Predictions for 2011

I can’t work out if these posts are getting tired or becoming a nice traditional thing. My success rate certainly hasn’t improved over the last few years! Nonetheless here are this year’s predictions:

1. Scales in drip trays

I’ve been going on about weighing espresso for a while, as have many others in the industry. This year we are going to see busy retail operations implement scales into drip trays for use with every drink. I also think this year a manufacturer of espresso machines will start to take this seriously and start R&D on building them in a standard.

2. C-market will peak, but won’t drop back too far

A lot of people are watching the C market, aware that it will have a frustrating impact on coffee quality as producers may have less incentive to pick/prep the highest quality when the prices are high for “ok” quality. There are certainly a number of factors at play in the high prices beyond the straight supply/demand relationship. Brazil’s entry into the C will probably have some effect, but I think we’re likely looking at small crops from places like Kenya and Colombia again which will help keep prices relatively high.

3. The WBC Prediction

This is going to be hard to quantify, but I think holding the WBC in a producing country will have a rejuvenating effect for those involved in the competition. I think it will be a great event and I hope people take full advantage of it being in a coffee producing country. Also I think the Scandinavians will be back in contention again.

4. A focus on service

We’ve had some focus on one cup brewing for a while now, and I don’t think the cycle is coming back round to espresso yet. I think there will more focus than before on the practical side of customer service in coffee. More discussion, some actual techniques and ideas being shared. The coffee industry will start to pay more attention to other industries. The winning routine at WBC will drive this idea home too.

5. More brewed coffee in the UK

I think that brewed coffee will continue to grow its market share. I say this without knowing what its current market share (if anyone has any data I’d love to see it.) Starbucks have long been the only chain in the UK to really do it properly. I think that the chains will join the independents in helping grow this market, though I think they’ll likely use it as a low cost, recession focused item whereas independents will be using it to produce higher value drinks.

Thoughts, comments and your predictions always very welcome in the comments!

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.  ↩︎

WBC Blogging

Despite the backlog of other posts I can never find the time to visit, I suspect blogging for the next week will probably be devoted to the WBC.

Having said that I don’t know that I will have time to create the kind of coverage you will see on the unofficial WBC blog over here, which is already chock full o’content.

People are arriving into town, as I type this team Japan are at the roastery plying us with delicious things.  Other barista champions are visiting or arriving later today and I hope people get a chance to enjoy both London’s coffee scene – as well as the city itself.

Having done these before I’m coming to terms with the frustrating idea that I just won’t have time to properly chat to everyone I want, that there will be a lot of half finished conversations but I am excited to see lots of people again who I haven’t seen for a while.

I’ll try and update flickr, twitter and here too!

UPDATE:  Another WBC Blog.

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.

Gwilym’s disloyalty card

Let me start by saying that this has to be one of the best ideas I’ve seen in ages.  I’m very pleased and very excited by this.

Gwilym Davies – you know, the current World Barista Champion – has come up with a rather splendid card: the disloyalty card.

The idea is simple:  If you go and drink coffee at 8 interesting, quality focused cafes around (mostly) East London then he will say thank you by making you a coffee for free.

(click to embiggen)

I just think this is brilliant.  There is no catch, it isn’t some cunning ruse to sell more coffee.  It might work if one roaster supplied all the places on the card – but there is a complete mix from Burgil to Union, from Square Mile to Nude’s in house espresso.  Gwilym just wants people to go and try coffee in different places.

This man is a great ambassador for coffee.

So swing by Prufrock Coffee in Present at 140 Shoreditch High Street, grab a card and then have a little tour of some great cafes around Central and East London.  There is one of the best baristas in the world at the end of it, waiting to give you a delicious drink to say thank you.  Superb.

WBC Scoresheets – a few thoughts

I am aware there is some potential for me seeming like an arrogant so and so in this post, but it really is just about having a bit of a discussion.

It is no surprise that I am a big fan of barista competitions, but having recently gone through the UK judges workshop there are a couple of things I would like to post about and get some discussion going on.  First off an issue that both Anette and I find very frustrating: Continue reading “WBC Scoresheets – a few thoughts”

WBC 2011

Sparked by Cindy’s tweet about the WBC accepting Event Hosting proposals for 2011 I thought I’d quickly post about something I’d love to see:  WBC held in a producing country.

Hopefully a few of you reading support this – it would be no more expensive for travelling to than Japan was for most of the world.  It would allow unprecedented learning opportunities for visitors and baristas, and a great opportunity for a producing country to showcase its unique capabilities to the industry.

I am very aware that lots of people wanting something like this doesn’t create a proposal out of thin air, nor does it get that proposal accepted – but as an idea, surely many agree this would be exciting and a great progression for the competition.

Would love to hear people’s thoughts on the pros and cons, and any particular country you’d like to see host it.

WBC Thoughts

I should probably try and post some vague approximations of all the craziness, stress, surprise and good times that was the WBC this year.

So – Gwilym’s performance:  I am sure pretty much everyone has worked out that we didn’t go to this competition with the main goal of winning. The idea this year was the same as the idea last year, and the year before that: give an interesting performance that one could are proud of.

Continue reading “WBC Thoughts”