What is Third Wave Coffee???

Our world has seen coffee trends come and go for centuries, but the last few decades have really been a period of growth and evolution for the global coffee industry.

In today’s blog we’ll cover three trends—more commonly—’waves’ of coffee experiences that have evolved in the last few years. You’ve no doubt encountered all three coffee waves, but you may not have realized it.

These coffee waves have to do with bean quality, sourcing practices, and a handful of other elements. By learning about them, you can clearly see how coffee is evolving and where it’s headed. You’ll also gain a new way to communicate about a coffee roaster or cafe’s quality.

Let’s dive in!

The First Wave of Coffee

The first wave of coffee is seen as the lowest quality and is known as commodity coffee. Think Folgers, Maxwell House, Green Mountain Coffee, and other brands that don’t have a strong focus on quality or sourcing transparency.

First wave coffee doesn’t really try to convince you that the grounds are special in any way. In fact, for decades most people in the United States didn’t even know that coffee beans come from a real-life plant!

Why? Because first wave coffee feels like it came from a factory, not a farm. There’s no (or rarely) any mention of the origin country or farm, there’s no information on how the coffee was processed, and there’s almost always a major focus on convenience.

Common Signs of First Wave Coffee:

  • Artificially or “naturally” flavored beans
  • Language of “premium” or “gourmet”
  • Primarily pre-ground offerings
  • Super dark, bitter coffee
  • The supermarket coffee aisle

The Second Wave of Coffee

We generally attribute the rise of second wave coffee to brands like Starbucks and Caribou Coffee that revolutionized cafe culture in the United States. These roasters and cafes brought coffee to life in a new way in the late 1900’s by introducing coffee lovers to a wider variety of coffee experiences.

They started publishing origin countries and began exploring higher-quality coffee, but they still didn’t really direct the customer to the coffee itself—but the experience.

For example, Starbucks pioneered what was once considered “specialty coffee drinks” in the US by mixing espresso shots with sweet, flavorful syrups and other ingredients. The emphasis still wasn’t really on the coffee, but the creative drink, the mood lighting, and friendly baristas.

This certainly added pizzazz and generated interest in coffee, but it rarely departed from the super-dark coffee roasting style of the first wave that left coffee bitter, uninteresting, and uniform.

Common Signs of Second Wave Coffee:

  • Heavy focus on flavored drinks
  • Fairly dark, bitter coffee
  • The supermarket coffee aisle
  • Slight recognition of coffee origin country
  • Baristas who are passionate about the cafe, but not the beans themselves

The Third Wave of Coffee

Third wave coffee evolved from a niche community in the 1980’s that was highly focused on the coffee beans and was starting to become prevalent in other areas of the world like Australia, Canada, and Scandinavia and grew over the next several decades. The term “third wave of coffee” was coined in 1999 and became a rapidly growing trend. As more and more consumers realized that there was more to coffee than bitterness and ashy flavors, a coffee renaissance emerged.

Fast forward to modern day. The phrase “third wave” has sort of fallen out of favor. This segment of the coffee industry is now more commonly referred to as “specialty coffee” and is the largest coffee sub-industry in the US.

The fascination that encompasses third wave coffee roasters is our commitment to flavorful light and medium roasts, a love for transparency when it comes to a bean’s origin farm, and a love of coffee that’s made by-the-cup.

Common Signs of Third Wave Coffee:

  • Specific flavor notes (eg. honey sweetness, rose aromatics, and orange acidity)
  • Lighter roast profiles
  • Latte art
  • Single origin (single farm, estate) beans
  • High degree of origin transparency
  • Manual brewing methods like pour over cones and french presses
  • Freshness transparency by publishing specific roast dates

Experience The Difference of Third Wave Specialty Coffee

Even now, the specialty coffee world is growing and evolving. We’re continuously refining our techniques, questioning the systems that have long left farmers in poverty, and searching for ways to bring more flavor out of the precious beans. We’re experiencing coffee at a quality level that the world has never seen before—and it’s only getting better.


Original article from DrivenCoffeeRoasters

Offer Organic

Occasionally we receive emails asking if our products are certified fair trade or organic. So, here’s the deal with FTO certifications, not only are they very complex, certifications don’t necessarily mean that a coffee is of a certain quality, and it doesn’t guarantee that producers are being paid fairly. Many coffees are grown organically, but the producers can’t afford the certifications, so they do not sell their coffee to an exporter as organic. We think that’s something a lot of consumers don’t realize—producers have to be inspected and pay for certification, which can be a major financial burden.

On occasion, we may have one or two certified Fair Trade or certified Organic coffees among our offerings, but we focus more on an International set of standards called the Volcafe Way. The majority of coffees that we source are sourced by teams at origin that work with producers to implement the Volcafe Way.

So, just what is the Volcafe WayIt’s a system designed to maximize farmer prosperity while ensuring environmental and social integrity (because when farmers aren’t earning enough money to feed their families, it’s hard to talk to them about properly recycling water, for example).

The Volcafe Way program, hires local people from coffee communities around the world and trains them in things like agronomy and small business planning. Today, they provide classes, individual attention and technical field assistance to interested producers in their communities, at no cost or obligation to the producers.

The goal is win-win: Producers achieve higher-quality coffees and increased farm yields, which improve their bottom lines — and more high-quality coffees exist for us to deliver to roasters.

Plus, more than a certification that customers can feel good about, it’s a philosophy that can be verified by third parties and that, while still just a few years old, is already showing real, data-backed results on the lives of producers and communities

Click the link below to read a great article that dives a bit deeper into organic coffee.

Offer Dark Roast Coffee

We realize you might be new to artisan crafted micro-batch roasted coffee.  We also understand you might be trying to figure out which Ramona Roasters profile is comparable to the light, medium, or dark roast you’re used to buying at “those other places.”

We do not roast our coffee to the typical or common roast styles of light, medium, and dark.  We roast our coffee long enough to bring out the unique and natural flavors of the original coffee cherry. We want you to experience and taste the distinct flavor notes of each coffee and not the flavors of the roast or heat. We have a little saying around here that goes, “We want you to taste the bean, not the burn!”  Anyone can burn a bean but not everyone can gently coax the beautiful flavor profiles out of a coffee bean. We roast to highlight the unique flavor profiles of our coffees, not to achieve a specific appearance or color.

As for why we’ll never roast dark coffee and why you’ll never see oils on our coffee beans, simply put, oil is BAD for coffee.  It degrades the quality of coffee and hides all the wonderful flavors under a cloak of a bitter, charred, and ashy taste.

Dark oily coffee beans will not stay as fresh as non-oily beans and actually begin to turn rancid once the oils are released from the bean and appear on the roasted bean.

Not to mention the oils are not good for grinders. But we encourage you to do your own research.

Brew Your Best Coffee

Coffee can be simple and yet it can also be complex, but it will always be personal and the right way to brew your coffee is however you and you alone will enjoy it. We recommend using a 17:1 ratio.  For every gram of coffee, you will use 17 grams of water.  We feel this ratio is optimal for bringing out the smooth well balanced flavor profile of each coffee we micro-roast. If you want a stronger cup you can go as deep as a 15:1 ratio.

We realize not everyone nerds out like we do when it comes to preparing coffee and most may not have a gram scale, but fear not. You can still have a wonderful Ramona Roasters coffee experience using the following suggested brewing rations.  Using the gram measurement will yield the most optimal results.

Roasting Notes

Before we explain some of the terms commonly used by coffee roasters throughout the industry, we thought we’d share a few coffee basics you may or may not know.

For starters, did you know the coffee bean isn’t even a bean? It’s actually a seed found in the coffee cherry fruit tree but to keep things simple we’ll continue to use the word bean.

A green coffee bean, which is about 11% water, will experience a variety of different physical and chemical changes as it moves throughout roasting process. Listed below are a few of those changes.

  • The bean will change color (green, yellow, tan, brown, and black)
  • The bean will double in size
  • The bean will become more acidic
  • The bean will lose up to three-quarters of its moisture content
  • The bean will become sweet then lose that sweetness
  • The bean will pop and crack as water and gas build up, then escape

Interestingly enough, there are no set industry standard roasting definitions. What one roaster might consider medium, another might consider dark. Some of the different roast names you might be familiar are typically named so because of the color of the roasted coffee bean. Some of those names are – light, medium, medium-dark and dark. You can break those four common categories down even further with labels like – light (light), cinnamon (light), medium (medium), high (medium), city (medium-dark), full city (medium-dark), French (dark) and Italian (dark).

The longer a coffee bean is roasted the more it will lose the original flavors that come from the soil and the pulp/mucilage of the coffee cherry fruit. As you lose those sweet fruity flavors they become replaced with flavors of the roast. Think about a cookie. When a cookie is in the batter stage you can taste the individual flavors of the flour, sugar, salt and the butter but as the cookie bakes all those flavors come together to make a sweet deliciously soft cookie. As the cookie continues baking longer and getting hotter, the sweet flavors are lost and replaced with a burnt or charred taste and what your left with a is hard burnt cookie. Have you ever noticed that a burnt cookie, burnt piece of meat, or burnt/dark roasted coffee all taste the same?

As an artisan micro-batch roaster, we do not roast our beans to the typically common roast styles you will find in most cafés and grocers. We don’t want to hide the beautiful flavors of the coffee cherry in the dark, we want to bring those flavors out and open them in the light.

We are focused on bringing out the original flavors and notes of the coffee as best we can and that is why we will never roast our coffee much further beyond first crack and we will certainly never roast to second crack. Second crack is the dark side of roasting and when oils begin to appear on the surface of the coffee bean. However, if that’s how you like you coffee, by all means go for it. Your options are endless.

Coffee is very much a personal experience.


Now, you might be reading this because you purchased a bag of coffee from Ramona Roasters and you’re curious about the roasting details on the back of your specific bag of coffee or maybe you just stumbled here. Either way it’s time for us to explain a few of the common terms associated with the coffee roasting cycle.

Turning Point – The point in a roasting cycle when the beans begin to absorb the heat through both conduction and convection transfer and or the energy being put off by the roasting machine. It is also referred to as the S curve.

Color Change – After the turning point the beans will begin the drying phase and change in color from green to yellow, from yellow to tan and eventually to brown. However, the drying phase can be misleading as the beans are continuously drying throughout the entire roasting process.

First Crack – When the bean reaches a certain temperature in the roasting process and undergoes a physical and chemical reaction causing water and gas to build up then explode through microscopic fissures located across the surface of the bean. This typically occurs within a temperature range of 370°F – 390°F and sounds like popcorn popping. By this time the bean will be light to medium brown in color.

Second Crack – While we never roast to second crack it is an important phase in the coffee roasting cycle because once again you will hear popping and cracking sounds as CO2 is released from the beans. This is also the stage in which oils begin to make their appearance on the surface of the bean. This is what we at Ramona Roasters call the dark side of roasting.

Bean Drop – This the time at which the roasting cycle is ended by the roaster opening the door to the roasting drum and dropping the beans into a cooling tray.

Roast Development – This is marked at the onset of first crack and runs until the beans are dropped. It is represented by a percentage and time that is a part of the entire roasting cycle. Often times a higher percentage will result in a deeper roast flavor. An example would be listed as 25.2%.

Roasted On and Best By Date

It’s natural to want the absolute freshest product, but that’s not necessarily the case when it comes to roasted coffee

Once coffee is roasted it goes through a natural process of degassing in which co₂ that was brought to the surface of the bean during the roast will continue expelling over the course of the next 5-7 days, and in some cases maybe even longer.  While coffee goes through the degassing phase, water has a difficult time penetrating the surface of the coffee bean.  This ultimately affects the overall extraction of that sweet nectar you crave.To achieve the best extraction and for the smoothest cup of coffee you’ll want to brew a coffee that was roasted within 7-14 days on the roasted on date. While roasted whole bean coffee doesn’t have a shelf life the aromas and natural notes of the coffee will fade over time so we recommend consuming your coffee within three months of the roasted on date or before the best by date. Of course, how you store your coffee is just as important as how your coffee was roasted and how it is brewed.

While we’re on the subject of storing coffee, let’s take a moment to dispel the rumor of storing coffee in the fridge/freezer. The bottom line is that moisture is bad for coffee, which in turn means storing your coffee in a fridge or freezer is not a good thing, not only because of their humid environments, but also because of the fluctuations in temperature which create moisture. When you take your coffee in and out of a fridge or freezer you are contributing to these temperature fluctuations.

It is more important to store your coffee in a tightly sealed container and in a dark, dry, and cool place like the back of a pantry.

Offer K-Cups

Did you know that 13% of the US population brew old stale (usually flavored) coffee that is shot through tiny little plastic cups each day? Of course, we are referring to the Keurig K-cups found in just about every business, hotel lobby, room and a good portion of restaurants are fully stocked with single cup machines.

There are definitely some important issues with Keurig machines that you should be paying attention to, concerning your health, your wallet and the environment.

Here are just a few reasons why we do not make or recommend using K-Cups and or the Keurig coffee brewing system.

BREWING STANDARDS – If you go to any high quality coffee shop, you will find your local barista using 19-21 grams of ground coffee per cup of coffee prepared. This is roughly the same for espresso, french press, or pour over. How much does Keurig put in their cups? Roughly 5-8 grams. The rest, as we’ve highlighted above, is a bunch of foreign substances your body isn’t meant to process.

The standard temperature for which the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s (SCAA) Golden Cup Award is brewed 200 degrees F. Keurig machines only get to 192 F. Ask any coffee purists and they will tell you a few degrees makes a world of difference. 192 F is not hot enough to extract enough out of the grounds.

The combination of not hot enough water, the low amount of actual coffee, and the low quality of coffee means that you’re getting a really weak and awful tasting brew.

SOURCING STANDARDS – Coffee can be beneficial for your health when sourced properly, but it is damaging when not. As is the case with most food items. The source of Keurig cups and other single cup coffee machines are questionable at best.

In addition to generally having very low quality standards, excessively mass produced coffee in these single cup coffee pods is destructive for the countries it comes from.

Coffee production on this scale usually takes over smaller family farms and leverages them to produce more coffee for less pay and poor working conditions. There could be books of information regarding coffee farm ethics, but simply put – coffee production on this scale is typically more destructive than beneficial for the farms that produce it.

ADDITIVES – You will notice that most of the single use coffee cups, or “pods”, are flavored. Where do you think that flavor comes from? Undeniably some questionable ingredients. Here is just one sample of many things you should never want to put into your body.

The Chai Latte ingredient list contains:
Sugar, Creamer (Hydrogenated Coconut Oil, Glucose Syrup, Sodium Caseinate (from Milk), Sodium Polyphosphate, Dipotassium Phosphate, Sodium Stearoyl-2-Lactylate, Silicon Dioxide), Nonfat Dry Milk, Instant Tea, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Modified Food Starch, Salt, Sucralose.

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT– Although there are options to use Keurig cups that can be recycled, the vast
majority of cups being sold are still of the plastic variant. What is alarming is that Keurig claims the composition of these cups are #7 plastic, which is an “unknown” proprietary composition.

Sure, some of the containers are “BPA free” but that is like saying grains that are “gluten free” are also healthy for you. Not the case. There are still many other problematic chemicals in plastics and glues that are leached out with heat and are very damaging to your health and hormones. No one’s body was designed to process foreign chemicals. This daily chemical soup should be a huge no no to pregnant women, those breast feeding or anyone with hormonal imbalances.

So if 13% of the US population is using single cup coffee per day, how many cups per year is that? Unfortunately, a lot. There were over 8.3 billion officially endorsed “K-Cup” brand cups (there are additional knock off brands) that were sold in 2013 alone. Just in one year that is enough to wrap around the equator 10.5 times. Keep in mind, there are still plenty of other single cup coffee makers that have the same exact problem.

The bad news is all of that plastic isn’t going anywhere. 95% of the plastic used in the creation of these billions of cups per year is made from the same #7 plastic we talked about earlier, which is NOT recyclable. Even the 5% of cups that are recyclable, the mix of aluminum, plastic, coffee grounds and filtering system mixed with the fact that they are so small, leave them not getting recycled anyway. How many people do you know who use Keurig cups that dismantle them after each use and separate into their respective “trash” and “recycling” bins?

FAR FROM FRESH  – Not only is the daily use of Keurig cups more expensive, the quality leaves much to be desired. Coffee is best kept in whole bean form, then ground and brewed roughly 48-72 hours after roasting. Of course this is a best case scenario, but the worst case scenario? Old stale coffee ground in plastic cups.This is the same thing as a jug of Folgers, except it costs much more per cup of coffee.

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