The fourth season of Build-Outs of Summer has officially come to a close. This year’s Build-Outs series was truly an international affair, with a total of 39 coffee spots opening in six different countries. We covered an estimated 75,000 square feet of cafe space—1.3 American football field’s worth. Or 6,968 square meters, for you non-American builders out there. Inspired by the likes of Nate Silver and a general love of spreadsheets, we figured, “We’ve got all these numbers, why not crunch ‘em?” And crunch ‘em we did. We present to you: “Sprudge Presents – The State of the Build-Outs of Summer 2015: A Retrospective.”
Location, Location, Location
It comes as no surprise that the Greater Los Angeles area had the most representation in this year’s Built-Outs, with four-ish new cafes (depending upon where you land on the Orange-County-as-part-of-L.A. thing). Indeed, sunny California led all American states on the list with six entries. But what is surprising is who came in a close second: Anchorage, Alaska with no fewer than three entries in the series. In fact, the city of Anchorage had as many or more Build-Outs than any state not named California. London, the first international entrant, came in third with two.
But Build-Outs isn’t all about big, bawdy numbers. It’s also about the pioneers, the first-timers, and there were quite a few this year. Shops in Israel, Lithuania, and Crete all represented countries’ first cafe appearances on the hallowed Sprudge pages.
In the United States, where 32 of the total 39 shops reside, an unsurprising and all too frequent geographical trend appeared: Middle America got flown over again. The West Coast (including Alaska and Hawaii) had 13 shops and the East Coast had 12, but the great land mass in the middle only had seven. This isn’t due to any East/West Coast bias; we here at Sprudge love the Heartland and welcome all comers. So come on, Midwest, we expect a big push from you next year. Challenge extended.
The Rise of the Machines
Stylish, functional, and sometimes trendy, there’s often a lot of todo about the machinery a shop uses and what it means. Even with the abundance of super sexy, technologically advanced espresso machines on the market today, the La Marzocco Linea—a trusty old workhorse by industry standards—stood head and shoulders above them all. Making up 10 of the 22 La Marzoccos (the most implemented brand by quadruple its nearest competition), the Linea doubled the number of Slayers and surpassed the Victoria Arduino Black Eagle. The Linea’s closest competition? Its trendy new sister machine, the Strada.
Unsurprisingly, the Mahlkönig EK-43 remains coffee’s it-girl, totaling 30% of all reported grinders and 18 of the brand-leading 29 for Mahlkönig. But in a twist, the EK-43 was not the most popular espresso grinder. The Nuova Simonelli Mythos One took that honor, beating out the EK by one machine. Most of the EK love came from the pour-over bar. In typical fashion, Mazzer quietly anchors the 22% of the espresso programs reported, making it the second most popular grinder brand in our series.
The Shape of Coffee to Come
If there’s anything approximating a trend from which we can make predictions about the future of coffee, it would be the proliferation of shops eschewing the standard four-walled coffee-only establishment. 12 of the cafes (31%) were “Coffee and…”. From implementing more coffee-centric training labs to selling high-end stereo equipment or denim to including a whiskey bar, fashion boutique, and design consultancy, cafes are diversifying what they offer to customers in a pretty big way. And coffee is going mobile with over 10% of the respondents hitting the road with anywhere between two and six-wheeled cafes. We also saw an uptick in shops not serving espresso. Four Build-Outs decided to stick to brewed coffee only, with half of those coming from Europe. One shop—a cart actually—focuses only on cold brew. (There was a lot of cold brew in the Build-Outs. So much cold brew.)
There you have it, the 2015 Build-Outs of Summer Year In Review. So what should you take away from these numbers? I don’t know, honestly. Maybe you should be content to just laugh at the guy who took too small of a sample size and tried to uncover “trends” that weren’t there (I’ve got a beautiful mind, in the John Nash sense, but not the genius John Nash sense). Or maybe you see that there is a lot of really cool stuff happening all over the world and that there’s never been a better time to be a coffee drinker. Especially in Anchorage. Who knew?
Zac Cadwalader is a Sprudge staff writer based in Dallas, Texas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.