Coffee evolves in waves over time

Barista Richard Barton makes a latte at Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits. Mireya Sol Ruiz | Multimedia Editor

By Claire Van Zee | Reporter

Is coffee the first thing you think of in the morning? If so, you’re not alone. A report from Acorns Money Matters, says the average American spends about $1,100 a year on coffee. That’s a lot of money, and a lot of coffee.

According to Cody Fergusson, the director of coffee at Dichotomy, the coffee industry has progressed in waves.

Currently, we are experiencing the third wave of coffee. A wave focused on intention, meaning you’re more likely to know exactly where your coffee came from and the precise technique used to brew it than in previous years.

First Wave

Believe it or not, there was actually a time before coffee.

“The first wave occurred only after World War II, when Folger’s became a thing, and it became normal to buy at the grocery store and bring it home,” Fergusson said.

During this time, coffee officially became a common household item. Brands like Folgers and Maxwell House could be found in cupboards around the world.

According to Craft Beverage Jobs, “The first wave of coffee often receives criticism for sacrificing taste and quality to promote convenience and mass production.”

Second Wave

The second wave is one you may be especially familiar with — the rise of coffee shops.

Evidence of the second wave is all around. Think about the number of coffee shops around Waco, and not to mention the three storefronts on campus.

Thanks to Starbucks and shows like “Friends,” the second wave of coffee really took off during the mid to late ’80s and throughout the ’90s, Fergusson said.

“It just became normal to go get a latte and have that be a part of your morning routine,” Fergusson said.

However, the coffee scene is much more than just a morning latte these days.

According to Statista’s report on specialty coffee shops from the year 1915 to 2015, there are almost 31,500 specialty coffee shops in the United States. With that many coffee shops, businesses are having to work hard to compete with one another, all while keeping people interested. And so came the rise of the third wave.

Third Wave

In the late ’90s and 2000s, a sort of prestige became associated with coffee, the kind that you would usually attribute to wine and beer snobs, Fergusson said.

“All of a sudden you have the third wave of coffee and everyone reverted back 60 or 70 years to the technique of pour over,” Fergusson said. “With a pour over, you know exactly the type of ground you put in, how much coffee is in it, the type of filter used, the temperature of water and the exact technique used to brew it.”

At the beginning of the third wave, the mind shift changed from people wanting simple and fast, to technical and precise, putting the old-fashioned batch brew machines to rest.

Today with our current culture, everyone monitors what they put into their body and wants to know exactly where things come from, Fergusson said.

“The focus on ‘best self’ and wellness especially opened the door to the third wave and really lined up with people beginning to care about things like traceability, especially in specialty coffee,” Fergusson said.

Fergusson said before coffee is a liquid, it’s a bean, or more so a cherry, with beans inside. When freshly picked, the seed is considered “green coffee,” and is hard and flavorless. In order to unlock all of those aromatics that make the bean coffee, it must be roasted.

“As a roaster, it’s my job to unlock all of the smells and taste, but not influence my own footprint,” Fergusson said.

From farm to storefront, the coffee passes through many hands before it’s served.

“As a barista, I feel like it’s our job and our purpose to treat everything with intention,” Fergusson said. “From measuring the coffee to checking the temperature of the water, to making sure all of the equipment is clean so that it can do its thing as best as possible.”

Third wave baristas have more expected from them now than those of previous waves.

Ashton Allert, Dichotomy Barista of three years, said that with Dichotomy’s espresso machine, the Modbar, all of the machinery is underneath the counter. Because of this, the bar space is cleared up so that baristas can have a more personal experience with the customer, Allert said.

“It’s not so much a transaction but more of a relationship, which adds to the quality of the coffee and makes it a better overall experience,” Allert said.

The overall taste of coffee also began to change during the third wave.

“We realized that if you tweak a few things during the process, you can get these crazy flavors and nuances out of the coffee,” Fergusson said.

This kind of experimentation is what the road from third wave to fourth wave coffee will be all about, Fergusson said.

4th Wave-ish

“Fourth wave isn’t so much the shop experience, as it the processing of green coffee experience,” Fergusson said. “It’s all about experimentation, and that is what’s going to open those doors into the fourth wave.”

For years, coffee was limited to three main processing methods: natural processing, washed processing and then a mix of the two called hybrid processing. But now, people are looking for ways to spice it up. Farms are choosing to use water from volcanoes and natural hot springs to alter the taste, Fergusson said.

“I just think that we have been limited to these three methods for so long, and now in these last few years you have all of this new stuff coming out,” Fergusson said. “And it’s making an influence, there is definitely something to it, I mean they taste crazy!”

According to Fergusson, Dichotomy tried their own hand at experimenting and looks to continue doing so in the future.

“Recently, we took our lower price pointed Honduras coffees and put it in a bucket with a bunch of koji, a Japanese yeast rice,” Fergusson said. “We let it ferment for over a month, and then removed the koji and roasted it.”

As a result of the additional fermentation, Fergusson said they created a coffee with really sweet apple and cherry flavors.

“It’s just taking things a step forward from what we’ve known and done in the past,” Fergusson said. “With this, we’ll possibly crack that door even more and open it into what people would call the fourth wave.”