Specialty coffee and craft beer are two very different beverages with very different consumers… or are they?
Well, it turns out there are an overwhelming amount of similarities and commonalities between specialty coffee consumers and craft beer consumers. These two communities have a lot more synergy than one might believe without deeper consideration.
Here are three of the most striking similarities between specialty coffee and craft beer consumers.
1. Incredible Passion for Their Beverages.
From pale ales to pilsners to sours, craft beer fans absolutely love their favorite beer. In fact, you can often find craft beer fans waiting in long lines at local breweries just to get their hands on the tasty beers that they love. Craft beer consumers are often extremely knowledgeable about different beers and know many details about the products.
The same is true for specialty coffee drinkers. Like craft beer consumers, true fans of specialty coffee are extremely passionate about it and will also wait in long lines at the coffee shop. In fact, for many of these consumers, specialty coffee is a major part of their lives, and they visit the specialty coffee shop very frequently.
A lot of specialty coffee fans will drink the beverage every day or close to it. Many also possess a deep knowledge of the industry and its products and talk with great enthusiasm about the topic to other fans. It is safe to say that for both craft beer consumers and specialty coffee consumers, their preferred beverages are far more than a way to quench thirst; they are almost like a way of life.
2. A Valuing of High-Quality Raw Materials
With both specialty coffee and craft beers, the quality of the raw materials that are used to make the beverage can have a powerful impact on the final product. Both craft beer drinkers and specialty coffee drinkers are well aware of this fact.
With specialty coffee, it is primarily about the quality of the green coffee beans and the ability to extrapolate that quality in a finished product. Not all coffee beans are created equal. The region of the world, the farming and harvesting techniques, the time of the year that the beans are grown, the amount of light that the beans get, the altitude, the weather, and a number of other factors can impact the quality of coffee beans. In order to qualify as a “specialty coffee bean” the coffee beans must be rated at least 80 out of a 100-point scale for quality. Some countries such as Ethiopia, Colombia, and Kenya are known for producing sought after specialty coffee beans.
When it comes to craft beer, the main ingredients of importance are hops, malted barley, yeast, and water. Just like with coffee beans, there are a number of factors that can influence the quality of these ingredients such as region of origin, farming strategy, weather, etc. Some people think that water quality is not that important for craft beers, but it actually is. For example, if chlorine content is too high in the water that is used to create the beer, it can negatively impact the fermentation process which can lead to a lower-quality beer. When high-quality natural ingredients are used in either specialty coffee or craft beer, consumers tend to notice and value the beverages more.
3. Appreciation for Different Flavor Profiles
One of the main reasons why specialty coffee and craft beer drinkers become fans of their respective beverages in the first place is because they have a great appreciation for the various flavors that the beverages come in.
There are many different unique characteristics that can be found in specialty coffees from around the world and no we are not talking about hazelnut, caramel or French vanilla. Rather the notes you can pick up such as toasted nuts, dark coco to citrus or floral. Specialty coffee enthusiasts tend to have a strong appreciation for coffees which are vibrant and full of unique characteristics. Some consumers prefer earthy nutty notes in their coffee and others prefer a wide variety of citrus and floral notes. But, regardless of which profile they prefer, specialty coffee drinkers are very good at picking up on different notes and they can certainly identify quality.
Many craft beer drinkers carry the same enthusiasm when it comes to their beer. A lot of people who drink craft beers are experts in identifying the different flavors of the particular beer that they are drinking. Just like with coffee drinkers, craft beer drinkers tend to truly appreciate beers that meet their standards for flavor. For craft beer drinkers, finding the perfect beer can be something of an art form in and of itself.
Similarities in the Specialty Coffee and Craft Beer Brewing Process
Although craft beer consumers and specialty coffee drinkers have many similarities, it is not just the consumers that share similarities. The producers of craft beers and specialty coffee also share many similarities.
For starters, an incredible amount of passion and attention to detail is required to create exceptional beer and specialty grade coffee. From the geo location of the farm which harvests the raw materials to the roaster or brewer at the manufacturing facility, each step in the process plays a critical role in the outcome of an exceptional product. For example, with coffee, the roasting process is crucial and if executed well it is when all of the best qualities characteristics of the coffee are highlighted. The coffee roasters have to take exceptional care to use the right roast profile for the particular beans. Roast profiles must be selected based on the beans’ density, region of origin, and many other factors. The ideal coffee can only be created by coffee roasters if the ideal roast profile is used and mistakes in this process can lead to subpar results. Roasting coffee properly requires a lot of skill and experienced specialty roasters possess this skill in abundance.
When it comes to craft beers, the malting process is hugely important for ensuring the quality of the end product, just like the roasting process is with specialty coffee. During the malting process, the barley is allowed to germinate. The germination is eventually stopped through a process called “roasting.” Yes, both specialty coffee and craft beers go through a process called “roasting.” This shows you how similar they are. When germination is stopped during the roasting process, sugars start getting converted into starches for the fermentation process. The beer’s alcoholic content, color, and flavor will be heavily influenced by the malting and roasting processes.
Coffee producers and breweries both spend an incredible amount of time perfecting the art of creating quality coffee and beer. They master each step of the production process until they have identified the best possible formula. An extraordinary amount of care is taken from farming to brewing/roasting to tasting/cupping for both of these beverage types.
Although the specialty coffee and craft beer categories and the culture around these two beverage categories might seem very different and that they are worlds apart, the truth is that they are actually extremely similar.
Both specialty coffee drinkers and craft beer drinkers have an amazing amount of passion for their beverages, value high-quality, natural ingredients, and appreciate the unique and special flavor profiles of their beverages.
The bottom line is that there is a lot of synergy between these two communities and we don't see that changing anytime soon.