The bro-ification of beverages

After purchasing a home espresso maker in an effort to curb my expensive latte habit, I quickly realized that getting a great latte was going to be more complicated than just throwing some grounds into the portafilter (a term I just recently learned) and pressing the start button. This meant I needed to do some reading on the subject. As I ventured into the weeds of the Reddit r/espresso forum and watched a series of YouTube videos, something began to gnaw at me. I realized that I was seeing the same scenario that I witnessed with the craft beer and cocktail movements, something I call the “bro-ification” of beverages.

Cereal milk latte from

I am not only talking about the notion that most people who post authoritatively in forums or who are considered experts are men (although that is part of it), but I’m also discussing the annoying trend where ‘bros’ push the craft to extremes that makes it more difficult for mainstream hobbyists to learn or enjoy the hobby. As Exhibit A, I present the uber-hopped IPA such as Triggerfish the Kraken, which clocks in at 1254 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). The scale for IBUs used to stop at 100 because beyond that our tastebuds can’t really register anything more bitter. For reference, any beer over 60 IBUs is considered bitter, so 1254 is…something else. Neither scales nor tastebuds stopped the bros from leaning ever harder on the hops and emphasizing brewing techniques that led to an arms race of bitterness.

Of course, no one forced me to drink an IPA, but for a long time it was difficult to find anything other than a highly hopped beer in the craft beer section of the average liquor store. People who preferred a lager or, heaven forfend, a pilsner, were disregarded as not being “serious” about beer and had minimal choices in the market. And when it came to home brewing, the highly hopped style dominated discussion forums, making it more difficult to get answers or find information about other types of beer. And don’t get me started on how much mansplaining I encountered when discussing the topic with men of equal or lesser brewing experience.

As I dipped my toe into the rabbit hole of espresso forums, I noted parallels to the IPA arms race. Guys were talking about pushing their shots to 14 grams of coffee for a single shot (vs. 7 to 9 for a typical espresso). There were dismissive replies if someone mentioned that they preferred lattes or other milk-based drinks, echoing the refrains of not being “serious” about the beverage. Almost all of the videos that came up in my searches were by men. Guys mocked newbies who proudly posted their equipment setup.

What I find interesting about this version of “bro-ification” is that when I go to coffee shops, I see at least an equal balance of female and male baristas, if not slightly more women. That was not the case in beer brewing, where the field was dominated by men. While beer may have started as a drink favored more by men than women, coffee seems to be more egalitarian, so I wonder* why the forums and videos seem to be predominantly male. Perhaps the algorithm is skewed and there is a better balance but I’m just not seeing it. I am relieved that the arms race for bitterness does not seem to be as heated, as I have discovered pushback against the trend of ‘more is better’. Since I’m still in the early days of this hobby I hope that my initial reaction is off base, and that espresso isn’t as “bro-ified” as I feared. What do you think?

*I don’t really wonder, I’m just disappointed.

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  • Jane  on  June 20, 2024

    This trend with the over-complication of coffee was exemplified for me by the book The New Art of Coffee. I had to test a couple of recipes and there wasn’t a single recipe in the book that didn’t require specialist equipment. And I mean very specialist. Needless to say, written by a bro.

  • mbbenham  on  June 20, 2024

    I know zero about making the perfect latte, but isn’t this a problem that Eat Your Books is made for. I’m sure in the thousands of tomes that have been indexed lies a technique for a perfect latte that has stood the test of time and taste. Regarding bro-ification, I stopped watching “food tv” about when it got Guy Fieri-ified. There is enough good food in the world to eat, share and prepare without it being an endless competition over things that don’t really matter.

  • Rinshin  on  June 21, 2024

    I totally get it. It is much like OCD.

  • Rinshin  on  June 21, 2024

    When still in my 30’s, I was really into roasting green coffee beans sourcing most “esoteric” green beans from around the world and only roasting in my small specialized clay coffee bean roaster to be used on stovetop and carefully combining various beans for certain flavor and aroma characteristics and kept notes. Fast forward now, I can no longer drink regular full caffeinated coffee due to my gerd issues so now combine 2/3 decaf with 1/3 regular already roasted coffee beans and I am ok with the flavor. I also used a small espresso/cappuccino maker then. I think this over bro thing maybe also be due to age factor.

  • annmartina  on  June 21, 2024

    I think it all ends up being oneupmanship for bragging rights. Can the average palate taste 1254 IBUs, the ear hear hi-res audio, the eye see the difference between 4k & 8K Ultra HD? At what point does it make no difference, although people are convinced it does. I think it becomes an ego trip for the maker and the consumer.

  • Huckle  on  June 22, 2024

    Good beer requires a balance of sweet and bitter.
    Sadly this harsh unnecessarily mean spirited article relies only on the bitter.

  • Painperdu  on  June 24, 2024

    Check out James Hoffmann on YouTube. A coffee guy, but not a bro. Helpful and funny.

  • thewoobdog  on  July 15, 2024

    My husband bought me a fancy home unit and I’ve yet to get a truly great latte out of it. My deep dives into the interwebs served mostly to dishearten me about just how complicated I really need to make things to make a great espresso (I can froth milk just fine, it’s something about my espresso technique that is lacking – I could make a great espresso in my old unit with my old freestanding grinder, but this one has a grinder and a pressure gauge and all this fanciness and I am massively not succeeding). So anyway, I’m glad I’m not alone!!

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