Manual Brew Methods Vs. The Button
Gratuitous Push-Button hunk.
I don’t think we should be beating the drum of anger about Nespresso and K-Cups retail prices, unless we never aspire to them ourselves. We should be learning the lessons they provide us – how to sell coffee effectively, how to make coffee at a higher price point more accessible – and answer some less comfortable questions such as why we’re considered overpriced, and why we might be inaccessible in comparison.
Is he on to something? Are we fooling ourselves with brew classes, scales and $60 kettles for our consumers, when they really would rather just push a button and be done with it?
Where I think James is correct, is that while frustrating, the success of Nespresso and K-cup is also an opportunity to learn how to hone the message of quality over convenience. It’s tempting but ultimately ridiculous to ridicule these people for purchasing what they purchase based on my motivations. Because they are not the same motivations at all. Convenience is not what I’m buying when I look for my next coffee or, for that matter, when I’m looking for the next anything I plan on opening up my wallet for and putting into my body. But I’ve had difficulty getting that logic across, even at a personal level. I’ve been mocked and ridiculed as being a patsy for preferring quality over convenience. I can’t be the only one. If it’s this difficult at the level of one person to another, it must be that much more difficult at the retail level.
I think convenience is at the root of many of the current food issues of today. At least, maybe, convenience’s far too lofty place in the decision making process of what we produce and what we eat. Convenience is overrated. Convenience is an economically, environmentally, and socially insidious concept. We’ve been trained in it’s importance. It’s going to take some time to unlearn it.
After receiving the most recent Tonx delivery, we think his letter has some answers:
How did making a real cup of coffee become so intimidating to so many people? Everywhere you look there are push button pod machines, chromed plastic cuisinarts [sic] with blue LEDs, a million capsule coffee contraptions with false promises and flavorless cups.
Some of the blame for this perceived, frightened fussiness of real coffee brewing lies with nerds like us. Endless brewing experimentations and geeking with gadgetry can be a more compelling rabbit hole to fall into than the perplexing romance of the bean itself, shrouded in impenetrable exoticism and impossible complex chemistry. It’s often easier to talk about grinder burrs or chemex stirring techniques than the particulars of agronomy in southern Tanzania or the effects of raised beds for sun-drying of coffee. And so technique gets talked about more than taste. Machines get discussed more than the beans we put in them, and many sensible people rightly avoid the whole mess.
We’ve made brewing coffee seem difficult and frightening. Scales, timers, thermocouples… these are useful tools, but they have also perhaps alienated the people we need to reach out to the most. Quality seems like it’s not worth the trouble. Keurig has figured out a way to “uncork” coffee. We need to find our coffee wine-key.