Predictions for 2012

This is the fifth year of these predictions posts, and considering each post contains five predictions there is a pleasing quality to this being the last one of these. Feels appropriate…

Looking back over previous years it seems that the predictions have generally fallen into certain categories:

The WBC Prediction:

Alejandro’s win in Bogota felt like the culmination of a certain approach to a competition performance, combined with great execution. There’d be increasing focus on better connecting the producer and the barista and I think Alejandro took that as far as it can go. Alejandro wasn’t the only one taking this route – Pete Licata’s routine was also a great expression of that idea. That means that this year there will need to be a new angle, a new focus. I think the field of competitors will struggle with this – though I think there is a great opportunity for someone to do well by having a very clear vision and idea. (I hope I get to commentate again, as I really enjoyed that in Bogota.)

The C-Market Prediction:

A lot of the factors that caused the wild fluctuations in price seem to have moved away from the coffee market, but a lot of the base causes for the rise are still there. I predict a slow and steady creep up in price over the next 12 months.

The Brewed Coffee Prediction:

Like it or not, I think we’re going to see an increase in the quality of coffee coming out of batch brewers. This doesn’t imply an upcoming innovation in the technology, more a shift in the places using them. They make really nice coffee when used well, and this year I think it is very important that we focus on just getting coffee right regularly rather than trying to blow people’s minds with clever by the cup techniques.

The UK Coffee Market Prediction:

London has seem some explosive growth in the last few years, but this hasn’t spread at the same rate outside of the capital. London businesses have enjoyed some protection from the UK’s economy because London is pretty much a separate economy unto itself. The recession certainly hit, and many feel like there must surely be an end to the storm. I don’t think that end will be in sight in the next year, I think 2012 is going to be extremely tough in London for coffee retail. I hope I am wrong on this one.

The Equipment Prediction:

Always a tough one. I think we’ll see some technical innovation in espresso and coffee brewing from outside of established manufacturers. We’re not yet at a point where we’ll see the reinvention of the espresso machine (which I do think will happen in the next 3 years), but we’ll definitely see some great ideas coming from unusual places. Whether these ideas end up being industrialised or licensed to the larger manufacturers – I don’t know.

If anyone fancies throwing a prediction out there then do please write a blog post and stick a link in the comments, and do feel free to argue with me and tell me I am an idiot in the comments too!

18 Comments

  1. Some well rationalised thoughts James. Do you have a take on the home coffee market? There seems to be a rise in coffee bean retail sales to the consumer as they look to move on from the stale bags that sit on the supermarket shelf.  Maybe this is a symptom of the recision, were small luxurious treats are swapped in against visits out. Much like the Home DVD vs Cinema trends of recent years.

  2. Nope, you are not an idiot. Only thing I am not sure about is C prices. I think we will see more or less the same game play as in 2011.

  3. I predict I’ll get a laptop stolen at the WBC in Vienna, unless I
    a) don’t take one or
    b) don’t go. 

    :)

  4. I agree that bulk brewing should be considered along side 1-2 cup brewing. I would be inclined to say only as a take out option? I love the slow bar scene in london. I wouldnt want it to be made redundant. Its what sets the specaility scene from those gastly chains. Its very satisfying sitting in front of a barista watching him/her using their skills to produce that delicious cup and to engage in coffee conversation.

  5. No thoughts on the Marco wet brew then? I predict we will see more of a demonstration this year than just a hand grinder and some power tools.

  6. I think a big part of it is availability – if we make it easier for people to buy better coffee for home then they will.  I think cheap hand grinders have probably helped a few people make the transition too.

  7. Interesting (the C price bit, not the idiot part).  I read one report today that said the opposite to me – prices to hold steady til July then dropping towards $2.

  8. Isn’t your Brewed Coffee Prediction also UK specific? I totally agree with your point that the quality of batch brewed coffee will (and have to) increase. But for this step every national coffee industry need “by the cup brewing” to sensitize the customer for brewed coffee… What do you think?

  9. I think by the cup brewing is one way for increasing demand for filter coffee.  I think you can do it by just being excited about the coffee itself, and brewing it well and getting people excited about the taste rather than the process.

  10. The signature drink is something we seldom see at bars, except the cheesy ones being served at generic chains who garnish themselves with titles stolen from french and italian dictionaries.  I would really love to see someone set a new industry standard with a signature drink. It seldoms get any press, at least good, though most average Joes and Janes only drink the tangles of syrup, milk and coffee, it would be nice to have something extraordinary. The signature drink could also be a golden opportunity to reach the so-called restaurant market all baristas dread, at least as a dessert, as it would fit the bill and glamour of that peculiar scenario much more than just a black cup of joe spiked with acidity.

    The predictions on inflation of retailers, prices and better overall brewing will of course progress. It seems the household names of the so-called premiums like Esmerelda have had some rest, and I believe this is a natural progression of the market, as these lots have been scattered by an increase price and roasters. While its easier to get hold of “quality”, the knowledge in the explosion of coffeeshops is still pretty weak compared to the showroom bars.

    This opens up a space for the home barista, which can use his spare time to perfect his craft and dig deeper in to the world of coffee. As the approach in homes grow, the consumers demand soar to a level where they can attack defects in shops and hopefully recreate a cup close to the ones served by champions at showroom bars.

  11. So good to hear from you again, James.  I don’t want to say that this is a prediction so much as wishful thinking – I think that there will be a movement to “simplify” our methods (different from dumbing-down, just making it more easily repeatable by many sets of hands) for by-the-cup brewing.  The availability of affordable grinders, higher-quality coffee in the marketplace, combined with approachable brewing methods will be key for a growth in the home-brewing “sector.”  There will be less emphasis on Barista as individuals with outstanding skill sets (think Bartender) and more on Barista-as-home-brewing-consultant (cooking show host).  Or at least I hope so.

  12. Do you really think this is what 2012 needs? Signature drinks are messy, time consuming, and often don’t do a lot to highlight the flavour of coffee. I envision a lot of fledgling coffee-makers coming up with wild and sugary drinks and forgetting about the importance of technical skill and knowledge.

    As for the restaurant market, I’m not sure that’s a direction coffee really needs to go in. Ideally for me, a signature drink would actually be a cup of black coffee spiked with acidity… Something that brings out the characteristics in good quality coffee. Making coffee into a dessert isn’t a new idea, and I don’t think it’s a good one, either.

  13. I tend to agree with you on this. Making coffee into a dessert is past time. My suggestion is to do pairings instead. It would be much more interesting to pair coffee with i.e. whisky, beer, cake etc.

  14. There you go :-) C prices are not easy to predict. It could go either ways. I can’t say that I am right either but I think we will see the same guys moving back into coffee when the prices have been steady for a while. They have dropped so there will soon be room for speculation again. But I hope I am wrong.

  15. The comp baristas put soooo much time and effort into their sig drink why should they not be rewarded by serving it to their faithful? The problem here is that the drink will ultimately be unbalanced.
    The rules say the drink must taste predominantly of espresso. I don’t know many chefs who would put a dish on their menu and have it be unbalanced by a predominantly bitter element.
    The WBC could change the rules to make the sig drinks more approachable for other ingredients to balance it out but then it wouldn’t be just about the coffee…

  16. Well, ideally coffee shouldn’t be predominantly bitter…

    This is pure speculation on my part, but from looking at the score sheets it seems like it doesn’t really pay to put that much time and effort into a signature drink. It doesn’t gain a competitor that many points.

    I don’t see why it’s a problem to have an espresso-based drink taste predominantly of espresso… no one complains of long blacks being unbalanced, unless they aren’t well made. A chef would certainly make sure that something like a broccoli soup tasted predominantly of broccoli, and this isn’t a problem.

    I’ve sometimes thought that changing the rules around signature drinks would make things a little more fun for competitors (for example, I had an amazing cut of coffee smoked beef the other day, and I thought it was a creative use of coffee beans), but I think ensuring that coffee has to be the predominant flavor means that competitors are encouraged to really understand coffee tasting.

    Plus, the idea of serving a signature drink in a cafe sounds fun, but in reality trying to make a long black with egg yolks and chili powder, strained through cardamom tea with a balsamic and Himalayan sea salt reduction in the middle of busy service is pretty impractical.

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