I saw this post a little while ago from James Hoffman, a coffee professional, about technology in coffee.

He basically is lamenting on how coffee for the most part is incremental innovation, think of Mr Coffee machines that start brewing at 200 degrees and stay there until it's done brewing for incremental. As oppose to something that changes the way most people brew their coffee, once again think of the shift from people using percolators to using auto-drip machines like Mr Coffee.

I found the second to last paragraph of his post to be the one where you can really hang your hat on;

"It is more depressing to think that a more obvious disruptive innovation is the whole single serve thing.  It is easy to point out the flaws – it doesn’t taste amazing, it is expensive.  It is proving that this stuff doesn’t really matter to the market.  Maybe we’re going to continue to ignore it, while it may slowly make what we do increasingly obsolete.  No one is going to argue that vinyl doesn’t sound better, but it doesn’t do much to change the fact that this matter less and less to people, and technology is catching up all the time."

I think he hits the head on the nail here with k-cups/pods. They are changing the way people drink coffee from a loose item to a more packaged convience good. It doesn't take a genious to see some parallels between these pods and something like Mr Coffee.

Both of these machines made coffee easier for people to make at home and at the same time better. For someone that is switching over from a drip pot to a k-cup there is no telling how much coffee they had been using relative to their water amounts. A k-cup gives over control of that variable to the manufacturer, they can now say that x number of grams of coffee is going to make a good cup in (amount of water), and it will every time.

Sure there are k-cup machines that can allow you to change the volume of water, but really it's small compared to what I am sure some people use on their drip machines. Have you ever tried to strech out that last little bit of coffee on hand into two pots and ended up with two pots of hot water with a hint of coffee? I am know I am guilty of that, now with a k-cup it's controlled.

Another thing that I think specialty coffee people fail to realize is there tends to be a lot of waste for a good portion of people with a pot of coffee. You make a pot of coffee, and you are stuck with 8 to 12 cups depending on your machine. Now that price per cup is cheap, but you still end up with a good portion of waste because it gets cold or you leave the house. That doesn't happen with k-cups.

The waste part plays a factor because there are people out there that think that k-cups are showing that people are willing to pay more for coffee. I think that is false, I think people are seeing that I only drink two cups in the morning and my k-cup tastes better than my drip coffee and really isn't that much more expensive than buying a bag of coffee that last the same amount of time.

What I believe specialty coffee should be looking at is, does putting freshly ground coffee directly into a k-cup compromise taste? Another poster here on roaste in a very informal taste test found that his ground coffee the night before sealed up right after grinding was still good in the morning. I think this should at least be explored by roasters to see if this could work for them in a prepackaged k-cup. Even freshly popped Illy beans taste good and exhibt fresh coffee flavor, why not a freshly pack k-cup?

I think that having k-cups from larger independent roasters like Klatch could prove interesting. To me it's pretty brilliant, it allows roasters to have control over the cup of coffee. Klatch cannot go into your home every morning and make you a cup of their house blend and grind it with their nice shop grinder to get that perfect grind and make sure you use just the right amount of water. BUT with a k-cup they could.

Imagine a roaster giving you the perfect amount of coffee per cup measured out easily for you, no waste. I think it might have the posibility of actually helping speciality coffee if they could put a little bit of their egos aside and see how this works. I think ignoring this trend could limit the impact of specialty coffee, i.e. have it peak out where we are right now.

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Comments

Submitted by caffeine65 on
I know you can buy refillable filters for KCups. Maybe that would make the coffee produced by them taste better. The coffee I have had has tasted weak. I would like to try some of "the good stuff" in a KCup just to see what happens.

I think that shows what it could taste like in a perfect world, however you still need to have a quality grinder and take the time to refill you kcup. Basically it loses it's convenience factor in my opinion. What I would like to see is Klatch house blend 12 k-cup packages, toss them to my folks and now they can have high quality beans for the few cups they have over a week.

That is a very interesting concept with regard to a specialty coffee roaster providing K-cup or the like. I think it would be possible and the result should be much better than run of the mill K-cups however, I'm not sure, financially it makes sense for the specialty coffee roaster.

Most people are short on time, especially before heading to work, and whats easier then popping in a kcup for morning coffee. Kcups may be expensive but they are still cheaper than buying from starbucks for example. And some people don't care about the taste as long as they get their caffeine fix.

Submitted by Chamie on
More and more companies are jumping on the single serve bandwagon -- and there's lots of innovation in the field. The new Vue from Keurig, e.g., gives you a lot more control over variables like water temperature, volume and brew strength. Starbucks just announced that they'll be putting out their own single serve coffee machine. CBTL has a two-speed pump to make brewed coffee and espresso drinks separately, and Illycafe recently announced that they'll be putting out a new single serve machine. <p>As far as the waste factor goes, <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-21/single-cup-coffee-cuts-waste-lowering-bean-demand-illy-says.html">Andrea Illy talked</a> about how the less-waste factor will reduce the demand for coffee by about 1% over the next few years. Yeah, I'm a coffee-business nerd. This stuff fascinates me.

I don't think that there can be a shift over from traditional loose bean coffees, however there is a lot of over lap in my opinion. And while a k-cup may never be something that you buy, for Klatch or another other larger specialty roaster I think it might make sense to try it out and see if there is a market for it within their customer demographics. I am sure there a lot of people in the LA area that live around them that stop in for the occasional cup that might be willing to put a klatch kcup in there as oppose to a starbucks one.

I think it would have to be for a larger roaster, perhaps like a Stumptown that has outside cash coming in as well. I am sure the machines to manufactor k-cups are not cheap. And it would be a gamble beceause obviously you would risk having a higher end good than people who buy kcups want and at the same time alienate your customers. However, I think if specialty coffee wants to continue to expand they are going to have to do things like this.

You're very right and lot of people see a kcups as something that replaces a latte at 3.50, and yet still about as easy to get. However if someone could improve on it...

I think the less waste of beans is a big issue that people need to wrap their minds around when comparing k-cups to traditional methods. I know I can be guilty of it sometimes when doing calculations in my head, because whats better have a 2 cups of coffee in the morning that cost a dollar total and drinking those two cups or making 10 cups for a dollar fifty and only drinking 2 cups? People need to watch this.

Submitted by GmanJenks on
We have several single serve brewers in our household / work / travel environments. I think that one of the things that so often gets over looked is who the target market for these machines is. It is not someone that is currently drinking high quality whole beans, fresh ground and artisan brewed. The target is the pre-ground coffee in a can drinker. This is who I was when we got started with our first Keurig (RIP, but that's another story). I don't pretend that my Keurig produces the best coffee around, I know it doesn't but when time is short or you want something different it is an convenient solution. My wife often prefers flavoured coffee and this allows her to have that whenever she wants without contaminating any other coffee gear. I would personally like to see the larger independent roasters pursue the "Pod" format not the K-Cup. This format is open source and anyone can get involved without paying royalties to GMCR. These pods are often brewed in higher performance machine made by Bunn or Grindmaster than do achieve a 200 degree brewing temp. Now that I have rambled, did any of this make sense? I think I need another cup...

I could be wrong, but I think single-serve machines are destined to replace the traditional drip brewer in the majority of households. I will go further and predict that some company will eventually market an automated multi-cup brewer that will shuffle cups and pods, brewing up to 4 cups at a time.<br> Consumers, especially American consumers, like their toys when they can justify them for the sake of convenience. At one time, it was estimated that there were more VCRs in the average American household than there were TVs. In the workplace, single cup brewers solve age-old problems of responsibility and quality. Superficially, they even reduce the clean-up issue. Once the consumers have become comfortable with single cup brewer technology, they'll be ready to use one in the workplace.<br> So it would seem inevitable that high-end purveyors need to consider how to deliver their product to fit such a brewer.<br> One minor problem I see is that even the K-cup form factor is starting to fragment with the Keurig Vue cup. It has distinct advantages over the K-cup, and could cause more fragmentation in the future. That means we will need the refillable cup to follow suit and be made available in different sizes.<br> But there's a much bigger problem of supplying cups of fresh grounds for the consumer in a way that shows the higher quality (and higher price?) to its advantage. If you are a high-quality roaster, you could try establishing marketing channels through your local supermarkets. But that's been tried before--the competition from every mediocre supplier is too much. You could setup a website-based business and provide product through your own brick and mortar establishment. But that is fundamentally no different from the way the rules of the game play today.<br> My point is that simply putting one's high quality grounds in a pod or K-cup won't get the marketing done. And the product won't necessarily compete any better against the other brands.<br> What's missing is the same thing that prevented high-end audio from taking off for the average consumer. The fundamental collateral that tells the consumer this is something special has yet to be achieved. And it doesn't come in the shape of a pod, indistinguishable from its lesser brethren. It comes in the form of what Starbucks accomplished many years back. If you don't focus on the user experience, you will not bring the message home. I think Starbucks knows this even today, judging by the news of their recent redesigned concept in Amsterdam. Current specialist coffee shop owners should watch this very closely and jump on ideas that make sense before Starbucks steals the whole show.

Hmm I had not really thought about the patent of the kcup, and that is a big hurdle even for a large independent. I am not sure about just pods, because at the high end at that point was the demographic compared to just your normal high end home user? Is it just the hotel that wants to serve coffee x and not have to train their staff?

I have been thinking about this throughout the day as ways of small shops trying to make their product standout among the crowd. I think selling in normal grocery stores would be unfounded, it would be interesting to note how many people that go to a high end coffee shop, buy beans to bring home and what beans they are using at home if they do make coffee at home. Is it Starbucks? and then see if just selling kcups in a cafe could have an impact on having people buy more product in your store, and possibly do something like a refillable sealed k-cup similar to glass milk bottle to make the product different.

Submitted by jbviau on
I like the idea. The main problems IMO (provided you could find a sufficiently open-minded speciality roaster) would be (a) availability of beans in sufficient quantities to justify the expense of going single-serve and (b) distribution. Taking (b) first, It's pretty rare to get a k-cup or pod that's less than a month post-roast, so finding a way to get the product out fast would be important if the roaster were emphasizing "highest quality," etc., even given the ability of nitrogen-flushed packaging to delay staling. As for (a), the product would have to be "limited run," I think, and on a small scale. There's no way to do that with a k-cup right now, but with pods it's possible. You just pay someone like Baronet a fee to rent their pod packaging machine, send them the freshly roasted coffee, pod film, and boxes, and meet their batch requirements (3000-pod minimum, or ~66 lbs., assuming 10-g. pods).

thanks for sharing a little more of the details that I was unaware of. It would be really interesting to see a pod limited run, and to be honest I have to think that a nitrogen flushed coffee should be good. I mean Illy is pretty good the first few days you have it and it's not fresh.

Submitted by wakeknot on
it almost has parallels to the ipod - making it easier to listen to music even if it lowers the over all quality from Cd's - both a positive and a negative wrapped up together.

Yeah it really is a negative and positive wrapped up into one cup of coffee.

Re: Disruptive Innovation

| by

I saw this post a little while ago from James Hoffman, a coffee professional, about technology in coffee.

He basically is lamenting on how coffee for the most part is incremental innovation, think of Mr Coffee machines that start brewing at 200 degrees and stay there until it's done brewing for incremental. As oppose to something that changes the way most people brew their coffee, once again think of the shift from people using percolators to using auto-drip machines like Mr Coffee.

I found the second to last paragraph of his post to be the one where you can really hang your hat on;

"It is more depressing to think that a more obvious disruptive innovation is the whole single serve thing.  It is easy to point out the flaws – it doesn’t taste amazing, it is expensive.  It is proving that this stuff doesn’t really matter to the market.  Maybe we’re going to continue to ignore it, while it may slowly make what we do increasingly obsolete.  No one is going to argue that vinyl doesn’t sound better, but it doesn’t do much to change the fact that this matter less and less to people, and technology is catching up all the time."

I think he hits the head on the nail here with k-cups/pods. They are changing the way people drink coffee from a loose item to a more packaged convience good. It doesn't take a genious to see some parallels between these pods and something like Mr Coffee.

Both of these machines made coffee easier for people to make at home and at the same time better. For someone that is switching over from a drip pot to a k-cup there is no telling how much coffee they had been using relative to their water amounts. A k-cup gives over control of that variable to the manufacturer, they can now say that x number of grams of coffee is going to make a good cup in (amount of water), and it will every time.

Sure there are k-cup machines that can allow you to change the volume of water, but really it's small compared to what I am sure some people use on their drip machines. Have you ever tried to strech out that last little bit of coffee on hand into two pots and ended up with two pots of hot water with a hint of coffee? I am know I am guilty of that, now with a k-cup it's controlled.

Another thing that I think specialty coffee people fail to realize is there tends to be a lot of waste for a good portion of people with a pot of coffee. You make a pot of coffee, and you are stuck with 8 to 12 cups depending on your machine. Now that price per cup is cheap, but you still end up with a good portion of waste because it gets cold or you leave the house. That doesn't happen with k-cups.

The waste part plays a factor because there are people out there that think that k-cups are showing that people are willing to pay more for coffee. I think that is false, I think people are seeing that I only drink two cups in the morning and my k-cup tastes better than my drip coffee and really isn't that much more expensive than buying a bag of coffee that last the same amount of time.

What I believe specialty coffee should be looking at is, does putting freshly ground coffee directly into a k-cup compromise taste? Another poster here on roaste in a very informal taste test found that his ground coffee the night before sealed up right after grinding was still good in the morning. I think this should at least be explored by roasters to see if this could work for them in a prepackaged k-cup. Even freshly popped Illy beans taste good and exhibt fresh coffee flavor, why not a freshly pack k-cup?

I think that having k-cups from larger independent roasters like Klatch could prove interesting. To me it's pretty brilliant, it allows roasters to have control over the cup of coffee. Klatch cannot go into your home every morning and make you a cup of their house blend and grind it with their nice shop grinder to get that perfect grind and make sure you use just the right amount of water. BUT with a k-cup they could.

Imagine a roaster giving you the perfect amount of coffee per cup measured out easily for you, no waste. I think it might have the posibility of actually helping speciality coffee if they could put a little bit of their egos aside and see how this works. I think ignoring this trend could limit the impact of specialty coffee, i.e. have it peak out where we are right now.

Category: BLOG

@wakenot

April 3, 2012 | by intrepid510

Yeah it really is a negative and positive wrapped up into one cup of coffee.

interesting

April 1, 2012 | by wakeknot

it almost has parallels to the ipod - making it easier to listen to music even if it lowers the over all quality from Cd's - both a positive and a negative wrapped up together.

@jbviau

March 28, 2012 | by intrepid510

thanks for sharing a little more of the details that I was unaware of. It would be really interesting to see a pod limited run, and to be honest I have to think that a nitrogen flushed coffee should be good. I mean Illy is pretty good the first few days you have it and it's not fresh.

Good read

March 25, 2012 | by jbviau

I like the idea. The main problems IMO (provided you could find a sufficiently open-minded speciality roaster) would be (a) availability of beans in sufficient quantities to justify the expense of going single-serve and (b) distribution. Taking (b) first, It's pretty rare to get a k-cup or pod that's less than a month post-roast, so finding a way to get the product out fast would be important if the roaster were emphasizing "highest quality," etc., even given the ability of nitrogen-flushed packaging to delay staling. As for (a), the product would have to be "limited run," I think, and on a small scale. There's no way to do that with a k-cup right now, but with pods it's possible. You just pay someone like Baronet a fee to rent their pod packaging machine, send them the freshly roasted coffee, pod film, and boxes, and meet their batch requirements (3000-pod minimum, or ~66 lbs., assuming 10-g. pods).

@barking

March 23, 2012 | by intrepid510

I have been thinking about this throughout the day as ways of small shops trying to make their product standout among the crowd. I think selling in normal grocery stores would be unfounded, it would be interesting to note how many people that go to a high end coffee shop, buy beans to bring home and what beans they are using at home if they do make coffee at home. Is it Starbucks? and then see if just selling kcups in a cafe could have an impact on having people buy more product in your store, and possibly do something like a refillable sealed k-cup similar to glass milk bottle to make the product different.

@gman

March 23, 2012 | by intrepid510

Hmm I had not really thought about the patent of the kcup, and that is a big hurdle even for a large independent. I am not sure about just pods, because at the high end at that point was the demographic compared to just your normal high end home user? Is it just the hotel that wants to serve coffee x and not have to train their staff?

Good Analysis

March 23, 2012 | by barkingburro

I could be wrong, but I think single-serve machines are destined to replace the traditional drip brewer in the majority of households. I will go further and predict that some company will eventually market an automated multi-cup brewer that will shuffle cups and pods, brewing up to 4 cups at a time.
Consumers, especially American consumers, like their toys when they can justify them for the sake of convenience. At one time, it was estimated that there were more VCRs in the average American household than there were TVs. In the workplace, single cup brewers solve age-old problems of responsibility and quality. Superficially, they even reduce the clean-up issue. Once the consumers have become comfortable with single cup brewer technology, they'll be ready to use one in the workplace.
So it would seem inevitable that high-end purveyors need to consider how to deliver their product to fit such a brewer.
One minor problem I see is that even the K-cup form factor is starting to fragment with the Keurig Vue cup. It has distinct advantages over the K-cup, and could cause more fragmentation in the future. That means we will need the refillable cup to follow suit and be made available in different sizes.
But there's a much bigger problem of supplying cups of fresh grounds for the consumer in a way that shows the higher quality (and higher price?) to its advantage. If you are a high-quality roaster, you could try establishing marketing channels through your local supermarkets. But that's been tried before--the competition from every mediocre supplier is too much. You could setup a website-based business and provide product through your own brick and mortar establishment. But that is fundamentally no different from the way the rules of the game play today.
My point is that simply putting one's high quality grounds in a pod or K-cup won't get the marketing done. And the product won't necessarily compete any better against the other brands.
What's missing is the same thing that prevented high-end audio from taking off for the average consumer. The fundamental collateral that tells the consumer this is something special has yet to be achieved. And it doesn't come in the shape of a pod, indistinguishable from its lesser brethren. It comes in the form of what Starbucks accomplished many years back. If you don't focus on the user experience, you will not bring the message home. I think Starbucks knows this even today, judging by the news of their recent redesigned concept in Amsterdam. Current specialist coffee shop owners should watch this very closely and jump on ideas that make sense before Starbucks steals the whole show.

Yes I own more than one...

March 23, 2012 | by GmanJenks

We have several single serve brewers in our household / work / travel environments. I think that one of the things that so often gets over looked is who the target market for these machines is. It is not someone that is currently drinking high quality whole beans, fresh ground and artisan brewed. The target is the pre-ground coffee in a can drinker. This is who I was when we got started with our first Keurig (RIP, but that's another story). I don't pretend that my Keurig produces the best coffee around, I know it doesn't but when time is short or you want something different it is an convenient solution. My wife often prefers flavoured coffee and this allows her to have that whenever she wants without contaminating any other coffee gear. I would personally like to see the larger independent roasters pursue the "Pod" format not the K-Cup. This format is open source and anyone can get involved without paying royalties to GMCR. These pods are often brewed in higher performance machine made by Bunn or Grindmaster than do achieve a 200 degree brewing temp. Now that I have rambled, did any of this make sense? I think I need another cup...

@chamie

March 23, 2012 | by intrepid510

I think the less waste of beans is a big issue that people need to wrap their minds around when comparing k-cups to traditional methods. I know I can be guilty of it sometimes when doing calculations in my head, because whats better have a 2 cups of coffee in the morning that cost a dollar total and drinking those two cups or making 10 cups for a dollar fifty and only drinking 2 cups? People need to watch this.

@hoonchul

March 23, 2012 | by intrepid510

You're very right and lot of people see a kcups as something that replaces a latte at 3.50, and yet still about as easy to get. However if someone could improve on it...

@son ton

March 23, 2012 | by intrepid510

I think it would have to be for a larger roaster, perhaps like a Stumptown that has outside cash coming in as well. I am sure the machines to manufactor k-cups are not cheap. And it would be a gamble beceause obviously you would risk having a higher end good than people who buy kcups want and at the same time alienate your customers. However, I think if specialty coffee wants to continue to expand they are going to have to do things like this.

@karrde

March 23, 2012 | by intrepid510

I don't think that there can be a shift over from traditional loose bean coffees, however there is a lot of over lap in my opinion. And while a k-cup may never be something that you buy, for Klatch or another other larger specialty roaster I think it might make sense to try it out and see if there is a market for it within their customer demographics. I am sure there a lot of people in the LA area that live around them that stop in for the occasional cup that might be willing to put a klatch kcup in there as oppose to a starbucks one.

on the bandwagon

March 23, 2012 | by Chamie

More and more companies are jumping on the single serve bandwagon -- and there's lots of innovation in the field. The new Vue from Keurig, e.g., gives you a lot more control over variables like water temperature, volume and brew strength. Starbucks just announced that they'll be putting out their own single serve coffee machine. CBTL has a two-speed pump to make brewed coffee and espresso drinks separately, and Illycafe recently announced that they'll be putting out a new single serve machine.

As far as the waste factor goes, Andrea Illy talked about how the less-waste factor will reduce the demand for coffee by about 1% over the next few years. Yeah, I'm a coffee-business nerd. This stuff fascinates me.

Most people are short on

March 23, 2012 | by hoonchul@hotmail.com

Most people are short on time, especially before heading to work, and whats easier then popping in a kcup for morning coffee. Kcups may be expensive but they are still cheaper than buying from starbucks for example. And some people don't care about the taste as long as they get their caffeine fix.

interesting concept

March 23, 2012 | by sontondaman

That is a very interesting concept with regard to a specialty coffee roaster providing K-cup or the like. I think it would be possible and the result should be much better than run of the mill K-cups however, I'm not sure, financially it makes sense for the specialty coffee roaster.

To me, I don't like giving

March 23, 2012 | by Karrde

To me, I don't like giving up all of the variables to the control of someone else but I won't argue that kcups are much more convinent. That said, while I'm sure that Klatch could theoretically make a mean kcup, I don't know that audience would be there. I wonder how many people buy kcups online as opposed to people buying coffee online.

@lisa

March 23, 2012 | by intrepid510

I think that shows what it could taste like in a perfect world, however you still need to have a quality grinder and take the time to refill you kcup. Basically it loses it's convenience factor in my opinion. What I would like to see is Klatch house blend 12 k-cup packages, toss them to my folks and now they can have high quality beans for the few cups they have over a week.

RE: DISRUPTIVE INNOVATION

March 23, 2012 | by caffeine65

I know you can buy refillable filters for KCups. Maybe that would make the coffee produced by them taste better. The coffee I have had has tasted weak. I would like to try some of "the good stuff" in a KCup just to see what happens.

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