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  • Why Third Wave Coffee Bars Fail.

    Here's an interesting read, written by Mark Overly (The Coffee Heretic) in May 2012.

    I particularly like this,

    "At first I mistook the Third Wave Movement with its penchant for trade roasts and manual brewing techniques as a response to the like of Starbucks and the wannabe chains. Now I understand that it is an attempt to recreate the experience of the Barista Championships that take place at various convention centers around the world. A fabricated event designed to impress judges and their peers, that manufactures in-the-know celebrities of coffee culture. Customers were never the consideration."

    The inference of course being that, as a customer, unless you embraced their insipid lightly roasted citrus offerings wholeheartedly you were obviously a person of little or no taste, move along please and make way for someone who does appreciate what we are offering


    Why Third Wave (Pour-over) Coffee Bars Fail.

    Portland was a perfect venue for the 25th Annual Conference and Exhibition of the Specialty Coffee Association of America. Perhaps, more than anywhere else in America, third wave coffee bars have stormed into existence. Third Wave Coffee Bars are notable by how they look and what they do. They are a direct facsimile of current fashion of SCAA Championships. It’s as if the participants are trying to reproduce in the real world the artificial world that exists during these championships. As a result, these new bars imitate one another in the type of equipment used and more importantly, what and how coffee is offered to customers.

    Now, I have been a big fan of the Barista Guild and their efforts to raise the perception of Baristas as a viable professional skill. This is long overdue and has helped our industry staunch the move to automated equipment and look-alike chain operators. But what I have noticed is a disturbing trend in these coffee bars that has more to do with being a part of a club rather than actually serving truly good coffee. These bars can be identified often by what they don't have: they don't have skim milk, or soy; they don't do flavors or 16 oz to go cups. And as far as I could tell, most don't have much in the way of customers, either. What they do have is seasonal single origin espressos from a number of the latest names in roasters, they have pour-over bars featuring Chemex's with metal filters, Hario V60 cones, or Siphon brewers; and they have an educated superiority that leave you degraded, dismissed, and otherwise not a member of the club.

    I really would like to admire these coffee bars for their commitment to a vision, a vision predicated on coffee quality. But the concept of quality now seems to be more a sense of style rather than a discerning sense of taste. Coffees, and Roasters for that matter, are chosen based on their merits of who's hot right now. Brewing techniques are chosen in a similar fashion, pour over bars provide more theater and the illusion of choice. Never mind that the metal filter is an inappropriate application for the Chemex brewer and one has to adjust their brewing style to compensate resulting in an over-extracted brew. At least the coffee siphon provides excellent cup quality but it is a ten minute exercise and costs, in some cases, $9.00.

    I had debated whether to do a post about pour-over bars before going to Portland and decided to focus my attention on the pour-over experience. We had abandoned pour-over many years ago but I wondered if there had been significant improvements that warranted another look. What I found, aside from the one aforementioned coffee siphon episode, was brewed coffee that almost always was near undrinkable. The problem lies in the substitution of the metal cone for the Chemex or the use of the Hario v60 cones. In either case the issue centers on dwell time of the brew. Great coffee is a function of dwell time and brew rate. Both the metal filter and the V60 cone allow the water to pass too quickly through the coffee grounds requiring the barista to slow the rate of pour in the center of the grounds. Never do all the grounds dwell in a solution, rather, the water passes through the middle over extracting the same grounds. It is a similar phenomena as cheap electric coffee brewers with inadequate heaters that heat a little water and send it through, heat a little water and send it through, and so on.

    The secret behind the Chemex isn't the carafe so much as the interaction of the carafe and the paper filter that allows the user to fill the funnel with hot water and have a full dwelling of water and coffee with the filter and grind dictating the rate of flow for the brew. The Hario V60 also has too large of an exit hole and the striated fins on the inside of the funnel allow water to channel through the filter requiring the user to adopt a similar pour technique as the metal filtered Chemex. Combine this slow pour with the fact that water temperature stability is thrown out the window. One operator was using the Marco Uberboiler for hot water, a precise controlled water boiler that can deliver accurate temperature, set at 210 degrees to allow for the rapid cooling while pouring. Most places make no effort at all water temperature stability.

    This was one of the major reasons we abandoned pour-over years ago. But what really made us abandon it were the incredible improvements in programmable commercial brewers. If pour-over produced better results than what we could get out of our Fetco Extractor then I would be on board, but the fact is it isn't remotely close to the same quality and moreover, I can make better coffee in my home using a paper filter Chemex or Aeropress without the condescending attitude as an added bonus.

    At first I mistook the Third Wave Movement with its penchant for trade roasts and manual brewing techniques as a response to the like of Starbucks and the wannabe chains. Now I understand that it is an attempt to recreate the experience of the Barista Championships that take place at various convention centers around the world. A fabricated event designed to impress judges and their peers, that manufactures in-the-know celebrities of coffee culture. Customers were never the consideration.

    I was asked the other day whether I thought Third Wave Coffee Bars are here to stay. If this is what this movement continues to serve, they won't be around for very long.

  • #2
    Interesting read...

    You do have to wonder at some of the decisions. I guess the busy ones have sufficient fans to do as they choose and still make money.

    Must admit that I found this one perplexing: We don't do decaf. We don't do tea. We don't do soy now either. Who knows with low fat? I guess there are no skim cows....

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Yelta View Post
      Here's an interesting read, written by Mark Overly (The Coffee Heretic) in May 2012.

      ...

      But what I have noticed is a disturbing trend in these coffee bars that has more to do with being a part of a club rather than actually serving truly good coffee.
      If you don't like or agree with how "third wave" coffee is roasted/prepared/served/tastes, are you not in a similar type of "club", just with a different point of view?

      Who's to say what "truly good" coffee is or isn't?

      As to the customer, professional coffee people are in a service industry. If they are really brave (or perhaps passionate) and have enough funds they can stick to serving what they believe is "truly good coffee" and assume that the customer will learn to appreciate the product, or they will compromise to some extent in order to remain a viable business.

      I guess my point is, why can we not let it be? If people like to produce "third wave" coffee and others like to be part of it by consuming, what's the problem?

      Pete

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Pete39 View Post

        I guess my point is, why can we not let it be? If people like to produce "third wave" coffee and others like to be part of it by consuming, what's the problem?

        Pete
        No problem at all Pete, robust discussion/debate on almost any topic is interesting as well as mentally stimulating.

        I posted the article knowing full well it would draw differing opinions.

        Comment


        • #5
          Meh a lot of third wave bashing happens here.. you get used to it

          What confuses me the most though is that there seems to have two different meanings.

          Wikipedia seems to say that the introduction of single origin/estate to the coffee scene was the third wave

          Here it seems to refer to espresso which is extremely lightly roasted.. and sour ra ra ra...

          According to the wikipedia definition we're all third wavers?! =/

          Third Wave Coffee - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

          Comment


          • #6
            I'd agree insomnispresso, from my understanding of "third wave coffee", most CS's would fit into that category. Like many things in coffee, the definition is vague and open to interpretation which is nice in a way because it makes things interesting and diverse and keeps people trying new things.

            Pete

            Comment


            • #7
              Here's the Wikipedia definition in full Third Wave Coffee - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia I found the history of the term revealing, down to one persons interpretation, he had to be American of course, seriously! what did America have to offer the word of coffee in 1974? I can tell you, I was there in that era, absolutely bugger all, in those days, as in most of the US now, the black liquid they serve in a cup is barely recognizable as coffee.
              I find the claim that The US had anything much to do with the evolution of quality coffee to be a joke.
              I guess their greatest claim to coffee fame is that they consumed more Folgers and similar brands than any other country in the world, and probably still do, high praise indeed.

              "
              In March 2008, Pulitzer Prize winning food critic Jonathan Gold of the LA Weekly defined the third wave of coffee by saying:
              The first wave of American coffee culture was probably the 19th-century surge that put Folgers on every table, and the second was the proliferation, starting in the 1960s at Peet's and moving smartly through the Starbucks grande decaf latte, of espresso drinks and regionally labeled coffee. We are now in the third wave of coffee connoisseurship, where beans are sourced from farms instead of countries, roasting is about bringing out rather than incinerating the unique characteristics of each bean, and the flavor is clean and hard and pure.[7]
              The earlier term "specialty coffee" was coined in 1974, and refers narrowly to high-quality beans scoring 80 points or more on a 100-point scale."

              Comment


              • #8
                Haha yes good points, though can we really twist the meaning after said american coined the term??

                I would hope every CSer is attempting not to roast the origin components of the beans they buy to oblivion

                So anyway if we are not part of the third wave movement.. we erm.. we go to starbucks.... lol!! Not much of an alternative is it

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Yelta View Post
                  I find the claim that The US had anything much to do with the evolution of quality coffee to be a joke.
                  Underestimating the impact of a nation with a population of 300,000,000 and a multi-trillion dollar economy on any industry is silly, verging on foolish and possibly even more than a bit xenophobic. The fact is that the coffee industry in the US has always been HUGE and its impact undeniable. Yes... the vast majority of coffee served there would be deemed absolute rubbish by our standards but the quality coffee movement in America pre-dates ours and is still so vast that it far overshadows the scale of anything done over here. A lot can be said for the SCAA and the Pacific North West coffee scene for their pioneering work in making certain that coffee moved from being traded as a mere commodity to a quality product with tracebility, and quality accountability, from tree to cup. If it hadn't been for the Yanks we would probably still be drinking the burnt, oily and robusta intensive coffees imported from European commodity traders.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Why Third Wave Coffee Bars Fail.

                    I love this discussion, thanks for posting the article Yelta.

                    I have just returned to CS after long lay off, actually I have caught a bit of upgradeitus and returned to research the machine I wanted to buy, and have forgot how fascinating CS can be.

                    Actually the current discussion provides good background for what I have noticed in and around the cafes of Sydney and the trends in the discourse in trying to identify 'the best cafe' here. A task which I believe is completely fraught as the variables they list important to judgements always exclude the barista's skill. Let alone the confusion they generate in deciding the best cafe by placing a high premium on the degree to which it innovates the serving of coffee.

                    I think the so called third wave of coffee is a good thing, generally, - if it one day brings me the same standard of coffee at Ayres Rock as I can get in inner Sydney, then bring it on.

                    But as with any 'movement' or social trend the real battle ground is about ideas - some will push the bounds of the material at the centre of consideration - use light roasted beans for manually produced coffee and then also use them for espressos. You can expect a reaction against this from we traditionalists who maintain standards are vital to define what is of value and what is not.

                    But i would venture to suggest 'the third coffee wave' is a post modern artefact where we always question the given, break everything down for analysis, explore new boundaries and in doing so bring new excitement to the enjoyment and appreciation of not only coffee the drink, but every facet of its production and enjoyment, from tree to brew in the cafe where we work and live.

                    I say expect prickly discussion as we jockey to define this new field.

                    So my 3c worth - forget 'bright' espressos guys. One man's 'fruity' is this man's acidic.
                    Ciao for now.
                    Last edited by Franco; 27 January 2013, 11:51 PM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Hi All

                      Very interesting read for someone who works behind the brew bar with a V60, Siphon, Cold Brew and lastly a Clover. Now being in the Sunshine Coast, there isn't much of a coffee 'wave' up here like in Melbourne; however, as there are a number of roasters up here, I could be wrong but the place that I work at is the only place up here that really offers 3rd Wave, brew bar or filter or whatever we want to call it. It is really interesting and quite enjoyable to actually take the customer through the different brewing methods but the truth is, it isn't really the busiest of corners in the place. Yes it is sad but every morning, I insist on making a different brew method just to keep my skills up just to make sure that the customer who does order one, gets a fantastic brew. But do you have to be in a certain club to order one of these methods? of course not! It is sad that others have had this experience of 'Baristatude' and may be turned off ordering these fantastic brewing methods.

                      Now onto the V60. Ever since the Clover broke down a couple of months ago, *tear* we all brushed up of our pour-over skills as that is how we like to cup some of the roasts we do. I have found that the V60 is one of the nicest, cleanest cup I have had. I use a 2 cup ceramic with the paper filter and pre heat/wet both the cone and filter and server. This means that the brewer is up to temp and maintains a stable temperature and there isn't any papery taste in the cup. I think the writer is quite a bit biased against the V60 and has a very skewed view of it and also lighter roasts. I use lighter roasts in all the filter coffee's ordered just as it produces a cleaner cup that brings out the lighter, sweeter flavours and I leave the darker roasts to the espresso side of things.

                      All in all, I think the brew bar has not failed. I think the brew bar has been a success as more people are learning more about the totally different side of coffee. I have also noticed that we are making more Siphons other brewed methods as we let people know about this other side of coffee. Our brew bar will certainly be staying and, i hope, thriving.

                      Mike

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I enjoy the coffee from these style cafe's very much. Why would you be a member on a site called coffee snobs if you didn't appreciate your cafe pushing the artisanal side of coffee? I do actually believe though that the removal of soy from the menu is more about "out snobbing" your competitors than anything else.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          The key to success, whether you are an establishment serving coffee, food, wine or any product for that matter, is the technical skills, product knowledge, product quality and the ability to communicate and relate to customers, without the "baristatude".

                          Third wave coffee can and is a refreshing change from espresso that can invigorate and expand anyone's experience in their coffee journey.

                          You will never convert everyone, it may not be for everyone, but it will be an eye opening experience for those who do try it and enjoy it.

                          Done right, it can bring a wow factor for many who only drink espresso based drinks, or, those who don't want a imposing espresso machine at home ( for various reasons) and don't want a plethora of equipment but still want a quality cuppa that stimulates and invigorates.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by mwcalder05 View Post
                            Hi All

                            Very interesting read for someone who works behind the brew bar with a V60, Siphon, Cold Brew and lastly a Clover. Now being in the Sunshine Coast, there isn't much of a coffee 'wave' up here like in Melbourne; however, as there are a number of roasters up here, I could be wrong but the place that I work at is the only place up here that really offers 3rd Wave, brew bar or filter or whatever we want to call it. It is really interesting and quite enjoyable to actually take the customer through the different brewing methods but the truth is, it isn't really the busiest of corners in the place. Yes it is sad but every morning, I insist on making a different brew method just to keep my skills up just to make sure that the customer who does order one, gets a fantastic brew. But do you have to be in a certain club to order one of these methods? of course not! It is sad that others have had this experience of 'Baristatude' and may be turned off ordering these fantastic brewing methods.

                            Now onto the V60. Ever since the Clover broke down a couple of months ago, *tear* we all brushed up of our pour-over skills as that is how we like to cup some of the roasts we do. I have found that the V60 is one of the nicest, cleanest cup I have had. I use a 2 cup ceramic with the paper filter and pre heat/wet both the cone and filter and server. This means that the brewer is up to temp and maintains a stable temperature and there isn't any papery taste in the cup. I think the writer is quite a bit biased against the V60 and has a very skewed view of it and also lighter roasts. I use lighter roasts in all the filter coffee's ordered just as it produces a cleaner cup that brings out the lighter, sweeter flavours and I leave the darker roasts to the espresso side of things.

                            All in all, I think the brew bar has not failed. I think the brew bar has been a success as more people are learning more about the totally different side of coffee. I have also noticed that we are making more Siphons other brewed methods as we let people know about this other side of coffee. Our brew bar will certainly be staying and, i hope, thriving.

                            Mike
                            Morning Mike, reopening an old thread.

                            Thirteen months on, I'm wondering how the (Brew Bar) has progressed? and what, if any, changes to customer preferences you have noticed during the year.

                            I would also be interested in observations from others in the industry who are offering/serving third wave brews.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I mentioned a coffee bar in Sydney's CBD a few months ago called Gumption (opened by the same crew who run Coffee Alchemy in Marrickville, which almost always rates a mention whenever a list of the best coffee places in Sydney is assembled). I love that they have a range of coffee available. Every day I'm challenged by a different single origin with the roast level changing according to the characteristics of the bean. I've tasted all sorts of interesting things, Costa Ricans ranging from salted caramel to plum sake, Bolivians with nuts and molasses, Ethiopians with the purest berry flavours, and bergamot in their Perci Geisha. I've also loved their Geisha pourovers... flavours that I just don't get out of espresso. It's really refreshing and eye opening and I love it. I also hate citrus overtones in my coffee and the baristas there know this.

                              The above is my long form version of that good old cliche which, I think, underlies the original posting... which is if you're not customer focused in a consumer industry then your business will, most assuredly, suffer a quick and merciless death.

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