Predictions for 2010 – Analysis

As we head towards the end of the year I thought I’d have a quick look back at 2010’s predictions post to see how I did. I’m not sure these posts have any value beyond a little entertainment, though it is increasingly obvious that I don’t know the difference between a prediction and “a thing I want to see happen”….

1. Widespread measurement of brewed coffee

Whether people like it or not isn’t the issue here, so I think it is safe to claim this one as correct. There are a lot more Extract Mojos out there than people probably think, which (as you’ve guessed) I believe is a good thing. I hope this continues to spread.

2. Another very bad year for the UK Branded Chains

A failure here, I really can’t claim this one as right. Costa are growing impressively, with some incredibly aggressive plans to more than double their number of units before 2015. Starbucks are in a much stronger position in the UK than a year ago. I have no idea about Caffe Nero.

It has been another good year for independents in the UK, but not at the expense of the bigger companies. This is a whole other subject though.

3. Increasingly Explicit Seasonality

I think it is still something that we’re struggling with as an industry, but I definitely think that it has become a more accepted and widespread part of how we talk about coffee. Lots more seasonal espresso out there too – which is a good thing. People with more experience in the industry than me will be able to comment about whether (in general) it is harder to find certain origins “out of season” than it was before – this would be an interesting metric. (Assuming we could agree on when an origin was out of season….) Gonna claim this as correct!

4. Baskets for Espresso machines

For me (personally) this was true – I learned a tonne and got excited about baskets, but for the industry I don’t think it was accurate. Can’t claim this as correct.

UPDATE: It seems important to clarify this one a little more. New filter baskets were mentioned at the NYC Out of the Box La Marzocco event and technical data shared that showed huge improvements in quality and performance over present filter standards. These are coming from LM, and they are extremely interesting. I’d recommend that people should keep their eyes peeled for updates at LM OoTB events.

5. WBC Prediction

I predicted that the same day semi and final would be a good thing (a bit vague I know – but I think it was!). I also said that at least 4 of the 12 semi finalists would be from producing countries. Turns out 5 1 of the 12 would be from coffee producing countries, and there can be no doubt that the WBC is a much more level playing field than before. I don’t think baristas from coffee producing origins can claim any sort of disadvantage when it comes to availability of different coffees, as many at the WBC did an exceptional job of showcasing their own origin and involvement with it. So – gonna say correct here too!

Three out of five isn’t awful, better than the year before! I’ll post a bunch of new predictions up just before the new year. Thoughts or comments welcome.

  1. 6 if you want to count Australia as a producing country, which feels like cheating to me.  ↩︎

5 Predictions for 2010

I don’t know why I keep coming back for this, having not done so well last time but they are kind of fun to do.  So without further ado here are my predictions:

1.  Widespread measurement of brewed coffee

The spread of the Extract Mojo will help, and I think anyone who uses one will see their value and they’ll continue to spread.  Projects like the Gold Cup Research Group – more info on the project here – will help reinforce the value of measurement.  I am not saying we should stop tasting – the whole point of the research group is to make sure the alignment between measurement and taste is correct.  A bigger concern for the US market – with good measurement tools the brewed coffee at major chains can easily be improved, and don’t think they haven’t started using them because they already have.

2.  Another very bad year for the UK Branded Chains

I sometimes worry I default to just picking on them, but I genuinely think this is going to be another hard year for them.  You could argue that it is only really Starbucks who are suffering, Costa are growing, Nero are growing – but they fear the independents (they’ve said as much in public) – and there are less and less reasons to frequent them as more and more viable alternatives appear.

3.  Increasingly explicit seasonality

To some extent seasonality has always existed in coffee.  What I think has changed in the last few years is that it has gone from being obscured through blending and the sale of old and past crop coffees to being celebrated a little more.  Intelligentsia’s “In Season” mark, seasonal espresso blends, shops celebrating fresh crops – all this will continue to gain momentum in the coming year.

4.  Baskets for Espresso machines

We’ve always known baskets have had an effect on extraction.  Some people prefer certain baskets, not just because they allow a certain dose/headroom with their machine.  However, recent evidence shows that there are many issues in espresso baskets beyond the placement of the holes across the base.  Expect to see people getting excited about baskets in the next 12 months.

5.  The WBC Prediction

I won’t predict a winner, because that is foolish.  I will say that I think the inclusion of a 12 person semi-final, on the same day as the final, will be a good thing for both the competition and the spectators.  I will predict that at least 4 of the 12 will be from coffee producing countries.

I look forward to seeing lots of people at the WBC – should be a lot of fun!

Your predictions?

Predictions for 2009 – Analysis

Well.  I really didn’t do well this time!  Having done ok on my 2008 predictions I must say that I can’t quite claim the same level of success for 2009.

My predicitons were:

1. Coffee Packaging takes a step forward

Nothing here to report.  I don’t know if anyone has done anything interesting in 2009 with roasted coffee packaging but I certainly haven’t seen it, and I don’t think it has had an impact.  A poor prediction.

2. Improved Green Coffee Packaging

This is a tricky one.  I am sure that this year people have received record quantities of vac-packed, or grainpro packed coffee.  I know that a substantial amount of coffee that we’ve bought this year has come this way.  I also know that it leaves me conflicted over the amount of waste this packaging generates.  An OK, passable, but not great effort at prediction.

3.  Someone invents a grinder worth getting excited about.

Nope. Nothing here.  I know why, from an R&D cost Vs sales perspective, this hasn’t happened.  For some reason I guess I thought it just would.  A complete failure of a prediction.

4.  Decent Coffee Press in the UK.

I am going to claim this one.  You could argue that the quality of writing hasn’t been where it could be but I think this year we’ve seen unprecedented levels of coverage for speciality coffee – mostly in response to Gwilym’s win – but also covering the blossoming of London’s coffee culture.  I hope it continues.  A pretty successful prediction.

5.  Producing countries in the WBC Top 6.

Another utterly failed prediction.  Raul was just outside the top 6, and I think there was some surprise at who made the top 6 and who didn’t.  Nonetheless I can’t even vaguely claim this one as successful.

So…  Barely 1.5 out of 5 I reckon.  Not good work.  I shall have to try harder for my prediction for 2010, or just give up entirely!  I hope next time I don’t confuse speculation and prediction with wishful thinking!

The one interesting thing, in terms of me trying to salvage my credibility, are the two main predictions that I got wrong in 2008 – the rise of pressure profiling and increase in green coffee pricing – have somewhat come true in 2009.

There can be no argument on the pressure profiling front.  From the Slayer to Strada, but also to Cimbali’s rather impressive pressure profiling machine – the technology is now here and seems to have perhaps captured the interest of manufacturers more than baristas but I think it will continue to be incorporated into new machines.

As for green coffee – it may not yet have reached the peak of March 3rd but after a steep drop it is definitely back on the rise:

(couresy of Wolfram Alpha – the rather splendid search engine for this sort of thing.)

I’ll post my predictions for 2010 around New Year.

Rate my predictions for 2008

On January 2nd this year I made five predictions – you can read them here – and I guess before I put up my predictions for 2009 I should probably decide how well I did last year.  Or better still – you guys decide!

1 – The spread of the Clover.

I could be really brave and predict that Starbucks will start using
them, but I think the guys at Clover would curse me for jinxing them!

I think I did pretty well here – though no one predicted Starbucks buying them outright.  You could argue that Starbucks haven’t really spread them around, but as I am not in the States I don’t know how often they are cropping up.

2 – World Barista Championships

I am not going to be as bold/stupid as to try and pick a winner but I
think the shift away from a Scandinavian-heavy final will continue.

2 of the 6 finalists were Scandinavian, but neither placed in the top 3.  I feel pretty safe claiming this one!  Congrats again to Stephen!

3 – Coffee prices continue to rise

I am not sure I am going to be able to claim this one.  Whilst things did look good (briefly) for this prediction earlier in the year prices seemed to have slumped at the end of it.  (Don’t worry – I am not going to go on about the media exaggerated financial issues).


4 – Pressure Profiling in Espresso

I am not sure on this one.  Synesso released the Hydra – the first machine with a pump per group as far as I know, LM released their new paddle group, John “The Awesome” Ermacoff kindly built me a pressure profiler that makes my head hurt but makes me happy, and the new Slayer machine also is big on pressure profiling.  All the above says yay, but I don’t feel we’ve come much further on understanding it all.

5 – The continued rise of the Microlot

Again I feel the need to plead my case here.  Certainly this was the year of the Ethiopian microlot – the numbered lots from Aricha and Beloya getting everyone very excited for good reason.  This was the year that Esmeralda divided their crop into micro microlots for the auction.  This was also a year that my understanding of microlots got a little more nuanced, and I felt less sure that they were all I had wanted them to be 12 months ago.  From this point on I leave it up to you dear reader – how well did I predict the year?



(You can add your own half point answers if you feel the need)

Would love to hear your comments on this.  I think I’d like to claim 4 out of 5, but that is up for debate!  Look out for my next set of hilarious predictions come January 1st!

A Clover quandry

Currently sitting on the bench at Square Mile HQ is a Clover. It was lent to us for the barista party and had stayed there for a while longer for us to play with.

SQM Clover

Clover at Square Mile HQ

The internet has been all a flutter with the news that Starbucks have acquired Coffee Equipment Company who make the Clover. It is so ubiquitous that I am not even going to link to any sort of articles about. Tempting as it is to post smugly about one of my five predictions sort of coming true something else is on my mind.

It seems that Starbucks has intentions of withdrawing the machine from the market and retaining complete control. Clover currently pledge on their website that all machines currently deployed will be supported.

I had come back from the States intent on spending some quality time with the machine and trying to get a better understanding of it before I had to give it back or buy it. I like the fact that you have control and repeatability in one cup brewing in a way that is currently unrivaled (be interesting to see how Starbucks use their ownership of the Clover patents to keep other manufacturers out of the market). However I’ve had quite a lot of coffee from it, and I wasn’t sure if I didn’t like the cups I didn’t like because of the brewer or the way it was being used. Hence wanting to get to grips with it in a bigger way.

Still – I need to think more on whether I want it. I don’t think the fact that Starbucks own it now devalues it for me. The people who have them now (approx 300 machines I think) are the only people outside of Starbucks with access to this technology. I was always against selling the brewer above the coffee, but if the brewer can do what people feel it can then it is an undoubtedly a great tool.

However the worries about support (machinery is machinery after all) are still pressing, and seeing a big company devalue a device and lower expectations and pricing of by the cup brewing is also a concern. That said – I think I would be very surprised if Clover rolled out with the 1s model as is. With that whole team/company on board I expect to see a machine based on the 1s designed much more specifically for Starbucks. (do you smell another prediction?)

I suppose that I will I could just ignore all the news/media/hype/hate and decide if it brews coffee like I’d like to present coffee. Though I suspect that the ongoing disconnection from Clover/CoEqCo will remain the largest obstacle.