The autumnal equinox took place last Thursday, ushering out the last day of summer and with it the 2016 Build-Outs of Summer feature series on Sprudge. This year’s series was our biggest yet, with a total of 43 new cafes featured from four different countries on three continents. Like we did at the end of the 2015 Build-Outs of Summer, we crunched the numbers from this year’s entrants to see if there was anything to glean about current cafe trends.
So what did we find out? Did any grand revelation about coffee in 2016 make itself known when we were peering into our statisti-crystal ball? Yes and no. For the most part, new cafes in 2016 seemed to follow similar trends to those of 2015, though there were some interesting new developments amongst this year’s lot.
Are you ready to be amazed? Or at least slightly amused? Then buckle up, because here comes a report I like to call “43 Cafes of Summer: A Statistical Analysis of the 2016 Build-Outs of Summer Series.”
Last year, the American Heartland was underrepresented in Build-Outs, only claiming seven of the total 32 American cafes discussed. But thankfully, this year’s spread is far more even. Of the 40 American entries, 14 are from the western part of the country and 13 are from the east, leaving a whopping 13 cafes from middle America (thanks in no small part to the four Build-Outs from Colorado). Fly-over country no more.
And like last year, Southern California–the greater L.A. area in particular–is a hub for new coffee shops; five of California’s nation-leading total of seven cafes are from the southern part of the state, with L.A. expanded topping the list yet again. But the City of Angels does not sit alone atop leaderboard. It tied another great coffee city, Seattle, for most Build-Outs with three a piece.
In a somewhat disappointing turn of events, the number of international entries was halved from last year, going from six to three. And yet again, we had no entries from South or Central America. Sprudge’s coverage in these regions has grown over the last year, so we know really cool things are happening. So vámonos, Central and South America, we expect a better showing next year.
I For One Welcome Our New Machine Overlords
La Marzocco continues their dominance as the go-to espresso machine manufacturer for the Build-Outs, comprising a staggering 31 of the 43 total machines. And like last year, the Linea is king, laying waste to anyone who dare oppose its reign. Well, not exactly, but the old LM favorite is more popular than ever. Whereas last year, the Linea comprised 10 of the 38 espresso machines, this year it makes up 17 of 43, or nearly 40% of all machines. It over quadrupled the next most popular non-La Marzocco machine, the Synesso Hyrdra MVP (4).
Somewhat surprisingly, the La Marzocco GS/3 was the second most popular espresso machine with a total of seven. In fact, there were nine single-group machines in this year’s Build-Outs, going to show that more is not always more.
Much like La Marzocco on the espresso machine side, Mahlkonig is the favorite grinder for Build-Outs. 70% of all grinders discussed were Mahlkonig, and the EK-43 is yet again the favorite with 27 of the German grinder manufacturer’s total 47. But the EK-43 is still not the favorite grinder for espresso and in fact fell to fourth place this year. The Mahlkonig Peak took top honors this year with 11, beating out last year’s champ, the Nuova Simonelli Mythos One, with seven.
Batch Brew’s Back, Aright!
If there’s anything approximating a trend or a revelation this year, it’s that batch brew is back in a rather big way. It’s not that it ever really left, but it looks like the pour-over wave may be starting to crest. Of the 33 entries to discuss their filter coffee program, 11 mentioned only batch brew (and often detailed their particular setups) as opposed to the 10 cafes that talked only about their pour-over options. And even then, 4 of those 10 only mentioned those options as “pour-over”, a departure from last year where most Build-Outs detailed exactly what methods they were going to be using. Which leads me to my next development…
The Ethos of Coffee
The reemergence of batch brew over the more technical and time-consuming pour-over options correlates with what many of the cafes appear to value most: building community. This year’s lot seemed more interested in cultivating relationships than being on the cutting edge of pour-over technology. The cafe appears to be moving away from the coffee science lab (though places like Cirque in Tulsa are certainly still fanning that flame) and toward a communal space. These are by no means mutually exclusive concepts, and certainly many of the entries this year are looking to be both hang out spot and science lab, but the language used in this year’s Build-Outs was more emotional and less technical. “Building relationships,” “transforming community,” and “connection” are the sorts of phrases that kept appearing this year.
So there it is, the 2016 Build-Outs of Summer in review. Do any of the trends jibe with the rest of the specialty coffee world? Is 43 cafes a large enough sample size to truly say one way or the other (I mean, it is one larger than the meaning of life, so that’s gotta be pretty big, right)? Is all the “math” replete with rounding errors? The answer to the first two is, “I dunno,” and the third a resounding, “most definitely.”
Thanks for tuning in to this year’s Build-Outs of Summer. We’ll see you in nine months for our seventh season, which will surely be chockfull of Central and South American cafes. You hear me down there!? Don’t make me look bad.
Zac Cadwalader is the news editor at Sprudge Media Network, and a staff writer. He lives in Dallas, Texas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.