Coffee News: from Seed to Cup

Coffunity: Can This App Change How We Compare Roasted Coffee?

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Finding new coffees isn’t easy, even when you’re connected to the specialty scene. And it’s even harder when you’re new to coffee. Enter Coffunity: the new app designed to help you find new, user and expert-reviewed, retail coffees to try.

Will this revolutionise how we discover and compare retail coffee? And how can you get involved? We spoke to Federico and Andrea Bolanos, the people behind this new app, to find out more.

Spanish Version: Coffunity: ¿Puede esta Aplicación Cambiar la Forma en que Comparamos el Café Tostado?

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Is the future of retail coffee app-based? Credit: Coffunity

What Is Coffunity?

Coffunity is the creation of Federico and Andrea Bolanos. Federico trained seven El Salvador Barista Champions between 2008 and 2014, including the 2011 World Barista Champion Alejandro Mendez, two finalists (2013 and 2014), and three semi-finalists (2009, 2010, and 2012). He’s the Director of Coffee for Cafe Tuxpal, Head of Education for Viva Espresso, a certified Q-Grader, and a SCAE Authorised Trainer. In short, he’s passionate about two things: quality coffee and helping people to discover it.

Federico and Andrea’s soon-to-be-launched app was developed with one goal in mind: a database of retail coffees, commodity to specialty, Panamanian Geisha to Tesco Italian Blend, and everything in between. Users can look up a coffee just by taking a photo of it, or they can search for something new. Federico told me, “We want to include every type of retail coffee available, so people can easily find different coffees to try.”

Coffees are added by users, meaning there will initially be gaps in the database. However, Federico says, “Our projections, which are based on similar apps in other industries and market research, indicate that we should have 50,000 coffees in the first year. We’ve received heavy investment, allowing us to promote the app and gain more listings.”

Users will also be able to rate and review the coffees they try, helping others choose which coffee to purchase next as well as keeping track of their own preferences.

Federico Bolanos

Federico Bolanos with all the trophies he’s coached Salvadorans into winning.

Will Coffunity Help The Coffee Community?

I asked Federico to tell me how Coffunity can benefit the coffee community, and he told me there are four main ways:

1. Users Will Discover The Wide Range of Coffees Available

It’s easy for those outside the specialty scene to think coffee is “just coffee”. Some state their preferences by brand – Nescafé vs Kenco, Starbucks vs Costa Coffee – while others will mention the country.

But a database like Coffunity, where users can search by country, region within the country, varietal, processing method, roast profile, and more, will serve as an introduction to the wide variety of coffees available. And even those knowledgeable about specialty have room to learn more, whether it’s obscure varietals, experimental processing methods, or coffees that buck the stereotype.

“Coffunity will be a useful tool for both those who drink or work in the third wave and those who have always been curious about coffee, but haven’t known where to find out more,” Federico tells me.

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Learn about coffee via your smartphone. Credit: Coffunity

2. Producers & Roasters Will Have a New Platform

Would Geisha ever have been discovered, or caused so much stir, without coffee competitions? What about La Palma Y El Tucán? Los Pirineos? Cuatro M? Ninety Plus?

But competing isn’t easy. And even these coffees and farms are only known within a small circle. A database of reviewed coffees democratises the coffee industry, allowing all coffees to be judged equally.

There are still obstacles to be overcome – not the least of which is producers finding a buyer and/or roaster. However, Federico tells me, “Coffunity is a step towards a coffee industry which is weighted more towards the producer”.

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La Palma y El Tucán & Onyx Coffee Lab working together.  Credit: Michael Flores

3. Users Can Develop Their Understanding of Coffee

“Sometimes you can know that you like the sweet, fruity flavour of a coffee without knowing what gives it that flavour. But if you read the reviews and the description, you’ll realise that it comes from the natural processing, and that it’s also a typical East African flavour, for example,” Federico explains.

“You will also be able to see what coffees you’ve liked in the past. For users who are new to coffee, this will help them understand that they like Central American coffees, or medium roasts. Then you can search for coffees like that. And, thanks to the review system, you’ll be able to find good-quality ones.”

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Love to try new coffees? You’ll be able to review them all. Credit: Ana Valencia

SEE ALSO: Origin, Altitude, Notes: How to Buy Coffee You’ll Like

4. Users Can Learn About “Good Coffee”

Anything with a review system will lead users to ask what “quality” means, and Federico is passionate about the opportunities this creates for Coffunity.

“Users will look at our carefully picked experts, and will read their reviews out of curiosity. This will help them to think about coffee differently – in the same way experts do. And when they realise the price difference between a bag of supermarket, Starbucks, and specialty beans isn’t that great, they will be tempted to try the one with the best reviews.”

One of the biggest complaints levied against the third wave is its seeming “insider status”. For those who don’t understand it, menus can seem incomprehensible. And as of such, the coffee on the menu can also seem overpriced. Any platform which makes specialty more accessible will go a long way to attracting second wave consumers.

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Learn more about your coffee. Credit: Rusty Bridges

When Will Coffunity Be Launched?

Coffunity is scheduled to launch in late Spring/early Summer 2017. However, users wanting early access can sign up to Coffunity’s Coffee Label Contest App (Android version, iPhone/iPad version). This is the gamified app which will be used to build Coffunity’s database.

What’s more, one person will win a Chemex, Acaia scale, Stagg kettle, and Comandante hand-grinder: everything you need to brew exceptional coffee at home.

comandante grinder

Win a Comandante hand-grinder along with an Acaia scale, Stagg Kettle, and Chemex. Credit: Comandante

To do this, users must take photos of coffee bags or boxes – with the labels clear and easy to read! – and upload them. The prize goes to the person who took the most photos.

“Users can gain this prize just by shooting snaps in a café or supermarket,” Federico tells me. “And they’ll know that they’re helping other people in the industry discover the same great coffee they love.”

Acaia pearl prize

Win an Acaia scale, along with a Comandante hand-grinder, Stagg Kettle, and Chemex. Credit: Acaia

Written by Tanya Newton, with thanks to Federico Bolanos of Coffunity for talking.

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