Third wave coffee? What happened to the first two?

Hi there coffee passionate,

Today I want to talk about third wave coffee. You’re gonna tell me, okay, but happened to the first two waves, right? Good question!

If your visiting specialty coffee shops, chances are that you might have herd about the concept, if not than for sure it will be clearer after this article.

Having been in contact lately with a lot of people interested in good coffee, I have noticed a big difference in their approach to coffee, from a consumer good product to a craft product. I can not think of a better word that expresses the essentials better than „Craftsmanship”.

Third wave coffee? But what happened to the first two?

The beginning of the first wave of coffee seems to have its roots in the early 1800s, when the US began to popularize coffee, due to a few key factors.

Firstly, coffee making and purchasing has become very accessible, with the emergence of vacuum coffee packs (still used today) and instant coffee in the year


1903 – a super innovation at the time, that allowed brewing coffee fast without any equipment.

The second essential factor was the promotion of coffee consumption through media channels, coffee brands such as Folgers, Maxwell House or Mr. Coffee, were positioned coffee as “the best part of waking up” and “good to the last drop “.

The excessive popularization of low-grade coffee consumption in this first wave has led to the appearance of  second wave of coffee.

The history of second wave coffee

In second wave coffee, coffee consumers began to express their interest in the origin of the coffee and the understanding of how it was roasted. These details about coffee have produced a transition from “just a drink” to keep you awake, to an experience in itself.

People’s vocabulary has become enriched with the second wave of coffee.

Words such as espresso, latte and French press have become common words among coffee lovers, and elements in the wine industry have been borrowed.

There have been more and more coffee shops offering quality coffee, but also with an educational component brought through professional barriers.

The coffee shop chain most associated with second wave coffee is Starbucks.

Why third wave coffee?

The main criticism brought to second wave coffee, was that over time its attention to the source of coffee beans, in favor of the social experience.

This is how evolution has led to the emergence of representatives of third wave coffee. This wave emphasizes on coffee quality, the direct relationship of roasters with farmers , and care for the entire production chain, less roasted coffee, and alternative methods for brewing coffee.

This means more complex coffee, friendly coffee shops where you talk directly with the owner, freshly roasted coffee and super-passionate coffee people.

And all these things have the same goal, to make the consumer feel special.

In my case, I experienced the first two waves just slightly, so I started drinking coffee actually with third wave coffee, and I’m very fortunate because that’s how I educated my tasted for coffee correctly.

Third wave coffee vs. specialty coffee

Specialists in coffee believe unanimously that the two concepts are different. Specialty coffee is considered by SCA (Specialty Coffee Association), the coffee that scores over 80 points, and below this score is commercial coffee.

To make the difference between the two easy to understand, third wave coffee is the experience offered to the consumer, and specialty coffee is what is used in that experience.

Third wave coffee shop
Read also: The difference between different coffee based drinks

May you have an inspired day!

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Despre mine

Salut, sunt Liviu și sunt un super pasionat de cafeaua de specialitate. Urmărește-mi aventurile senzoriale în lumea cafelei de specialitate, pe


Cafea cu dichis este un proiect de suflet, menit să deschidă orizonturile papilelor gustative ale pasionatilor de cafea spre cafeaua de specialitate


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July 2024