September 13, 2022

Will coffee consumers’ focus on education continue beyond Covid-19?


Covid-19 undoubtedly had a major impact on the global coffee industry. There’s no denying the vast majority of the ripple effects were detrimental to many coffee businesses; in early 2020, around 95% of those operating in the out-of-home sector had to close their doors. Some of these businesses then ended up closing permanently.

Naturally, this led many consumers to start brewing more coffee at home. According to a 2022 National Coffee Data Trends report from the National Coffee Association, a record 85% of the US population were drinking at least one cup of coffee per day in 2020.

So, in response to this boom in home coffee consumption, some coffee shops and roasters started offering remote educational courses to people interested in making café-quality beverages. 

But as Covid-19 restrictions continue to ease around the world, we have an important question to ask: will the demand for these courses continue? To find out, I spoke to three coffee professionals for their insight. Read on to learn more about what they told me.

You may also like our article on how access to coffee education changed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

a selection of home consumer coffee items

Covid-19 and home coffee consumption

In late March 2020, it was estimated that some 20% of the global population were ordered to remain at home to slow down the spread of Covid-19. As coffee shops around the world closed, many consumers turned their focus to preparing their own coffee at home.

We saw a number of changes in home coffee consumption in the pandemic. Alongside a shift to online sales, we also saw more people buy from local roasters; as well as being driven by convenience, more people became invested in who they were buying their coffee from.

What’s more, sales of home brewing equipment also increased as consumers attempted to replicate café-quality coffee themselves.

Jake Holmes is the Managing Director of Mission Coffee Works in London, UK. He tells me that the company experienced a significant increase in the sales of home brewing equipment during the first few months of the pandemic.

Alongside these, one of the more prominent trends throughout the pandemic was the rise of ecommerce sales – including coffee subscriptions – as customers were unable to visit coffee shops and roasters in person.

“[At the start of the pandemic], we quickly adapted our business model and focused on ecommerce,” Jake tells me. “At the same time, there was also an increase in the sales of brewing equipment; people definitely had a keen interest in making coffee at home.”

As such, more consumers started to experiment with different brew methods and origins. Subsequently, consumer preferences started to shift, with some people buying higher-quality beans and investing in better equipment.

However, consumers also realised that having good coffee and equipment wasn’t important if you didn’t have the knowledge to accompany them. This meant many turned to online coffee resources; in fact, internet searches for “how to make coffee” and “coffee brewing tips” undoubtedly increased during the pandemic.

a cup of coffee next to a laptop with online coffee education class on the screen

Why was there a boom in online coffee education?

The sharp rise in home coffee consumption during Covid-19 arguably shifted consumer preferences and introduced more people to specialty coffee. Many people became more interested in learning about different origins, processing methods, and roast profiles.

As a direct response to this, many roasters and coffee shops launched online educational platforms for consumers.

Dani Bordiniuc is a professional barista, as well as a coffee content creator and consultant. He is also the founder of Brewing With Dani, an educational platform which focuses on home barista online workshops. Prior to the pandemic, the classes were held in person.

“I was sceptical [to shift to online learning] in the beginning because I enjoy the personal connection with my students,” he tells me. “But I was surprised by how well it worked [for everyone].

“Moving online allowed me to reach more people,” he adds.

Dani says that at the start of the pandemic, many of the course participants purchased entry-level home espresso machines. However, he notes that despite investing in quality equipment, some struggled with more of the technical skills, including dialling in and tasting espresso, steaming milk, and pouring latte art.

“The course attendees were very curious,” he explains. “What started as my own project documenting my personal journey in coffee quickly transformed into an educational resource for other people.”

a man prepares pour over coffee with a gooseneck kettle

Will the industry keep this up?

So, with Covid-19 restrictions continuing to ease around the world, is there still an opportunity for coffee shops and roasters to maintain consumers’ interest in online coffee education?

Mila Green is the manager and head barista at Detour Coffee in Ontario, Canada. She thinks social media will continue to be a useful component of online learning as far as coffee is concerned.

“Posting on social media is a great way to keep up momentum for online coffee education,” she says. “Video formats are popular nowadays, such as TikTok, where you only have 30 seconds to grab consumers’ attention and interest.

“As coffee professionals, this pushes us to be more creative and show more consumers how to brew high-quality coffee, as well as answering any questions they might have,” she adds.

Instagram is another social media platform that’s proven popular with home coffee consumers. Over the past few years, more and more coffee influencers have begun sharing educational content via the platform and connecting with people who are interested in learning more about coffee.

“Via Instagram Live, you can chat with your followers, post polls on your stories, or use IGTV to engage with people – whichever way works best for your followers,” Mila tells me.

As well as social media, YouTube is another key platform for figures and coffee brands to lean on. For instance, the founder of Square Mile Coffee Roasters, James Hoffmann, has some 1.4 million followers of his coffee YouTube channel, which covers a wide range of topics.

For many consumers, educational coffee content on social media and other digital platforms can help to make the specialty coffee sector more accessible and easier to understand – improving awareness across the board.

people cupping coffee as part of a course

Looking to the future

It’s clear that online coffee education saw a big upturn during the pandemic, but there are understandably concerns over whether this trend will continue as more people return to visiting coffee shops in person. 

Mila, however, believes that online coffee education will remain popular.

“I think that it will continue post-pandemic, but possibly in a different way to what it was before,” she explains.

She says that prior to the pandemic, most coffee businesses held more formal educational classes in person, and the target audience were mostly prosumers.

However, since then, the type of consumer interested in coffee education has diversified – meaning less informal educational opportunities are still an option.

“Now, more people are asking us questions about our equipment and about our retail coffee options,” Mila adds.

However, there is a risk that because coffee shops and roasters around the world are largely switching back to normal opening hours, the number of people interested in online coffee education could steadily decline. 

Furthermore, while some people still work remotely, many people have returned to offices and other workplaces, even if hybrid working is becoming more popular. This could mean consumers have less free time to participate in online coffee courses, as well as brewing their own café-quality beverages at home.

Jake, meanwhile, believes that consumer education will remain an important focus for some coffee businesses.

“Since the pandemic, consumers have been far more engaged and much more knowledgeable about coffee,” he says. “People now expect more from their coffee, so I think consumer coffee education is here to stay.”

Dani agrees, saying: “Curiosity is key, but we have to be careful to not overwhelm people with information, but rather give them the tools they need to continue asking questions. 

“I think it’s important that we all do our part to help with this,” he concludes.

a woman prepares pour over coffee

As the world moves on from Covid-19, more and more coffee brands are returning to something resembling normal service. While this could mean that the uptake of online coffee courses could fall, some people in the industry are hopeful that coffee consumer education will continue in other forms.

At the very least, the proliferation of coffee content on social media means there are more platforms than ever before through which coffee businesses can share their knowledge and expertise. 

And with people now more accustomed to learning online, it’s likely that coffee consumer education will continue to be popular for years to come.

Enjoyed this? Then read our article on online education in the coffee sector.

Photo credits: Brewing with Dani

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