Photo: Coffunity.

Unless you’re a barista by trade, you might not know all that much about what type of coffees you like. Ethiopian? Light roast? Notes of milk chocolate or stone fruit?

That’s where Coffunity comes in handy. The company, which is based in El Salvador, developed an app which lets users rate and review coffees, discover new brands and varietals, and determine their overall coffee preferences. Founded by Andrea B. Pacas, a 6th generation coffee producer, and Federico Bolanos, a professional roaster, cupper, and barista, the Beta version launched in March 2018.

The app made quite a splash at the Specialty Coffee Expo in Seattle last weekend when it won the Best New Product Award for Technology and the overall Best of Show.

Here’s how it works: Users take a picture of a coffee label and Coffunity will use a Google Vision scan and identify the label’s text. If that label is in their database, the app will give users a rundown on the beans’ taste attributes, origin, processing methods, and quality. It can get pretty granular, down to the exact varietal of the beans, the altitude on which they were grown, and even the name of the farmer(s) who grew them.

Coffunity users can rate coffees after they drink them and leave public reviews. So before you invest in a bag of beans, you can check and see if it matches your coffee preferences and find out what others wrote about it (i.e. tastes best with milk). If the app doesn’t recognize the coffee label, you can enter in its information and add it to the database.

Users can also search Coffunity’s library to determine the best coffees for them to purchase. For example, if you know you like fruity coffees, you can enter that in and see which brands and roasts might be a good bet for you. You can also search for coffees based on parameters like price, origin, retailer, or overall rating.

The company is even working on integrating geolocation services into their app so that users can discover nearby highly-rated coffee spots. So if you’re in a new city and want to source some nice beans for your Airbnb, you won’t have to wander aimlessly or settle for Starbucks.

And if you don’t know what you like, Coffunity will keep track of all your coffee rankings and create a profile of your taste preferences. The more coffees you rate, the more data it has to generate your profile, the more you can discover which coffees you like — and which you don’t.

There’s also a social aspect to Coffunity: you can follow friends on the app (or local baristas) to see which brands and varietals they’re drinking and liking. Sort of like Spotify, but for coffee. And if you just want to follow the crowd, the app keeps a list of the top-ranked coffees each day according to their global user base.

Coffunity hopes that their app will create the world’s largest coffee community. But they also want to encourage people to drink better coffee, be more aware of the variables and minutiae that goes into producing the beverage, and get more familiar with coffee producers, who are often isolated from the people drinking their product.

It might be surprising to some that at an event rife with barista robots and connected roasting machines, something as un-flashy as a coffee community app stood out as Best in Show. Their win indicates a movement in the craft coffee market towards democratization and accessibility.  You no longer have to be an SCA-trained expert to know a thing or two about high-quality coffee beans.

They’re not the only app geared towards educating people about and connecting them with good coffee. Apps like Cupper and Beanhunter help people find good coffee shops near them, while Acacia and Intelligentsia help you find the optimal home brew method. As specialty coffee becomes more and more accessible, I bet we’ll see more apps geared towards education and democratization of everyone’s favorite morning beverage.

The app is free and iOS compatible, though a version for Android is in the works. So far Coffunity has 950 downloads and over 150K coffees in their database. Coffunity currently has a staff of 12 and has been downloaded in more than 54 countries, though with this recent SCA Expo win under their belt, I bet they’ll soon be expanding.

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