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What Is Third Wave Coffee?

What Is Third Wave Coffee

Coffee was discovered in the seventh Century by a Yemeni shepherd named Kaldi, who noticed his goats grazing on a new type of wild bush. The beans he found inside weren’t roasted and tasted something like wine. The first coffee houses came into existence in Italy during the 15th Century. The first cafe opened up in Venice and became an instant hit, with people flocking from across the countryside to enjoy a rich, black liquid that helped them avoid alcohol abuse by getting their morning jolt of caffeine. Today, coffee is enjoyed all over the world, including local coffee shops like Honeylu’s in Prosper TX. Here at Honeylu’s, our goal, first and foremost, is to create an environment where Third Wave Specialty Coffee is presented in an approachable manner. Yet, that term, third wave coffee, may be unfamiliar to many coffee drinkers. Fear not! We’ll breakdown what third wave coffee is and what the difference between first wave, second wave and third wave coffees.

First Wave Coffee

First wave coffee is fairly cheap and fairly plentiful. It is also known as commodity coffee. Think of your major coffee brands from a store, they are the drivers of first wave coffee. First wave coffee is typically the lowest quality coffee available.

Common Signs of First Wave Coffee:

  • It’s been around for a long time.
  • It is usually ground and never roasted.
  • It typically has a very neutral flavor.


Second Wave Coffee

The second wave of coffee came about in the 1990s when roast masters like Starbucks began to change the way people thought about coffee. This wave brought with it an improvement in the overall quality of coffee, including the roasting process and how it was brewed at home (or ordered at Starbucks). The major shift in quality when it comes to the second wave of coffee is that the roasting process creates a more complex flavor.

Second wave coffee is usually Arabica beans or a mixture of Arabica and Robust. Robust is only used for blends due to its higher caffeine content compared to Arabica; it also has a much more bitter taste, which can be overpowering if too much is used in a coffee blend. As the coffee maker roasts the beans, they are then processed with hot water and allowed to steep. This is called brewing. Once the coffee has been brewed, its ground and then poured into a cup, where the coffee is allowed to cool before drinking. The temperature of the cup is also important when it comes to second wave coffee, as it affects its taste.

Common Signs of Second Wave Coffee:

  • It’s usually roasted and has usually been brewed several times after roasting.
  • It has a more complex flavor than first wave coffee.
  • It can have an intense, bitter taste that can be overpowering.


Third Wave Coffee

The third wave of coffee is a much newer invention than the others. The term “third wave of coffee” was coined in 1999 and became a rapidly growing trend. These coffees are roasted by small roasteries, which are not as common as first or second wave.  Third wave coffee strives to connect the story of coffee all together, from the farm and the way it was grown, all the way to the barista and finally to the customer drinking the coffee. Third wave coffee combines flavor and craft together.

You will find in many cases the term “Third Wave” as interchangeable with the term “Specialty Coffee”. What makes Third Wave coffee beans so “special”? The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) scores coffees on a 100-point scale. Coffees that score 60 points or above are considered commercial grade; at 80 points or above, they are graded as “specialty”. These exceptional coffees are often the product of specific microclimates and soils, production practices, and careful processing (the removal of the coffee cherry flesh from the beans).

 The roasting method used on third wave specialty coffee is designed to maximize its outer body and inner oils, making the beans release a plethora of warm smells. Third wave roasters use a gradual process of roasting their beans over hours (rather than minutes) to get the most out of them. The result is an intense, flavorful brew that has become the choice of many experts when it comes to coffee taste and quality.

Common Signs of Third Wave Coffee:

  • It’s usually roasted by small roasteries.
  • It has a very unique flavor.
  • The roasting process produces more oils than other waves.
  • Transparency of origin
  • Manual brewing like Pour over cones and French presses


How is The Third Wave Coffee Different?

The third wave coffee is different from the other two waves in that it’s low-acidic, less bitter, and much more highly roasted. It’s still made of Arabica beans, but there are many differences. The first wave is usually ground at a very coarse grade and brewed with either a drip procedure or an espresso machine. The second wave is usually ground at a finer grade and brewed via the pour-over method or a French press. The third wave is much more highly roasted, making it less acidic, not as bitter, and more flavorful.

The biggest difference though, is the love the local coffee shops and roasteries show for the coffee beans themselves and for the whole process, not just the final result. That love can be tasted in every cup at your local third wave coffee shop, Honeylu’s Coffee.