Battle of the Brewers: FETCO vs. Curtis

Today, as Third Wave coffee is experiencing exciting growth and a spurt of popularity, competition is heating up between brewer manufacturers. 

Wilbur Curtis' namesake company is challenging the traditional industry favorite, FETCO, in an attempt to win over Third Wave loyalty. Being curious and quality-obsessed, over the next couple months, Joyride will be conducting a series of side-by-side blind comparisons between coffee brewed with the relatively new FETCO 2131  and the Curtis G4 ThermoPro, two brewers designed for the specialty market. The results will hopefully allow Joyride to determine the best brewer for our office clients.

Over the next couple months, we will see whether the Curtis brewer (on the left) outperforms the current industry favorite, the FETCO (on the right).
Over the next couple months, we will see whether the Curtis brewer (on the left) outperforms the current industry favorite, the FETCO (on the right).

Background

Coffee equipment manufacturer Wilbur Curtis was founded in 1941 before Alfred Peet brought the art of roasting to Berkeley in 1966 and Starbucks' 1980's cafe revolution in Seattle. FETCO, on the other hand, was founded much later in 1987, perhaps as a result of this cafe boom.

The Third Wave movement in the US arguably began in 1995 with Counter Culture and Intelligentisia and firmly established its presence with Stumptown's 1999 debut and Blue Bottle's in 2002. It's unclear, however, why Third Wave coffee roasters regarded the FETCO as the brewer  of choice. Did roasters immediately flock to FETCO's line of coffee brewers or did the affinity develop over time? Perhaps FETCO’s relative youth gave it the creative energy and agility to respond to Third Wave’s demands. Perhaps it was FETCO’s aesthetically pleasing designs that won over the attention of Third Wave roasters and cafes. Maybe FETCO simply made better brewers.

In any case, when Joyride entered the market in 2011, specialty coffee spots and, more specifically, Third Wave cafes all over the nation were using FETCO 2000-series brewers. Carrying and leasing FETCO 2031s therefore seemed the obvious choice.

Current Brewer Industry

Even today, the FETCO 2000-series is considered the industry's stalwart brewers of choice though they recently discontinued the 2000-series for the 2100-series. The newer line appears identical at first glance though it also features a modern touchscreen interface. A closer looks reveals a few more significant changes like a different control board and power supply. The update led to widespread outcry from cafes wondering why FETCO would change something that was so perfect and whether the 2100-series performs as well as the 2000-series. More significantly, with the 2000-series gone, is the 2100-series the best brewer on the market? Is it better than Curtis’ G4 ThermoPro? To answer the latter, Joyride plans to brew and compare identical batches from FETCO's 2131 and Curtis' G4.

Check back in a couple months for in-depth comparison and presentation of the results.

-Blog post written by Anders Crabo, VP of Equipment and Tech