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Are expensive beans better than less expensive beans?


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The point I would like to add to this discussion if I may, is that for me it is important not to overlook the actual people who are roasting your beans for you. I appreciate this is probably more challenging than usual at the moment, but I feel lucky that I have been able to visit a few roasters since getting into coffee. And, also been to a Cup North show too.

I guess like anything, you want to surround yourself with good people. People that share your values and are working towards the same goals as you. There is more to the beans than just what is in the bag!

Take for example Grindsmith and Heart and Graft. I have visited both, met the staff and had extremely good stuff from both, but they are very different operations. When I buy a bag, I am buying it from people I trust, not necessarily based just on a cupping profile or price.

And also to me, it makes no sense to buy from London or further afield (sorry, not helping North/South divide), when I have Casa Espresso which is literally 5 minutes from where I live.

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No problem using us as an example. For us we try and be transparent and put an SCA Cup Score on our SO coffee so people have an idea based on what should be an independent and consistent criteria

Yup people will pay a lot for snails, steak Tartar, quail and other posh stuff in a 3 Michelin star resty....where I would quite honestly prefer a big mac.

Six years ago I went from instant to pre-ground to grinding my own and a proper Espresso machine in the space of maybe six months. Each step bringing better results and greater WAF. Since than I have

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I’m with @BlackCatCoffee on this , what frustrates me Is marketing guff around artisan , hand roasted, specialty for coffee at under £16 a kilo , where you dont get to see cup scores etc. I am not saying people can’t enjoy it , but you often see post around why is x roaster more expensive than the Brazilian i buy for £12 a kilo delivered. The simple answer is , its not the same coffee. Yes i have tired numerous roaster at this price point before anyone asks. 

Coffees at £12-14 kilo are a result of either , a company out if the goodness of their heart selling speciality graded coffee at a loss out to I suppose at worst to clear storage space as a one off. or it’s old old greens, or it’s cheap commodity coffee that is being passed off as specialty with buzz words. 

Now whether the buyer can taste the difference is mute , which I suppose is the OP real question . 

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Six years ago I went from instant to pre-ground to grinding my own and a proper Espresso machine in the space of maybe six months. Each step bringing better results and greater WAF. Since than I have tried quite a lot of different beans. It should be said that neither myself or my customers (wife and son) have particularly subtle palates. We all lean to the chocolate, nuts, caramel end of things. For the past few months we've been using a very low priced single origin, dark roast Columbian. It suits us better than any of the more expensive SOs or blends we've tried in the past. Of course, I still experiment with other beans and other roasters but keep coming back to this one. In short, if you find something you really like and it happens to be inexpensive, lucky you! If you prefer something higher priced, go with that. Drink what suits you.

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Rocket Giotto Evoluzione v2, Eureka Zenith 65E, Niche grinder, Pharos grinder with VoodooDaddy mods, Eureka MDL, Torr Goldfinger, Smart Tamp. Various coffee stuff.

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One of the important points to clarify here is if @Doram was talking about the wholesale price of a green bean or talking about the selling price from a roaster. These are two different things and I'm going to use the same example that I used on another thread, where the price of exactly the same bean was about half the price between different roasters! (using forum discount code).

https://www.coaltowncoffee.co.uk/products/red-de-mujeres?variant=32942152548436

https://www.crownandcanvas.co.uk/product-page/Guatemala-Reddemujeres

So we have here an £18 bean and a >£35 bean. Which is better? They're exactly the same! (I accept they will be roasted differently but that's another discussion).

So if we're talking about the price from roasters determining quality of bean - I'd say we can clearly debunk that theory right here. 

Side point - there will be a much bigger difference between £12/£18 beans than between £18/£30 beans imo due to what we know wholesale prices to be. As other have explained above, there's very rare occasions where £12 beans can be good, whereas a roaster could sell good £18 beans on low overheads/margins higher volumes etc. 

Edited by Rapid
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7 minutes ago, Mrboots2u said:

I’m with @BlackCatCoffee on this , what frustrates me Is marketing guff around artisan , hand roasted, specialty for coffee at under £16 a kilo , where you dont get to see cup scores etc. I am not saying people can’t enjoy it , but you often see post around why is x roaster more expensive than the Brazilian i buy for £12 a kilo delivered. The simple answer is , its not the same coffee. Yes i have tired numerous roaster at this price point before anyone asks. 

Coffees at £12-14 kilo are a result of either , a company out if the goodness of their heart selling speciality graded coffee at a loss out to I suppose at worst to clear storage space as a one off. or it’s old old greens, or it’s cheap commodity coffee that is being passed off as specialty with buzz words. 

Now whether the buyer can taste the difference is mute , which I suppose is the OP real question . 

I had a discussion about this with a friend some time back, and I eventually got across to him a few basic principles. I'll explain how in a sec. But my points were :-

- price, ultimately, is determined by how much the seller wants to charge, and can successfully get, for his product

- someone selling a product based on low quality inputs is not going to be able to produce high quality output, regardless of how good they are

- conversely, you can provide an idiot with top quality inputs and you're still likely to get rubbish out.

That latter point is known to scientists, computer people, statisticians, etc as GIGO - Garbage in, Garbage Out.

So, high price could mean great quality inputs, well-handled, or crap inputs and a gouging idiot seller, or crap inputs handled well and making the best of a poor material. You cannot tell which by price. You can often tell which by the reputation of the seller. A good roaster will do a at least a decent job with what they have, and won't buy crap in the first place because it's reputational suicide to do so.

I finally got this across to my rather stubborn mate like this ....

A friend (well, acquaintance) of mine is a goldsmith. Seriously, he is. Came quite close to be appointed goldsmith to the Queen a few years back. He's .... good. Very good. I, on the other hand, am not.

So give us both a small quantity of 24-carat gold. From him, you'll get an exquisite work of art. What went in? A very valuable material of a defined quality and a shedload of both experience and natural artistic flair. We could sell it to a billionaire for a fortune, or to a friend at mate's rates. Price does not tell you the "quality" of the artwork, and quality is a somewhat nebulous concept in art anyway. Who's the "better" composer, Bach, Beethoven or Bruckner? Depends what you like.

Give me that same quantity of 24-carat gold and you'll get out a mishapen blob that's an artistic catastrophe but I could still sell it to a billionaire for a fortune, if said billionaire is a fool with no taste.

Conversely, give us both the same weight in, oh, horse droppings, and you'll not get much out, regardless of skill or artistic flair.

The point? Good quality material does not quarantee artistic results, but lack of it limits what even the best artisan in the world can do. Gold costs more than horse manure for a reasonand, as the saying says, you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

But even good quality and expensive inputs, like gold, won't turn me into a goldsmith. Just a bloke with a hammer.

You can pretty much guarantee that really cheap coffee will be made from, or at least taste like it's made from thecoffee equivalent of horse manure, but you cannot be sure expensive coffee isn't made by a price-gouging idiot.

And even after all that, even the masterpieces made by my goldsmith friend, well, most I like but some I just don't because, they just don't appeal to me. Just because I like a given coffee doesn't mean someone else will.

The only way to find a coffee we each really like is to try them, but you can narrow the field some using the GIGO principle. You can also narrow it by asking others what they like, then trying it. You may or may not agree.

If anyone has a better shortcut to "really good" coffee than that, please let me know.

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Oh, one more thing. About 20 years ago I spent some time in Japan with a major Japanese corporate. One evening, our group drank a high-end hotel completely out of top quality champage. It cost a fortune. I hated it. It was so dry it, quite literally, gave me gut ache after a single glass. I switched to, and preferred, tonic water. .But the champage was eye-wateringly expensive. Go figure.

I'm nota huge champagne fan anyway, but don't mind some. That one, to me, was undrinkable but most others seemed to like it, judging by how much they consumed.

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26 minutes ago, Rob666 said:

We all lean to the chocolate, nuts, caramel end of things. For the past few months we've been using a very low priced single origin, dark roast Columbian. It suits us better than any of the more expensive SOs or blends we've tried in the past. Of course, I still experiment with other beans and other roasters but keep coming back to this one.

Sounds good. Would love to know what coffee you are talking about.

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The other thing that can affect retail price for the same product, is private label/White Label/Contract roasting.

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Nothing here...

 

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42 minutes ago, CoffeePhilE said:

So, high price could mean great quality inputs, well-handled, or crap inputs and a gouging idiot seller, or crap inputs handled well and making the best of a poor material. You cannot tell which by price. You can often tell which by the reputation of the seller. A good roaster will do a at least a decent job with what they have, and won't buy crap in the first place because it's reputational suicide to do so.

Very interesting points, thank you. Let's simplify and say that the quality of roasted coffee beans has two elements: The raw material that goes in (green beans), and the roasting.

Starting with the green beans - let's say it costs between X and Y to produce quality beans. Anything costing below X will be of horse manure quality, and therefore no roaster can produce a quality product from it. Anything above Y would be paying for things other than quality (say marketing, or whatever).

Now let's assume the same for roasting: It costs between A and B to do a quality roast. Anything below A would be crap quality, and anything above B would be paying a premium for other things.

Now if X + A enables sale of roasted coffee at £18 per kilo, assuming you buy from a respectable roaster, paying less than £18 will likely give you bad quality. Paying more than Y + B is unlikely to increase the quality. 

If the above is true, we only have to find out what's the range between X and Y, and between A and B, and then decide if paying more within the range is likely to improve the quality.

In my view, with some things you really don't need to pay that much to get really good stuff. If I think of apples - if you pay a 10 pence per kilo you can't expect much quality. But if you pay £2-3 per kilo you can get really nice apples (not sure if the numbers are correct). Sure you can pay more, maybe a lot more, but there is the law of diminishing returns and there is just a limit to how much more quality you can get for your money. Not sure if and how it applies to coffee, but my hunch is that it might be similar.

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I think the logic there, Doram, is sound. But we might well all be indanger of over-thinking this.

Yes, either poor quality beans, or poor roasting, result in bad drinking experience. Or both, of course.

But by buying from a decent roaster you will, short of mistake, avoid both really poor inputs and really poor roasts. At least, I sure hope so. I'd like to think a decent small roaster would rather ditch an occasional duff batch than damage their reputation. Put it this way. I will forgive the odd rough bag. It's an inexact science, after all. Or rather, an inexact art. And I'd like to think even pretty small roasters have basic QC in place that should pick up a truly naff roast before it gets near shipping to a customer. While I'd forgive an occasional duff bag (though the roaster might get .... ummm, feedback, from me) if it started happening regularly, that tells me to look for a different suppler.

Obviously, if a roaster is poducing tonnes every week and shipping to supermarkets, that also ought to avoid really naff results BUT we're now in the realm of supermarket coffee buyers, versus people on a forum like this who really have higher expectations than that. We don't spend hundreds or thousands on equipment expecting a Nescafe (other brands are available) instant result. Those kind of operations can afford to spend a million or two on QC kit, profiling, automation, etc which should guarantee a certain minimum base, and price points at that, but mosty, it guarantees consistency, jar to jar, month to month. That's not us.

But a good small-ish roaster (not the home roasting crowd but commercial) should still be buying decent green beans, have a work-flow in place, be profiling everything they reasonably can and have sufficient QC in place to avoid giant goofs. What they cannot do, though, is tell us what our taste buds like.

I think buying a bean that coffee lovers will like does imply a floor price, and a willingness to pay it, I'd love to pay £5/kg for what I like, but we have to accept that the quality of drink we want implies a floor price, as it does with a good quality of anything, from clothes to cars. Above that floor and yes, you can improve the drinking experience but we all having different taste buds, and different taste preferences, doesn't necessarily mean we'll prefer a more expensive bag. But we might.

After a certain point, we're probably paying for exclusivity, rareness, the implications of demand exceeding supply or, yeah, slick marketing. A really expensive coffee with really slick marketing might, to your tastes, still be "better" but the higher you go in price, the more diminishing marginal returns apply, and the greater the risk that you just don't like the taste.

If I can get a coffee I really like at £18/kg, great. If I get one at £35/kg, do I like the taste sufficiently more to justify the cost being nearly double? That's harder, but if I do, I'd buy it. Much above that, I'm going to take some convincing to try it but, occassionally for a treat, I might cross my fingers and hope.

Then, of course, having got a given bag, there's the question of whether my gear and especially my skill can get the best out of it. That, for me at least, probably has more impact on how it tastes than whether it's £18 or £35.

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2 hours ago, Rapid said:

 

https://www.coaltowncoffee.co.uk/products/red-de-mujeres?variant=32942152548436

https://www.crownandcanvas.co.uk/product-page/Guatemala-Reddemujeres

So we have here an £18 bean and a >£35 bean. Which is better? They're exactly the same! (I accept they will be roasted differently but that's another discussion).

So if we're talking about the price from roasters determining quality of bean - I'd say we can clearly debunk that theory right here. 

 

The discounted price is not the price. Not that that matters to you as a consumer but the forum discount is a discount.

Aside from that the Red De Mujeres are an excellent example.

They were available from Falcon for £6.32/kg in 69kg sacks. 

They were sold by many roasters until recently when most sold out. They're £22.50 without shipping from Crown and Canvas (£26.49 with shipping) and £35.65 with free shipping from Coaltown. From Square Mile they're £33 (£36 with shipping). Horsham were selling it at £28.50 with free shipping. I'd expect the price to be around £20-25 and would be surprised if the roasters selling it averaged out above that price point after shipping is taken into account (because it's not free)...so yeah there are roasters overcharging, sometimes significantly, but it's not difficult to spot if you do some price comparisons.

A point to add: Falcon launched Falcon Micro and repackaged and resold the Red De Mujeres in 5kg batches at £11.54/kg. It's possible Square Mile and Coaltown bought at that price (which would explain their price) but I doubt it, especially for the former.

 

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Tastes vary. 

Some people have good taste and others… well, let’s say they can be different.

I enjoy wine. Expensive wine tends to be more reliably good than cheap wine but, if you go for fashionable stuff, you’ll often find you’re paying a premium for something not that ‘special’. I also drink cheap wine and am often pleasantly surprised by how remarkably good it can be, although I cannot be assured of when to expect such experiences.

Surely it’s much the same with coffee?

When you’ve found something that you like, keep with that and become familiar with it. You can then use it as a benchmark to explore others. Your taste is likely to vary, much as I have swung away from one variety of wine to return to it again later. If you cannot afford £30+/kg coffee, don’t try it. The enjoyment will be reduced by the impact on your pocket, especially if you’re satisfied with cheaper products, and you're likely to become miserable should you hanker for something beyond reach. 

The market is driven by supply and demand and I think it’s most stable in the middle. If people don’t like something, they won’t buy and the price will be adjusted to whatever it will bear. At the upper end of the market prices rise disproportionately, for those who can afford silly amounts of money.

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15 minutes ago, rogher said:

 

Tastes vary. 

Some people have good taste and others… well, let’s say they can be different.

I enjoy wine. Expensive wine tends to be more reliably good than cheap wine but, if you go for fashionable stuff, you’ll often find you’re paying a premium for something not that ‘special’. I also drink cheap wine and am often pleasantly surprised by how remarkably good it can be, although I cannot be assured of when to expect such experiences.

Surely it’s much the same with coffee?

 

With roasted coffee, it's a bit like this. So expensive coffee should be a lot better (up to a point) because the markup cannot be sustained and has to be reduced. Roasters of more expensive coffee sacrifice volume and margin....increasing risk/stock holding value, but making more money overall. This is especially true when you have a small roaster. e.g. 30% of £50 is 15 and  20% of 100 is £20

 

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Nothing here...

 

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3 hours ago, Rob1 said:

... Aside from that the Red De Mujeres are an excellent example.

They were available from Falcon for £6.32/kg in 69kg sacks. 

They were sold by many roasters until recently when most sold out. They're £22.50 without shipping from Crown and Canvas (£26.49 with shipping) and £35.65 with free shipping from Coaltown. From Square Mile they're £33 (£36 with shipping). Horsham were selling it at £28.50 with free shipping. I'd expect the price to be around £20-25 and would be surprised if the roasters selling it averaged out above that price point after shipping is taken into account (because it's not free)...so yeah there are roasters overcharging, sometimes significantly, but it's not difficult to spot if you do some price comparisons.

A point to add: Falcon launched Falcon Micro and repackaged and resold the Red De Mujeres in 5kg batches at £11.54/kg. It's possible Square Mile and Coaltown bought at that price (which would explain their price) but I doubt it, especially for the former.

 

It's more complicated than that, though. Firstly, it's much more expensive to run businesses in London than, well, almost anywhere else in the country. Rent, property prices, taxes, etc. all tend to be much higher. Then, staff costs. As staff tend to live somewhere in the general area, their living costs will be commensurately higher too, so their pay has to be, in order to leave them just equally compensated.

While that might be a good argument for a consumer to buy from rural Wherever, not London, it doesn't amount to proof of "over-charging" by the London-based firm. They might be, but we can't prove it just by looking at raw material prices. Their costs involve substantially more than just coffee bean prices.

Secondly, we all know that just as one person can get a far better-tasting cup of coffee from a measure of beans, depending on what grinder they use, what machine they use and what expertise they have, than another so a similar comparison goes to roasting. Suppose roaster A has a much higher investment in equipment? That might allow them to produce better, or even just more consistent, results. But that equipment can be expensive and has to be paid for. One roaster may shift sufficently more volume so that investment is viable, whereas for another, it isn't.

Shifting a lot of extra volume may allow a wider range of product, but require bigger premises, more machines, more people, and so on.

Or, yes, a certain celebrity or high profile status may just allow higher prices to be charged.  But if person A can charge more than B, and still shift their stock, why shouldn't they? Those clever enough, or well-informed enough, can still choose to use B, whose product quality is to their satisfaction. 

To really judge over-pricing, we'd need to buy sample quantities, over a period of time, and run blind taste tests with a broad selection of people. And then, have an accountant go through both companies detailed accounts to compare cost structures and profit levels. That comparison might give evidence of price exploitation, or simply just better business nous, but raw material pricing is a bit simplistic to draw that conclusion. See my earlier example of what I can do with a couple of ounces of 24-carat gold, compared to what my expert goldsmith friend could do with it.

Edited by CoffeePhilE
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32 minutes ago, CoffeePhilE said:

It's more complicated than that, though. Firstly, it's much more expensive to run businesses in London than, well, almost anywhere else in the country. Rent, property prices, taxes, etc. all tend to be much higher. Then, staff costs. As staff tend to live somewhere in the general area, their living costs will be commensurately higher too, so their pay has to be, in order to leave them just equally compensated.

While that might be a good argument for a consumer to buy from rural Wherever, not London, it doesn't amount to proof of "over-charging" by the London-based firm. They might be, but we can't prove it just by looking at raw material prices. Their costs involve substantially more than just coffee bean prices.

Secondly, we all know that just as one person can get a far better-tasting cup of coffee from a measure of beans, depending on what grinder they use, what machine they use and what expertise they have, than another so a similar comparison goes to roasting. Suppose roaster A has a much higher investment in equipment? That might allow them to produce better, or even just more consistent, results. But that equipment can be expensive and has to be paid for. One roaster may shift sufficently more volume so that investment is viable, whereas for another, it isn't.

Shifting a lot of extra volume may allow a wider range of product, but require bigger premises, more machines, more people, and so on.

Or, yes, a certain celebrity or high profile status may just allow higher prices to be charged.  But if person A can charge more than B, and still shift their stock, why shouldn't they? Those clever enough, or well-informed enough, can still choose to use B, whose product quality is to their satisfaction. 

To really judge over-pricing, we'd need to buy sample quantities, over a period of time, and run blind taste tests with a broad selection of people. And then, have an accountant go through both companies detailed accounts to compare cost structures and profit levels. That comparison might give evidence of price exploitation, or simply just better business nous, but raw material pricing is a bit simplistic to draw that conclusion. See my earlier example of what I can do with a couple of ounces of 24-carat gold, compared to what my expert goldsmith friend could do with it.

Excellent points, can't agree more.

So the question I wanted to ask people experienced in buying coffee at different bands is if they found that the upper band gives them better quality beans (not interested in the rest). Some answered yes to this question, but from what others wrote it's not a very clear cut. I guess people who keep buying for upper prices think it is worth it, otherwise they wouldn't do it (unless they have other reasons). On the other hand, no one said explicitly that they feel there is no point in paying more because they get the same quality from the lower band as they got from upper band.

I believe there are also psychological reasons that affect how we feel about the decisions we make and how we justify them to ourselves. We might feel better when we pay more (or less) than the other way around, and we need to justify to ourselves whatever we do. We like to think of ourselves as rational beings, but science proved many times that we are far from it. 🙂

Anyway, I enjoyed the discussion, so thanks to everyone who contributed so far.

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1 hour ago, CoffeePhilE said:

It's more complicated than that, though. Firstly, it's much more expensive to run businesses in London than, well, almost anywhere else in the country. Rent, property prices, taxes, etc. all tend to be much higher. Then, staff costs. As staff tend to live somewhere in the general area, their living costs will be commensurately higher too, so their pay has to be, in order to leave them just equally compensated.

While that might be a good argument for a consumer to buy from rural Wherever, not London, it doesn't amount to proof of "over-charging" by the London-based firm. They might be, but we can't prove it just by looking at raw material prices. Their costs involve substantially more than just coffee bean prices.

Secondly, we all know that just as one person can get a far better-tasting cup of coffee from a measure of beans, depending on what grinder they use, what machine they use and what expertise they have, than another so a similar comparison goes to roasting. Suppose roaster A has a much higher investment in equipment? That might allow them to produce better, or even just more consistent, results. But that equipment can be expensive and has to be paid for. One roaster may shift sufficently more volume so that investment is viable, whereas for another, it isn't.

Shifting a lot of extra volume may allow a wider range of product, but require bigger premises, more machines, more people, and so on.

Or, yes, a certain celebrity or high profile status may just allow higher prices to be charged.  But if person A can charge more than B, and still shift their stock, why shouldn't they? Those clever enough, or well-informed enough, can still choose to use B, whose product quality is to their satisfaction. 

To really judge over-pricing, we'd need to buy sample quantities, over a period of time, and run blind taste tests with a broad selection of people. And then, have an accountant go through both companies detailed accounts to compare cost structures and profit levels. That comparison might give evidence of price exploitation, or simply just better business nous, but raw material pricing is a bit simplistic to draw that conclusion. See my earlier example of what I can do with a couple of ounces of 24-carat gold, compared to what my expert goldsmith friend could do with it.

I agree that to judge over-pricing you'd need to actually ascertain there's no quality difference between the roasts. There will be differences but I'm giving benefit of the doubt to all the roasters and assuming they're all competent and that the coffee is properly roasted on commercial equipment capable of roasting coffee properly. You might like a better than b and it wouldn't have anything to do with price, just chance. 

The operating cost and investment is irrelevant really or at least the extra charges per kg would be insignificant. You'll pay more for the location, especially when they have a physical store in London as square mile do. It's still over-charging. It might be over-charging for a good reason to cover their operating costs but it's still excess cost that adds nothing to the product. Bigger batch sizes means more investment in equipment, more staff, more space etc, which is all paid for by the increased volume of sales. There should be enough profit from a one person operation to pay one person, and as business picks up more staff are brought in, the roaster needs to get a new roaster to increase batch size which means more investment but you wouldn't increase cost because of that, just concentrate on shifting larger and larger volumes until you're at the point you don't want to go bigger. Increasing cost when you invest in equipment is a fantastic way of losing and alienating customers.

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In answer to your original question, Doram, my direct answer would be .... a guarded, hesitant "generally, yes" but with some big caveats.

As per my last answer there are many reasons why prices might be higher.

Also, I may, by sheer luck, have tried several cheaper coffees that I happen to like, and several more expensive ones that don't suit me. Or vice-versa.

I also agree about the psychology. Most of us are good, consciously or otherwise, atfinding reasons both to justify what we did, and what we want to do. Sometimes (IMHO) they're fully justified reasons but sometimes it's little more than confirmation bias. For instance, I tend to justify buying the best "whatever" I can afford with the "buy right, buy once - buy cheap, buy often" logic. It's often true, but sometimes it's just outright cheaper, even long-term, to buy cheap, and rarely more true than for something you won't use often.

The way I buy "nice" coffee probably should depend not only on my assessment of "nice", but on how often I do it. Several times a day? Buy a decent even if expensive machine, grinder, scales, good beans and be prepared to practice. But if I do I twice a month, either buy a Nespresso or just find a decent local boutique coffee shop.

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If I remember my basic marketing theory correctly, it goes something like this:

How much of this do we want/expect to sell?
At what price can we achieve this?
Can we produce the product and make a profit at that price?
All else follows...
 

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Slighty more nuanced marketing strategy would look at how much/many you can produce with existing resources, what demand levels you think there will be at various price points, and what strategy maximises either profit, or overall non-profit objectives, or both. After all, profit is a strong motivator, but so are building either long-term relationships or a brand recognition and reputation. Profit in the short-term and profit in the long term are also different, but .... be aware of "cake tomorrow" orders and mindsets.

A lot will depend on the nature of the product. The objectives for marketing, say, Rolls Royce, Rolex, designer clothes or sunglasses (RayBan, Silhouette, etc) will be different to marketing, oh, Hovis bread or Coca Cola. Marketing a 'premium' brand is a different proposition to marketing a commodity product.

We could argue that despite SQ having a boss with a modest degree of celebrity, and celebrity pretty much confined to the coffee world at that, none the less he is marketing a 'premium' brand, and even if raw materials going in, the green  beans, are the same, the product coming out is not, because of his processing. Of course, others might see that as bullpoop, but if he believes it works and he sells his coffee, good luck to him. If hecn monetise his awards, good for him. I can't say I wouldn't do so too, in his shoes.

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14 minutes ago, CoffeePhilE said:

 

We could argue that despite SQ having a boss with a modest degree of celebrity, and celebrity pretty much confined to the coffee world at that, none the less he is marketing a 'premium' brand, and even if raw materials going in, the green  beans, are the same, the product coming out is not, because of his processing. Of course, others might see that as bullpoop, but if he believes it works and he sells his coffee, good luck to him. If hecn monetise his awards, good for him. I can't say I wouldn't do so too, in his shoes.

But his company has plenty of product in the mid range. SQMile prices are not out of line with many other roasters. 

I doubt you will see the same greens being offered at half price, roasted, by anyone.

For "premium" check out Harvey Nicks & East India brands, or Nespresso.

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I'm not sure we have the same definition of premium.

I can't say I've tried Harvey Nick's so this is just an assumption, but I have had, and in a few cases still have, bothtea and coffee from F&M and Harrods. Certainly for F&M it was their "brand", and I think Harrods was too. But I could have a CoffeePhile brand. Some manufacturers will happily produce it for me, to my spec and in my branded containers, bags, jars or whatever. But sticking a healthy price on it doesn't make it premium, just expensive.

My definition of premium? Well, maybe Lobbs for shoes, or Patek Philippe for watches. That is, high quality (or allegedly high quality, though absolutely justifiably so in those two examples) product that comes at a commensurately high price.

Personally, I wouldn't class Nespresso as a premium product either. Just premium-priced but focussed on convenience, not top quality. All IMHO, of course.

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11 minutes ago, CoffeePhilE said:

I'm not sure we have the same definition of premium.

I can't say I've tried Harvey Nick's so this is just an assumption, but I have had, and in a few cases still have, bothtea and coffee from F&M and Harrods. Certainly for F&M it was their "brand", and I think Harrods was too. But I could have a CoffeePhile brand. Some manufacturers will happily produce it for me, to my spec and in my branded containers, bags, jars or whatever. But sticking a healthy price on it doesn't make it premium, just expensive.

My definition of premium? Well, maybe Lobbs for shoes, or Patek Philippe for watches. That is, high quality (or allegedly high quality, though absolutely justifiably so in those two examples) product that comes at a commensurately high price.

Personally, I wouldn't class Nespresso as a premium product either. Just premium-priced but focussed on convenience, not top quality. All IMHO, of course.

"IMHO" & "personally" make meaningful definitions & conversations about those definitions very difficult.

I can't think of a better brand for premium status (in the commonly held sense, rather than my personal feelings) in coffee than Nespresso, customers pay a high price for perceived quality & convenience. A significant difference being you get a beverage at the end of the day, not simply an ingredient. Top quality would be 90+ coffees  & luxury, rather than premium (perhaps luxury would be a better definition for Harvey Nicks, on reflection, where quality is vague but price is paramount).

What is top quality coffee? Specialty is anything over 80 cup score, most of which barely gets much past 85...what is then top? Top quality would seem to exceed a typical definition of "premium" (one to one trade off of price v quality).

Honestly, I don't recall people talking much about "premium coffee". "Specialty" sure, but these are little known brands with the emphasis on quality, less about high price. Squaremile, like most specialty roasters are mid priced, with occasional high priced lots. 

 

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13 hours ago, Rapid said:

the same example that I used on another thread, where the price of exactly the same bean was about half the price between different roasters! (using forum discount code).

https://www.coaltowncoffee.co.uk/products/red-de-mujeres?variant=32942152548436

https://www.crownandcanvas.co.uk/product-page/Guatemala-Reddemujeres

So we have here an £18 bean and a >£35 bean. Which is better? They're exactly the same! (I accept they will be roasted differently but that's another discussion).

I can say that I have tried the Crown&Canvas one and it was deeeeelish - to my tastes that is, but each to his own.

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On 05/01/2021 at 22:49, MWJB said:

We can either see if the Australian apple has won any international awards, judged by an industry panel, to increase our confidence in buying an unknown quantity. We might still be disappointed.

as a complete novice, but up for some debate - I am going to put this out there ( and also point to a cutting remark about those of us who like chocolate notes).......

 

Who says the "industry" panel are looking for what "I" want in coffee?

 

My example is this - I know nothing, and as such I have been reading all I can , and trying to fit what I can into my Old old brain, and  - as far as I can tell - and do tell me if I am undoubtely wrong - the SCA criteria for judging what coffee gets speciality of 85 and above leans very very heavily in favour of "light" roasts.

 

Being a gal keener on the Dark side, and finding myself in the minority - I am focusing on the flavour notes, the place it was grown, and also importantly - who is roasting it.

So - I put it out there - now tell me allllll the ways I am so very wrong😜

 

 

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3 minutes ago, Catlady101 said:

Who says the "industry" panel are looking for what "I" want in coffee?

They're not...next :-)

Seriously though, conflating somewhat repeatable quality scores, with what an individual likes, confuses the issue (without making either wrong).

Quality is a more objective parameter, maybe based on a controlled diagnostic excercise (cupping).

If someone thinks a cup of Nescafe with whipped cream & a banana in it is the best coffee they have ever had, then they are free to enjoy that, whether it conforms to a wider perception of quality, or not.

Cupping has specifications on roast and is manual, immersion brewed. A cupped & scored coffee may well be roasted darker for espresso. Chocolate is also present in light roasted coffee & not an indicator of quality, or otherwise.

You might be in a minority whilst in a group of light roasted coffee drinkers, but in the coffee universe, you are likely in the majority. I don't know why that would matter, coffee preference (like all others) isn't democratic. Most people outside forums don't even knowingly discuss roast level.

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