation. I’m a little bit of like a control freak in that way where it’s like I want to do everything. Besides my editor, it’s mostly me.
Tubefilter: I feel like it’s really smart to be a control freak, honestly, in this particular business.
Morgan Eckroth: I’m like, “I’ll just keep it under this roof.” For now, that works. We’ll see how long it lasts. [chuckles]
Tubefilter: You had a marketing degree and you’ve had these other jobs, but when did MorganDrinksCoffee as a company become a thing? When did you know that this was going to be a real thing?
Morgan Eckroth: It’s an interesting story. I graduated from college in 2020, so it was that first year into the pandemic. At that time, I was doing, of course, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram to a decent level success, but I didn’t know how to turn it into a job. It was also terrifying to think of trying to make that a job, especially out of college being like, “I’m going to graduate and then work for myself.” That didn’t make a lot of sense at the time. I actually left the coffee industry. I stopped being a barista. I basically stopped content production in pursuit of getting a more classical job. I worked in marketing at a startup very briefly.
During those three or four months out of college that I was working outside of coffee, I had this realization that that’s not what I wanted to do. I sorely missed working in the coffee industry, and I also missed creating content. That’s about when I synced up with the agency I’m still signed with. They reached out to me, and they were like, “Hey, we have seen your channel. We love what you do. Are you looking for management?” I was like, “Well, I am, but I don’t know how to make this what I want it to be. I just don’t have to know how to turn this into a job.” They were like, “No problem. That’s what we do.”
I was like, “Oh great.” I made the decision in, I believe it was November or December of 2020, to quit the job that I had, to drop all my health benefits, and to go work for myself. That’s when I turned MorganDrinksCoffee into a business. That’s when I started actually taking it very seriously. Since then, I’ve gotten back into the coffee industry full-time, and it’s worked thankfully from then on.
Tubefilter: The sheer amount of stress I just experienced hearing you say “drop my health benefits”…
Morgan Eckroth: That one was not super fun at 21.
Tubefilter: I’m glad you’ve had a positive management experience. There are lots of horror stories out there, but lots of good people too.
Morgan Eckroth: I feel really blessed to be with the agency I’m with. It was a perfect fit. They have been awesome, and I consider them good friends now. A great relationship.
Tubefilter: What kind of professional development did they work on with you or channel development, just in general?
Morgan Eckroth: There was a lot. They certainly helped with a lot of best practices. They helped a lot too. I was interested just as a creator, sponsorships, were a thing I needed to take on in order to make it financially sustainable. They gave a lot of really great guidance on how to work through sponsorships. Additionally, they helped quite a bit with different coaching of directions I could go because I was like, “I want to turn this into something bigger than just pumping out TikTok videos and YouTube videos. I don’t really know what to do.” They had a lot of really awesome guidance at different directions I could go. Overall, they’ve just been very great in the mentorship, just for the last two years.
Tubefilter: Are there any specific videos or types of videos you’ve noticed really helped your channel grow on YouTube?
Morgan Eckroth: I would say, the ones that continually see most success, for better or for worse, will almost always be gear review. Being able to do machine reviews, espresso machines, or coffee makers are almost always way more successful than anything else. That’s for my long form. I would say for short-form, nowadays, I do much longer narrative sketches. I would describe them as. They’re various slice-of-life minute-to-minute-and-a-half-long videos. Those narrative-driven short pieces of content do very well as well, and they are the most fun to make. That makes me happy.
Tubefilter: That’s good. Definitely cool. YouTube has a big education and DIY community, so I find it really cool that your education stuff has that viewership tail.
Morgan Eckroth: It definitely falls into that.
Tubefilter: I did notice you recently had a partnership with a company called Fellow. Is that right?
Morgan Eckroth: Yes.
Tubefilter: That seemed interesting, so I just wanted to ask what that experience was like.
Morgan Eckroth: I’ve worked with them in a couple of different capacities now. They have a program called Fellow Drops, which is essentially a curated thing through text marketing. They do these very curated-like coffee drops once a week, and then if you are a member in their system, they send you a text detailing everything about the coffee. Then you will, through signing up with them, have put in all of your payment info and address and everything.
All you need to do if you want to purchase the coffee is literally send in the number of bags you want to buy. It’s a really cool platform they built out. I did a guest-curated coffee selection with them. I chose a coffee from one of my favorite local roasters. Help source, put together a brew guide for it, and then they launched it to that platform. That was a really cool partnership. Then I’ve done a couple of other promotional things with some recent equipment launches they’ve done as well.
Tubefilter: I feel like I would be remiss not to ask what the Barista Championship was like. I’ve watched your videos about it, and it seems incredibly nerve-wracking.
Morgan Eckroth: It is the NASCAR of barista life, which sounds ridiculous, but it’s what it is. I actually competed multiple times in the U.S. Barista Championship prior to this year and also prior to being a creator. It’s been something that’s been part of my life since early in my barista career. This year, I was working and partnered with the company Onyx Coffee Lab out of Arkansas. They were my roaster. Then also, both of my coaches worked there. Actually, nowadays it’s where I work as well. I work for them as the content marketing strategist.
That competition, the U.S. level was in…Shoot, where was it? It was Boston this year. It was an incredible experience. We went into it not really knowing what was going to happen. The goal of that competition and the theme of my routine this year was all about opening up what competition is to as many people as possible, just because I had this platform and race of competitions are super niche, and so we tried to combine the two as best as possible. Didn’t expect to win. It was a lovely, lovely cherry on top of the entire thing. Totally unexpected.
Then I went on to represent the U.S. in the World Barista Championship in Melbourne a couple of months ago. I took runner-up at that competition, and that was, again, an absolutely surreal and amazing experience. The coffee industry is a very special place full of incredibly passionate people. It was incredible to be able to be a fly on the wall to these fantastic international competitors.
Tubefilter: I mean, you weren’t really a fly on the wall. You were runner-up! I feel like you’re underselling yourself a little bit there.
Morgan Eckroth: I certainly felt like one. When I walked in, I was just was staring. I felt like a tourist in New York City or something in a way. I was just head up staring at everyone.
Tubefilter: It’s hard not to be. Do you plan to keep competing?
Morgan Eckroth: I do, actually. I will be competing again this year in the United States Barista Competition. We’re already starting to prepare for it. It’s happening in I believe late April this year.
Tubefilter: What’s the preparation process like?
Morgan Eckroth: It begins, usually, with coming up with a theme and writing your script or at least most of your script. Right now, myself and my coaches, we’ve settled on a general theme, and it’s on me now to scope it out to begin working through it. In about a month or so, we’re going to start looking at what coffees I’ll be using. We’ll be looking into sourcing and what is going to be best for the timeframe we’ll be competing in. Then after we have the coffee and script done, then it starts with me working on drink formulation and then doing run-throughs, which is literally like, will usually take up three to four hours a day multiple times a week. It turns into a job, but right now we’re very much in a creative time of preparation.
Tubefilter: That’s wild. I didn’t realize you have to source your own coffee for it.
Morgan Eckroth: Most competitors will use their own coffee. You are allowed to use up to three coffees if you really want to present that many. Usually, the coffees that you’ll see on the competition stage are some of the most expensive in the world. They are not your everyday coffee. They’re super rare. Usually experimental varieties, but they’re always delicious. It’s a fun part of the process to select it.
Tubefilter: What made you pick the coffees that you used for this past championship?
Morgan Eckroth: I used two coffees at the past championship. I used two different species actually. The coffee I used for my espresso course and my signature drink, it’s called the Sudan Rume, and it is Arabica coffee, which is most of the coffee you’ll experience in cafes. There’s Arabica and Robusta. However, there are other species outside of those two. The other coffee I used is called Eugenioides, and it’s a species in and of itself. It’s a very, very old species. It’s a very low-caffeine, high-sweetness species. It’s one that almost went extinct pretty recently. It was actually lab grown to experience a re-emergence.
That extinction and renewal was pretty integral to my theme. We chose that coffee and then the Sudan Rume coffee, it’s just a delicious coffee. Probably, one of my favorites I’ve ever had. That was an automatic choice.
Tubefilter: Very cool! I did want to ask, how have things changed for you since you started gaining more of a presence on YouTube and TikTok? Has anything shifted?
Morgan Eckroth: Yes, for sure. I try my best to say that nothing has changed in the sense that I do my best to treat MorganDrinksCoffee as a job. I am pretty careful about my boundaries with it. I treat it as a nine-to-five. In addition, I do my best not to let any of it go to my head. For me, especially having YouTube, which is definitely a more financially sustainable platform, I mostly just find myself every day really grateful to be able to do this as a job.
I’m very grateful for especially YouTube building out systems that support creators, so they’re able to do creative things and be able to be paid for them. I think that’s a really, really special thing that is, at this point, mostly unique to YouTube and how well they do it. That’s been the biggest difference. With YouTube, it has allowed me to do this full-time, which I’m very grateful for.
Tubefilter: Aside from continuing to compete, do you have anything you’re looking forward to in the next six months or so?
Morgan Eckroth: It’s the competition, definitely. Right now, it feels like a small part of my life, but give it two or three months, and it’s going to be huge again. It’s going to be really fun. Then also, my partner and I are planning on moving out to New York come probably spring of next year, which is going to be a pretty big move. We’re located in Portland right now, so I’m excited for that. It’s going to line up with some other projects we’re working on. I’m not super privy to talking about those yet, but they’re going to be really fun.
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