The Marketing of Coffee

Those things humankind has a stringent need for often benefit of multiple solutions.
One paramount example is religion, where the stringent need is to justify ourselves, and religions do come in all shapes and flavours, with most of them promising to be the one and only right one.
Coffee is no exception.
In my travels I counted and innumerate number of solutions to provide for the same stringent need to caffeinate ourselves.

The image above is by no means exhaustive but offers a good recap – at least in the western world – of the many alternative methods we came up to brew coffee.
Without going into detail of the different merits of the different methods, I will focus on the three techs that offer the leading alternative to most Italian coffee consumers: the moka, the nespresso machines and bar coffee (drip machine).
First focus is the moka.

The splendid moka

Now Moka is considered to be a great invention and a great design. It is undoubtedly so.
As people who are unfortunate enough to be on my personal social streams know already, I happen to hate the moka.
As an engineer (best quote on engineers I can remember is that they don’t live, they function) I actually hate anything designed to accomplish one and only one task and do not deliver on that task – with thousands of example on mind and am sure you got your own.
The moka does not deliver.
In multiple steps of the preparation process you either spill ground coffee, water, coffee or a mix of the three. When you first pour it in the filter, when you later carefully and energetically screw the bottom and top part of the machine together and lastly when you pour it into the cup.
If you are thinking to yourself “well I never spill anything, what are you talking about?” you are either withholding part of the truth, have never realised you actually do spill some or deserve a Nobel prize in the new category for coffee making. Pick the one you like best.

One of the trickiest parts fi you like to come out clean

Being fully aware of the severe limitations to my physical abilities I challenged myself last Christmas and bought a home brewing machine. The experience of buying this particular machine – you will probably easily guess which one – is some of the best marketing I have ever experienced. The shops are carefully designed, full of color and the personnel is extremely helpful. You feel immediately like you are entering a new dimension for coffee consumption.
Brought the machine home, being Italian complemented it immediately with a cappuccino making frothy foam whipper addition and enjoyed fast and good coffee ever since.

Well. Have I really?

First of all a consideration on price. When you do the math right, a cup of moka turns out to be in the 5-10c per espresso cup range, depending on quality obviously. When you hop onto the capsule bandwagon, price soars. It is the typical consumable business model, where the machine is incentivised and consumable materials is offered at a premium.
We should nonetheless argue and realise that this cost increase is justified.
The preparation process is streamlined and fast (no spills).
Quality is ok, maybe with just a bit of metallic after taste across shared across the multiple and very numerous range of colors and tastes of coffee offered.
Therefore, after an initial excitement, I most often head back to my good old spilling and dirtying moka, continuing to address the full array of gods any time (close to every single time I should say) I fail in the preparation process: when I load the filter, when it brews and spills on the stove and finally when I pour it and in the cup and spill it wherever it is not supposed to go.
The ultimate level and ninth dang for us Italians and still my favourite way to enjoy my daily coffee is to walk down to the local bar. Italy enjoys a concentration of bars – that for the most sell coffee cappuccinos and cornetto in the morning – that no other country can match.
Starbucks presence in Italy is still limited compared to the rest of Europe. Selling ice to the eskimos is no easy feat.

Starbucks in Europe

Coffee at the local bar – where you are known and greeted loudly by name and they remember your exact eating and drinking preferences – such as a “ristretto in tazza grande con poco latte and a vegan cornetto” – is much more than a simple coffee and comes at a justifiable premium

What you buy beside coffee with one euro

In the sign a above a witty owner lists all you gain for free with your coffee: cold milk, glass of water, no limits sugar, napkin, serving cup and tablespoon, newspaper (maybe once), informal chat worth of psychiatric therapy, wifi, access to the gentlemen, weather info.

Toto’s famous gag on limitless sugar in coffee

In short when you choose your preferred way to enjoy your coffee you are faced with options. here is and example of the underlying value curve and price points for the different alternatives


Like most times in life, you get what you pay for.