Quality does not sell itself

Great to have you here! In this blogpost I want to share some background for the studies we did on Behavioral Economics as there was a lot of things going on that lead to the studies that the are now published in The British Food Journal (http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1108/BFJ-03-2016-0127), Cafe Europa Magazine (September 2016) and Reco (https://youtu.be/3Jb03RWYrQ4).

The first study we did was done by Imane Bouzidi with myself and Thomas Zoëga Ramsøy from Copenhagen Business School at Decision Neuroscience Research Group (now Neurons inc (http://neuronsinc.com/)) as supervisors. This study is explained in details in SCAE’s members archive but here is a summary of the research design and the results.

A high quality and a low quality coffee were selected (a premium coffee from Kontra and a commodity coffee called Artnok which is Kontra’s commodity range (Kontra spelled backwards!)) and served for random customers in a shopping centre in Copenhagen. The coffee was served in cups with brand labels to influence the customer cognitively with the brand equity (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brand_equity) but in the cups was not coffee from any of those rands but just either the HQ or the LQ based on random selection as seen in the figure below.


Before tasting the coffees the customers filled out a questionnaire about their expectations for each coffee based on the brand and then later they rated the coffee after having tasted them. After they had tasted the coffees the consumed amount of each cup was measured and then they were allowed to choose a coffee they could have as a small benefit for their time in participation. So in conclusion the effect measures in the study were

  1. Brand expectations (‘liking’ [conscious])
  2. Rating of coffee samples (‘liking’)
  3. Measure amount consumed (‘wanting’ [sub-conscious])
  4. Final choice of coffee brand (‘behaviour’)

A summary of the results

  1. High brand equity gave
    1. higher tasting scores
    2. lower difference between HQ and LQ scores
  2. Sensory Scores: LQ was preferred! (P< 0,001)
  3. Consumption: LQ was preferred! (P< 0,001)
  4. HQ was preferred without milk

So if the brand had high brand equity people scored it higher when tasting it (1a) but also distinguished less between HQ and LQ (1b) both of which might be expected. A slightly more surprising (and a bit disappointment as a specialty coffee professional) was how strongly the data proved that consumers preferred low quality (point 2 and 3 with a really strong significant result with a P<0,001) but the real surprise and source of wonder for me was that despite 2 and 3 consumers were clear in pointing to the HQ when asked which coffee they could enjoy without milk! Without support in the data this gave me a hint for a hypothesis that the consumers preferred the LQ out of habit but when asked which coffee they could drink without milk they were able to taste that there was ‘less unpleasant flavours’ that they wanted to remove in the HQ which is what milk does in my mind. I believe that there is a physiological response of aversion for the unpleasant flavours in coffee that we in the specialty coffee business do our best to remove by selecting defect-free green beans, slow roast to avoid burnt and bitter flavours and a less aggressive brew (20% extraction rather than 30% as is the norm in commodity). You can get used to these bad flavours to the degree that you develop af preference when offered a choice between HQ and LQ but you are still able to recognize that HQ is the most pleasant to drink if you are not adding milk.

This led us to another pilot study that is strictly a pilot in the sense that we did not have a big enough cohort of subjects but we just wanted to make a small test that we could do in a few hours to get ideas for future studies. At this point Thomas Ramsøy had left Copenhagen Business School to start his own consumer research company Neurons Inc. (neuronsinc.com) and then I was lucky enough to meet Toke Fosgaard (https://dk.linkedin.com/in/tokefosgaard) who is now my playmate when it comes to studies in behavioral economics. Toke Fosgaard, Ida Steen and I had a cohort of 11 of Toke’s students with age 22 to 28 and we selected a high quality coffee and a low quality coffee. For this study we knew, that we did not have enough consumers so in order to increase the probability that we got useful data we selected extreme HQ and extreme LQ. The HQ coffee was one of my favorites namely Coffee Collective’s (http://coffeecollective.dk/da/) Kenya and the coffee from the 20 liter batch brewer in the university canteen that is for sure the worst green, roasted in no time and extracted from here to hell which Ida and I could confirm was the case with this coffee. It is a strategic decision whether to choose a HQ and LQ within a very similar flavour range or you should choose a HQ that goes far beyond the LQ/commodity traditional flavour profile. LQ is traditionally rich in bitterness, chocolate, nutty and other non-fruity flavours where HQ chosen from the elite roasteries is rich in acidity and fruitiness that is considered strange for the average consumer. In Imane’s study the HQ was chocolaty and nutty and not acidic so the consumers could concentrate on the quality of the beans rather than being confused with low bitterness and high acidity and fruitiness. But in this study we wanted from extreme LQ to extreme HQ which lead us to the above decisions on samples.

So with the samples at hand we had a room where the students would come in one by one and we changed the setup to alternate between two different setups described below so that half of the students would experience one setup and the other half part of the students would experience the other setup.

Setup 1: Served with the full sales pitch


In setup 1 we prepared two cupping setups, one for me and one for the student (consumer), and in the two cups were respectively the HQ and LQ. I presented myself as external lecturer at Food science with coffee as my full focus area, and I told them about my involvement in SCAE education and research and my many years as consultant world wide to choose high quality green coffee and how I design product ranges for clients so that it was very clear to the student that I was an international authority in coffee quality. After that introduction we did a cupping where I took my time to point specifically everything about the low quality coffee that I did not like and was a consequence of rotten beans, cheap and fast roast profile and an outrageously bad brew and I pointed to all the nice, elegant and juicy notes of the HQ with no attic/basement off flavours and no burtness nor bitterness and we went back and forth between the samples to make sure they really tasted themselves all the bad stuff about the LQ and all the good stuff about the HQ.

After the introduction pitch and the thorough tasting the students were told that they could choose to get one full cup of coffee to go of one of the two coffees as a small gift for their time, and this final choice was the ‘endpoint’ for this study since it was a study in Behavioral Economics where you measure behavior rather than asking for opinion. As a small little extra endpoint we did ask them what they liked about the coffee they chose.

Setup 2: Served with no comments


In setup 2 the HQ and LQ coffees were poured into two cups and when the student entered we did not tell them anything about the coffee at all but we told them that we would like them to taste from both cups and choose which one they would prefer to have as a free gift they could have as a gift for the time they spent on this study. We also asked them what they liked about the coffee they chose.

So what were the results? (drum roll please..)

Which coffee would you like to walk away with?


When the students had the sales pitch where I did EVERYTHING I COULD to heavily nudge them to prefer the HQ still 67% chose to WALK AWAY WITH THE LQ!!! They were nudged by my pitch about myself and the coffees to the degree that most of them excused themselves when choosing the LQ in front of me which was really interesting since even this embarrassment they felt for openly in front of an expert choosing the LQ did not shift the preference for the LQ to the less chosen cup!

Again only having 11 consumers in this study we can’t really calculate any valid statistics but I still think that it is surprising that 11 university students do not have a higher preference for HQ since I would expect this part of the population to be specialty coffee drinkers. Now that the statistics could not really be relied on, we found it interesting to hear the student’s comments when tasting and choosing between the LQ and HQ:

“I just really like a black coffee [the LQ]!”

“I like strong coffee [the LQ]”

“It [the HQ] does not taste like coffee”

“It [the HQ] tastes like tea”

“Is it [the HQ] a thin version of the canteen coffee?”

“This [the HQ] is not coffee this is something else”

These comments are really interesting I think. It points to the extreme HQ as being outside the category of coffee for these consumers which is often what I experience when people are new to the specialty coffee culture and one of the things that I have a keen eye on when I as a consultant help new roasteries design a product range (Online Lean Startup Process,https://coffee-mind.com/product/onlineleanstartup/) where I try to make my clients choose a product range where they can show their customers something new without pushing their customers off the cliff which takes careful preference mapping with surveys, focus groups and consumer studies since what is ‘too light roast’ in one area of the world or even city vs rural in one country is not the same from place to place.


Sensory Science and Common Business Practises

Last Wednesday CoffeeMind held a presentation at Square Mile Coffee Roasters in London. The presentation focused on quality control and how to improve sensory skills.

It was presented by Ida Steen, MSc of Sensory Science from Department of Food Science in Copenhagen, and Morten Münchow, Lecturer at Food Science at the University of Copenhagen, this two-hour presentation inspired the participants to take a more scientific approach to their quality control program, new product development and possible approaches to judge their own sensory skills. By an introduction to statistics and a brief overview of different sensory methods, we showed the different biases and sources of random decision that you face as a cupper. We explained the principles behind our innovative sensory training program as well as some quick methods to develop a more evidence based approach to quality control and product development methodologies.

Over the summer Square Mile Coffee Roasters will host a series of courses with focus on sensory training in coffee and this event explained the principles behind the research. Already on the 11-12th of May we will run the first of these courses. The course will focus on your skills as a taster in a highly innovative way so that you will be trained directly based on your strength and weaknesses to speed up your personal skills.

Even though we live and breathe coffee, the focus on your skills as a taster made this course relevant and applicable for people in other areas of food and drink such as beer, wine, spirits, chocolate etc

See the presentations: Statistics and  Sensory methodology


Lean Startup of Coffee Roasters

IMG_1320CoffeeMind staff Michelle Hart, Simon Borrit and Morten Münchow did a well attended presentation on Lean Startup Methodology for Roasters during World of Coffee in Gothenburg.

Please find the full presentation here:

Lean Startup Presentation

And also get your free copy of The CoffeeMind Business Model Canvas

This presentation is based on a study we do with Copenhagen Business School, London School of Coffee and SCAE and is based on CoffeeMind’s approach to helping with the business aspect of any coffee startup. Particularly we have been working with roastery startups where a big risk is the investment in equipment, so if you can det info on the local market (or global if that is your goal) with the value propositions you have in mind, then you reduce your risk of failure drastically. Morten has done sessions with startups BEFORE they invest in equipment and together brainstormed and designed a number of expected customer segments for the business they hope to create and based on that session we have created a test product range (green coffee selection, roast degree, roast profile, blends) for the expected customers (in Lean Startup terminology called a ‘minimum viable product’). The expected customer segments is then approached with the appropriate products and a true sales process is then carried out. After selling this test product range the startup is getting information to create next iteration of the minimum viable products or just make the investment in roasting equipment since the expected market has proven to exist!


Sensory Methodology


Ida Steen and Morten Münchow did a talk on Sensory Methodology during World of Coffee in Gothenburg and you can >find the presentation here<

The presentation compares sensory methodology from business practices and scientific methodology and also contains results from a sensory profiling Ida Steen did for Best Water Technology


Profile log for SCAE Roasting Pro

For the tasks and challenges in the new Roating Professional module for the SCAE Certification Diploma System I have developed this Profile log:


Please refer to these two blogpost to have the concepts on the Profile log explained:

Percentage difference

This blogpost explains how to understand and calculate percentage change as this calculation is part of the SCAE certification system on the roast log template you can download: here

So let us get right go business:
If a process changes from x to y the percentage of change is referring to how big the change is seen in relationship to where the process ‘came from’ namely x.

So the general formula for a percentage change is


If you are not used to do these kinds of calculations, I would like to explain you this formula in more detail as follows:

In the figure below you see a process that goes from value x to y (could be an increasing temperature during roasting) and you can see how you can calculate the difference between the starting point of the process to the endpoint of the process by subtracting x from y.


Let us take an example. You started you coffee roastery 12 months ago and you currently you have 15 customers. After 9 months you had 10 customers. How many more customers do you have now compared to when you business was 9 months old? In other words: what is the difference between the number of customers you have now compared to when the company was 9 months old:


So in absolute numbers of customers this is 5 more than after 9 months.

But how to calculate this value as a percentage?



As you can see from the above calculation, you relate the change (5 customers difference) to the starting point of comparison (10 customers after 9 months) by deviding the change with the starting point of comparison. And as you can also see from the above figure the value is +50% which is a positive number since the process increased in the period.
So the following figure shows you the general formula for the above calculation:



But what happens if you monitor a process that is decreasing? Namely where y is smaller than x because the process is decreasing. This is illustrated graphically here:



The value of y – x becomes negative because x is bigger then y so a decreasing process would give you a negative change and if you have a negative change that you divide with the starting point of comparison you also get a negative percentage.

In the following example we look at roast loss which is a process where you compare the result of the roast (y) with the initial amount of coffee you added (x) and find a negative value for the percentage of change. Let us assume that we put in 1kg (1000g) into a roaster and perform a light roast and measure the weight of the roasted coffee (when calculating roast lost please remember to NEVER remove any beans with the sample spoon during the roast!) and find out that 850g of roasted coffee came out of 1000g of green. The calculation looks like this:



So the percentage of change is -15% which roast masters would refer to as 15% roast loss since the word ‘loss’ implies a negative change.

New SCAE roast profile log

During my years as trainer at London School of Coffee I have worked on improving the roast log we use at the training. Recently I have made a version for the new SCAE CDS for coffee roasting and you can download it for free using the link below in this post.

The log reflects my approach where you plan your roast in terms of flame control and air flow during the different stages of roasting. I instruct the students to use the bean temperature as the trigger parameter to the control stages rather than time because the bean temperature reflects quite precisely different stages of the roast where time is a completely independent parameter.

So the roast is planned and the result of the roast is followed by plotting bean and air temperature in the graph and time and temperature for different events are noted in the box to the right of the graph. One of the most important conclusions is the time from 1st crack to end that is noted separately below the ‘event box’.

The profile log is meant as a gross log that is only used in its entirety during profile development and not necessarily on a daily basis where you don’t need all this information.

Please get it here:


Please copy and share. And if you have suggestions for improvement please leave a comment in this blogpost.

Airflow in roasters with only one fan

In roasters with only one fan for both roasting and cooling, it sometimes gets slightly confusing to talk about the airflow in the roaster. During training with these kinds of roasters I have often heard people talk about ‘closing’ the airflow down or confusing what ‘high’ airflow means in a system where you always have high airflow somewhere but the question is more where it is redirected.

But fortunately its its quite simple to visualize as I have dome schematically below. If not explained visually I have experienced this to be a tricky subject for many students.

The following is a schematic drawing of how I interpret the airflow adjustment on the Diedrich HR-1 that I use for the roasting training at London School of Coffee (Similar principles is at play in Probat’s 100g laboratory roaster used by many roasters and training institutions).


As you can see the airflow is redirected to roasting and cooling tray by the first valve so it does not make sense to talk about ‘closing the airflow’ without a reference to where the airflow is ‘reduced’.

Controlling the airflow in the roaster controls the moisture level in the first part of the overall roasting process and on the Diedrich at makes simultaneous roasting and cooling possible as a low airflow in the roasting drum is desired at the same time as a high airflow is desired in the cooling tray.

I know it seems obvious when shown schematically but please return to this post if you find yourself discussing the airflow in roasters with only one fan.

Just joined SCAE as creator of the certification system for coffee roasters

A few months ago Filip Åkerblom asked me on behalf of SCAE’s education committee to continue the work he had done the last 5 years on SCAE’s exam system for coffee roasters. Teaching coffee roasting at London School of Coffee since 2007 I feel that its right up my alley.

My approach has been getting completely confident about the basics. The basics is the best point of departure for beginners. But the basics is also the best place to start if you would like to avoid getting lost in all the loose claims running around in the coffee roasting community.

So my teaching is quite basic. Basic stuff is good for universal claims. The more advanced stuff is common sense and experience with roasting, cupping, roasting, cupping, roasting, cupping….. on one or few machines. But this is a quite specific process to the equipment you happen to use. Where it is installed, ventilation pipe size, bends, the climate and so on. Getting universal claims on the more advanced parts of roasting is something I hope to get with the help of sensory science coupled with multivariate statistics. I have already initiated this on Rolighedsvej 30 and will keep you updated (see this blog post).

Filip and I have been working on the roasting part of SCAE’s new CDS system that will be introduced at SCAE’s exhibition in Nice. Hope to see you there.

With my new position in SCAE I’m looking forward to do help out making coffee roasting more available and high quality more consistent. Seriously. It is badly needed. I really hurts me how much bad coffee is consumed around here. It’s not rocket science to do good coffee. A few good rules of thumb, a few pennies more and quality goes up. And perfection is just what you pursue for the rest of your life. I mean, the fun stuff.