“People are getting back into filtered coffee and specifically filtered coffee from automatic drip brewers,” which historically have been convenient, but not as high of quality as more difficult to make manually brewed coffee, said Sam Lewontin, the general manager at Everyman Espresso in New York City and winner of the 2011 SCAA Northeast Regional Barista Competition.
But, he explained to FoodNavigator-USA, “this year we saw a lot of new automatic brewer machines introduced” that addressed some of the quality concerns of previous models and yet retain convenience.
“People are realizing it is possible to do coffee just as well with an automatic brewer” and that “good coffee doesn’t necessarily mean an elaborate set up or waiting a long time. They can have good coffee ready to go that is worth drinking black and enjoyed on its own merits,” he said.
As automatic drip machines regain market share in coffee shops and homes “more people are revisiting drip coffee and turning away from pod machines, which are understood to be terrible quality and bad for the environment,” claimed Lewontin, who also is a brand ambassador for kitchen appliance maker KRUPS.
He added that “the Keurig and K-cup movement of home coffee brewing has passed its peak. While not on a rapid decline, it is not as vital as it once was. It is losing steam,” he said.
Indeed, analysts at Euromonitor noted earlier this year that coffee pod sales are softening as consumers go out more for coffee now and augment at home with bagged coffee, which is less expensive than pods.
Restaurants and cafes improve food-coffee pairing
As consumers buy coffee out more, restaurants and cafes are stepping up their game to pair coffee and food that are worth of each other, Lewontin said. This in turn is helping consumers focus on the subtle flavors of specific coffee beans, how they are roasted and brewed.
As a result, consumer awareness of specialty and single-origin bean coffees are growing – creating an opening for local, small-batch and mid-sized roasters to gain a foothold in the segment, Lewontin said.
He also noted shifting marketing strategies now highlight with extreme detail where the beans are sourced – sometimes listing the location down to the plot on a farm in a specific region.
Consumers see coffee as drink for more dayparts
The food and coffee pairing trend that began in 2015 will continue to develop in 2016 and likely lead to consumers seeing coffee as an ingredient for other types of drinks – expanding how and when it is consumed, Lewontin said.
“As the public’s understanding of coffee gets better and better, we will start to see more interesting pairings and recipes built around coffee. That may look more like a cocktail than a café au lait,” Lewontin said. It also could lead to more fizzy coffee drinks or light, refreshing takes on the beverage, he added.
Manufacturers and barristas also are starting to play with adding ingredients to coffee to highlight or alter its natural flavor, Lewontin said. For example, in food service adding cocktail bitters is one way to manipulate the flavor of coffee without washing it out or upsetting the balance of the beverage.
Adding herbs, like lavender, or fruit, like lemon zest, also is an emerging trend at coffee shops. Some manufacturers already are adding them to their blends. Trader Joe’s, for example, has a Gingerbread Coffee that blends the grounds with dried ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves.
Lewontin suggested this may be the new way to “flavor” coffee – replacing the artificial ingredients that were previously used and are now shunned by many consumers.
Alongside the rises of more nuanced coffee is consumer interest in tea, Lewontin said.
“Just like with coffee, consumers are becoming more aware of the quality of tea and how it is brewed,” Lewontin said. He added that tea likely will come into its own faster than coffee because it doesn’t require expensive equipment to prepare and consumers already are familiar with the concept that there are many types of tea with subtle nuanced differences.
Finally, Lewontin said he expects the unexpected to happen with coffee trends in 2016 because the beverage is evolving so quickly – creating opportunities for consumers, cafes and manufacturers alike.