In episode 8 we’re joined by Bradford Lowry of CraftBeverageJobs.com and discuss the waves of coffee.
Bradford joins us to share his knowledge on the first through third wave of coffee. We also touch on the fourth wave of coffee – where the fourth wave is at and where the fourth wave may go.
The waves of coffee can overlap a bit and we do our best to share explain the waves of coffee along with their similarities, but more importantly, their differences.
Highlights & Takeaways
“Waves” of coffee are identified by specific trends and progressions within the coffee industry.
The term “wave” began in 2002 with an article published by the Roasters Guild in a publication called The Flamekeeper. In the article, written by Trish Rothgeb (co-founder of Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters in San Francisco) she identified 3 movements in coffee history and called them “waves”.
First Wave: Coffee consumption grew exponentially.
Second Wave: Specialty coffee is introduced, consumers express a desire to know where their coffee comes from and how it is produced.
Third Wave: The coffee itself takes the stage and a high degree of transparency and education is seen from coffee companies.
Fourth Wave: Still being defined, but the ability to get artisanal coffee delivered to your door.
Episode 8 Transcript
Brendan Hanson: Welcome back to the Drips and Draughts Podcast. As always, I’m Brendan Hanson and I’ll be your host today. In episode five, we interviewed Elijah Elliott from Red Hat Coffee in San Diego. And he brought up the waves of coffee specifically the fourth wave of coffee. And that led to some questions:
- What are the waves of coffee?
- What defines a wave of coffee?
- What wave of coffee are we currently in?
To help answer those questions and more, today, we’re joined by Bradford Lowry from craftbeveragejobs.com. Bradford has written a very extensive article on the waves of coffee called, “The History of the First, Second, and Third Wave of Coffee“. You can find that article on his website craftbeveragejobs.com and search “Third Wave Coffee”.
Before we get in to this interview, I just want to take a moment to say thanks to those of you who have left a review or rating on iTunes for this podcast. There is a brief amount of time where we jumped up to the new and know where these sections and we saw search and downloads. Thanks for those of you who have done it. If you haven’t left a review for this podcast yet, we’d really appreciate it. Just hop on to iTunes and click to rate us. And if you have the time, leave us a couple lines. Let us know what you think of the podcast. If you’d never left a review on iTunes before, go to dripsanddraughts.com/review and we’ve got a step by step guide on how to leave a review on iTunes. Without further ado, let’s get into this interview about the waves of coffee with Bradford Lowry from CraftBeverageJobs.com.
Alright. Welcome back to the Drips and Draughts Podcast. I’m Brendan Hanson and for the first time we’ve got a second-time guest who was actually our first guest on the show as well. We’ve got Bradford Lowry from Crafts Beverage Jobs and he’s joining us today to talk about the waves of coffee. After our fifth episode with Elijah from Red Hat Coffee down in San Diego, we got some questions about the waves of coffee and Bradford had done a big article at Craft Beverage Jobs about the different waves of coffee. Welcome Bradford.
Bradford Lowry: Hey, I’m glad to be here and I appreciate the invitation to come back.
Brendan: Yes, absolutely. You guys put out a lot of great info on a lot of different topics. When we got some questions about the waves of coffee, it seem like you’d be a perfect fit considering you’d put a pretty big article together about the first three waves of coffee.
Bradford: Well, I appreciate it. And it’s one of those things where I didn’t know a lot about it and I just started researching it. And the more I researched it, the more interested I was in it. And basically, the article’s a result of a lot of that research.
Brendan: Interesting. Yeah, because when– I think the first time we talked before or after the show, you had mentioned the waves of coffee and I had never even heard the term. And then when I was interviewing Elijah from Red Hat, he mentioned the fourth wave of coffee. I think it’s a cool topic to talk about, discuss and I think there’s probably a lot of people out there who could definitely relate or benefit from you know, hear about it. Let’s dive in and then maybe talk about what are coffee waves.
Bradford: Okay. The term “Waves” it’s really a term to distinguish the different movements in the coffee industry. And the movements are periods of specific trends and progressions within coffee. The term– in my research, I found a theme about in 2002 from an article that was published by the Roasters Guild– they had a publication called The Flamekeeper– and there was an article written by Trish Rothgeb and I hope I’m pronouncing her name correctly, but she was a co-founder. She’s the co-founder of Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters in San Francisco and she’s the one who brought this term to line in referencing three movements in coffee history. And she started calling those movements “The Waves”.
Brendan: Interesting. So, this could probably be related into the beer industry or even the wine industry. I would assume, I don’t know of it but is there even be the waves of beer, brewing out there but that’s something I would have to look into.
Bradford: Right. Yes. I’m not too sure of the crossover of the term. But it’s really– in my own research– really kind of been focused on the coffee industry itself.
Brendan: Sure. Yes. I’m just thinking– I’ve seen to relate everything back to beer and brewing but looking in the beer I could see there being different waves. Obviously, there’s the big three brewers but starting in the 90’s there was the huge craft beer movement and IPA’s. Something I’m going to have to research and see if we could dig up a little info on that. But getting back in the coffee, you mentioned the Roasters Guild and The Flamekeeper – kind of defining the three different waves of coffee. Let’s talk about it. What was the first wave and when did that kind of start?
Bradford: Okay. When you talk about the history of coffee, specifically for the United States, we go back to around 1800s when companies like Maxwell House and Folgers really became household names. And why they were so popular is because for the first time they were providing affordable coffee and ready for the pot and coffee to the masses. And so, that’s what is viewed mostly is the first wave. There were key innovations during that first wave that made this massive push for coffee possible. Innovations like vacuum packaging, we also see during this first wave the use of instant coffee. There are a lot of different things that we benefit from in the first wave. Now, first wave does receive a lot of criticism because they seem to have sacrificed the taste and the quality of coffee to promote the convenience of coffee for mass production.
However, we wouldn’t be where we are today without some of the innovations on first wave. It was in 1903 that Satori Kato– he is the one who applied a dehydration process that he had developed for tea, he applied it to coffee. And he actually had the first US patent and it was called the “coffee concentrate in process of making same” and it actually was the patent for instant coffee. But that instant coffee and we all can say what we want about the instant coffee and I’m definitely not a fan of instant coffee. But the instant coffee became a part of the soldiers of World War I and then also the World War II became a part of their rations. And this popularized instant coffee. And when they came back from the war, instant coffee had been a part of their daily routine and they become something that they depended upon. And was a–
Brendan: I was going to say….
Bradford: What’s that?
Brendan: A market was built.
Bradford: Exactly, they built the market for it. Then after the war you got companies like Nestle and would come out with their Nescafe instant coffee and it really began to push the brand. Vacuum packaging was something that was very innovative during this period. There were shipbuilders who became coffee roasters. Their names were Austin and R.W. Hills, and they founded the Hills Brothers Coffee Company in 1900. And they’re the ones who invented the process for vacuum packaging. And vacuum packaging allowed for these companies to sell coffee to a mass market and for that coffee to remain fresh over a long period of time.
Bradford: And so-
Brendan: The first wave, we say that it was not so much looking at the quality of the coffee. However, there was obviously still a concern for freshness.
Bradford: Yes. First wave– to simply it would be coffee that was– the emphasis of coffee for consumption exponentially. It was the first time that coffee now could be mass produced and offered all across the US.
Brendan: Okay, so becoming a supermarket item?
Bradford: Exactly. And before this, it was very much consistent in what it would be today as third wave. People would roast their own beans in their own home and they would grind it and have a cup of coffee. But now, there was a part of their retail routine, they could go to the grocery store and buy pre-ground coffee in these vacuum packed of tins and take it home.
Brendan: Just add water.
Bradford: And it was very cheap.
Brendan: Sure. Okay, very interesting, kind of a full circle then. And as we get through the rest we’ll kind of see the full circle come through.
Brendan: So first wave. Okay, so then moving on into the second wave, what differs from the first wave to the second wave?
Bradford: Right. One of the criticisms we talked about with first wave was that good coffee had been sacrificed for convenience for mass production. And so second wave really was a reaction against that. And it’s in second wave that specialty coffee began to become the driving force for the coffee industry.
So there was a real desire from consumers now to know the origin of their coffee, to understand the roasting styles of the coffee. And so the mass production of coffee kind of transitioned over to this specialty coffee, specialty beans, and a knowledge or desire for coffee to be enjoyed as an experience rather than just a beverage. Coffee became very social in the second wave.
Second wave companies, companies like Starbucks, got their- Let’s see, I believe it was back in 2000 they started the 2000 Outlets by 2000. It was before the year 2000. And they began to really, really push this social view of coffee. That now you’re not going to have coffee at home but you’re going to leave the house. You’re going to drive to a coffee shop and enjoy coffee with friends, with strangers, you’re going to socialize with other people and enjoy the experience of coffee.
And so this is really what’s identified in the second wave.
Brendan: Right, making coffee shops a destination and putting a-
Brendan: -bigger emphasis on the cup of coffee.
Bradford: Yeah, and the vocabulary began to change for second wave. Words like espresso, latte, french press was now common among coffee lovers for specialty coffee, and things like that.
Brendan: So we’re taking it away from just the hot cup of coffee that you brew at home. And we’re introducing more terms and more flavor, as well, I suppose.
Bradford: And some historians cite the wine industry as a great influence for second wave, as people begin to look at coffee now more as specialty beverage rather than just something that you would have at home to wake up every morning.
Brendan: Okay. And going back to brewing, this really parallels kind of beer. And in my eyes just the fact that people start searching out craft breweries, and people really enjoy going to find new and distinct beers. And I guess that kind of leads us into the third wave, which really focuses on the artisanship in coffee, correct.
Bradford: Exactly. So second wave we see big business of coffee come out. Consumers now go to a brick and mortar shop to drink their favorite beverage. Starbucks is big and that business model really takes off for second wave.
When it comes to third wave, now third wave wants to focus on the production or on the product itself. So second wave, the whole marketing of second wave, the whole experience of second wave, takes a back seat. And the coffee bean itself comes to the forefront and really takes center stage in third wave.
Now people aren’t purchasing coffee as a social experience, but now they’re purchasing coffee based on its origin, the artisan methods of its production. And third wave viewed coffee now as a true Craft Beverage.
Brendan: Interesting. So, it’s really interesting. What do you think drives that change? Because obviously the consumer has to be educated at this point and have a thirst for the knowledge, learning about the coffee bean and where it’s coming from, and how it’s made, and it’s roasted. What do you think drives that, and changes and causes this ultimate shift? I don’t know if it’s the marketing or just the mindset of the consumer.
Bradford: Right, a little bit of both. And it has a lot to do with the push from third wave coffee on education, and their push socially. Transparency is a big key word for third wave roasters and third wave coffee companies.
And with third wave there was this emphasis now upon sustainable methods of roasting, sustainable methods of brewing. There was this big emphasis on the relationship of the farmer to the coffee industry. And this desire to educate now the coffee drinker so that they would know exactly where their coffee is coming from and how it got to where they are.
And there was a lot that crossed over from wine into the coffee industry for a third wave. People who were not wine drinkers, people who were not interested in that, saw coffee now as an alternative where they could still have that same artisan experience, but now have it with coffee. And so just like with wine people want to know where it came from, how it was produced. Now they wanted to know that same information with coffee.
And all of this has to go somewhere. Ultimately, there’s going to be these wave of changes that are going to come. And it just depends on who’s going to take the initiative of where it’s going to go. And we begin to see a lot of these independent roasters who begin to challenge now the big Starbucks companies. And begin to turn the focus away from the social aspect to the coffee itself. So the coffee bean, the coffee beverage, came to the forefront in third wave.
Brendan: Very interesting. Yes, it’s amazing. Until we started really working with draft coffee and kind of promoting draft coffee, I had no idea how many smaller roasteries there were across the country. And when I say smaller roasteries it could be either a mom and pop shop, or a roasting company that has a dozen locations in a small-
Brendan: -region. It’s been mind-blowing to me to find out how many companies there really are out there that are doing this in kind of this artisanal manner.
Bradford: Yes. And one of the great things about third wave movement, is that you don’t have to be big coffee anymore to have an influence in the market. There really has been a changing of the guard for industry standards and practices for the coffee industry.
So there’s a lot of independent coffee roasters out there today who are very vigilant for equality, fair trade, sustainable practices. And all of these are key terms for this day and age anyway. And so they’re able to kind of hold the limelight for the coffee industry. And there’s been a dividing line between what was viewed as second wave and now what is viewed as third wave.
So companies like Intelligentsia, Coffee and Tea out of Chicago, Counter Culture Coffee in North Carolina, Stumptown Coffee Roasters in Portland. They would be perhaps the biggest examples right now of third wave.
Brendan: And you say they’re the biggest examples in third wave just due to the fact that they are promoting… Or they’re probably their level of transparency and the fact that they’re promoting single origins, and all these specific things about the coffee that they’re making, correct.
Bradford: Yes. If you go to their website there’s several things you’re going to see. You’re going to see the emphasis on the coffee buyer and the coffee buyer’s interaction with the farmer, and what beans they’re going to offer for the consumer. And you’re going to be able to find out exactly where those beans came from, the characteristics of those beans, but also, you’ll notice on their websites an emphasis on education.
All three of these that we mentioned today have a big part of their business is coffee education. For example, Counter Culture just recently completed a 24,000 square foot training center in Durham, North Carolina. And the training center is for professionals and even home brewers to come, and you can take part in cuppings, you can take part in seminars, and learn more about the coffee industry.
And so that’s why these three really have become the leaders today for third wave, is like you said, their transparency and their emphasis upon education.
Brendan: That’s awesome. And going back to brewing again, it really parallels brewing in the fact that they offer these trainings and these seminars, and this education. I see a lot of that in the beer industry. The brewers aren’t necessarily withholding knowledge on how they did something. Rather they’re sharing it and trying to learn and grow from one another. So, it’s very interesting to hear this same thing happening in the coffee field.
I also find it really interesting that you say you no longer have to be a big coffee company to have an influence in the market. And, I see that here locally. There’s one roastery in particular that I’m thinking of Beacon Coffee out of Ventura, California. They do a great job in promoting themselves. They show the farm that they work with down in South America. They’re always going down there to visit. They do a great job. They actually do some cupping classes and educate their consumers.
It’s really interesting to see that growth. I guess consumers kind of want to know where their stuff is coming from now as well. So, I definitely see the market shifting.
Bradford: Right. And that goes hand in hand with where we are today as consumers. Consumers, we’re seeking transparency for everything that we eat. There’s a great more emphasis on organic foods, more emphasis on knowing where our foods have come from. What’s in our foods…
Bradford: And so, coffee is really now taking advantage of that and educating the public to say here’s where the bean comes from. Here’s the relationship we have with the farmer who harvests that bean. Here’s the process we use in bringing that coffee to you. And in fact, here’s the best way for you to brew it to have the best coffee experience.
Brendan: I don’t want to put you into a corner or put you in a tough spot by asking this question but, what do you think really changes in terms of the consumer? Because obviously there was probably an initial group of people who said, “Well, I want to learn about this and I want to grow my coffee knowledge.” But, it’s obviously grown and expanded and allowed these smaller coffee companies to build a business. What makes the customer say, “I don’t want to go buy from XYZ I want to go to this coffee shop”?
Bradford: Right. I’m sure there’s a lot of answers for that question but the one that sticks out of my mind, I’ve read a lot of personal testimony from people who has started their own coffee businesses. And nine times out of 10, it started when they tasted for the first time a good cup of coffee. And for the first time they realized what coffee was supposed to taste like.
And then they begin to ask questions. Why is this different from the say, Folgers or Maxwell House that I grew up drinking that my mom bought at the grocery store every month? And so, they begin to be educated on what really good coffee was supposed to be.
Brendan: So just kind of an eye opening, aha moment.
Bradford: Kind of an epiphany. It piqued an interest and so that got them into this investigative mode of how did we come to this. And, it became something they wanted to be a part of.
Brendan: Very interesting, I mean, I guess you see this in beer and brewing. Any time I go to a new town I try to go try a new beer at a different brewery, a new brewery. And I actually just found myself doing this with coffee when I visited San Diego with the family a few weeks ago. The girls were like, “Let’s go get some Starbucks.” And I go, “Why don’t we just go to this small coffee shop across the street? Let’s go try them. Let’s try a coffee there.”
Cool. It’s interesting to hear about these waves and where it’s going. I know I mentioned at the beginning Elijah Elliott from Red Hat in San Diego. He mentioned the fourth wave. You have any thoughts on that?
Bradford: Yes, I heard that interview and he made a very interesting statement that we’re coming to a fourth wave and the fourth wave was all about e-commerce. And I think he’s spot on here because along with third wave, we’re beginning to see more and more of these online coffee companies, online coffee roasters. One of my favorites is Barkeater [Coffee Roasters] up north. And he doesn’t have a Brick and mortar store. He doesn’t have a coffee bar.
Brendan: When you say up north, you’re on the East Coast, right?
Bradford: Yes, sorry. I’m on the East Coast.
Bradford: Yes. But he simply has a website and he roasts to order. And when people put their order in, he roasts it and mails it out to them. And there’re several reasons why that’s starting to work today.
A part of it has to do with transparency. There is a roast date that’s stamped on your purchase. And the development of e-commerce, the development of websites now, people are more trusting for purchases online. More people are doing purchases online so why can’t they purchase their coffee online as well. And it’s reasonably economical and reasonably competitive with the prices you’re going to pay for in the grocery store.
And so, we’re beginning to see more and more of these roasters go to an online business so you can sit at home and you can order your coffee for the month. You can subscribe to these coffee packages and take part in kind of a third wave experience of education transparency. But now in, I guess, what we’d call a fourth wave opportunity of buying online.
Brendan: Sure. Yes, I mean, fourth wave, it’s obviously great for businesses because they can reach a larger market. But it’s also probably better for consumers because you can try things from far outside your own region in your own area. You’re basically opening up your market. You can go find.. I could order coffee from the East Coast or probably from South America and have it come direct to me.
Brendan: Interesting. So, you think the fourth wave is kind of defined in that e-commerce on-demand deliverability or do you think that’s the fourth wave is still being defined?
Bradford: Well, I think it’s still being defined. It’s really early on. But the point that he made I think it kind of turned a light bulb on for me to realize that’s right. That’s where we’re at today. The last five bags of coffee that I have in my house, I’ve ordered all of them online and I haven’t purchased any coffee from any chain store. And so I realize, yes, that’s where we are today. And, I can get the same quality. Because I don’t have a coffee roaster local to me and so this lets me take advantage of everything I love about coffee today and order it right to home.
Brendan: Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s incredible that you have purchased your last four bags of coffee online. Something I have yet to do. I’m picking them up locally and luckily we work with a lot of coffee companies so I’m lucky enough to have coffee shipped to me every now and then. But, it’s something that I’d probably be trying here within the next year before the end of 2016 for sure.
Bradford: Yes. And you know transparency’s really made that possible because you can begin to have a relationship with some of these roasters online and you know when they’re going to roast. If they say they roast to order, go on their websites and see if there’re any complaints. Ask important questions. And I haven’t met one yet that was trying to dupe me or sold me bad coffee.
Brendan: They’re trying to build a business. Obviously if they disappoint you you’re never going to go back and you’re certainly not going to tell your friends.
Bradford: Exactly. And most of these online roasters are people who love what they do. They love the craft of roasting coffee. And so, they want to produce the best product that they can for their consumer.
Brendan: So, you know they’re putting their time into it. They’re putting some pride and passion into what they’re making.
Brendan: Very interesting. Alright. So, I think we’ve got enough there. If people want to go and they’re sick of listening to this and want to go read about the topic, where could they go?
Bradford: They can go to www.craftbeveragejobs.com. If you go to the blog and search “third wave coffee” you can find The History of First, Second and Third Wave Coffee article there. They also could visit websites for third wave roasters such as Counter Culture or Wrecking Ball. They’re very easy to access. If you just simply do Google search they’re definitely going to pop up right on the first page and that would be a great place to start to learn a little bit more about third wave coffee.
Brendan: All right, Bradford. Well, thanks for joining us again. You’re the first guest who’s been on twice. You’re also the first guest that’s ever been on the show.
Bradford: I appreciate it.
Brendan: So, thanks for coming back. Thanks for joining us again.
Bradford: Always happy to be a part of what you guys are doing.
Brendan: Thanks again to Bradford for joining us on this episode of the Drips & Draughts Podcast. If you’d like to learn more about the Waves of Coffee or about Bradford and his website Craft Beverage Jobs you can go to dripsanddraughts.com/8 where you can find show notes to this episode as well as links to some of the items we discussed today.
If you have any questions feel free to email them to questions[at]coldbrewavenue.com or you can contact us on Twitter username @coldbrewavenue or you can follow the podcast on Twitter @DripsDraughts that’s D-R-I-P-S-D-R-A-U-G-H-T-S.
If you or your coffee company would like to be a guest on the show go to dripsanddraughts.com/guest and book an appointment to be on a future episode with us.
Thanks again for listening. We’ll see you next Friday on Drips and Draughts.