What is the Third Wave Coffee Movement?

Third Wave Coffee Movement

You’ve probably noticed the third wave coffee movement happening around you already, without even realizing that’s what you’re seeing. Increasing numbers of small shops, many of them with the name Roasters in their titles, have opened in neighborhoods across the US. Generally speaking, they tend to be Spartan in appearance, lots of exposed stone or natural wood, overhead Edison lightbulbs and any number of glass or steel contraptions behind the bar. If you’ve walked in, then you’ve noticed that these shops have their own lingo and practices: they talk about different types of roasts, single origin beans, and frequently have a list of adjectives on their menu for each discrete coffee that they brew, adjectives that might seem more at home in a wine-tasting workshop than in a place where you’re picking up your morning brew. And surely you’ve noticed the lattes, where there was once maybe a large blob of thick foam atop your drink, there are now delicate, artistic designs drawn in milk, a heart, a fern, or a tulip.

So what’s going on here? Obviously, the third wave movement of coffee consumption is about more than the aesthetic signifiers listed above, so what is the third wave actually about?

As the name “third wave would imply, it’s actually the third of its kind to come along. The first wave movement of coffee (retroactively named, obviously) refers to the time in which coffee became a widespread American drink, the morning beverage of choice, brewed at home, and readily available on the shelves of most local grocery stores. Think Folgers and Maxwell House coffee. This happened for a few reasons, but developments and innovation in the shipping industry had a lot to do with it.

The second wave of coffee refers to the period of the proliferation of coffee shops across the country, Peet’s in Berkeley is often credited with kicking off the second wave. During the second wave coffee movement, customers were introduced to espresso and the variety of drinks that are espresso derived lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, and macchiatos, to name a few. Coffee shops became places to spend time and socialize, European-style.

Third-Wave-Coffee-Movement-Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-EspressoAnd now we’ve reached the third wave. Third wave coffee, often referred to as Specialty Coffee, was really spearheaded by coffee shops and roasters like Intelligentsia (out of Chicago), Stumptown (Portland), and Counter Culture (North Carolina). In third wave coffee, coffee is treated like a premium product like wine or craft beer. People pay careful attention to its origins and beans are roasted so that the roast highlights the unique qualities of each bean, rather than roasting to create a uniform black coffee taste. This attention to detail carries over to the way the coffee is brewed in third wave shops as well. Baristas are educated and trained to properly pull shots of espresso. In addition to batch brew, coffee is often prepared by the cup such as pour over, with attention to the grind of the coffee, the temperature of the water, and the brew time. This all takes place so that you, the consumer, can truly appreciate the unique cup of coffee in your hands!

Latte Art: Turning Crema to Canvas

A signature of the third wave coffee movement is latte art, espresso drinks finished with a design. You’ve absolutely witnessed this: lattes finished with ferns, hearts, or flowers freshly poured by your barista. It’s a testament to a well-pulled shot of espresso, milk with good micro foam, and a barista who knows what he/she is doing (and who has likely poured a few hundred lattes).Latte-Art-Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego

Latte art is a really fun addition and beautiful detail, and there’s really no way to fake it. To even have a shot at making one of those beautiful designs, you’ll need your shot of espresso to be fresh and have a nice layer of crema (that light, tawny foam-like layer floating atop a well-pulled shot of espresso). Additionally, you’ll need to have steamed your milk well. It helps a lot if the milk is fresh and cold before you begin steaming, and it’s considerably easier to pour latte art with full fat dairy milk (latte art is possible with non-dairy milks like soy or almond milk, and also with fat-free dairy milk, but it’s definitely trickier to pull off. If you’re a beginner, you should absolutely start with good old-fashioned whole milk.). Your milk needs to be fully micro foamed, and the timing is best if you pull the shot while you steam your milk.

There are actually two categories of latte art: free pour latte art and etching. Free pour is what you’ll see most of your third-wave baristas doing- as they pour the drinks, they also manipulate the foam to draw the design as it comes out of the Latte-Art-Espresso-Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-300pitcher and flows into the cup. Etching happens after a latte has already been poured: a barista will then use the existing foam to draw or stencil a design or picture on top of the latte- some baristas even sculpt three-dimensional art out of the foam! However, because of the time required to render art in the etching style, it’s likely that the drink will have already begun to cool, and the foam to have degraded a bit by the time the consumer gets their drink. For this reason, free pour latte art tends to be favored by coffee shops that place a high premium on the taste of their coffee bean.

To be able to free pour a design into a latte, you’ll need to use your freshly steamed milk and freshly pulled espresso just as soon as they’re done. One important step is the first bit of milk poured into espresso – it ought to be done from a height of at least six inches, and with enough force that the milk breaks the surface of the crema. This is a delicate balance – too soft, and the milk will just float atop the crema, ruining your canvas. But too hard, and you’ll break apart the crema too much for drawing.

After you’ve broken the surface, pour carefully until the foam begins to come out of the back of the pitcher- once this happens, you’re able to start making designs!

Next time you are at your favorite coffee shop check to see how your espresso drink is finished. A well-finished latte is a sign of quality, freshness and barista experience.

Coffee Brewing Methods: Side-by-Side Comparisons of At-Home Brewing Methods

In recent years, coffee drinkers have far more access to different types of coffee than ever before. The fair trade and direct trade movements have made it more likely that an at-home coffee consumer will get fresh, single origin beans- and know where they come from. But there’s no point in having access to amazing coffee if you don’t have a good method of brewing it for yourself. We’ve compiled a little side-by-side analysis of different methods of brewing your coffee at home- how to do it, and what your resulting cup will be like- so that you can make the educated choice about which brew method is right for you and your lifestyle.

Drip Coffee Maker

Drip-Coffee-Maker-Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-DiegoHow it Works: Everybody has probably used a good old Mr. Coffee machine at this point. On the user side, it’s one of the simplest methods: scoop your coffee grounds into the basket, add some cold water into the top of the machine, and press power. Not rocket science.

What the coffee is like: While coffee from an at-home brew machine is super convenient, you definitely lose a little quality. Coffee from these machines tends to be flat-bodied and without a lot of depth of flavor. One plus is that the machine keeps your coffee warm for you- but a downside to that is if you don’t get to it quickly enough, that heating mechanism will cause the coffee to taste burnt after a bit. A coffee machine is a great way to get a lot of coffee, fast, but you don’t have a lot of control over all of the variables. If you’ve just purchased some really high-end beans and want to get the most bang for your buck, you should probably eschew the coffee machine.

French Press

How it Works: When brewing French Press coffee, you’ll want your coffee to be ground very coarsely. Scoop the coffee into the bottom of your French Press, boil some water, and then pour the boiling water carefully over the grounds, and stir gently to ensure that you haven’t got any dry pockets. Replace the top the French Press on the glass carafe, wait four minutes, and then press the plunger with a steady, gentle downward force until all of the grounds are at the bottom of the glass. Serve immediately.

French-Press-Coffee-Achilles-Coffee-San-DiegoWhat the coffee is like: Some people really swear by French Press coffee, but for others it’s an acquired taste. This method of brewing allows for the coffee to have a lot of texture- both in a silty way (some grounds that are just too fine will remain in the liquid of your coffee), and an oily way (this method of brewing allows for lots of oils to remain in the coffee as well). One drawback of the French Press method is that the coffee will not be piping-hot for a long time- after you pour your boiling water into the press, it’s still four minutes before you can start on your drink, and by your second cup, the coffee might be on the lukewarm side.

Pour-over

Pour-Over-Coffee-Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-resizedHow it works: We’ve discussed the procedural intricacies and eccentricities of the traditional pour-over method of brewing on this website before. Pour-over coffee is usually produced one cup at a time, but you’ve got some choice in your brand of equipment. Three of the most popular types of pour-over coffee makers are the Kalita Wave, the Hario V60, and the Melitta Dripper. To craft your pour-over, grind your coffee and pour it into an already-wet paper filter in your chosen dripper. Then, use boiling water to saturate the grounds, first just letting the grounds bloom, then inundating them with enough water to get a steady-drip through (easier said than done- be sure to check out our more lengthy how-to guide on making pour-over coffee for further guidance).

What the coffee is like: A good pour-over, featuring fresh, well-roasted, and appropriately ground beans, is one of the best ways to really taste the nuances of your cup of coffee. The texture, if produced correctly, will contain a good amount of oil from the beans, but not much in the way of silt or grounds.

Aeropress

How it works: Relatively new on the scene of at-home coffee makers, but rapidly adopted by connoisseurs, the Aeropress represents a marriage of twenty-first century technological know-how and traditional coffee-making. The Aeropress was invented in the Bay Area in 2005: it is comprised of two lightweight plastic cylinders and a plastic filter, as well as necessitating a small, dense paper filter on top of the plastic one. To produce your cup of coffee, you place moderately fine coffee grounds into the cylinder with the filters attached to the bottom. You add boiling water (though the inventor of the Aeropress recommends slightly cooler water than you’d use for other methods- perhaps only around 180 degrees Fahrenheit), then stir the grounds to agitate them. Then you place the other cylinder, which has a rubber plunger one on side, plunger-side down, creating a seal. Wait one minute and then push the plunger down until you hear a hissing sound. This method of brewing has become very popular among travelers and campers, due to its lightweight portability, lack of breakable parts, and the fact that it doesn’t require electricity.

Aeropress-Coffee-Maker-Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-DiegoWhat the coffee is like: Coffee from an Aeropress has a higher pH than drip coffee from a percolating machine typically does, making the cup a little less acidic than you might be used to (good news for caffeine hounds with sensitive stomachs!). Even though the “pressing” motion of this method is reminiscent of the French press, the dense paper filter keeps any sedimentary texture from the cup.

The last of at-home brew comparisons features two of what are likely the most stylish methods of brewing coffee, looks-wise: the Moka pot (also known as the macchinetta) and the Chemex. Both have won awards for their design and have been displayed in museums- most prominently New York’s Museum of Modern Art. And both could be considered fairly timeless- they were invented in 1933 and 1941, respectively, and are still quite popular today- that’s some staying power! So if you’re looking to make a statement about the way you drink your coffee and add an artistic artifact to your household, look no further.

Moka Pot/ Macchinetta

How it works: Marketed as a stovetop espresso maker and wildly popular throughout Europe, the Moka pot is a three-compartment coffeemaker that you use on the stove. You place water in the lowest compartment, fine coffee grounds in the middle compartment, and boil the water over medium heat. The pressure of the boiling water forces it through the coffee compartment and into the topmost compartment.

What the coffee is like: We’ll be honest- The Macchinetta makes an amazingly strong and distinctive coffee, but the syrupy, espresso-like liquid isn’t going to be the best way to highlight the qualities of your bean. You will get some crema on your coffee, like espresso from a machine, but not quite as much, as the espresso won’t have experienced such high pressure. And beware- this coffee is not for the faint of heart. If one cup of machine-brewed stuff is all you usually need, a Moka pot might be overkill for you. Caffeine hounds will absolutely appreciate the strength of the brew and the speed with which you can get it.

Chemex

How it works: The Chemex brewing method is, in its essence, a pourover method of brewing, albeit with a very particular piece of equipment. The Chemex is iconic- the conic aperture makes for great design and also gives you a slightly different brew than you’ll get with most pourover drippers. As with those drippers, however, you’ll want to grind your beans to a moderate fineness, then pour to allow for the bloom. With a Chemex, you can use paper filters or a laser-punched metal filter.

Chemex-Coffee-Maker-Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-DiegoWhat the coffee is like: This can depend, dramatically, on which filter you decide to use. Across the board, critics generally praise what comes out of a Chemex. However, if you’ve used the strong, thick paper filters, then you’ll have a cup of coffee largely devoid of oil- very clean, and excellent for tasting your bean of choice without distractions. If you’ve used a metal filter (like the Kone brand made for Chemex coffeemakers), you’ll still come away with excellent flavor, but you’ll have to have find in a very textured cup of coffee- lots of oils will get through the pourover, as well as fine grounds that are likely to settle in the bottom of your cup. It probably won’t be as textured and silty as a French Press-brewed cup of coffee, but it’ll be close. One added bonus of a Chemex is that you tend to be able to make more coffee in one batch conveniently while still maintaining the pourover-like quality- so this is a good one to reach for when you have friends with discerning tastes over.

Our recommendation? Simply visit your local coffee roaster, grab a bag of your favorite roast and sample a cup from each method. You can’t go wrong.

4 Things a Good Barista Pays Attention To

Espresso

Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-EspressoDoes the barista watch it the whole time?
Espresso is a temperamental thing. Even the most seasoned of baristas will tell you that there is really no way to guarantee that each and every shot is perfect. A number of continuously changing factors can alter the quality of the pull of the shot- the temperature of the machine, the humidity in the shop that day, or simply the ghost in the espresso machine! A good barista knows this, and will stay near the espresso machine while the shot pulls to ensure that it looks like a quality shot.

Milk steaming

Starbucks and other mass chains have popularized the practice of “auto-steaming”-putting the steam wand in the milk and walking away- in the name of efficiency and speed. It may work for turning out lattes as quickly as possible during an eight a.m. rush, but it certainly shouldn’t be happening if your coffee is being made by a barista who knows their stuff and has the time and desire to make a really good latte or cappuccino. A barista with coffee-making skill and knowledge will pay attention while they’re steaming milk, watching the motion of the milk, feeling the temperature of the pitcher, or even just listening to the pitch of the sound being emitted. This is to ensure that they are foaming and microfoaming effectively- and not scalding the milk.

Freshness

If you want the best taste and good caffeine content, it is critical that your coffee shop restocks newly roasted beans with regularity. A good shop should be able to tell you the roast date of their current beans, and that date shouldn’t be more than a few weeks old.
One important thing to remember about freshness, however- when it comes to espresso, you don’t want absolutely fresh beans. After roasting, it is really important to allow the beans to “rest” for a few days- otherwise it can be really tricky to figure out the correct grind for the bean and pull beautiful espresso shots with any consistency.

Cleanliness

– Okay, so this one should be a no-brainer. Obviously, when you’re looking for quality in any food or drink establishment, cleanliness is a pretty good indicator of whether a business is paying close attention to their product and keeping their customers healthy (or even obeying the region’s health codes!). But we’re not talking about general tidiness, here- hopefully your regular coffee shop does sweep the floors, but it’s definitely not going to directly affect the quality of your morning java. The cleanliness that you should be looking for should be directly around the making of your coffee- does your barista rinse their portafilters or wipe them after they knock used coffee grounds out and before they grind more into them (portafilters are the small round trays with handles that twist into the espresso machine and drip the espresso shot out the bottom)? Do they wipe the leftover milk off of the wands when they’re done steaming? What about spraying a little steam out to get any milk inside the wand off (this is called “purging” in coffee lingo)? Occasionally, some of these steps might get missed (especially during the craziness of a morning rush!), but by and large you should see your baristas doing these things with frequency if they know their stuff and want you to get the highest quality latte possible.

What’s The Difference Between Flat White and Cappuccino?

So, what’s The Difference Between Flat White and Cappuccino? Lately, there has been a lot of talk and debate over two very traditionally different drinks that are slowly becoming very similar. As the Third wave of coffee is crashing over the world there are a lot of changes being made to classic coffee methods and ideals, from brewing, to technic and the ethics behind the whole coffee experience. We have seen new styles being introduced to coffee for the better half of the last decade one of the most noticeable changes has come from the many new drinks that involve coffee. Everyone from Baristas, roasters and probably you as well have been mixing their coffee with things like tonic water, ice cream and of course milk!

History to Present

So lets take a look at two very popular drinks, The flat white and The cappuccino. In most third wave coffee shops you’ll find one of these two and or maybe both. The history of these two drink couldn’t be more different so lets start with the cappuccino. The cappuccino is an age old drink that dates back to the 1900s this drink has been a staple morning drink for many Europeans. The tradition is to have a cappuccino served in a 5-6 oz cup with espresso milk the a semi-thick layer of micro-foam that has been aerated slightly longer to softly lay over the top of the drink. Now The flat white was first brought to light in the 1980s in Australia and New Zealand. There’s no doubt that the drink draws inspirations from the much older cappuccino but with its own twist. A flat white will more commonly then not have less milk and be fully integrated into the espresso. Once the pour is finished the micro-foam will naturally set apart and create a layer of milk over the drink.

Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-Flat-White-vs-Cappuccino-2There are many baristas alike that have chosen a side saying the Flat white has a stronger flavor with perfect mix of milk and espresso. Others saying that the cappuccino is the drink that best mixes milk with espresso without being overpowered by the other. Sometimes the only difference for some people is the vessel that the drink is served in. The more experience I have with either of these drinks I see a common theme being that the milk is almost steamed and integrated the same (by a well-trained barista) and the influence really comes the third wave of coffee that forces on the details in preparing any coffee drink every step of the way, As for me I enjoy both and will be okay with whatever way the shop choices to prepare for me. next time you go into a specialty coffee shop maybe see for yourself what the differences are?