Coffee Trends & Innovation

Cup of Coffee and Milk

British coffee consumption now stands at over 95 million cups per day and the beverage’s popularity shows no signs of slowing down. But what are the trends to look out for in 2020?

New kids on the block – the latest coffee types

Cortado is an increasingly popular espresso-based hot beverage. It is one of only a few coffee drinks without Italian origins. In fact, it comes from Spain where traditionally the espresso is brewed for slightly longer and is therefore a little weaker than the Italian version.

Cortado shares characteristics with the macchiato and the flat white but it does have some subtle differences. The macchiato is an Italian classic made from a shot of espresso and just a spot of milk, while the flat white is larger than a cortado and therefore has a slightly weaker espresso flavour.

To make a cortado, about 30ml of espresso is combined with an equal quantity of steamed milk. The silky steamed milk is thought to provide the perfect balance with the espresso shot and allows the character of the coffee beans to shine through.

Piccolo Latte

A piccolo latte, on the other hand, is based on a ristretto shot of coffee. A ristretto is an extraction of espresso that produces about 15-20ml of liquid. This is considered the best of the best when it comes to espresso extractions, smooth & full bodied yet misses out on the acidity that is apparent with longer extractions.

So, to make a piccolo latte (piccolo means small in Italian) all that is needed is one ristretto shot of coffee, and approximately 100ml of steamed and textured milk. These are usually served in a demitasse cup or glass due to their petite size.

With the increase in dairy allergies, the rise of veganism in the UK and the growth of the flat white economy, non-dairy milk variations such as soy, oat and almond have grown in popularity. In fact, they are now considered mainstream by many. Oat milk has been particularly successful for baristas as it foams well and makes latte art in the same way as traditional cow’s milk. Other dairy-free alternatives that could reach a much wider market in 2020 include coconut, cashew, macadamia, rice and even hemp milk, which contains 60mg of full-spectrum cannabidiol.

Cannabidiol with your coffee?

Cannabidiol is a chemical that is commonly extracted from the hemp plant and its cousin the marijuana plant. CBD is legal in the UK as it doesn’t contain the psychoactive substance THC that causes users to experience intoxication. CBD is often used to lower anxiety and deal with the symptoms of conditions such as epilepsy. CBD is not just an addition to the dairy-free milk category, it is a growing trend throughout the food and drink industry. CBD-infused coffee from Good Day launched in the States in the summer of 2019. With a custom blend of Fairtrade organic coffee beans, water, and 15mg of CBD from hemp extract, the new coffee purports to “to keep the energy in check and help you achieve the mental clarity and focus you’re after.”

CBD Cannabidiol

However, anecdotal evidence of the therapeutic effects of combining CBD and coffee to boost mental focus is mixed. Some say that CBD-infused coffee diminishes the buzz delivered by caffeine while lowering anxiety symptoms. But others find the pairing disorienting. Since CBD is also used to get a good night’s sleep, the cannabinoid’s soporific properties fight with coffee’s caffeine to leave users feeling groggy.

Adding CBD oil to coffee dramatically decreases its bioavailability, or the amount of a substance entering the body’s circulation to produce the desired effects. CBD oil taken underneath the tongue maintains a bioavailability between 20-30%, but received orally, in a drink, drops the bioavailability down to 6%. This is another reason medical experts don’t recommend patients combining the two.

Cold brew versus nitro coffee

Another trend in the coffee industry is cold brew coffee. Cold brew coffee is, quite simply, ground coffee mixed with water, left to sit for anywhere between 12 and 24 hours, strained through a cloth filter, chilled and served. It is not the same as iced coffee, which is brewed hot and served cold. Cold-brew devotees say it tastes smoother than typical iced coffee, and those who are sensitive to acid believe it is easier-drinking than hot coffee. It’s also a greener option, as it doesn’t require heat or electricity. 

Cold brew coffee has a reputation of being more expensive than hot coffee. Unlike hot coffee, which goes from whole bean to hot mug in a matter of minutes, cold brew requires advance planning. Retailers must start steeping coarsely ground beans in room-temperature water at least six hours before they want to serve it. Once supplies run out, they’re done for the day — there’s no running to the back to make a fresh pot. As a result, retailers often hedge their bets by pricing their cold brew higher than hot coffee, which they have in greater supply.

Cold brew coffee is made as usual but then the now chilly coffee is infused with nitrogen and pumped into a keg. When NCB, as it is often known, is served, the thicker, maltier coffee liquid is released through a tiny-holed valve and then shot past a “disc” of sorts that forms the Guinness-like head and preceding waterfall effect. Nitro cold brew, in general, is served without ice.

Frothy Nitro Coffee

The only real difference between cold brew and nitro cold brew, other than the presence of nitrogen, is the flavour. Cold brew has an occasionally acrid, almost bitter taste whilst nitro cold brew, because of the nitrogen, has a smooth mouth feel (again, similar to Guinness or Boddington) and a richer, nuttier flavour. Something to remember – those sensitive to caffeine should note that nitro coffee usually contains around 30% more caffeine than regular coffee.

The rise of decaffeinated

The UK’s consumption of decaffeinated coffee, which was relatively stable for a number of years accounting for around 6%–7% of mainstream sales and about 20% of sales of speciality coffee, has, according to the latest NCA Coffee Drinking Study, virtually doubled in the last few years to 12.9% in 2019.  Elsewhere, consumption of decaffeinated coffee has been fairly static over the last decade.

This growth in British decaffeinated coffee drinking has been attributed by some industry insiders to a more health-conscious generation coming through. The rise could also be because the product itself is seen as getting better every year, with more variety on offer in speciality decaf coffees.


While nobody doubts the popularity of coffee around the world, many consumers are keen to ensure that their favourite drink is as green as possible. Although used coffee grounds can easily be composted, a number of forward-thinking companies are looking at ways to use the ‘leftovers’ in other ways.

Consumers can now buy coffee cups made from coffee itself. Kaffeeform is a sustainable material developed and sold in Germany for the German market. It is made from used coffee grounds and other renewable resources and used to make coffee cups. The product range includes espresso, cappuccino and latte cups. All the cups are durable, light, and have a mild coffee scent. A bicycle courier collective gathers used coffee grounds from selected cafes and roasteries in Berlin and then brings them to the workshop where the grounds are dried and preserved. At small plants in Germany, the material is then compounded and shaped into coffee cups.

On the other side of the world, Air New Zealand is trialling new edible coffee cups to reduce waste on flights. The airline has started rolling out vanilla-flavoured edible cups, which can hold hot drinks without disintegrating. Air New Zealand had already swapped non-sustainable for biodegradable cups. However, swapping for biodegradable cups isn’t always the ‘best’ thing depending on whether the cups are truly compostable. Cups labelled biodegradable aren’t subject to the same scrutiny as compostable ones and so the time it would take them to biodegrade in landfill is not necessarily less than conventional cups. Likewise, it is of no huge benefit to buy cups with plant-based plastics unless they are recovered in the correct waste stream.

The airline wanted to move towards making the annual 8 million cups of coffee served onboard as eco-friendly as possible, so they moved to edible service ware. “We have been working in partnership with innovative New Zealand company twiice to explore the future of edible coffee cups, which are vanilla flavoured and leakproof,” said Air New Zealand senior manager of customer experience Niki Chave. If the trial goes well, the project could be extended into edible plates and dishes, which twiice is currently working towards producing.

A major sustainability focus for coffee manufacturers is the preponderance of single-use coffee pods and what to do with them after use. Single-serve coffee pods, made by brands such as Dolce Gusto, Nespresso and Tassimo are the ultimate in convenience, dispensing a perfectly measured dose of coffee at the touch of a button. They have become so popular that coffee pods were added to the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) typical basket of goods, used to calculate inflation, in 2016. But these single-serve systems have been causing growing environmental issues due to their throwaway pod design. It has been reported that a massive 350 million capsules are thrown away every year – and that’s just in the UK alone.

Used Coffee Pods

Coffee pods are usually made from plastic or aluminium, or a mix of both. These materials can take up to 500 years to decompose naturally in landfill. This is because the capsules are made from a variety of different materials such as plastic, foil and aluminium, which makes them difficult to recycle and process in standard recycling plants.

A recent test by Which? of the biggest coffee pod manufacturers found that Nespresso and Lavazza came off well in terms of their recycling credentials, while Illy offered the least scope for recycling used pods.

In November 2019, Lavazza became the largest manufacturer to launch its own range of compostable one-cup pods. While Lavazza didn’t fully explain how the composting process works, the Italian espresso giant claimed that its biopolymer-based Eco Caps break down in as little as six months when combined with food waste for council collection. 

However, consumers who do not have access to a food waste bin can also dispose of their Eco Caps at TerraCycle drop-off points. The recycling company has joined forces with Lavazza to establish a network of public access stations where consumers can dispose of capsules for composting. 

Times are changing though, with several smaller, independent companies introducing compostable coffee pods. Compostable pods are made of biodegradable materials such as corn starch, sugarcane and even thistle, which mimic the properties of plastic and break down over time. Brands include Roar Gill, Halo, Dualit and Lost Sheep Coffee. The pods fall into two categories: home compostable pods, which can be put onto your garden compost heap, and should decompose within three to six months, provided there is enough organic matter in the mix; industrially compostable pods which need to go in food waste kerbside collection to be taken to industrial composting plants which produce the ideal environment and temperature for microbes to break the pods down.  However, kerbside composting isn’t widely available in the UK.

Is the future looking bright for coffee?

With so many new trends in the coffee industry, and a year on year increase in consumption, coffee shows no signs of losing its popularity. The experts at allmanhall are already exploring developments in unique coffee solutions for some of our clients. We will continue to keep our finger on the industry pulse and ensure that our clients are the first to know about innovations.    

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