Coffee’s Fourth Wave?

A recent post from Serious Eats about this apparently unbelievable espresso machine heralding coffee’s fourth wave made me think of something; most people don’t even know that coffee is in its fourth wave.

Here’s a short rundown; coffee, in the mind of connoisseurs, has gone through four waves. These are movements, or consumer shifts, that spur massive change through the industry. It effects corporations, growers, businesses, customers, bloggers, and the list goes on. Here are the four waves and brief descriptions:

  • First wave – This was eons ago where Folgers, Maxwell House, or Nescafe made instant coffee an essential component of home kitchens and into ubiquity. This was the start of the nation’s dependence on java.
  • Second wave – We have Starbucks to thank for this. The second wave is where consumers started to look through the coffee prism and see espresso, cappuccino, lattes, etc. Suddenly, it wasn’t just a cup of joe. This was the start of our nation needing coffee at every second of the day served on every street corner.
  • Third wave – This wave is where growers, retailers, and customers were achieving a higher sense of possibility and uniqueness with coffee. Probably the most discussed of the coffee ‘waves’, the Third Wave had people thinking about origins of the beans, characteristics, differences, etc. This was the start of the nation being snobby about their coffee.
  • Fourth wave – Honestly I had no idea that we were even in our fourth wave, but apparently change in the world of coffee never stops. This was the start of the nation Googling ‘coffee third wave’ to learn about the fourth wave.

In the post on Serious Eats, the Fourth Wave is described as the technique and creativity of the barista to enhance the coffee experience. And one can kind of see this happening. Think about the kerfuffle a while back about the Clover machine. This was the espresso machine that was supposed to create as perfect a cup of coffee possible. So awesome that Starbucks bought the company, but only has these machines in a handful of their cafes. Now comes the Slayer (awesome name) a new $18K machine that is supposed to be a game-changer. Hence the fourth wave. I guess. It’s very interesting, but a bit presumptuous.

Honestly, I’m not as well versed on coffee as I could be, but this subject was too interesting to not share. So now if you ever find yourself in a conversation about third wave coffee you can throw your two cents in and elevate your clout by talking about the fourth wave. If there is even such a thing. I’m still getting a hang of the third wave.

Photo from Slayer Espresso
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3 thoughts on “Coffee’s Fourth Wave?

  1. The “Slayer” really is the coolest name for a kitchen utensil/tool I’ve ever heard.

    I wonder what happened with the Clover – it seemed like Starbucks effectively killed its spread by buying it, as I’ve only seen it in a few stores. And on top of that, I’m highly unlikely to go into a Starbucks for a cup of coffee, Clover or not, even if the drinks I’ve had from it were pretty high quality.

  2. Fourth wave are those who seek to really understand coffee in every way possible. Baristas/roasters who visit origin to see a coffee cherry growing on the vine, watch the natural or honey processing harvest methods, then roast and cup the coffee. Now, after this, they can learn which brew method or flavoring/food pairing it deserves.

    Also Synesso is a sweet name for an espresso machine company. Slayer, Synesso, and La Marzocco are all built in Seattle.

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