Modern board. why Intelligentsia Coffee and its board decided to go for K-cup

Recently, Intelligentsia Coffee Inc., one of the leading and most innovative specialty coffee brands, released two types of K-cups for the new Keurig models. If you’ve tried Keurig coffee before, you’ll probably agree that it’s not the full cup served at specialty coffee shops across the country. Specifically, the lightly roasted, methodically pour coffees of the intelligentsia.

So why then should the intelligentsia choose K-cups as their next step? Demand:

America loves convenience, and coffee drinkers are no different. And although hesitant at first, curiosity led the intellectual to expand into the new format.

“[We thought]if we can get into the K-cup format with a cup of coffee we’re proud of, it allows us to get in front of more customers and go back to the farmers we work with and buy a lot more coffee. ,” says Intelligentsia CEO James McLaughlin Fortune:. “A lot of good comes of it for us.”

As leaders of the third wave of coffee, Intelligence prioritizes supply, paying a premium for its beans over commodity and roasting with purpose. With retail outlets and 14 coffee shops in five cities, its coffee is meticulously calculated and full of flavor and nuance. So should his name on the K-cup. After seven years of careful research, development and collaboration with Keurig, Intelligentsia has created a K-cup that it and its board are proud of.


From coffee shop to K-Cup

Since Intelligentsia was founded by Doug Zell and Emily Mange in 1995 in Chicago, it has enabled coffee drinkers to experience their morning coffee ritual in more reflective ways. And over the decades, the company has relied on innovation to pave the way. For example, his foray into the instant coffee renaissance or his Pasadena, Calif., location, which recently transitioned to Illumination Bar. There you’ll find an instant espresso component, among other fun flourishes, like a machine called Wall-E that steams milk and a cup over a magnetic stirrer plate that restores a single shot of espresso.

In 2015, Peet’s Coffee (Keurig Dr. Pepper’s partner brand) acquired a majority stake in Intelligentsia. Some loyal customers mocked it, but its basic principles remained the same. In fact, the board encourages and supports expansion and innovation within the values ​​of the intellectuals, who see quality as their North Star.

“We know who we are and what we want to be,” McLaughlin says of the pressure to evolve and modernize. “And as long as we have our values ​​clearly defined as a brand, a company and an organization, it makes conversations with the board or investors much easier.”

Intelligentsia Coffee’s Light Roast K-Cup Pods for Keurig Brewers.
Sincerely, from the intelligentsia

The K-cup discussion began after a study conducted by Peet’s identified Intelligentsia customers, who are often coffee-savvy. hence the name, which wanted to be accessible to a Keurig-type home brewing system. However, despite the demand, consumers often offer many opinions on such a move. With K-cups, there have been concerns about the quality of coffee made with this type of mechanism, as well as the environmental liability surrounding K-cups. The council of intellectuals and innovators also asked those questions.

“We had to give them answers before we felt comfortable launching this product or even partnering with Keurig,” admits McLaughlin, explaining that they eventually found the sweet spot through years of work and research. “At the end of the day, I think we’ve produced a product that is the best K-cup on the market. Hands down.”

Product innovation

After all, coffee is a commodity. And innovating on a generic product requires the skill to do what the consumer wants and/or know what the consumer doesn’t realize they want. The third wave showed this. Instead of settling for average drip coffee, it took drinkers to different terroirs and tastes, giving fair prices to farmers and celebrating barbecue.

Bailey Manson, Intelligentsia’s Chief Innovation Officer, is celebrating 10 years with the company. In college, he double majored in biblical studies and theology. And while those subjects don’t directly correspond to his job title, they certainly inform how he approaches his work. “In concrete Christian theology, one should think in contradictions,” he says. “When it comes to topics like intelligence and Keirik, it seems like a contradiction to many people. But my background worked [this partnership] exciting for me because I could navigate it in a unique way.”

When Manson and his team first set out to research and develop K-cups, they quickly realized that Intelligentsia was using coffee varieties in its coffee shops and retail stores that didn’t perform well in a K-cup because the Keurig brewed them. has a limited environment. “It’s transparent, like a V60 or a Chemex, but it’s a different bed shape, more like a Kalita Wave. It’s small, and the cup is filled with water, and that water is hotter than if you pour it by hand,” Manson continues. “And the cup is under a little pressure. And all the cooking is done very quickly. And there is no bloom. And you can only change the grind so much. And the grind quality is much better and more consistent than any home grinder or even a commercial coffee shop grinder.”

Needless to say, getting there from a concept perspective wasn’t nearly as convenient as pushing the button on the final product.

Earlier Keurig models used a single needle for water flow, but the new K-Supreme and K-Supreme Plus use “MultiStream Technology,” a system that came directly from Keurig consumers looking for more strong and full-flavored coffee. This technology was central to Intelligentsia’s K-cup journey. Instead of one needle, it uses five that “shock” hot water through the entire K-cup (instead of just the middle). “This results in a more even coffee extraction and higher extraction overall,” says Manson. Extraction percentages are vital to the development of a coffee recipe; fruity and acidic notes are extracted at first, followed by sweetness and balance, and bitterness at the end. And while the pods fit in older models, they’re better made in newer versions with MultiStream technology.

In addition, Keurig added QR codes to K-cups, allowing the machine to reference individual brew specifications. “[Intelligentsia] has defined a custom brew setting for brew time, temperature profile throughout, and flow rate for each of their brand varieties to bring out the most flavor in every cup,” said Annie Oh, vice president of Keurig Connected. The ultimate K-Cup is a consistently balanced, full-bodied brew inspired by the gush offered at any brick-and-mortar concoction. To the board, the innovation team and the executive team, this is seven years of work.

“We’re still growing and we’re still getting our chance to go out into the world and show what coffee can and should be,” says McLaughlin. “And whether you walk into one of our coffee bars and have a perfectly brewed coffee, take home a bag of coffee, or buy a K-cup, you experience something different.”