Cape Coffee Awards 2023
The Cape Coffee Awards began back in 2020, and as much as the day-to-day absurdities of that year are finally beginning to fade into distant memory, at least somewhat, we can’t deny that everyday life in 2023 still felt a little stranger than it did before the inaugural year.
Nevertheless, despite its numerous and varied troubles, there was plenty of good to be had through the last year. With that sentiment in mind, let’s take a moment to reflect by taking a look at some of the most popular items and brands in Cape Coffee Beans’ catalogue in 2023. Who doesn’t love a good listicle to round out a year?
This year’s Cape Coffee Awards are a bit different to those that came before it. While some categories and category winners remain unchanged, there are a few notable new champions in the mix and several exciting new categories to cover.
This year’s awards are especially different to the previous ones because we’ve decided to highlight some of the most popular brands in each award category rather than only focus on individual items. In some instances, certain brands won in both an individual item category and the overall brand category so in places you’ll see the same names coming up multiple times. In other instances, the individual products that were winners were not from the winning brands. With such a broad range of items vying for top place in each category, we thought it would be interesting to see how both our individual products and featured brands performed over the last year, and thought you might too.
Read on to learn what South African coffee fanatics loved most in 2023!
Please note that these awards are purely quantitative. They are based on the products that sold the most throughout the year and not necessarily our top picks or favourites (although many of them are).
Coffee grinders of the year
Given how vital a good grinder is to the coffee-making process, it's probably unsurprising that this is one of our favourite awards categories, particularly because freshly grinding coffee at home is usually the budding coffee enthusiast’s first step into the world of specialty coffee. This rings truer and truer as the market expands and innovates each year: after the beans themselves, a good grinder is the cornerstone of your setup, and should arguably be the first investment that you make before you start browsing new brewers.
We have become relatively spoiled for choice in recent years as the manual grinder space has grown both quantitatively and qualitatively, and there are now more options than ever for high-quality hand grinders in a range of price categories. Here are South Africa’s top picks for 2023.
Overall manual coffee grinder of the year
Maintaining its seat as the overall winner in the grinder category three years running now was the Timemore Chestnut C2. We certainly aren’t surprised. For its price point, the C2 is classified as being on the pricier end of entry-level, but in terms of quality, it’s premium through and through.
Even if it lacks some features present in more expensive grinders, like a wider variety of grind settings, the C2 sports hardened steel conical burrs, machine cut for sharpness, and a dual bearing system that holds the inner and outer burrs stable to deliver excellent grind quality in a robust yet stylish package.
Overall manual grinder brand of the year
While Timemore isn’t exactly the new kid on the manual grinder block anymore, it’s still a relative newcomer to the category, which makes its undeniable popularity all the more impressive. In just a handful of years, at least two of which having been especially difficult for just about everyone for pandemic-related reasons, Timemore has established itself as one of the best-loved coffee grinder brands in the world, and was the most popular manual grinder brand overall at Cape Coffee Beans in 2023.
Timemore offers an impressive range of products across applications and price points, though it is best known for its C range of grinders. And, just as a good grinder should be, Timemore is consistent – consistently excellent, promising exceptional quality and value for money with every item it sells.
Premium manual coffee grinder of the year
Comandantes's C40 line took the win in this category yet again this year and remains the undisputed champion of the premium hand grinder category for the third year in a row. This year, same as last, saw the C40 MK4 at the top of our premium hand grinder list, which isn’t surprising given that many still consider the C40 the face of the premium hand grinder space.
Fitted with Nitro Blade burrs made from high nitrogen martensitic steel, the MK4 boasts an extremely wear-resistant burr set suitable for everything that is sure to last years before even hints of dullness begin to crop up. And, with a grind adjustment of around 60 clicks, you can fine-tune your grind to suit everything from coarse immersion brews to extra-fine espresso and Turkish coffee. The MK40 really can do it all, and do it well.
Premium manual grinder brand of the year
Comandante also came out on top in the premium manual grinder category this year, perhaps thanks to additions and upgrades to its focused range. The German brand arguably launched the premium manual coffee grinder space, being the first to offer a popular hand grinder that could cover anything from coarser French press grinds, to a classic pour-over, to espresso.
Simply put, Comandante’s stylish, handmade grinders are fantastic, and beloved by established professionals and home enthusiasts alike, both of whom are more than happy to pay a premium for the brand’s undeniable quality, hence their place in this list.
Electric filter grinder of the year
While manual hand grinders are definitely at the forefront of the filter grinding space, electric filter grinders are still popular for their convenience. Two grinders have typically fought for the top of this category: the Baratza Encore and the Severin Coffee Grinder. It seems 2023 was the Encore’s year as it unseated the Severin, last year’s winner.
Both grinders are fantastic, and their conical burr sets are actually quite similar. The major difference in features is the Encore’s 40 grind settings, over the Severin’s 10. The Encore is also fitted with a bigger motor and grinds somewhat more consistently than its competitor, which evidently made it more popular this year despite it being more expensive. And if the original Encore isn't quite versatile enough for you, the newer Encore ESP is essentially the same machine recalibrated to also grind well for espresso. As it doesn’t cost much more, value-for-money-wise, it’s hard to beat.
Electric coffee grinder brand of the year
This year’s top electric coffee grinder brand was Baratza. The Seattle-based brand has offered high-quality, affordable electric grinders since it hit the specialty scene in 1999.
It is best known for its broad range of domestic grinders, for which it has won numerous awards, including from the Specialty Coffee Association of America, and offers something for just about every budget and purpose.
Whatever you need, be it a reliable manual brewing grinder or a high-end domestic espresso grinder, Baratza has you covered, which is probably why it is this year’s winner in the electric coffee grinder brand category.
Home espresso grinder of the year
Holding its position from last year, this year’s top espresso grinder was once again the Eureka Mignon Manuale. Eureka’s Mignon domestic grinder line has claimed this title for three years running now, with the Mignon Specialita unseating the Rancilio Rocky in 2021.
The Manuale is Eureka’s most affordable grinder, and while it lacks some of the features available in more expensive Mignon grinders such as timed dosing and a larger motor, it still sports a stylish, quiet, compact build and the same quality burr set as its brethren in the Mignon line. The Manuale is a fantastic choice for making espresso at home on a budget, without compromising quality or consistency and that’s probably why it was the favourite in this category yet again.
Commercial espresso grinder of the year
Given that the vast majority of all coffee made in the commercial space begins with espresso, a quality grinder is the most vital piece of equipment for a coffee shop after the espresso machine itself. It needs to be fast, consistent and reliable, and this year’s most popular commercial espresso grinder, the Hey Cafe HC-600 On Demand Espresso Grinder, offers all of that without breaking the bank.
Featuring 4 independent dosing modes, a set of 64mm hardened steel burrs that run quickly and relatively quietly, an edgeless design and hands-free grinding, the HC-600 is tough to beat at its price point, and is perfect for any small-to-medium-sized cafe. We should mention that while the HC-600 was 2023’s most popular commercial grinder, it has since been replaced by Hey Cafe’s Hey Buddy on-demand grinder. Not to worry though – it’s essentially the same machine in many ways, with a few upgrades to boot.
Espresso grinder brand of the year
Without a doubt, Eureka is one of the most famous and lauded names in the world of coffee grinders, and for good reason. Each of its state-of-the-art machines is hand-made in Florence, Italy, and offers premium features at attractive price points, which is likely why the brand was Cape Coffee Beans’ most popular espresso grinder brand of 2023.
While the company got its start in the commercial space and has long been contracted by other big names in espresso to manufacture their grinders, it has also recently taken the domestic espresso world by storm with its Mignon line. If you’re looking for quality and versatility in an aesthetic package, you’ll surely find it in Eureka’s grinders.
Espresso machines of the year
While the grinder categories saw some notable changes between 2022 and 2023, 2022’s espresso machine winners have managed to maintain their positions as South Africa’s favourites in 2023 too. The only difference is in the form of a new “Espresso machine brand of the year” category, whose winner shouldn’t be all that surprising given some of the winners in other espresso categories this year.
Entry-level espresso machine of the year
The Gaggia Classic tends to vie with the Rancilio Silvia for top spot in the entry-level space, even though they're in quite different price and size brackets. The Classic ‘Pro’ released in 2019, boasts a bevy of impressive features in a tiny package, including a 3-way solenoid valve in the group head to help release pressure after pulling a shot. This makes cleanup a lot easier and is a feature many lower-end home espresso machines lack. It also uses a standard 58mm grouphead, rather than the proprietary (read, "hard to find accessories for") groupheads of some of its competitors.
With features like this, a stylish build, available in several colours, and a very attractive price tag, it's easy to see why the Gaggia Classic was this year’s most popular entry-level home espresso machine yet again.
Prosumer espresso machine of the year
The Rancilio Silvia Pro maintained its seat as South Africa’s most popular premium home espresso machine in 2023, specifically in its ‘X’ variation, and it’s not hard to see why. In value for money and feature-richness, it’s tough to beat.
The original Silvia Pro featured dual boilers so you could steam milk and brew espresso simultaneously, and a pair of advanced PID controllers that allowed for temperature control with less than 0.5° of deviation, all packed into a retro, minimalist frame.
The new Silvia Pro X adds variable soft infusion to prevent channelling and improve extraction, and a boiler pressure gauge, all for a much more affordable price than machines with comparable specifications, which explains why it came out ahead of the pack once more in 2023 in its newer incarnation.
Commercial espresso machine of the year
Despite being best known in the home machine space these days, Rancilio again claimed the commercial category with the Classe 5 S, now for the second year running.
The Classe 5 S is a no-fuss, first-rate machine, made with high-quality commercial components like a built-in volumetric pump, boiler pressure control gauges, and a heat exchange boiler. It’s also available in several sizes, and, perhaps most excitingly, offers a factory-fitted gas-heating option, which cuts down on energy usage significantly and even lets you keep brewing even during load-shedding.
All this, for what is comparatively a very affordable price as commercial machines go, makes the Rancilio Classe 5 S the perfect machine for your restaurant, small cafe, or mobile coffee kiosk.
Espresso machine brand of the year
Given how close it came to sweeping the Cape Coffee Awards’ espresso machine section, it's not surprising that Rancilio was this year’s espresso machine brand of the year overall.
Rancilio got its start making high-end commercial espresso machines in Italy in the 1920s. In the late ‘90s, the brand released its Rancilio Silvia, which set the home espresso space alight and played a significant role in the third wave of coffee.
Now in its 6th iteration, the Silvia is just as popular as ever, and Rancilio has become one of the best-known and most celebrated names in espresso as a whole, and shows no signs of slowing down just yet, which is why it was 2023’s most popular espresso machine brand at Cape Coffee Beans.
Coffee maker of the year
Much as we love to talk espresso, and we do, most South Africans (and coffee enjoyers worldwide) don’t start their day using home espresso machines. Your average coffee enthusiast tends to opt for more manual brewing methods like percolation or immersion, and 2023 arguably saw somewhat of an upset in this space. After dominating the home-brewing scene for almost a century and winning this category in all prior Cape Coffee Awards, Bialetti’s Moka Express has finally been unseated by…
The Hario V60 pour-over coffee dripper
The only thing that comes close to the Bialetti Moka Express in terms of popularity is Hario’s V60 pour-over dripper. This year, at least in South Africa, the V60 didn’t just come close in popularity to the Express but actually managed to defeat the 3-time Cape Coffee Award champion.
Hario is the manual brewing equipment manufacturer of choice after Bialetti, and the V60 is now a staple in the world of specialty coffee, having become a more common point of entry for many budding coffee devotees.
Beautiful in its simplicity and yet affordable, the V60 brews fantastic coffee without fuss but makes a truly delicious cup if you take the time and effort to understand how it lets you control your brewing variables, which is probably why it was this year’s most popular piece of brewing equipment in South Africa.
Coffee maker brand of the year
While no individual Bialetti coffee maker was the most popular this year, Bialetti was still far and away our most popular brand in the manual brewing space for 2023, as it has been in years past. It hardly needs to be explained.
In 1933, Alfonso Bialetti completed his design for the aluminium Moka Express. Fast forward to the present day and the Italian brand and its iconic moustachioed man logo are arguably the face of the coffee world at large, and you’re more likely than not to find a piece of Bialetti equipment (or at least a third-party knock-off) in any household where at least one person drinks coffee.
Since the 1930s, Bialetti has expanded into an Italian coffee & kitchenware giant and has added new variations on the original design to its range, but the original Moka Express and its younger cousins are still the face of the company, and collectively outsell just about any other brand in the coffee space, which is why Bialetti was South Africa’s most popular coffee maker brand in 2023.
Accessories of the year
This was a new category last year, mostly because ‘accessory’ is such a broad category of products with entirely different functions that it’s quite difficult to fairly and meaningfully compare them. However, we still want to shine some light on some of the most important categories of ‘peripheral’ coffee equipment without which we could hardly make coffee.
Coffee scale of the year
A scale is one of the most essential tools in the coffee lover’s arsenal. Measuring your variables is the only real way to keep them consistent and ensure quality results each time you brew – how can you repeat a great brew if you don’t even know what to repeat?
These days there are many great coffee scales in several price categories available to both home and professional baristas, but the one that South Africa loved the most in 2023 was Wacaco’s Exagram.
Conveniently compact and suitably splash-proof (don’t soak it, though), the Exagram has an accuracy of 0.1 gram and a built-in timer, which is just about all you need in a scale. Furthermore, because it eschews the frillier features like Bluetooth connectivity and various automatic modes, it’s fantastically affordable, making it especially attractive for new coffee enthusiasts who haven’t upgraded to a decent scale because of the cost or barista road warriors who are looking for a secondary scale for travel.
Espresso scale of the year
Making espresso with a scale is more consistent but it presents a unique challenge. While weighing your beans is no different than for a manual brew like a V60, if you want to weigh your shot of espresso as you’re pulling it to ensure consistently great results, you’ll need a scale that’s small enough in diameter to fit comfortably on your drip tray, and also flat enough to fit between the drip tray and the cup, portafilter, and group head.
In 2023, South Africa’s favourite scale for this specific purpose was Timemore’s fittingly named Black Mirror Nano. At 10 cm long, 11 cm wide and 2 cm thick, it would be tough to find anything significantly smaller than the Nano, making it perfectly compatible with even the most compact of home espresso machines. It also has several handy features to help improve your espresso, like a timer that starts automatically when you begin pulling your shot. It also happens to double as a great travel scale for those who want something higher-end.
Stovetop kettle of the year
You’re not going to get very far with most brewing equipment without a kettle, so it's safe to say that it’s a fairly vital piece of kit for any coffee lover. A good kettle is even more important for increasingly popular pour-over brewing, like with the Hario V60. It’s fitting then that Hario, having won in the most popular coffee maker category with the V60, had a matching win in the kettle category.
With an elegant gooseneck spout and comfortable grip, Hario’s V60 Buono Drip Kettle is the ideal manual brewing companion. It works perfectly for just about any manual brew method, but is especially suited for pour-over makers like Hario’s own V60 dripper, and has long been the benchmark for gooseneck kettles in the world of specialty coffee.
Variable temperature kettle of the year
In case you haven’t explored this particular niche just yet, variable temperature kettles are even more useful, if highly-specialised, pieces of coffee gear. They heat water to a specific, predetermined temperature and keep it there, allowing you total control over one of the key variables in your brew, so you can fine-tune your coffee-making method right down to the degree.
Timemore’s Fish Variable Temperature Kettle was South Africa’s favourite of its kind in 2023. With the ability to heat your water to within one degree of a set temperature and hold it there for up to 12 hours, it’s easy to see why. Like all good coffee kettles, the Fish sports an elegant gooseneck for perfect pouring precision, and, like all Timemore’s products, it has a stylish, minimalist design sure to suit your kitchen and take your coffee to the next level.
Entry-level espresso accessory of the year
Espresso machines are expensive on their own, but making espresso requires a host of pricey peripherals too, which is why we’re always excited to see great espresso accessories at attractive prices.
The Sonner Knock Box is just that. Not only does it beat out most other knock boxes in affordability, but it also wins on convenience because, thanks to a unique and stylish design that eschews the knock bar for a ‘ledge’ of sorts, it’s much easier to clean.
The Sonner Knock Box is also made of durable, BPA-free plastic and features a handy no-slip rubber bottom, which is why it was South Africa’s (and CCBHQ’s) favourite entry-level espresso accessory in 2023.
Premium espresso accessory of the year
If you’re willing to look (and pay) for it, there’s no end to the amount of specialised gear you can get for your espresso machine. And why shouldn’t you? Making ever finer improvements and adjustments to your shots is the espresso enthusiast’s calling, right? Moreover, because espresso machine upgrades and accessories have a serious capacity for nuance (and price), potentially big upgrades with affordable price tags are all the more attractive.
This year, South Africa’s espresso lovers seem to have concurred, given that their favourite piece of premium espresso equipment was the IMS Precision Espresso Filter Basket. IMS has been crafting top-end espresso accessories since 1946, and its precision filter baskets are among the best you can find.
Thanks to a unique shape and patented perforation style, these baskets are designed to optimise extraction and facilitate puck drying and expulsion, making cleanup a breeze and improving both your espresso and workflow. For home brewers, these baskets are a reasonable price to pay for a tastier espresso, and in the commercial space with higher shot volumes, they could even be considered an essential.
Coffee books of the year
One of the first lessons you learn when you decide to dig a little deeper into the specialty coffee rabbit hole is that coffee can be pretty complex. Interest in specialty coffee continues to grow and with it the number of aspiring but confused new coffee devotees, intimidated by just how much there is to learn. Fortunately, we have a collection of books for the amateur and professional alike, and the following were some of South Africa’s favourites in 2023.
Best book for beginners
If you’ve just entered the world of specialty coffee, James Hoffman’s The World Atlas of Coffee is the book for you. James Hoffman himself is somewhat of a celebrity in the coffee world, and his YouTube channel is a famous starting point for the newly coffee curious.
The World Atlas of Coffee was Hoffman’s first book, originally published in 2014, and is now widely considered the ultimate introduction to coffee, covering everything from coffee cultivation and origins, to the science of roasting and a detailed exploration of various brewing techniques.
It’s also beautifully illustrated and comes as a large, stylish hardback, perfectly suited for your coffee table; the writing also mirrors the author’s own witty, colourful and effortlessly informative timbre. We say it’s the perfect addition to any coffee and/or book lover’s shelf, and it appears that our customers agree.
Best book for professionals
Anyone who’s ever worked in a coffee shop knows that making and serving coffee is only half the battle. After all, the coffee business is equal parts coffee and business. And while there are numerous books you could find on the art of making a good cappuccino, you’ll have a harder time coming by a practical guide for running a coffee shop.
Or, at least that used to be true. Fortunately for the coffee professional, Colin Harmon published What I Know About Running Coffee Shops back in 2017, which contains in its 227 pages many of the things you’ll need to know to embark on your own commercial coffee venture, from the most exciting epiphanies to the mundane but all-important details.
In case you’re wondering about Colin’s credentials, he’s a four-time Irish Barista Champion and owner of the internationally renowned 3fe Coffee in Dublin, which he built from a humble one-man cart. The man has paid his dues and he knows his stuff, which is why his book was one of South Africa’s favourite coffee books in 2023.
Top 4 coffee brands of the year
We come now to the final and arguably most important category of the Cape Coffee Awards: coffee itself. This year we’re doing things a little differently than we have in the past, as we feel that naming just one excellent brand was getting a bit boring (especially given the consistency in the top spot). As always, we’d love to be able to compare these brands on an individual coffee basis, but because most of our coffees are single origins, and available in limited quantities over specific periods, it’s neither easy nor entirely fair to declare a single or even several winners. We think they’re all winners anyway, but the following were South Africa’s four most popular coffee brands in 2023.
Truth’s motto is “We roast coffee – properly.”, and we, and evidently the rest of South Africa too, are inclined to agree. Truth’s steampunk-themed HQ in Cape Town was crowned the best coffee shop in the world by The Telegraph in 2016, and it is there that some of the best coffee in the country is carefully hand-roasted in vintage cast-iron drums and then shipped off to satisfied customers all over South Africa.
While Truth does offer single origins, its real strength is in its masterful blends, which bring out the best flavours of several great coffees while limiting their bitterness to a negligible degree. Find out more about Truth here on our blog or here on our podcast, or pick up a bag of its delicious beans right here – they’re sure to satisfy.
What sets Rosetta Roastery apart is its unwavering focus on single-origin coffees. It sources its beans with a rigorous dedication to quality and ethicality and takes great pains to fine-tune the perfect roast profile to best highlight the unique characteristics of each of its coffees on offer.
This care and consideration is clear in the end result – each cup of Rosetta coffee is uniquely delicious, with brilliant flavours characteristic of the region it hails from.
If you’re keen to get to know the coffee you’re drinking more intimately, Rosetta has everything you’re after, and if you’re in the Cape Town area, a visit to one of its cafes on Bree Street or at the V & A Waterfront could very well change your entire perspective on coffee.
Cedar is one of our newest brands. In fact, Cedar is one of the newest additions to South Africa’s growing collection of coffee roasteries, having existed only since around September 2021, making it all the more impressive that Cedar was one of Cape Coffee Beans’ top-selling brands in 2023.
Not only is Cedar new, but it's also pretty small, run by only two coffee professionals, Winston Thomas and Leigh Wentzel. Nevertheless, between them is a truly vast wealth of coffee expertise. Winston’s been the South African Barista Champion a few times in his career, and Leigh, who worked his way through the ranks of Rosetta Roastery to eventually manage the roastery for a time, was part of the team that won Coffee Magazine’s Roastery of the year award in 2018 and 2019.
On their About page, Leigh and Winston state, “We all started our journey drinking instant coffee, let us show you how deep the rabbit hole goes”. We don’t think you’ll find a much better guide to brilliant coffee than Cedar, and we’re sure that the droves of South Africans who bought and enjoyed its coffee in 2023 would agree.
You’re not surprised to find out that Tribe was the number 1 most popular coffee brand at Cape Coffee Beans in 2023, are you? After all, the Cape Town-based roastery has taken the win in all previous Cape Coffee Awards, and has quickly become one of the biggest names in the South African coffee scene with its focus on “roasting the coffee that people want to drink.”
Tribe is headed by veterans of the South African coffee industry, trailblazers dedicated to making delicious coffee accessible to everyone. Its blends are delicious, its limited edition single origins bright and exciting, and we have customers all over the country, and plenty just on our doorstep, who keep coming back for more. Nothing quite illustrates a brand’s quality more than a dedicated following.
If you want to know more about Tribe you can read up on them here, or listen to Tribe’s episode on the CCB podcast. Or, if you’re already convinced and can’t wait to pick up some Tribe coffee beans, look no further than right here.
A note about all our coffee partners
While we’ve highlighted only 4 of our partners here based on the volume of coffee we sold in 2023, we truly believe that every coffee brand we work with is a winner in its own right. Coffee is a massive industry, and there are hundreds of coffee businesses in South Africa. We’ve very carefully chosen a curated handful of partners, each of whom has something unique to offer for every occasion, palate and budget, but who are all the same in one key way: they make fantastic coffee.
We’re incredibly grateful for having had them on board through 2023 and look forward to a bright future alongside them. Please support them all – they truly deserve it!
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading this post. Moreover, thank you to all our fantastic customers who supported our business in 2023 and prior years. It’s been a big year for Cape Coffee Beans, and we know it’s cliché but we truly couldn’t have done it without you. We’re excited to see what 2024 holds for us, and hope you’ll stick around to experience it all alongside us.
What are your thoughts on this year’s Cape Coffee Awards winners? What would you like to see from CCB in 2024? Leave all your thoughts, questions and comments below.
Thanks again for reading, and from all of us at Cape Coffee Beans: Happy brewing!