Coffee Corner: A Beginners Guide to Third Wave Coffee (Part 1)

Post by Grant Mouton

Third wave coffee shops are the meeting place of a diverse group of people. The early morning office goers, moms after the school drop off and lets not forget – hipsters! They all have one thing in common (apart from their love of coffee), that is they are unaware of many intricacies of the mysterious third wave coffee shop. Sometimes it can be difficult navigating these establishments – It’s early morning and as you walk in your attention is taken to the sound of coffee beans popping in the cooling pan, they have just reached first crack. The humidity increases as you near the POS, condensation is collecting on a snapchatters iPhone – the steam wands are certainly working. More than that, the aroma is unmistakable. It’s the smell of early mornings and late nights. It’s the smell of a pending deadlines and relaxed Saturday mornings. You mutter “one latte please” only because you heard the person before you say it.

3rd Wave Coffee
3rd wave (or specialty) coffee is treating coffee as an artisan foodstuff. It is when meticulous attention to detail is applied in the farming, processing, roasting and brewing aspects. Each single origin batch is treated uniquely and prepared differently to enhance its inherent characteristics. It is always fresh, always prepared according to the highest standards. In 3rd wave coffee shops, your barista is trained to vary pressure, water flow and temperature for each drink to make it truly unique and exceptional.

Roast Levels
Third wave coffee shops pioneered the art of lightly roasted coffee. This does a couple of things, it burns off less caffeine so you have a stronger cup. It also maintains many of the inherent, delicate flavors of the coffee to give you a much more rounded experience. Next thing is to talk about the names of these roast levels, because gone are the days when everything was “dark, medium or light” roast – we have become a lot more specific now.

Cinnamon: The lightest roast is called cinnamon roast. No, there is no cinnamon in it and it won’t necessarily taste of cinnamon, the name comes from the color of the ground coffee when roasted at this level.

City: City is the next roast level. Here the bean has achieved something called “first crack”. This first crack happens as a result of moisture vapors expanding with heat and eventually forcing their way out of the bean – This crack happens at around 205C and this is likely the most common roast level you consume at third wave coffee stores. Shortly after this level we achieve City+ which is a slightly darker version of City. (The name “City” comes from the fact that this roast was most commonly used in the eastern cities of the USA)

Full City: This is the stage where the beans start undergoing the cracking process for a second time, and again there is a slightly darker version called Full City+. These roasts will have lower acidity than the aforementioned (because the darker you roast, the lower the acidity) and also higher solubility, meaning you will have more coffee in the water after extraction. As a result, one tends to achieve more robust flavor and creamier body from these roasts.

Continental: Here we have old school coffee. This is coffee that has been roasted to such a point that the essential oils begin to reach the surface of the coffee bean. This can also lead to excessive smoke creation inside the roasting drum with negative effect on the flavour. The names of continental roasts include: Vienna, Italian, French and Spanish.

Single Origins vs Blends
By now you have been offered a single origin as opposed to the standard blend, so what exactly is this? Single origins are coffee beans from a single farm or lot in a specific region/province in a certain country that has been processed in a uniform method and consists of one variety of coffee plant. To try put this simply, the beans are all the same as one another. Blends on the other hand can be a mixture of two or more single origins.

Jargon
Ever heard of someone ask for an extra dry cappuccino? How about a ristretto or lungo? Some coffee aficionados will even ask for a high yield espresso. What exactly are these:

Dry: This is when extra air is purposefully added to the milk when steaming. It creates a large layer of foam atop the coffee.

Ristretto: This is a shorter stronger version of an espresso. This “espresso” will be sweeter and more acidic than its regular counterpart.

Lungo: A longer, often nuttier tasting version of an espresso – overdo the extraction and it will start to taste of wood.

Portafilter: The “portable filter” that locks into the espresso machine

Dose: The amount of coffee that one puts into the portafilter

Yield: The net weight of the espresso once extracted

Pour Over: Fresh filter coffee made by hand. Filter coffee has received a bad rep because of the poor quality coffee used to make it, as well as the fact that it would often be left to stand for hours before being served. Truth is, freshly filtered coffee is one of the best experiences you can have.

Keep sipping!

Post by Grant Mouton
Self–proclaimed coffee guru, coffee education addict, SCAA/SCAE accredited.
Brand manager at % Arabica.


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20 comments, add your own...


  1. zaydoun says:

    I would add a couple more categories of people: The mid-day coffee breakers, and the mysteriously unemployed

  2. Ed says:

    Very well written article Grant.

  3. q80 says:

    Great article as usual from Grant!

    Grant’s coffee articles are adding a lot to 248am

  4. Tinderbox says:

    you need help bro ur addicted to lame-o coffee, u need tea rehab :D

  5. H says:

    I’m going to try to take advantage of this post to try to find a coffee shop interested in sponsoring a local start-up in Kuwait. All you have to do is provide coffee for our students! Please post and contact me for more information! (Mark I hope you don’t mind that I’m doing this :D)

    Sponsorship benefits include:
    -Branding as Snacks Sponsor.
    -Facility branding in the coffee area.
    -Marketing through social media including emails and weekly snapshots.
    -Logo placement on the screen during the opening event.
    -Marketing in the weekly events.
    -Logo placement for all related posts and marketing content (videos, graphic designs, flyers, etc).
    -Logo placement in the video release.
    – Speech and marketing during the opening event.

  6. Adam says:

    Think it’s getting a bit overkill with the coffee posts advertising Arabica every second day.

  7. moi says:

    ugh, boring.. coffee wave part 1?? these coffee posts has to stop!

  8. Hamad says:

    That is some quality coffee-science stuff man, and I like it! Keep’em coming ma boy Grant.
    I got an oblivious question, what are first and second waves coffee then? O.O” and thanks for the amazing post!

  9. Moh F says:

    Agree. Coffee over kill

    • Mark says:

      Can you explain how its over kill if there is at max one post a week about coffee but its more like once every two weeks? So fucking sensitive.

    • DeViL says:

      I wonder why people can’t appreciate an effort. If not interested then move on. Keep going Grant! Always a pleasure to read your articles.

      • Mark says:

        well i do the same sometimes, I’d be going through kotaku.com and when I end up on a post not related to video games i want to leave an angry comment like “why the fuck are you guys posting about the UFC???? This is a video game site morons!”. Then I realize the irony and decide not to leave a hate comment but just skip the post instead :P


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