Coffee Corner Reviews

Review: Mahlkönig E65S GbW Grinder

I’ve only been drinking coffee since 2016, and since then I’ve been mostly been making my coffee at home. I started off with a De’Longhi bean to cup coffee machine, and then later upgraded to the Breville Oracle, followed by the Rocket Appartamento and then finally to a La Marzocco Linea Mini a couple of years ago. Along the way I upgraded my grinders as well, the first two machines had grinders built in, but with the Appartamento I got a Rocket Faustino Grinder for it, and with the Linea Mini I got the Mahlkönig X54 grinder.

I didn’t end up liking the X54 at all even though I love the Mahlkönig brand (they make some of the best commercial grinders). The X54 wasn’t very consistent, it was slow, and the grind adjustment knob felt horrible, the whole tactile experience actually was poor. Compared to the experience of using the commercial quality Linea Mini machine, the X54 felt very plasticky. So I decided I’d upgrade my grinder to one that would match the quality of my coffee machine. I did a lot of research and had eventually settled on the Ceado E37s.

I found a website online that would ship it to Kuwait and after their Black Friday discount and removing VAT, the price shipped to Kuwait was 525KD. Not cheap, but it was commercial quality, had large 83mm burrs and highly recommended by reviewers online. Just as I was about to make the plunge, I found out about the Mahlkönig E65S GbW. GbW stood for grind by weight, it was a new grinder by Mahlkönig where you could set the weight of coffee you wanted grinded, and then just place the portafilter into the machine and it would grind enough beans till it hit your weight. It was also fast, commercial grade, had a large adjustment ring as well as a large digital screen. It wasn’t cheap, online I found it for around 690KD after discount shipped to Kuwait, but since I knew the local dealer, I figured I could try and get a better deal locally.

The local dealer referred me to Coffee Tools who were selling the machine for a whopping 836KD (they since dropped it down to a more reasonable 731KD). I tried to work out a barter deal but that didn’t pan out but they did offer me a 25% discount which brought the price down from 836KD to 627KD. It was around 70KD cheaper than the price I found online so I decided to pull the trigger and get it (along with a much shorter 250g hopper). It was the best decision I made.

The E65S is such an incredible grinder. Firstly performance wise, it’s fast grinding out 18g of coffee in under 6 seconds (compared to 18-20 seconds of the X54). It’s also been really consistent and I’ve been using it daily since January. I don’t adjust the grind settings as much as I used to, and if I do it’s generally minor adjustments. It’s also really easy to adjust the grind size since the adjustment ring is large and the screen displays a digital read out of the distance between the two burrs. So I have my baseline set at 0.094mm and I generally adjust anywhere between 0.088 and 0.0096mm. It’s minor adjustments which I can do accurately because of the digital read out. But, the best feature is grind by weight. I use 18g of beans for my coffee, with regular grinders you use a timer to measure that out. So for example with my previous grinder, 18 seconds would grind around 18g of coffee, sometimes it would grind 16g in that time, sometimes 19g. It wasn’t a very efficient workflow either. You’d first put the portafilter on the scale and reset it to 0g, you’d then place portafilter in the grinder and have it grind for 18 seconds, you then put the portafilter on the scale again and see how much coffee it grinder, if its under 18g you have to put it back in grinder and manually grind a bit more coffee, if it’s more than 18g then you have to remove some coffee. It was a slow process and messy. The new workflow is so much better because of the grind by weight feature. All I have to do is place the portafilter into the grinder, and the grinder takes over and does all the calculations for me. As soon as I place the portafilter into the machine it starts grinding the coffee while measuring the weight. I think I read somewhere it does 6,000 calculations a second. Once the machine grinds 18g of coffee out, it stops and flashes green to let me know it hit the weight.

My coffee making process in the morning is a much more pleasant experience. I know a lot of people won’t understand or care about any of this, but as I’ve gotten older and I can afford nicer things, I’ve started caring about my experiences with objects a lot more. It could be a fork, it could be a car, I just like the experience of using nice things. My grinder and coffee machine are the first things I interact with in the morning. Then it’s my computer and then it’s my car. So having a good coffee making experience, then sitting in front of a fast computer with fast internet followed by driving to work in a 1970 Alfa Romeo, it’s really a great way to start the day. So would I recommend this grinder, yes. Do I recommend investing in expensive coffee equipment, for most people no. But if you enjoy using nice equipment and like the process of making coffee then yes. It’s actually cheaper to spend 3,000KD on coffee equipment than to have two coffees a day at a coffee shop. If you have 2 coffees a day, thats around KD1,460 you’re spending a year. So you’ll make your money back pretty quickly making coffee at home. If you’re married and your wife also drinks coffee then you’re going to make your money back twice as fast. And a commercial grade coffee machine is going to last a pretty long time at home.

I also highly recommend La Marzocco in Kuwait, their customer service department is one of the best I’ve experienced in Kuwait. Because they’re commercial machines, anytime I have an issue I’m treated like a coffee shop where any downtime is bad for business. I usually get a service person over either the same day if I report a problem in the morning, or the next day if I report a problem in the evening. So 5 stars to them.

50s to 90s Coffee Corner Kuwait

Nostalgia at the New Backburner Cafe

Backburner the coffeeshop quietly opened a new location last week in the old-school neighborhood of Souq Altujjar (the old traders market) across from the Grand Mosque and Seif Palace.

What’s very interesting about this location is they have a nostalgia room on their second floor. The room has shelves filled with a variety of old items from our childhood, some from the 80s, some much older. They have a Hungry Bunny section, a small Showbiz section, Sakhr (MSX), Ifta7 Ya Simsim and more items all from our past and all on display.

I actually sold them one of my very clean and copies of the 1955 Violet Dickson book “The Wild Flowers of Kuwait and Bahrain”. It’s a very rare book so if you’ve wanted to check it out, this is your chance.

If you want to check it out they open daily from 7AM to 10:30PM, and they’re located next to the Seif Palace roundabout in Block 4 of Souq Altujjar, the same block that has Starbucks. Google Maps

Coffee Corner

Coffee Machine Upgrade

Late last week I ended up upgrading my coffee machine and grinder from a Rocket Appartamento and Faustino grinder, to a La Marzocco Linea Mini with a Mahlkönig X54 grinder.

I’ll post a review once I spend a lot more time with the machine but for now, if you’re looking to upgrade your coffee machine, I’m selling my previous setup with some accessories. Here is the link to the classifieds page.

Coffee Corner Shopping

Profitec Coffee Machines in Kuwait

If you follow Whole Latte Love on YouTube you probably know they’re big fans of Profitec coffee machines and constantly give them high scores. So while window shopping for a new machine recently, I was surprised to find out we have a distributor for Profitec in Kuwait. Rawi Coffee is the local exclusive distributor and their prices are considerably lower than prices online even when compared to Whole Latte Love:

Profitec 700
Rawi Coffee: KD 880
Whole Latte Love: KD 736 (not including tax and shipping)

Profitec 600
Rawi Coffee: KD 680
Whole Latte Love: KD 914 (not including tax and shipping)

Profitec 500
Rawi Coffee: KD 580
Whole Latte Love: KD 613 (not including tax and shipping)

If you’re looking to get a new prosumer coffee machine you should probably consider checking out these Profitec ones. Link

Coffee Corner

24/7 Coffee Drive-Thru

I have no idea how people have coffee late in the evening and still manage to go to sleep let alone in the middle of the night. But, if you’re one of those people who enjoys having coffee at 2AM, Arabica is opening a 24-hour drive-thru starting tomorrow in their new Kuwait City location.

Coffee Corner Information

Local Guide to Coffee Roasters

I buy my beans from %Arabica just because that’s what I’m used to but there are a lot of other coffee bean roasters in Kuwait who also roast green beans in house for espresso. Below is a list compiled by radaaitor which I’ve arranged in alphabetical order:

48East Roastery
Air Roastery
AJ’s Roastery
Albadawi Coffee
Altitude Roasters
Bait Qahwa Co.
Black Horse Coffee
Coffee Choices
Coffee Jug Roastery
Coffee Masters
Collective Coffee Company
Earth Roastery
House Of Beans
Jumo Coffee
Methods Roastery
My Habit Roastery
Origin Roasters
ORU Roasters
Pause Coffee Roasters
Rawi Coffee
Richards Coffee Co.
Roots Roastery
Stockroom Coffee
United Coffee Roasters
Vol. 1 Roast Lab
Wjaar Roastery

If I missed a place let me know in the comments. Also if you could recommend your favorite beans/roaster that would be helpful for anyone looking to try new beans. Personally, I get the Arabica Blend beans from %Arabica because it’s the same blend they use for their in-store coffee. I like consistency and I know their blend will always be consistent because it’s what they use themselves.

Also, the photo on top isn’t my setup but a friends. Super cool coffee corner and he even imports his own green beans and roasts them himself at home using an Aillio Bullet R1.

Coffee Corner Food

GOODCUP Coffee Shop

I don’t post about coffee shops anymore because they’re just too many of them and too much of the same thing but GOODCUP has one cool thing going for it, the location. GOODCUP opened up a couple of weeks back and as soon as I saw photos of the space on social media I really wanted to pass by and check it out.

The coffee shop is located in an old building inside Souk Mubarakia and it’s pretty big with two floors. The coffee shop occupies one part of the ground floor and the rest is divided into smaller spaces that are available to rent to other businesses. As you can imagine and see from the photos, the coffee shop is very instagrammable so most of the people there were there to grab photos and leave since the seating is pretty limited.

Finding the location is easy, just find Freej Swaileh first in Mubarakia (Google Maps). Once you’re standing in front of Freej enter the souk on the right of it (Souk Al Hareem), and then around 20 meters in you’ll find GOODCUP on your right-hand side. They’re also on instagram @goodcupkw

Coffee Corner Shopping

Gaggia Coffee Machines

For people looking to get into making espresso coffee at home, the Gaggia Classic Pro machine is considered to be one of the best starter machines you can buy. It’s an affordable single boiler machine that allows you to pull an espresso shot and steam milk for your latte. Previously if you wanted a Gaggia the only option was to order it from abroad but now the brand is available locally at Xcite.

The Classic Pro machine is priced at 179KD in-store at Xcite but listed for 199KD on their website for some reason. On the Gaggia UK website, it sells for 177KD so 179KD is actually a great price for it.

So if you’re looking for a great affordable semi-automatic espresso machine you can now pick up a Gaggia in Kuwait.

Coffee Corner Shopping

Ceado Coffee Grinders

Ceado grinders are pretty popular with coffee geeks especially their single-dose grinders. I didn’t know they were available locally and I have a friend actually who ordered one online and paid a ton for shipping so figured I’d put this info out there in case anyone googles “Ceado Kuwait”.

Turns out Mabrook are the dealers for Ceado in Kuwait as well as Slayer coffee machines. They had a number of Ceado grinders on display, one of them, the “E6P Filter Burrs” model had a price of KD367 on it. Online the same model sells for KD330 so the local price isn’t that far off especially if they give discounts (which they generally do).

Mabrook doesn’t have any Ceado grinders listed on their website but they do mention them a few times on their Instagram account. If you’re looking for Ceado grinders check out their showroom here.

Coffee Corner Information Shopping

JURA Coffee Machines Now Available in Kuwait

Back when I was looking at automatic coffee machines, one of the brands that I was checking out was JURA. I hadn’t heard of them before since I hadn’t seen the brand in Kuwait but according to reviews online they had the best automatic coffee machines on the market. Automatic coffee machines are machines that make your coffee at a press of a button. They can grind your coffee, heat up and froth your milk and then mix it all together for you.

Al-Wazzan who carry the La Marzocco commercial grade coffee machines are now the dealers for JURA. Prices locally seem cheaper than Amazon UK. The JURA A1 for example costs 383KD on Amazon but 290KD locally while the JURA E8 costs 759KD and 550KD locally.

If you’re interested, they have a JURA display at their store in Shuwaikh as well as on their website.

Coffee Corner

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

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.

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.

Coffee Corner Food Information

Updated List of Speciality Coffee Shops

I’ve been meaning to post this updated list of coffee shops for a few weeks now but I kept on finding out about more coffee shops so I kept postponing the post. We’ve got so many coffee shops now that we even have two different ones with the same name. I don’t think I’ve missed any places but in case I have, let me know in the comments.

Abu Al Hasania
Dose Cafe
Tripple A Cafe
V60 Coffee Bar

Al Zahra’a

RumorZ Cafe
Wing Cafe

Kuwait City
7 Grams
20 Grams
33 Cafe
Alpha Café
Ark Coffee Co.
ASPRO + PRO Coffee Bar
Awake Coffee
BLAKK Coffee
Bon Coffee
But First Coffee
Caveman Coffee
Cova Specialty Coffee
Dose Cafe
Drip Cafe
His Majesty
Kaffa Kuwait
Kôfē – Espresso Bar
Let’s Coffee
Mood Coffee Bar
Muse Coffeesphere
Muse Espresso Bar
Not Just Coffee
OIA Coffee
OZ Coffee
Pause Coffee
Perhaps Some Coffee
Pirate Cafe
Richard’s Coffee
Savage Coffees
Sisters & Co
Street Cafe
The Breeze Cafe
Three and Barista
Toby’s Estate
Vol 1
Wish Cafe

Ace Coffee
Made Caffe
OROMO Coffee Bar
Swing Coffee House

Vibes Coffee

Majnoon Qahwa

Amo Cafe

Muse Lounge
Mr Koobs
New Brew Coffee

Boost Cafe
Car Wash Cafe
Force Bar
Keys Coffee Shop
Shuwaikh Coffee
Ves Vas
Vol 1

Most of the places above opened up in the past 6 months or so. Insane.

Update (13/8/2017): I’ve updated the list above and split them based on their location

Coffee Corner

Coffee Corner: Coffee Myths Debunked

There is a lot of conflicting information floating around about coffee. Some is passed down from generation to generation, some found on the internet and some would seem as truth where it really shouldn’t be.

#1: Want to keep your coffee fresh? Store it in a freezer

Don’t do it! The only way to have fresh coffee is to buy fresh coffee, grind it yourself as needed and to not buy more than a two weeks supply.

Unfortunately neither vacuum sealing nor freezing helps with this. If you can’t manage to do the above mentioned points, the best way to store your coffee is in a cool, dark place with around 50% humidity. Freezer air is very dry and the moist coffee will tend to equalize with its surroundings, so freezing would dry the coffee out causing it to be stale.

#2: Strong coffee is a dark roast

To answer this we need to define what “strong” coffee is. The most common answer I got when I asked people what constituted as a strong coffee is “a dark roast” and the reason being “because it is bitter”. Other answers included “coffee with a lot of caffeine” and “espresso”.

Now none of these answers are exactly incorrect because there isn’t a standard definition of what it is that makes a cup of coffee strong. So I’ve taken it upon myself, without consulting any authorities to standardize the definition: A strong cup of coffee has a higher percentage of coffee (oils) in solution than other cups, i.e a high coffee:water ratio.

From this definition we can tell that a dark roast coffee could be stronger because the darker the roast is, the higher the solubility of the coffee – however the darker you roast, the lower the caffeine content. Moreover, espresso can also be considered correct as it will also have a higher coffee:water ratio than other brewing methods.

The best way to ask your barista for a strong cup would be to ask for a “high yield” coffee. The barista would then dial in the necessary settings in the equipment to give you that high coffee:water ratio that results in more flavor.

#3: Can I get a tall flat white?

No, no you can’t! Why? Because there is no such thing. The same thing goes for: Cappuccino, Cortado, Macchiato, Gibraltar and Café Bon Bon.

These coffees have special names for a reason, their names are in essence their ratio or recipe. Each of the aforementioned has a very specific ratio of espresso and milk. Change that and you have a different drink entirely. Just yesterday I saw a “Macchiato” the size of a latte in Avenues mall, when an actual Macchiato is a double espresso with just a tablespoon of milk foam! I’d be happy to mention the ratio’s of the various drinks in the comments below if someone is interested.

#4 Coffee dehydrates you

Caffeine is a diuretic, which causes you to urinate more frequently. However, your drink (unless it is an espresso) makes a significant contribution to your daily water intake. Only excessive coffee intake may cause dehydrating effects.

So why do some stores serve water with your coffee? To help you taste the coffee better. It is simply a way of cleansing your palate between sips.

#5: Espressos contain more caffeine than brewed coffee

If you are talking about concentration of caffeine then yes, its a slightly more concentrated dose. However, by drinking a small cup of brewed coffee you will be ingesting significantly more caffeine. An espresso contains roughly 40mg of caffeine, whereas a short cup of drip or filter coffee will have around 100mg. Also, don’t be fooled – darker roasted coffee (as mentioned earlier) contains less caffeine than lighter roasts.

#6: Coffee is good/bad for your health

Honestly, I have done extensive reading on this subject and I have read articles stating that coffee prevents cancer only to read one that suggests it can cause it. Similarly, I have read that it aids in weight loss but also read that it has no effect on it. Coffee itself contains very few calories, negligible amounts of vitamins and minerals etc. so I think it is safe to say that moderate to high consumption of coffee will not have any significant effects (positive or negative) on your health.

Keep sipping!

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

Coffee Corner

Coffee Corner: What makes good coffee good?


In my previous articles (“My coffee is cold” and “This coffee is too expensive”), I touched base on how temperature affects your perception of flavour as well as pointing out that coffee is in fact under–priced. Today I’ll be taking all of you avid coffee drinkers a little bit deeper by answering a simple question: “What constitutes a good cup of coffee?”

Coffee seems to be a simple thing – but I can assure you that there is a whole lot happening behind the scenes that many are unaware of. To try and keep you, the readers, enthralled; I will divide this segment into the following:

• What makes a one coffee bean better than the rest
• What sets baristas apart
• How can I tell if my coffee was good?


What makes one coffee bean better than the rest:
Plants are funny things, temperamental at the best times. Now, I am no botanist, but I have had my fair share of veggie patches as well as a once glorious Bonsai collection in the past.

Let us begin with the anatomy of the coffee tree. The coffee “bean” as we all call it is in fact a seed. This seed is no different to other plants’ seeds in that it is responsible for the plants reproduction. Plants do a wonderful thing when they are stressed due to lack of rainfall or thin air as a result of high altitudes or other stressful situations. Plants, when under certain stressors put extra energy into producing more, stronger seeds. The reason for this is that is the mother plant wants their offspring to be stronger and healthier with a better chance of survival, perhaps for them to even flourish. This touching act that is written into the DNA of the plant ends up benefitting the ever consuming human -it results in a mother plant putting extra energy into its fruits and seeds which results in a better coffee experience for us. This phenomenon is not exclusive to coffee – it has long been observed in grapes. Another thing that helps is biodiversity. As with all plants, the higher the biodiversity, the more effective pollination occurs which also results in better fruits.

So we now know that weather conditions can affect the coffee and that some of the best coffee is grown at high altitudes. There is also a trend in bean flavours that shows the higher the coffee is grown, the fruitier and more floral the taste will be. Of course, this is not a hard and fast rule. Many other factors can contribute to the flavour of coffee, i.e. What sub-varietal is the plant? What was the processing method?

I want to highlight the importance of processing. This is the method whereby the seeds are removed from the cherry and dried. It is crucial to the quality of the bean that utmost care is taken at this step to avoid rot, leaching of flavours and the removal of defects.

So you are looking for a tree grown on the correct slope (sunlight) in a biodiverse area that is high enough above sea level and also processed correctly. Not asking for much, right? If a bean doesn’t tick all the boxes, it won’t taste good.


What sets baristas apart?
A good barista has attention to detail that is borderline OCD. The reason for this is that when you are working with the temperatures and pressures they do, it is easy to ruin a cup of coffee by extracting for 1 second too long or too short. Making sure the coffee grind size is not too coarse or too fine, they need to be consistent with tamping (packing the coffee into the portafilter) and rinsing the machine’s groupheads etc..

There is so much going on that the barista needs to pay careful attention using all of their senses during each step of making the coffee, or you’ll be left quite literally with a bitter taste in your mouth.

They are on the frontline of the early morning assault on tiredness. Getting up before you do to ready the shop – calibrating machines before you’ve even had your first stretch! These champions of coffee use all their senses for each cup to ensure a great end product for you. I am forever grateful for them.

How can I tell if my coffee is good?
This is probably the simplest topic I will discuss. Your coffee is good if you enjoyed it. Sometimes it’s just a matter of taste – and tastes differ. Sometimes you want more, you what to strike a conversation or bask in the ambience of the store. It all boils down to your enjoyment. If you enjoyed it, then it was good!

Keep sipping!

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

Coffee Corner

Coffee Corner: This coffee is too expensive


As someone with almost a decade in the industry I can safely say that even your most expensive cup of coffee is, in fact, under-priced. For those of you who managed to attend the screening of “a Film about Coffee” at the Contemporary Art Platform in Shuwaikh last week, you might have noticed that this subject was briefly talked about.

So why is there this rift in thoughts? Why is it that coffee producers and coffee consumers disagree with the pricing of coffee? On the one hand we have the people in the coffee supply chain feeling short-changed and on the other the consumers feel that their cup of joe is costing far too much.

*Disclaimer: I am a part of the specialty coffee community, and you will see that the article is heavily in favor of this industry. I have however been as factual as possible, enjoy!*

First things first, we need to realize that there are three different types of coffee at three very different price points. It’s a concept we all know and understand with restaurants, but not with coffee. We can liken coffee stores to three different tiers of restaurants:

– Quick service restaurants (Global franchises; no trained chef) $

– Casual dining restaurants (More focus put on quality of ingredients, store aesthetics; entry level chef, mainly cooks) $$

– Fine dining (Utmost attention to details; traceable, high quality ingredients; well-trained chefs) $$$

To try and simplify, I will refer to the first two tiers as commodity coffee from hereon. So in coffee you have the same thing. The modern 3rd wave (or specialty) coffee can be thought of as “Fine dining coffee”. For this you pay a premium, but it is not just a greater mark up.

In commodity coffee the baristas are site trained according to the company’s standards and not recognized by the Specialty Coffee Association. Whereas in the 3rd wave stores, you will have at the very least one employee who has not only travelled the world to attend courses and seminars, but also constantly learns through online platforms to stay at the cutting edge of coffee knowledge – all to ensure a better coffee experience for you! Now one can certainly see that a more highly skilled barista bears a greater cost to company than an entry level barista.

Green Bean Sourcing
Just as quick service restaurants (QSR) constantly seek to drive the cost prices of the raw materials down, so too do commodity coffee shops. It is no secret that the giants in the industry use anywhere between 25-40% of Robusta coffee beans to make up their blends. But, so what if they use Robusta? Well it is a very cheap, low quality variety of coffee that has zero pleasurable flavor traits to it and is very bitter. I recently attended a course in Copenhagen where we trialled the use of the highest quality Robusta. During a blind tasting (I thought I was taste testing Arabica beans) I noted on my scoresheet that a particular bean was defective, i.e. not good enough to serve. Turns out said bean was in fact some high quality Robusta. This variety is more than likely the reason why the majority of people think of coffee as bitter. On top of that, the Arabica beans that commodity coffee shops do use is considered to be low grade, again it is cheap and has no desirable flavors. To put some numbers to it, Robusta retails for $1-$3/kg, whereas high quality, specialty Arabica coffee can retail anywhere between $25-$300/kg

These high prices are justified though. Specialty coffee is comprised of picked, sorted and processed coffee and is held to a much higher standard. Commodity coffee is grown on flat land and the process is almost fully mechanized. The reason that mechanization doesn’t work with coffee is because not all of the beans ripen at the same time and unripe coffee (unripe anything, really) simply does not taste as good.

What if I told you that most commodity coffee chains don’t even have an espresso machine? Well, it’s the truth! Most of these commodity coffee giants have a “pseudo-espresso” machine which, again, is as automated as possible and yet they are serving you espresso based drinks! The reasons behind this are simple. Making a good espresso and steaming milk correctly is very difficult with incredibly small margins for error. I can assure you it will take months of practice just to learn to steam the milk correctly. Latte art? Forget about it! This is a craft that needs constant upkeep and at least a year behind a machine to become remotely good.


Commodity coffee shops will only use 6-8g of coffee when preparing a regular size coffee. In contrast, specialty coffee shops will use between 16-22g for the same size coffee. This is really important – specialty coffee uses at least double of an already more expensive raw material to prep your coffee, and yet we don’t charge twice or three times the price!

Economies of Scale
This is a pretty basic concept, but those who haven’t taken economics 101 it boils down to this: A company purchasing over 100,000 tonnes of coffee per year has much more leverage to negotiate prices than a company only buying 1-2 tonnes of coffee. This means that even if specialty coffee shops were to use the exact same low quality coffee beans as the larger coffee companies, the cost price would still be higher for those specialty stores.

When all things are considered, I hope you come to the same conclusion that I do, and that is: Specialty coffee is in fact under-priced, hence great value for money and commodity coffee actually has very high profit margins for a substandard product. The other thing you can consider is from a social responsibility point of view: Specialty coffee pays people in the supply chain, commodity coffee pays large corporations and favors mechanization; This in turn leads to higher rates of unemployment in developing areas (yes, I did just guilt trip you into buying specialty coffee!).

Keep sipping!

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