Have you ever read about a coffeehouse and noticed that they mentioned third wave or fourth wave coffee? What are they talking about?
Waves of coffee are different time periods that relate to consumer accessibility and affordability to coffee. Read on to learn about the different coffee waves.
What Is First Wave Coffee?
Coffee’s first wave beginnings coincide with the Industrial Revolution, somewhere in the mid-19th century. At this time, production of goods and commodities had ramped up, and products were beginning to be available globally, including coffee. Before this time period, coffee would have been accessible only to those who lived local to coffee growing areas, or the very wealthy who were able to pay for hard to obtain goods, and it would have been a novelty or status product.
Availability to the masses is the first wave. Grocery store brands and instant coffees like Sanka, Folgers, Maxwell House, and Nescafe were available everywhere in the United States by the middle of the 20th century. Coffee became part of the daily ritual in homes to give people that initial start to the day, or to have a few cups at work, but the knowledge behind the actual beans, processing, flavor profiles, and origins of the coffee were not common knowledge to the average consumer.
What Is Second Wave Coffee?
The second wave of coffee starts in the 1970s, namely with Starbucks back in 1971. People at this point became more interested in better tasting coffee, more crafted drinks, more variety in roasts and flavors, and creating more of an experience around the drinking of coffee. By the 1990s, coffeehouses pop up all over the place, and become a “third place,” or a place for people to congregate outside of the home to hang out, work, read, or socialize.
Coffee became a culture. Quality coffee became readily available. During this wave, coffee drinks appeal to younger consumers, teens, and even children, with Frappuccino’s and very sweetened coffee drinks, including more availability and accessibility than in the first wave. Seattle played a key role in the second wave.
What Is Third Wave Coffee?
Third wave coffee begins in the early 2000s. The consumer becomes more of connoisseur of coffee, and very similar to wine lovers. Coffee lovers know what they like, are much more knowledgeable and interested in the specifics of the different flavor profiles, processes, origins, and roasts of beans.
More than just an employee pouring a cup of coffee, baristas become artisans of their craft. A good barista will be an expert of the coffee process and should be a resource for the consumer. Additionally, the issues of sustainability, product safety and fair-trade practices become more of a concern to coffee producers and consumers. Coffeehouses demanding even higher quality coffee for their customers created the third wave of coffee.
What Is Fourth Wave Coffee?
While coffeehouses drove the third wave of coffee, consumers in their homes instigate the fourth wave of coffee. With the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in 2020, people had to get their crafted coffee fix in their own home. The change in work location has become permanent after the pandemic for many employees, with more people working remotely out of their homes.
Because of this, coffee consumers buy more elaborate coffee equipment and learn to make more complicated barista style drinks in their homes. They buy specialized syrups and coffees for the home, and generally get more precise and scientific about the whole coffee process. The true coffee devotees may be roasting their own beans at home. The coffeehouses begin selling more specialized equipment for the fourth wave coffee consumer.
Again, the wave is about accessibility and availability to the consumer, and fourth wave coffee brings the truly specialized coffee expertise into the home environment. As far as actual drinks, cold brews, iced coffees and Nitro coffees become popular. Coffee culture explodes via TikTok and YouTube as consumers show off their coffee skills at home.
Where Does Beans & Butter Fit In?
At Beans & Butter, we are your resource for delicious, locally roasted beans. We are also your place for coffee knowledge and education. Stay tuned for future coffee cupping/tasting events where we will educate our coffee loving community to become even bigger coffee enthusiasts. Did you recently acquire a very complicated home espresso maker and are grappling with all its functions? Set up a time up with Michael Simmons to help with your home coffee equipment.