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!

20 Comments Predictions for 2011

  1. Jay C.

    Interesting thoughts James.

    1 – Scales in Drip Trays
    While a nice idea, I don’t think we’ll see widespread implementation of scales outside of a core of 3W places. The logistics of making it work are rather difficult and will slow down the production flow. As a means of calibrating your shots at the beginning of the shift and at intervals to check, I can see this being utilized. But for every shot? Only the most hardcore of baristas will attempt that.

    2 – C Market
    Maybe this is when we ought to look at our industry’s stance and really examine our own goals better. There’s always lots of talk about supporting the farmer and giving them a better pay scale and while I know C-Market price does not necessarily correlate to an increase seen by the farmer, perhaps we ought to start considering that.

    Even the “best” coffee roasters, with the “best” sourcing are still buying coffees at a relatively low rate. Take the $17 per pound Rwanda Nyaumbera from Intelligentsia (whom I’m only using as an example because they’re one of the most forward-thinking sourcing companies in our business). If that farmer is being paid $2 per pound, is that enough? In America, we talk of building a better future for our children – that is a goal. When dealing with producers (and not the Aida Batlle and Price Petersons of the world), are we really paying them a wage that helps them provide a better future for their children? A future of education and the ability to escape a life of poverty and subsistence farming?

    I think this is what our segment of the industry should start considering more in the year ahead. Or are we more concerned about only giving the farmers “just enough” to maintain supply for next year?

    3 – WBC
    I certainly hope that your prediction is correct. And I certainly hope that attendees will take the time to visit the countryside and the farms themselves to see just what goes into making their coffee. Sadly, I think it will be just like many of these WBC/coffee related events where many of the people go for the event and then don’t have enough time outside the event to really get into the local scene. It happens a lot more than you’d imagine.

    My prediction for the WBC in Bogota (and this is something I’ve expressed serious and grave concern to both the WBC Executive Director and the WBC Board Chairman, in person) is that we might see some criminality happening towards the attendees. Bogota, while not the rough and tumble city of the 1980s is certainly a place where the uninitiated and unaware tourist may get into trouble. The location of the venue Corferias isn’t in a bad area but it’s not in Zona T either. I encouraged the WBC to prepare lots of information for attendees on where to stay, how to get around and what to look out for to alleviate and potential problems for attendees.

    And I most definitely hope that my concerns are unfounded.

    4 – Focus on Service
    This is the one area of our craft that I think needs the most attention and I certainly hope you are right on this prediction. I’m tired of the pretentiousness that permeates our craft and quite simply, it’s a disgrace to all of us. I also hope that with a focus on service, baristas start to consider their apparel, bathing, hair, general appearance, nails and attention to detail.

    5 – More UK Brew
    You want more brewed coffee in the UK? This is where I see Cafe James Hoffman making the most impact. Sure, scales on the espresso machine are neat. Yeah, it’s entertaining watching you drip droplets of water in that refractometer then consult your iphone. But if you want to make an impact, open that Cafe Hoffman and start brewing and showing them your moxy!

    But lose that “I must give you a WBC style presentation while you sit at my bar for thirty minutes and kick everyone else out” routine and give great hand-brewed coffee by the cup to Londoners in a slightly more egalitarian approach and people will be raving.

  2. Smeds

    Why not a scale built into a doserless grinder? As a home barista who only pulls a few shots a day that would be my ideal.

  3. Gwilym

    Hi Jay
    With regards scales
    there has been interest from the non 3W side of UK coffee on the potential of scales. One large multinational firm is already getting ready to start weighing espresso on their quality audits.
    There is a huge problem in large companies with regards dialling in the grinder using volumetric measures. Things are changing in the UK, do not know about US but visiting in January so hope to get an overview
    I am hoping the C-market increase is good news for farmers but I do not fully understand the dynamics to comment. I am definitely watching with interest, maybe it is time for some talking the talk to start walking.

    I will be surprised if brewed coffee in London, if not the UK does not take a step forward. A lot has been learnt from the Penny University experience by customers and staff – it was a huge learning curve for me. I am sure people will take ideas from it and replicate in their own personality.

    In London we do not need a Cafe Hoffman (or Cafe Styles) to show us the way, though both would be more than welcome! I, like others, get a lot of advice and guidance from my roaster and the cafes it supplies that we then adapt to our personalities and environments. I suppose I am saying there is already many cafe Hoffmans
    Would elaborate more but on island in Med with little electricity and a vague wifi signal xx

  4. Brian Thayer

    In the Midwest U.S., specialty coffee will continue its move toward specialty. Here in nowhere, it’s a struggle to define ourselves as anything other than Starbucks’ little brother. To act as a catalyst for this change, we’ll have to push harder toward the ends already achieved and expected elsewhere- like single-cup brewing- as James mentioned above. Introducing on-site coffee roasting will also begin to pick up in the next year (nearly all roasting here is carried out off-site and shipped in), but won’t truly bloom for another four or five years. The move with the greatest impact specialty coffee can make in 2011 is a concerted attempt to educate customers, via our baristas, about what all coffee has to offer- much more than a standard grande with whip. Our goals here in “the breadbasket” states aren’t as flashy as the coasts and elsewhere, but are equally monumental.

  5. Alex Bernson

    4- I hope that you’re right, and I hope that these conversations can go beyond a narrow focus on the coffee production and education aspects of service. There are so many interesting questions that come up when one looks at the goal of customer service as not merely successfully presenting a culinary product but, just as importantly, creating a pleasurable and rich social and work environment in a cafe. Things like: what sorts of physical and service design considerations can be made to maximize the possibility of conversation and personal connection between customer and barista?

    You’re definitely right that these sort of questions become more apparent when examining barista service in relation to other service industries. However, I’m hesitant to look to the WBC and its education/cup-centric customer service focus as a place where such questions can get worked through, especially since the competition structure excludes certain important parts of customer service.

    For example, I think that one of the most crucial service skills of a professional barista is being able to carry on a fully two sided, successfully personal conversation while simultaneously preparing drinks, but the placement of the machine and the judges’ need to constantly be taking notes means that comp baristas can only really do the one-sided spew of education info and “quality eye contact”, maybe with slight nods to interaction such as Devin Pedde’s USBC sig-drink.

    In the same vein, being able to juggle multiple different drink orders efficiently and accurately is crucial to customer service but totally moot in competition since, at least last time I checked, you have to serve each drink category all together.

    Obviously there are logistical issues that would make it hard to accommodate such changes into competition judging, which I think just points to the fact that any conversation about service needs to start from the retail cafe perspective if we want to figure out how to successfully balance communicating craftsmanship, knowledge and communality with our customer service.

  6. Tobias Abrahamsen

    Built-in scales are certainly good, but …
    I’m a big supporter of scientific approach to coffee crafting. With this attitude I am paying attention to time, weight and shot. I also provided me a ExtraktMoJO.

    Home I place a scale under the cup before I pull ashot, but I do not think this is necessary in the restaurant where I work. In the restaurant, I program the espresso machine to give 45/22 grams of water, thereby this parameter is constant (my standard recipe is 23 * 100/45). When the shot volume is constant, there is no need for built-in scale.

    I think the bigger problem is the constant dosing of grounds. I don’t trust dosing by volume, dosing chamber or grooming. I use the timer on my dosserless Mazzer. The problem is that the coffee changes over time in the hopper, and de dose changes.

    Some time ago I asked a representative of Malkönig if it could be mounted a scale inside the grinder. I believe this will limit our problems with the timers. He thought this was too complicated and expensive, but BUNN has launched a grinder for brew coffee which dosses by weight and not timer. I hope that this technology can be developed and soon reach the espresso grinders.
    But an embedded scale in drip tray is not necessity 

  7. AndyS

    Scales in the drip tray will certainly work, but it’s a brute force solution to the problem. A less expensive and more reliable solution might be found in our present flowmeter-based automatic espresso machine technology.

    If you know three things — dose weight, portafilter basket volume, and brew water weight — you can fairly closely calculate the weight of beverage dispensed. (Two other variables — weight of water lost out the three-way valve and mass of solids dissolved in the beverage — don’t vary that much). A machine that could store data on a small selection of baskets, and allowed you to program in your basket, dose and beverage target weight would easily be able cut the shot appropriately in order to dispense the desired target weight.

  8. Daniel McDonnell

    Sometimes I feel brewing is becoming pretty mechanical, I assumed being a barista was about having a certain touch.

    Since making coffee needs to be prepared, the parallel between a barista and a sommelier breaks down, as sommelier only advice and pour, but coffee is closer to cooking. After a while chefs get a sense by using their senses, instead falling in love with gadgets.

  9. James Hoffmann

    Flowmeters would certainly be a neater solution. I’ve just had so many issues with flowmeters – maybe it is London’s water, maybe it is something else. I haven’t seen astonishing and reliable accuracy from them yet – but perhaps this is about a component upgrade more than anything else.

    I don’t know enough about them and what is possible to really comment more.

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  11. Tobias Abrahamsen, Norway

    One of the biggest challenges in specialty coffee is consistency. Although the baristas is very skilled they produce coffee with a great variety of quality. One shot may be world-class and another is only good. The goal must be to produce great coffee every time. If we will reach this goal, we need to increase your knowledge, but we must also accept help by getting better equipment. For example, I can make good coffee with my warm-unstable espresso machine because I know how to cool it down, but I would preferred to have a better machine because it would help me create better coffee constant. We must not forget that the goal is the best coffee, not to protect the traditions of the barista profession!

    I am a trained chef, but have worked as a waiter in decades. It is true that chefs develop a feeling for the profession, but it is far from perfect. I can’t count all the times I have received food in return that has been too much or too little coked. Many chefs will be angry if they get food in return because it is not only the chef’s knowledge that increases with experience, often growing chef’s ego at least as much ….!

    I always use a thermometer when I steam milk. Not because I don’t feel when the milk is about done, but because the thermometer is an objectively aid that helps me to produce constant quality. I compare it sometimes with being on a road trip. Who do you like to ride with? He who knows from experience how fast he is driving and don’t use a speedometer? Or do you want to ride with him who have both experience and speedometer to aid himself?

    I know what my choice is!

  12. Daniel McDonnell

    It’s hard to be against technology to aid your path to a perfect cup or a delicious dish, but many times questions pops up about people who want to make a great cup through gadgets. As often as I suggest scales, grinders and brew methods, the cup from friends and others seem to be a little bland if they don’t fall for anything else than to have the right equipment so they can namedrop.

    Most of the time I care more about aging than proper temperatures, because on temperature we have our head set, but since factors like water, beans and milk change with time and place we have to use our head rather than to direct it to a constant.

    When will technology know when the milk is at it’s best to be frothed to that peculiar temperature when it’s opened two days ago and the fridge is holding a temperature of 4 celsius, and the espresso beans are 14 days old stored in a 27 celsius cabinet and a plastic bag with 29 celsius? At that time we are swiping our iPhones over an automatic machine.

  13. AndyS

    Since posting my comment, I’ve heard a few stories from friends about the inaccuracy of flowmeters in the shop environment — including your story, above. Perhaps the problem can be solved by sourcing better components, or perhaps not. In any case, if rugged and reliable scales can be engineered to survive in the drip tray environment, that approach would certainly be more direct and likely be more accurate than a flowmeter-based technology.

  14. Jay C.

    @Hoffmann – Hahaha, my apologies! Sometimes I see it spelled with a single “n” and that throws me off. Of course, if only I looked at the top of my browser window…

    @Gwilym – I don’t doubt that multinational companies are utilizing scales for audits, but I think we’re talking about production – and I think that scales on drip trays (unless somehow integrated into the drip tray) will slow down production making its implementation limited throughout the industry.

    I heard you’re coming to America. If you happen to hit up Baltimore be sure to stop by. I think you’ll find some interesting stuff going on in our little town that’s quite different than anywhere else.

    Also, while I am a proponent for a “Cafe HoffmanN”, this does not mean to discount other London shops. Prufrock is “World Champion Gwilym Davies” vision of coffee – and that’s to be celebrated (let’s not forget you have the love of New York Times fanboy Oliver Strand – the guy who lauds London and NYC while ignoring the rest of America). Prufrock represents your interpretation and it’s going to be different than a “Cafe HoffmanN” because the visions are different. And the more, the merrier!

  15. kolsen

    Given that brewed coffee is going to become big in the UK this year is anyone working on brew ratios for Siphons should it be near 5-6% like drip coffee? any hints?

  16. Sean milnes

    im interested to the side effects from rising costs. my shop is already seeing discomfort as we are dealing with some high priced coffees already. its nice to see the kenyans and colombians back though. id gladly pay high price for some of these coffees.

    side note- currently have a kenyan on as an s.o. epsresso. beautiful. i suggest paying attention the the kenyans and really pushing their limits!

  17. Sean milnes

    im interested to the side effects from rising costs. my shop is already seeing discomfort as we are dealing with some high priced coffees already. its nice to see the kenyans and colombians back though. id gladly pay high price for some of these coffees.

    side note- currently have a kenyan on as an s.o. epsresso. beautiful. i suggest paying attention the the kenyans and really pushing their limits!

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