Unfiltered – a monthly column by coffee expert Sam Mylrea of CoffeeKind.com on what’s brewing in that world.
As this year grinds to a close, we’re looking ahead and placing our bets on next year’s biggest thing in coffee. From greater transparency in coffee sourcing to roasting green beans at home, the hottest 2014 coffee trends appear to be all about the bean.
Trace That Coffee
The buzzwords of yesteryear, such as Fair Trade, Direct Trade, Bird Friendly and Shade Grown coffee, have been encompassed into a single term – traceability. Consumers want to know more about their coffee than they ever did before, and roasters are happy to oblige. Expect to hear a lot more about where your coffee was grown, who grew it, how it was grown and how it was processed. All of those things contribute to the flavor, aroma and experience of the coffee in your cup – but that’s only part of the reason for traceability.
The other reason for traceability is transparency. You can also expect to hear more about ‘Chain of Custody’ and transparency in coffee procurement and pricing. If the trend continues, you’ll soon be able to trace the coffee in your cup back through the roaster, importer, mill and farmer. In short, you’ll know every entity that touched your coffee before it reached you. As part of this trend, more and more micro-roasters are engaging in direct trade – buying their coffee directly from farmers and making it a point to introduce those farmers to their customers, and a few coffee companies, like Thrive Farmers Coffee, are forming a direct bridge between consumers and growers by providing a platform where farmers can sell their coffees directly to consumers.
Extreme DIY Coffee
Despite the plethora of new high-tech coffee gear hitting the market, the trendiest directions for java this year is toward more extreme DIY – but it’s DIY like you’ve never known it before. The best names in the business are turning their skills to creating beautiful machines that make it easier for you to brew coffee the way you want to brew it. The hottest products in the coming year marry high-tech engineering and precision from proven manual coffee brewing methods. The results are stunning new coffee brewers, like the Ratio Eight, designed by Clive Coffee’s Mark Hellweg and the Steampunk brewing system from Alpha Dominche, and sleek new tools like the Acaia brewing scale. The hallmarks of these new machines are precision crafting, fine materials and an elevated sense of style. They’re elegantly simple and stunningly designed – the perfect illustration of the first principle of design: form follows function.
Meanwhile, Third Wave coffee roasters and shops around the country are stepping up to help you make the most of your new tools. From San Francisco to Chicago to Boston and Atlanta, you can sign up for pouring classes, cupping sessions and roasterie tours that are designed to teach you how to get the flavors you want out of your coffee beans.
Home Coffee Roasting
It doesn’t get much more DIY than this. The homeroast movement has been growing over the past years and it’s about to explode on to center stage. Once the province of the uber-geekiest of coffee nerds, the appeal of home coffee roasting has broken out of obscure coffee discussion forums and made its way into the pages of local newspapers. Home roasted coffee is the absolute ultimate in DIY coffee, and represents the culmination of the trend toward putting more control of coffee into the hands of the end consumer – you.
More importantly, roasting coffee at home is fun. Depending on how you decide to roast your beans, it gives you the chance to play with power tools and hack household appliances, take meticulous measurements or wing it by feel and smell. You’ve got to admit, there’s something very MacGyver about roasting your coffee with a popcorn machine or hacking that bread machine you never use into a coffee roaster, but the prices for home coffee roasters are coming down and the quality of the beans they deliver is going up – and you can often buy green coffee beans from the very same roasters that sell their own custom roasts.