Do you feel that? That crisp twinkle in the air? Is it the chill of the first fall breeze? The oppressive heat taking its foot off our necks and allowing us to breathe once again? Or is it.. could it be… yes, I think it just might be. It’s an onslaught of cold, hard data. And that can mean only one thing, it’s time for the Analytics of Autumn.
Ah yes, the Analytics of Autumn, our yearly rewind of the Build-Outs of Coffee feature series where we crunch the numbers and make our best efforts to divine any sort of trends to see where specialty coffee is heading. In what has become bizarrely predictive, using responses from the Build-Outs of Coffee gives us a pretty unique glimpse into what coffee looks like today. It gives us a unique insight into the question, “if you were opening a cafe right now, what would it look like?” and have it answered by those who are doing that very thing. It’s real answers from those footing the bill, not just theoretical cafe building with endless supplies of fake money.
And what are we seeing from this year’s class? In short, we’re finding a continuation of trends from last year and the year before. It’s consistency over flash, functionality or fineness. So to find out what that means—and what it might mean for the future of the cafe in 2023 and beyond—let’s dive deep into the data and see what the Analytics of Autumn has to tell us.
Where Are They Building?
There’s very much an East Coast bias to this year’s Build-Outs of Coffee, at least as far as the US entries go. Of the total 29 US-based Build-Outs this year, 15 of them—over half—came from the easternmost parts of the country, with much of that action running in stride with I-95. Starting all the way down in Florida and hugging the coast all the up to Massachusetts, nine of the cafes weren’t more than 30 miles from various parts of I-95. This includes a sum total of three new cafes in the greater Philadelphia area, which had the highest cafe density for the year. The map points to a codifying trend: the coffee scene in Philly right now is one of the most exciting in the country. And with new players like Persimmon and Thank You Thank You, two of our favorite domestic entries this year, that trajectory is only looking to go up.
But perhaps most exciting this year were all the international cafes first appearing in the 2022 Build-Outs of Coffee. This year saw a total of nine non-US cafes from four different continents. And while the UK remains well represented, it was the producing countries that brought the most show-stoppingly gorgeous cafes for 2022, full stop. 43 Factory in Vietnam, Tropicalia and Cafe San Alberto in Colombia, and Coffee Relief in Ecuador, these were the cafes that truly had to be seen to be believed. They’ll have you checking to make sure your passport hasn’t expired.
Everybody Still Roasts
This has been a through line for the past few years and it remains stronger than ever. Everybody roasts, to the tune of 78% of all entries for 2022. Of the eight new cafes that carry someone else’s coffee, the multi-roaster continues to pick up traction, edging out those who have a single outside roaster by a score of five to three.
But by and large, the roasting strategy seems to be paying off. Of the 13 coffee brands opening a second location, 12 are roasters, and the one non-roaster—multi-roaster Pinholita in California—is a coffee van. Even still, opening a roastery and cafe all at once is a scary proposition requiring much greater up front cost than simply doing one or the other. But that’s what 17 companies, nearly for 45% of all entries this year, have selected to do.
In what should come as no surprise to anyone who has read even a single entry into the Analytics of Autumn, the Linea and the EK43 are still the reigning espresso machine and grinder of the specialty coffee world, respectively. La Marzocco’s workhorse espresso machine again takes the top spot with seven cafes opting for it, which is more than any other espresso machine brand had in total. Second place ends up going to [checks note] the Linea Mini with four, which while sharing a name we take as a discrete entity. To finish out the LM clean sweep of the podium, the Strada comes in third with three. Overall, La Marzocco comprised a whopping 54% of all espresso machines from the 2022 Build-Outs of Coffee, with a distant second going to Victoria Arduino with 13%.
In the grinder world, Mahlkönig remains the king, with the EK43 being the crown jewel. Overall, one in ever five grinders mentioned this year was an EK43, much of this coming from the brew bar, where it comprised 35% of all grinders. On the espresso side, though, the race was much tighter. While still on top, the EK tied with Nuova Simonelli’s Mythos One with five a piece. The rest of the Mahlkönig line picks up the remainder of the slack; the K30, Peak, and the new E65 each showed up three times. And new to the party this year was Anfim, whose Scody II also came in with three. Ultimately, though, Mahlkönig won the day, thanks to nearly two out of every three grinders coming from the German manufacturer.
What Does It All Mean?
2022 continued, if not doubled down on, many of the trends we saw in the 2021 Build-Outs of Coffee. The roasting boom continues, and the sensible multi-roaster (not the 12 free-for-all roaster of the early 2010’s) keeps gaining ground. In the United States, much of the glitz and glamor of the cafe has been replaced with sensible business maneuverings: going with tried and true equipment over flashy new gear, operating within a multi-use space like a brewery, art store, or magazine kiosk or with a smaller footprint via cart, van, or trailer, etc.
We have also seen a slight but steady decrease in cafe’s talking about how they were building a “community”. While it still remains a focal point and at the heart of what many new cafes state they are wanting to do, respondents this year put less of an emphasis on it, perhaps in response to the negative associations with cafes identifying them and their staff as a family.
If there’s one bold prediction to be made from this year’s continuation of trends from the prior years, it’s that there will be a massive disruption in the next year or two. These things are cyclical, nothing ever really goes away for good. Many new cafes are coalescing around a similar idea right now, and someone or something is going to break out of that. It could be a brand new piece of tech that completely changes the game and puts coffee gear back as the centerpiece and talking point of a cafe. It could be a return of higher concept, more over-the-top design. Onyx Coffee Lab has been doing some pretty wild things in Arkansas, and with their continued success at the global stage of competition, they certainly have the eyes of the world on them. And let’s not forget the new cafes in Vietnam, Colombia, and Ecuador that are taking things to the next level.
But something has gotta give, I’m not sure what, but something. My money is on that it will happen sooner rather than later.
Zac Cadwalader is the managing editor at Sprudge Media Network and a staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.