Something's Brewing

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Something's Brewing

By Lynn Petrak - 02/23/2017

Coffee, tea or me?

This adage quaintly poses a question, but today, it seems to define a segment of discerning consumers who enjoy making and drinking coffee and tea suited to their personal taste. Thanks to a plethora of brewers and accessories, consumers have a lot of choices for making coffee and tea that works for them on any particular day or time of day. For them, it's coffee, tea and me.

The "me" factor has been a driver in brewers for personal use. "Today's consumers want to replicate the café experience at home and have their own pour-over bars to hand craft their own beverages. Home baristas have access to the same high-quality, specialty-grade and single-origin coffees from retailers; they can use the same machines, purchase high quality grinders and use stopwatches and scales to control the brewing process," points out Spencer Turer, VP of Coffee Analysts, an independent coffee testing laboratory certified by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) in Hinesburg, Vt.

Louise Mawhinney, owner of Duck Soup, says her customers are using more than one type of brewer at home.

Brewers and accessories allow for such personalization, but even more potential coffee and tea drinkers are out there, says Joe Derochowski, executive director and home industry analyst at NPD Group Inc., in Rosemont, Ill. "Coffee consumption over the next 10 years will grow," he predicts, citing population trends and interest from both younger consumers and older consumers. "If I were a retailer, I'd be thinking about millennials and their parents or grandparents, too, who are hitting the major stage of coffee and who might totally be into it. It's an interesting marketplace, and there can be interesting merchandising within it."

The current marketplace has room for higher end systems that take a bit more time, as well as convenience-oriented brewers for occasions when consumers have less time, like busy weekday mornings. "There will be people who have brewers with K-cups, and then they will buy a machine or device for the weekend, maybe a French press or a Chemex or whatever they see a barista playing with in a store," notes coffee brewing expert Kevin Sinnott, author of "The Art & Craft of Coffee."

Derochowski agrees, adding, "Our data is showing that people have multiple methods. They aren't 100 percent loyal and may do craft one day or singe serve the next. However, deep down, they crave the craft."

Retailers, too, hear from customers who have more than one coffee machine or device in their home. "We see people coming in for high-end machines, including those that grind beans and make coffee, as well as pour-overs and presses. There are a lot more options now," says Derenda Jeffrey, who manages the coffee and tea section for Wayside Gourmet, a gourmet retailer in Wayland, Mass.

That assessment is shared by Louise Mawhinney, owner of Duck Soup, a gourmet retail store and cooking school in Sudbury, Mass. "A lot of our customers have an electric coffee maker, yet they also enjoy using a French press and/or a percolator," she says, adding that the store carries a range of brewers, from high-end Jura Capressos to smaller Aeropress devices. "We have certainly increased our coffee-related equipment over recent years as folks have become more invested in making the perfect cup of coffee."

Hands-On Approach
People who want and have the time to tinker around in the kitchen making a good cup of coffee are open to new and different types of manual brewers. "Your 'me time' allows you to be more of a foodie and to be more artisanal. One beauty of craft coffee is that it allows people to have taste," points out Derochowski.

Manual brewers such as this Chemex are popular with coffee connoisseurs.

Sinnott also says that part of making a good cup of coffee with a manual system is the ownership and pride associated with the process. "Coffee is really a cooking art and people should view it this way. You don't get a cake recipe that says 'more or less to taste.' If you get a cake recipe, it's 'a cup of this and a teaspoon of that.' It's the same thing with brewing equipment. It makes a difference whether or not the water temperature reaches 200 degrees," he points out.

Even if it may be more involved, that doesn't mean that millennials are shying away from manual brewing. According to NPD, craft coffee, which includes pour-over cones, French presses and vacuum brewers, is how 11 percent of U.S. young adults brew at home. "Those who are between 18 and 34 do craft coffee the most, especially on the West Coast," reports Derochowski, adding that the segment is also open to others who welcome the experiential and artisan aspects of making their own coffee. "The craft brewing method is poised to grow, if marketed properly."

Subsequently, a variety of popular, new craft and manual coffee brewers are on the market. Gourmet retailers can choose to stock manual systems that use techniques such as pressure, steeping, dripping, filtration and boiling, These machines and devices span espresso machines, moka pots, Chemex and Aeropress in addition to pour-overs, French presses and vacuum brewers.

"Up until a generation ago, we had Melitta pour-overs, Chemex brewers and French press plunger pots for alternative options to standard automatic drip brewers. Moka pots were very rare, and recipes were whatever was listed on the side of the bag or can. Today's in-home brewing is a divergence of convenience and quality [m] Aeropress, Clover, Hario siphon brewers and home espresso machines are mainstream," observes Turer. He cites another new brewer, the Blossom Brewer, which is like a sous vide for coffee, maintaining a single temperature for a length of time and eliminating bitterness that can happen with high temperature peaks.

Reflecting interest in these types of brewers, the Frankfurt Pour Over Coffee Maker from Grosche International Inc. was the top-viewed item among all products in The Gourmet Retailer's New Product Showcase for 2016. Also in the top 25: the Primula Cold-Brew Coffee Maker and the Pour Over Coffee Maker from HIC, Harold Import Co.

At Wayside Gourmet, Jeffrey says that one item garnering attention lately is Espro, a French press with double micro-filters for a rich flavor and less mess. "Customers like it for the same reason I do. It also has a cool design," she says.

Likewise, Mawhinney reports interest in manual brewers that combine functionality and design for a good cup of coffee. "We sell lots of colorful Bodum Coffee pour-overs, and we also sell ceramic or plastic pour over devices that sit on top of any cup," she says.

Drip by Drip
Exemplifying interest in a variety of machines, often within one household, other coffee and tea brewers are selling well among coffee and tea drinkers, including a range of drip machines.

Modern drip coffee machines offer more bells and whistles designed for flavor and convenience, including functions like controlled water temperatures and built-in carafes. Among other manufacturers, Cuisinart, Oxo, Bonavita and Krups have recently introduced new machines with a variety of features.

Turer emphasizes the depth and breadth of drip brewers. "Technivorm brewers are still considered high-end and exclusive to coffee aficionados, while new brewers like Bonavita and Ninja are merchandised for the everyday consumer. The expansion of the SCAA-certified home brewer program has helped to raise the operating standards of home coffee brewers by providing an exclusive SCAA certification when certain operating criteria for coffee quality are met," he explains.

Technivorm’s SCAA-certified Moccamaster is sought by coffee aficionados.

At his own home, Turer uses the Technivorm Moccamaster, a drip brewer made with all metal parts. "I have had this brewer for many years and use it because of the controlled water temperature and cone brew basket. It maximizes the intrinsic quality of the coffee brewed," he says.

Even percolators have their place. "A woman came in yesterday and asked for a percolator [m] there are some people who just love those," reports Jeffrey, adding that interest in percolators could come from a desire to entertain more or for some nostalgia-related reasons.

A Singular Issue
While single-serve machines with Keurig K-Cup pods veritably exploded in the marketplace a few years ago, concerns about environmental impact have had an effect. "The biggest challenge to K-Cups and why people moved away from them is mostly because they were concerned about waste, although there are recyclable products now. Even if you fill your own cups, they are hard to grind," Sinnott points out.

That said, like other machines, these devices have their place. "Consumer may use K-Cup brewers when commuting, but on a Sunday morning, whether they're reading the newspaper or sitting at a table with their smartphone, they want to relax with a cup of coffee they brewed in an artisanal way," Sinnott adds.

Tea Time
Finally, just as coffee brewers are designed to appeal to aficionados looking for fine flavor, an attractive design and an experience, tea brewers are also changing with the times. "I think tea is an untapped area, and tea kettles and tea will continue to grow. It's largely being driven by health," says Derochowski. "The innovation we've seen in coffee over the past 10 or 15 years can be applied in a similar way to tea."

According to Jeffrey, shoppers at Wayside Gourmet have expressed interest in tea and tea brewers. "There seems to be an even customer base between tea drinkers and coffee drinkers, and there a lot of options now, with companies doing different kinds of teas and brewers. And people who are really into tea know that you heat water to a different temperature for black tea, white tea and green tea," she remarks.

For both coffee and tea brewers, gourmet retailers can help spur sales and interest through education and sharing. "Coffee is something that people are very passionate about, and there is a group who hold it in a special place. Be as excited as they are. Do the demos," Derochowski advises.

Turer agrees. "Specialty coffee interest develops into the need for education; hobbies become passions, and the desire to acquire critical product knowledge to develop home barista skills is becoming commonplace," he says.

Mawhinney says that sharing knowledge and passion can differentiate a gourmet shop. "They value our input as well, so many of them choose to shop with us instead of going to a big box store for a coffee maker," she says.