Traditional versus Third-wave Coffee Shops

Which Style of Coffee Shop is Better?

After a day in Caffè Bar Ficini of Rome, Italy, it became as light as day to understand the philosophical and practical differences between

Traditional and Third-wave Coffee Shops:

  • Traditional coffee is like dance while 
  • Third-wave coffee is like math.
    • Baristas of traditional cafes lead their clients through the cafe experience. No guide or maps needed.
    • Baristas of third-wave cafes let the client equate their own cafe experience.

  • Traditional cafes are about a feeling while 
  • Third-wave cafes are about an equation.
    • A traditional barista must feel when the coffee is ready. No timers, no thermometers, nor automatic machines.
    • A third-wave barista knows when the coffee is ready because the timers, thermometers, and automatic machines tell them so.

  • Traditional coffee is about quality while 
  • Third-wave coffee is about appearance.
    • Latte art is an unnecessary distraction if serving traditional coffee.
    • Latte art is an added detail if serving third-wave coffee.

  • Traditional cafes are about character while 
  • Third-wave cafes are about perfection.
    • When using a traditional machine, no need to wipe the portafilters between shots. Like a well-used Japanese teapot, the buildup of coffee grind adds depth to the espresso.
    • When using a third-wave machine, consistency is integral.

  • Traditional coffee is about efficiency while 
  • Third-wave coffee is about sterility.
    • Traditionalists have streamlined the coffee-making process.
    • Third-wavists have accentuated the coffee-making process.

  • Traditional cafes are about economy while 
  • Third-wave cafes are about extravagance.
    • Clients of traditional coffee shops believe that the same, simple coffee is better. Too many choices over-complicates the cafe experience.
    • Clients of third-wave coffee shops believe that a variety of choice benefits the cafe experience.

All in all, neither is better than the other. They both offer a unique cafe-going experience.


Now, go out and impress people with your random coffee knowledge! And as always, thank you for reading and joining me on this #internationalcoffeejourney

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