The Coronavirus has impacted the coffee industry. Thanks to shelter in place orders and orders to work from home, consumers are learning how to recreate their coffee shop favourites in the kitchen – using specialty coffee beans and home brewing equipment.
With so many brewing options available, they might seek out a roast that can be used with everything from an espresso machine to a French press. As a result, omni roasts could become more popular.
Here’s why omni roasts suit home consumption, their advantages and disadvantages, and what roasters should consider before offering them to customers.
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What Is an Omni Roast & What Makes It Appealing?
Many consumers are familiar with dark, medium, and light roasts and understand that different roast profiles suit different brewing methods. Some roasters create roast profiles specifically for espressos or filter coffees for the convenience of the coffee shop or consumer buying them. Rarely will a single roast suit every brewing method, unless it’s an omni roast.
An omni roast is coffee that’s been roasted so that it works with most brewing methods, be it pour over, cold brew, or espresso. While each might taste different, the profile aims to ensure every cup will be balanced and well developed, not too light or dark, and with certain qualities highlighted. As it can be used across many brewing methods, it can help consumers get acquainted with a coffee in a manner they’re comfortable with. The coffee will also be consumed more often, as they won’t have to reserve it for a specific method of brewing.
Its versatility makes it well suited to home brewers, as the demand for specialty coffee for home consumption is high. Research suggests that while out of home consumption has decreased thanks to the Coronavirus, at home consumption has increased – as has online coffee sales.
Shaun Maeyens is the owner of Zen Café and says that the fallout of COVID-19 and its impact on coffee shops has led him to offer omni roasts. “Given the growing trend of home brewing [and] due to an increase [in] online coffee sales after closing our café, we feel that omni roasts… provide the best overall experience to our customer base.”
Other roasters believe that omni roasts are the future of specialty coffee, as they appeal to a wide audience and are also accessible. Dakota Graff works at the Onyx Coffee Lab and is also a 2019 Coffee In Good Spirits USA Champion. He says that omni roasts “are the future of accessible coffee. In order to serve an audience base who doesn’t have access to the knowledge that most coffee professionals have, it’s paramount that the coffee is roasted in a way that makes the coffee versatile for many brewing methods.”
Advantages of Offering Home Brewers Omni Roasts
As omni roasts can be used for any brewing method, it’s a more affordable and versatile choice for consumers. They can use it with whatever brewing equipment they happen to have or prefer, to produce a consistent brew, cup after cup.
For roasters, omni roasts can streamline the roast process and cut down on waste as it allows coffee to be sold for any brewing method, preventing it from being stored and going stale. It’s also well suited to smaller roasters who might lack the volume and capacity to store multiple green coffees or develop multiple roast profiles for different brew methods.
Some roasters feel it can highlight notable qualities across different brewing methods, such as the flavours present due to origin or processing. This could help consumers take more interest in where their coffee comes from, and could be used to educate them on how different origins and processing methods impact flavour.
For example, Shaun sells a omni roast called Tres, which he describes as a “single farm, multi-process blend [that] holds up as a wonderful espresso, makes an excellent pour over, and is our biggest seller to our home brewer fans.” As he explains, “the fruitiness from the natural process and vanilla and chocolate notes from both the honey and washed process seem to make this coffee hold up to a myriad of brewing processes.”
Pitfalls of Offering Home Consumers Omni Roasts
A pitfall of omni roasts is that it can be challenging for consumers to deviate from their usual choices, or to replace several options with a single coffee. Dakota says that because many consumers are used to choosing a coffee based on their brewing preference, they might feel uncomfortable trying new roasts, as most people pick a roast they’re comfortable and stick to it.
It could also disappoint customers with certain expectations of a roast. For example, many people associate espresso roasts with a full body. Darius Vėželis is Director of Vero Coffee House in Lithuania, and cautions that often when he develops an omni roast, he might not be able to achieve a full bodied and flavoured espresso, and that it might end up with more acidity and less sweetness than consumers would expect from one.
This poses a challenge to the roaster, as balancing acidity across different brewing methods will require careful calibration. The acidity appropriate for an espresso can create a dull and heavy filter coffee, and the right acidity for a filter coffee could result in a thin, sour espresso.
Balancing flavours to suit different brewing options could also mean having to choose which coffee qualities are highlighted, and which ones aren’t. For example, Shaun says that when roasting a Honduran washed process omni roast, one roast might make a coffee’s cane sugar and vanilla notes more prominent, but mute its chocolate notes at the same time.
Successfully Offering Omni Roasts to Customers
There are several things to consider before making omni roasts a standard consumer offering. What’s certain is that it’s a good time to do so. As Dakota says, “I do think that an increase in home brewing will lead to a higher demand for omni roasts. As specialty coffee trends upward, I think people care less and less about the roast profile of a coffee if it’s from a roaster they trust.”
Informing customers what an omni roast is and why they should consider it comes first. Dakota says that coffees roasted at Onyx Coffee Lab are profiled by assistant trainer and U.S. Brewers Champion Elika Liftee, who creates recipes for each one. He adds, “This all comes back to making great coffee accessible and exciting… giving consumers the most info you can on the product gives them a huge boost over the hurdles that can make coffee brewing difficult.”
For Shaun, knowing your market and how they brew the coffee is important, as everything from their equipment choice to the water they use can impact the final product. This information will help you account for the relevant variables when developing and testing an omni roast. He says, “Our customer base is not brewing on… commercial equipment with highly controlled water. They’re brewing with tap water, maybe charcoal filtered water. This is why knowing your demographic is paramount”. He adds that roasters should use their knowledge to research and develop the coffee they’re roasting to determine its maximum potential across brew methods.
Offering an omni roast to customers can boost online coffee sales at a time when in-store demand could take months to get back to previous levels. It also has clear benefits for smaller roasters, helping them shift older stock without compromising on quality and make the roast process quicker, simpler and more affordable.
However, roasters considering this option should realise that while omni roasts might seem like an easy solution, that they’ll require just as much care and effort during roasting as any other coffee roast does.
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