Fast, Fresh & 'Mine'

Customization, high-quality beans crucial for great coffee program

Jennifer Bulat, Group Director of Editorial Production, CSP

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It's enough to make a coffee guru weep: Customers rate the variety of coffee additives as more important that the variety of coffee. In other words, if you don't have the right creamers, your beans don't matter that much.

Dan Streetman, certified lead instructor for the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) and director of coffee for Irving Farms Coffee, didn't weep--but he definitely winced--when pointing out that factoid in the breakout session "Recipe for Great Away-From-Home Coffee" at the fourth annual FARE (Foodservice at Retail Exchange) [image-nocss] conference.

Citing facts and figures from a WhiteWave Foods study on coffee consumers, Streetman detailed the reasons why a quality coffee program is a must-have: Coffee is the third-most-consumed beverage in the world behind water and soda. 150 billion cups of coffee are consumed in the United States every year. Consumers average 12 coffee drinks per week. Only 11% of consumers say they never drink brewed coffee. One-third of coffee consumers drink it multiple times per day. The specialty-coffee segment is growing at 20% per year.

Based on the WhiteWave study, consumers have three demands for a coffee offering: Make it fast, make it fresh and make it mine.

And they mean fast: According to the study, customers want to leave their car, buy the coffee and be back in the car in less than four minutes. That sounds like a tall order. To achieve that, Streetman suggested placing a coffee display close to the front of the store, or at least visible from the front, so the customer doesn't need to waste time hunting for the brew. Along with visibility, adequate, neat prep space is crucial. Forty-nine percent said they would not return if they experienced a messy or unclean coffee area. That might mean having an extra person on the floor who's in charge of keeping the prep space tidy, Streetman said.

When it comes to freshness, Streetman (pictured) said, the key drivers for consumers are "absence of negatives." And "freshly brewed" is the most important factor when having a quality coffee experience, according to WhiteWave.

Consumers want coffee that:

Does not taste burnt. Is freshly brewed--not old, "stale" pots of coffee. Is not watery.

To avoid these negatives, Streetman suggested that retailers brew high-quality coffee, and brew fewer roasts more frequently. Most consumers are content with four roasts: regular, French, decaffeinated and Colombian.

To brew high-quality coffee, the three most important factors are:

A correct coffee-to-water ratio. The "golden cup" standard set by the SCAA for the coffee-to-water ratio is 3.5 ounces by weight of coffee to 64 fluid ounces of water. A grind to match brewing time. Normal drip brewing takes 4 to 6 minutes. If the coffee is too fine, it will increase the brew's bitterness; if it's too course, it will be bland and watery. Good quality water (because brewed coffee is 98% water). Technically, the sediment content of the water should be 75 to 250 mg/L of total dissolved solids. Streetman stressed the importance of a good water filter; spending thousands of dollars on high-quality coffee equipment is pointless if it's going to get clogged up by unfiltered water and the minerals it contains, he said.

Coffee's flavor degrades over time, and heating it destroys its flavor. If you're brewing coffee every hour, that's reasonable, he said; anything less is "fantastic."

And now back to that creamer statistic. Making the coffee "mine" is key, 72% of participants in the WhiteWave study said. The most appealing attribute for do-it-yourself coffee is "ability to customize." A big part of that is the variety of sweeteners, creamers and syrups on the coffee bar.

"When people think about coffee, they think about creamer," Streetman said. They would rather have more choices in additives than "outlandish flavors of coffee," he said. Also, 50% would consider not returning to a location to purchase coffee based on a poor creamer experience.

By Jennifer Bulat, Group Director of Editorial Production, CSP
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