Nearly all Coffee Trends are Pointing to This.

Last year, I gave my list of the top 10 coffee trends for 2016.  Here are the topics I addresses in order from 10 to 1

  • Quality Automation
  • Coffee Tisanes and Flours
  • Niche Coffee Products
  • Coffee Prosumers
  • Coffee Cocktails
  • Keurig’s Downward Spiral
  • Water
  • Draft & Nitro Cold Brew
  • Coffee Delivery & Subscriptions
  • Cold Brew

As I researched the trends for 2017 something dawned on me.   Many of the trends that I listed last year are actually aspects of a greater emerging motif in coffee; the distributed scaling of the 3rd wave movement.  More and more enthusiastic consumers are becoming prosumers.  And they are leveraging the internet to elevate the coffee game even across the board.  Rather than create another list I'm going to dive deeper into this motif.


Wikipedia defines the 3rd wave this way:


The third wave of coffee is a movement to produce high-quality coffee.  It treats coffee as an artisanal product, like wine, rather than a commodity. This involves improvements at all stages of production.  It includes improvements in coffee plant growing, harvesting, and processing.  It focuses on forming stronger relationships between coffee growers, traders, roasters.  And it emphasizes higher quality fresh roasting "microroasting" (by analogy with microbrew beer), along with skilled brewing.


The 3rd wave is a quality driven movement. It's based in a granular understanding in all aspects of coffee production, from farm to cup.  Baristas are the evangelists of this movement.  We share our knowledge with consumers through conversations.  And we express this knowledge by serving better and better cups of coffee.  Through these actions, baristas are shaping consumer values.   In essence, we are creating more “problems” for the consumer as we expand their awareness.  A problem is simply an unmet need.  Education serves as the gateway to creating problems and empowering people to solve them.


You didn’t know that you had a problem with Foldger’s, until Starbucks and Peet's taught you about freshness and espresso drinks.  You didn’t know you had a problem with Starbucks and Peet’s until Intelligentsia taught you about the importance of origin, varietal and small batches.  Now you don’t exactly have a problem with Intelligentsia (or maybe you do) but they consistently make better coffee than you do at home, using the same beans.  You don’t know why, but you know you have a problem with that.


Thanks to sites like Kickstarter, you will soon find out why.  Third Wave Water and Aquiem can create and solve your water mineral content problem.  Rafino can create and solve your grind consistency problem.  Many more projects will emerge that solve all the problems you don’t know you have yet.  Soon people at home will be brewing consistently on par with the best cafes in the world.  These products are not being created by large corporations.  Instead, they are the result of consumers scratching their own itch, and using the internet to reach other people who have the same itch.  This is what the distributed 3rd wave looks like.  We will continue to create new problems, which are simply new opportunities to elevate coffee even further.