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What Specialty Coffee can learn from Wine, The Cafe Stage
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MarkPrince
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Posted Wed Aug 31, 2005, 12:00am
Subject: What Specialty Coffee can learn from Wine, The Cafe Stage
 

What Specialty Coffee can learn from Wine
The Cafe Stage article by Shanna Germain

Shanna Germain researches the wine model for ways to advance the Specialty Coffee movement. A reprint from Roast Magazine.
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terryz
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Posted Wed Aug 31, 2005, 1:00pm
Subject: Re: What Specialty Coffee can learn from Wine, The Cafe Stage
 

Shanna,

Fancy meeting you here on CG.....

Nice article sweetie! ;-)

 
Terry Z
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steez
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Posted Wed Aug 31, 2005, 3:19pm
Subject: Re: What Specialty Coffee can learn from Wine, The Cafe Stage
 

Great article!

I think that there are a lot of similarities between coffee and wine.  One difference, however, is that coffee is dependent on the brewer. You can adjust the brew in so many ways that one blend is difficult to evaluate. When it comes to wine, you don't have the same number of parameters to choose from. But this is why we love coffee, right?

Regards,
Mikael
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MarkPrince
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Posted Wed Aug 31, 2005, 3:33pm
Subject: Re: What Specialty Coffee can learn from Wine, The Cafe Stage
 

yeah - that is the major difference, IMO as well, and something I always talk about when the wine / coffee analogies come up: coffee is so much more difficult because it's "seed to cup" journey has more steps than wine does.

Winemakers are the roasters, growers, and brokers rolled into one. But wine's equiv of the barista is what - the waiter? the somellier?

The waiter or somellier only need to know how to store (chill, breathe, whatever) the wine and pour it.

The barista or other "coffee preparer" has to make sure the grinder's working right, that the beans aren't too old, make sure their machine is working right, grind at the right time, dose properly, operate the machine, and then serve up the coffee / espresso.

Everything up to the "winemaker stage" could be perfect, only to be thrown for a loop by the PBTC or novice home coffee maker using a blade grinder or preground coffee. Wine doesn't really have this in its progression from seed to cup.

Mark

 
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HAL9000
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Posted Wed Aug 31, 2005, 4:00pm
Subject: Re: What Specialty Coffee can learn from Wine, The Cafe Stage
 

I make wine at home, and my local supplier's price for a case (42 lbs) of Cab Sav grapes was $23 last year.  Same ballpark as $/lb for green coffee it seems to me.

To turn green beans into retailable coffee beans you have to roast, blend and package them.  For good espresso add a good espresso machine, grinder and barista to finish the product on site.   But to turn fresh grapes into wine you have to de-stem, crush, kill yeast, add yeast, ferment, rack, test, age, rack, test, adjust flavorings, age, rack, blend, rack and age. And it takes least a year or two of storage, not to mention a great deal of heavy equipment for the stemming, crushing, racking, etc.  And there is the cost of the additives.  And finally it has to be bottled.

Which makes me think that the "seed to cup" journey is actually more involved for wine, and that the relatively higher price of wine is due to a bit more than just the marketing (though I agree the marketing aspect is big).

Any professional winemakers here?
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javaj
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Posted Wed Aug 31, 2005, 4:18pm
Subject: Re: What Specialty Coffee can learn from Wine, The Cafe Stage
 

IMO the biggest issue from the retailer's perspective is one of perception.  The avid wine drinker is trained to accept paying $20-40 without blinking for a good bottle of wine.  Meanwhile, there are far fewer coffee drinkers, even coffee geeks, who would would be willing to pay on a regular basis $40 for a pound of coffee.  

As both a wine and coffee drinker, I am guilty of this myself.  I recently purchased a bottle of Russian River Pinot from a brand I know, and was happy to pay $35 as a good deal.  But if you had the best coffee in the world, and were selling it for $35/Lb., I'd still have to think about.  Of course I'd buy it.  But I'd have to justify it.

 
-JavaJ
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reschsmooth
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Posted Wed Aug 31, 2005, 4:27pm
Subject: Re: What Specialty Coffee can learn from Wine, The Cafe Stage
 

I think one of the crucial differences is the ability to vintage a wine whereas, obviously, a roasted coffee has a very finite life. Therefore, the ability to award a particular wine (maker and vintage) can be more relevant here. You may have a wonderful crop of Santos, for example, but then the roaster can botch it up. Or, what if the actual coffee tried by the judges had flaws on the way which lead to a lower score, but then another roaster with the same green bean does a fantastic job to roast to the appropriate level for that bean, followed by a barista who extracts the perfect cup - a previously lowly scored coffee now tastes fantastic because of the different path it took.

I would also suggest that, with wine, there are significant other differences: consider oak. French or American? Barrel or chips? How dark are the barrels 'toasted'? How long in the barrel? and so on and so on. Now, this is but one of the many variables. But these are all managed well before consumption.

When it comes to consuming wine, I would say the variables are less: granted you have cellaring, aging, oxidation, etc, but you grab a 5 year old shiraz (syrah or hermitage, depending on where you are), and these variables are less pronounced. You give a barista a kilo of well roasted coffee and tell me how many things can go right or wrong from there?

I ramble, but probably because I haven't had my 1991 Jamaican Blue Mountain for the day yet!

P
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expobar
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Posted Wed Aug 31, 2005, 5:02pm
Subject: Re: What Specialty Coffee can learn from Wine, The Cafe Stage
 

javaj Said:

As both a wine and coffee drinker, I am guilty of this myself.  I recently purchased a bottle of Russian River Pinot from a brand I know, and was happy to pay $35 as a good deal.  But if you had the best coffee in the world, and were selling it for $35/Lb., I'd still have to think about.  Of course I'd buy it.  But I'd have to justify it.

Posted August 31, 2005 link

The best coffee in the world, or the most well-cupped, cost 35 dollars for a half pound...  I wish I'da gotten my hands on some of that :-(
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parity
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Posted Wed Aug 31, 2005, 5:29pm
Subject: Re: What Specialty Coffee can learn from Wine, The Cafe Stage
 

Before I got into drinking espresso, I never really considered the coffee I was drinking. It was like 'this is coffee, its suppose to taste like coffee' To me all coffees had one taste and it tasted like coffee. Of course I added milk, and sugar to my coffee so this is probably why. In my experience people never really considered the taste of their coffee beyond being "too weak" or "too strong" and possibly "too bitter". Making coffee isn't taken as serious as making wine. Look at the person who pours you a cup of coffee and the person who pours you a glass of wine.
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rbh1515
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Posted Wed Aug 31, 2005, 7:55pm
Subject: Re: What Specialty Coffee can learn from Wine, The Cafe Stage
 

I think that coffee and wine have more dissimilarities than similarities, and I don't see this changing much.

Anyone can go out and buy a great bottle of wine, have some friends over and enjoy it.

Not everyone can do that with coffee.  First of all, the beans have to be fresh (unless you have the expertise to roast green beans). Then you have to have the proper equipment to brew it--possibly a $1000+ espresso machine combined with a $400 grinder.  Then you have to know how to use the equipment properly.  With the wine, you just need an opener and some glasses and maybe a decanter.

Anyone can go out to a nice resturant and choose from a multitude of great wines.  You're lucky if you can get a decent shot of espresso at most resturants, and even at the best cafes, you will usually only have a choice of a few coffee blends and its rare to have a choice of more than one espresso blend.  My fantasy would be an espresso bar with 20 different blends--the best roasted blends from across the country (or maybe even the world).  Wine is just more accessible: find the right wine (from anywhere in the world), open the bottle, drink.

I think it is next to impossible to make the coffee process simpler.  Most attempts have been marginal at best.  How many CGs are using pods to make espresso.  Most of us enjoy the comlpex process and shun attempts that try to simplify the process.  To make great espresso, you need more than good beans, and good equipment.  With wine we just need a knowledgeable source (magazine, friend, etc) to help us select that great bottle.  Sure, you have to know what temperature to serve the wine at, but thats an easier process than brewing some great java.

Coffee and wine.  I love both, but they are so different.   If we all had to make our own wine, and it was only good for a short time, then they would be very similar.    Rob
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