Is Coffee like Wine?

Is Coffee like Wine?

Comparing the origins and complexity of both beverages
Posted on September 25th 2014 by Maddie

When explaining the coffee industry and especially our value of quality here at Kicking Horse® Coffee, I often find myself equating coffee to wine. Superficially, the connection rings true and does speak significantly to the complexity that is often ignored in a cup of coffee.

Coffee has come a long way from a rudimentary morning necessity to an art form unto itself. The Third Wave of Coffee refers to this movement for high quality coffee and is all about promoting coffee’s potential as an artisan specialty.

I like to think that now the average person is much more aware of the different taste profiles that naturally occur in coffee. Kicking Horse® Coffee doesn’t just use any green beans to make our signature blends. We use the highest quality, Organic, Fairtrade, Arabica green beans that undergo a strict approval process. We analyze these beans from their aroma to their density, before roasting and cupping them.

In that sense, when explaining what we do here at Kicking Horse® Coffee, I find the comparison works well. Especially when illustrating how much goes into procuring quality green beans.

Comparing Coffee and Wine

  • Both are agricultural products. The beverages we enjoy are a direct result of the life of the plant, careful processing and handling, as well as meticulousness in transforming the fruit to a beverage.  
  • Both contain rich histories (wine and coffee each having been banned throughout the years – rite of passage for our favourite beverages!).
  • Both can be identified by variety and origin.
  • And, they both use many of the same terms to describe the aromas and flavours. Coffee’s aroma dictionary, Le Nez du Café was based on wine’s Le Nez du Vin. These are collections of the most typical aromas found respectively in the world’s top coffees and wines, explaining the senses perceived through the nose and its aromas (sensed on the palate).
  • Each has specific storing instructions: Coffee in a sealed, airtight, room temperature, dark location; Wine should be cool, dark, still, and sideways.
  • Oh, and of course we must add both are consumed for pleasure. Moderation is key!

Sure, comparing coffee to wine seems to chalk some cool points up for coffee. Maybe even elicit a bit of a snooty following. Pretentiousness aside, at the heart of it coffee lovers are really just big nerds.

The Differences

The most jarring difference between coffee and wine? The room for user error close to the finishing line. With wine you uncork, decant or not, possibly pour into the right glass to appropriately aerate - and you’ve done pretty well. But with coffee you’ve got a huge margin for error - from grinding to brewing.

Grind size, water quality, brewing equipment ... so many variables are dependent on the consumer. And unlike wine which is promoted to age, coffee’s shelf life is quite short lived. It should ideally be consumed as soon as possible.

Another dissimilarity would be the supply chain. Where most wineries own or work closely with the vineyards responsible for growing and harvesting their grapes, we depend on farmers who are miles away to do this for us. Transporting beans across oceans.

Conclusion

So, is coffee like wine? Yes, in the sense that they’re both complex beverages that range in taste and invoke comfort and nostalgia. But at the end of the day, coffee is in a league of its own when it comes to preparation. The individual process we all have mastered to brew our favourite cup will ultimately yield to varying tastes even when using the same bag of coffee.