By Scott Mazzini
"I love my single serve coffee brewer because it makes the kind of coffee that I want and it makes it fast," said a 20-something woman during some research conducted recently on single serve. The explosion of single serve coffee on the market and the development of sophisticated single serve brewers have made single serve coffee an increasingly viable option for both home and commercial environments.
Although millennials, the 70 million consumers born between 1979 and 1988, are not a driving force in the coffee world yet, but the day will come when they are, and single serve coffee brewing may be the answer to many of their needs. Only 29% of 18-24 -year-olds drank coffee daily in 2008 according to the US National Coffee Association (NCA); however, this group leads the pack as far as consumption of espresso-based beverages and iced coffee drinks.
According to Aimee Markelz Tracy, BUNN vice president of retail, this large group of consumers has preferences that directly coincide with the benefits of single serve brewing. "What we saw in the research was that young people are interested in enjoying and serving great coffee, but they don’t see the value in taking a lot of time to brew it. They’re used to going to a coffee shop and getting the beverage they order and they want that same experience at home," Tracy says.
Single serve brewing allows anyone to feel confident that they will brew good coffee every time without having to know much about the brewing process. In addition, millennials have a marked preference for personalized beverages made just for them -- or ‘made for me’. A survey by the Economist asserts that millennials seek convenience, customization, community and "cool" as motivating factors.
In addition to personalization, millennials want variety, and now, with the recent expansion of coffee available in single serve pods, packs and plastic cups, they can get it.
Better coffee, more coffee, now in single serve
In the last few years, the number and variety of coffee available in single serve pods, packs and plastic cups has expanded directly in response to demand. Single origin and varietal pods are now widely available, where previously only breakfast blends could be purchased. Coffees from every continent in the world are now available in single serve form.
The quality and freshness of single serve coffee has improved to the point that now single serve is a viable option for many coffee drinkers. A coffee roaster that I know of entered the pod market with 15 types of coffee and is now offering 21 varieties and actively looking for more. People want choices now that they know that the quality will be there.
Whether it’s in a pod, disc, pack or plastic cup, the coffee inside is freshly roasted and ground. If you choose a coffee that is available only in a proprietary pack, then it must be made in a specific type of brewer. Some single serve coffee is available in pods that can be brewed in a variety of single serve brewers. It’s important to know what type of coffee pack your brewer requires.
Over 300 varieties of coffee are offered in single serve packs including single origin coffees like Kenya AA and Costa Rica; blends like House and Signature Blend and flavored coffees such as Mocha Nut Fudge and Chocolate Buttercrunch.
If you’re not in the mood for coffee, you can brew hot tea, hot chocolate or even dispense hot water for soup from your single serve brewer. An ever-growing variety of beverages is available in portions that will fit in your brewer.
The consummate host
Single serve brewers also allow consumers to be a consummate host, offering a variety of coffee to their guests. "The majority of people who use single serve systems at home want to enjoy coffee for themselves and serve a guaranteed great cup each time to guests. They don’t have to use what seems like a complicated science to brew a pot of coffee, which often doesn’t turn out right anyway. They just choose a coffee, insert, press a button and brew," Tracy says.
Everyone can be a coffee brewing expert with a single serve brewer, and there’s no need to commit to a full pound bag, she adds. "I can offer choice and variety in single servings to my guest and feel like a coffee expert at the same time. It’s definitely a positive experience," she adds.
Millennials may go another step and eliminate themselves from the equation entirely: and they can with a single serve brewer. Most single serve brewers are so easy to use that the host can simply point guests in the direction of the brewer where a host of coffees awaits.
Self-service is another preference for millennials, and the idea that the coffee drinker can prepare his or her own beverage easily holds much appeal. There is no need to have a person brew their coffee, and that’s attractive.
Single serve equipment rises to the challenge
To keep pace with the growing demand, single serve brewing is more sophisticated than ever. Many commercial coffee brewers now give the user the ability to pre-wet the coffee grounds, brew with pulse brew, and adjust the brew time. These brewers also often can dispose of the spent coffee pod, so the user does not have to worry about it.
Single serve equipment allows people to choose from a wide variety of coffee, manages waste, and assures freshness. Because of this in the foodservice environment, they are particularly well adapted for office coffee settings, hotels that have breakfast programs, and hotels that simply want to offer coffee and other beverages to their guests, even if they do not have breakfast programs. A single serve brewer eliminates the need to have a staff attendant for the coffee bar. The guest can serve himself or herself whatever coffee is desired.
A bulk brewer is still required for high volume serving such as in the morning when many cups of coffee are needed quickly at a quick serve restaurant, convenience store, or banquet facility. In this situation, a single serve brewer could be used as an ancillary brewer to offer beverages such as hot tea or flavored coffee. This solution will allow you to expand the menu and accommodate customers.
Other ideal environments for these brewers are car dealerships, doctors’ lounges, waiting areas and spas. Those who are in these unique environments may be there at two in the morning or two in the afternoon. But with a single serve brewer, they can make a fresh cup of coffee when they want it, without wondering how long the coffee has been sitting on a warmer.
I believe that the popularity of single serve brewing will continue to grow as the variety of coffees available for these brewers also expands and as the millennials come into the marketplace. The brewing systems will become more sophisticated, capable of brewing very high quality, premium grade coffees. Just as platforms for filter drip brewing have evolved, single cup brewing will also continue to grow and become even more complex. Quality in the cup will be more achievable than ever, regardless of the brewing platform. And that’s what it’s all about, a wonderful cup of coffee, isn’t it?
Author Scott Mazzini is vice president, product management, Bunn-O-Matic Corporation