America loves coffee. Even more so, America loves gourmet coffee, and nothing fits the bill like hot specialty drinks, particularly those made with espresso. More than 60% of consumers say they have ordered a hot specialty drink in the previous month, according to Technomic’s recent Beverage report, and nearly 40% say they are purchasing more hot specialty coffee drinks now than they were two years ago, making this a hot area of opportunity.
Of course, not all hot specialty coffee drinks are made with espresso, but research from the National Coffee Association found that daily consumption of espresso-based beverages nearly tripled between 2008 and 2016. It’s the older millennial demographic (consumers 25- to 39-years old) that are most likely to be enjoying these beverages.
Consumers love seeing new, interesting options on the menu at their favorite cafe, but there’s always those loyal customers who want the tried-and-true favorites. For maximum interest, give them the classics along with a variety of traditional and trendy espresso drinks.
Classic espresso drinks
Espresso is a precise beverage—though its brewing seems more complex, it’s made with just a few grams of ground beans and brewed at a high pressure. The Specialty Coffee Association defines espresso as a 25-35 ml beverage prepared from 7-9 grams of coffee though which clear water of 195°-205°F has been forced at 9-10 atmospheres of pressure and where the grind of the coffee makes the brew “flow time” approximately 20-30 seconds. When the resulting product is poured into a beverage, though, it can be as simple or as complicated as its drinker wants it to be.
Some customers prefer their espresso-based drinks to stay simple. “The classics would be espresso (and Americano), cappuccino and latte,” says Mike McLaughlin, director of product management and product strategy for BUNN. “All three begin with the espresso shot as the heart of the beverage. The latte and cappuccino add layers of flavor complexity with the addition of milk steamed/heated and foamed.”
Other consumers love to add flavors, the most popular of which, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor, are vanilla, mocha and caramel.
Making them perfectly
Preparing the ideal espresso beverage isn’t possible without the right machine for the job. If the operation has experienced baristas producing high-quality espresso shots, as well as expertly crafted steamed and foamed milk, a traditional machine can do the trick, McLaughlin notes.
“If not, don’t fear. There are excellent machine alternatives available,” he says. “A super-automatic espresso system will automatically create the finished beverage and is well-suited for self-serve operations and ensuring consistently perfect beverages in attended serve environment where the staff may have limited experience.”
On the other hand, the automatic espresso system will automatically pour the espresso shot but relies on a steam wand for crafting the milk for the finished beverage, which works well for attended-serve environments. Additionally, it allows for alternative milks, such as soy, in the recipe lineup. There’s a third option: A combo system, which offers the best of both worlds. McLaughlin recommends Sure Tamp and Black & White espresso systems by BUNN that provide a full range of solutions, from super-automatic to automatic and combo operations.
Espresso drink flavor trends
Customers looking for something different will appreciate inventive concoctions appearing on the menu, particularly those that are seasonal. “Seasonal beverages are a treat, such as peppermint mochas and pumpkin spice lattes,” says McLaughlin. “Iced espresso beverages also benefit from flavors and we’re seeing more experimentation in flavor combinations.” Changing the menu throughout the year to allow new flavors to shine keep your guests excited to try fresh offerings, and nearly 30% of consumers report that they like to try new and unique beverages at restaurants, according to Technomic’s Beverage report.
In the fall and winter, ginger or gingerbread are some of the fastest-growing flavors for espresso drinks like lattes, as is maple. For example, Epcot at Walt Disney World offers a Maple Pecan Latte and Cafe Via Espresso in Astoria, New York, serves an Almond Maple Latte.
During other seasons, customers might be intrigued by a berry-flavored espresso drink. New York’s Buon Gelato and Euro Bar serves a Vanilla Red Berry beverage, which consists of two shots of espresso with French vanilla and raspberry syrup, topped with steamed milk and whipped cream.
Customers also seem interested in a few new trends, McLaughlin notes, including the introduction of nitro coffee and cold brews. Having an option for all sorts of consumer preferences is what keeps people coming back. From seasonal flavor trends to classic favorites, espresso-based drinks offer the variety that consumers crave.
This post is sponsored by BUNN