Trouble brewing as coffee shortage causes prices to spike

There are certain things in life you just don’t mess around with. For some of us, that includes our morning cup of coffee.

Unfortunately, those "magic beans" are now in short supply.

In a FOX 32 Special Report, we look at what that means for you and your cup of joe.

It doesn’t matter what time of day it is. A cup of coffee always hits the spot. Just ask Melissa Villanueva.

"We’ve been really blessed. We’ve been really lucky," Villanueva said. "Even during the pandemic, we were all right."

She opened up Brewpoint Coffee in Elmhurst seven years ago. It’s one of four locations she now owns.

Even though Villanueva expanded her business in the last year, there is still some trouble brewing.

"Across the board we are seeing prices increase," she said.

Mike Hewitt is a professor of Supply Chain Management at Loyola University Chicago Quinlan School of Business.

"The magnitude depends on where you are buying it," he said. "Particularly in grocery stores, where the prices are driven greatly by the cost of the bean."

So far this year, coffee prices have gone up at least 71 percent — the largest increase in the last seven years.


Experts say there are a couple of culprits to blame.

"Coming into this year (2021) it was an ‘off season’ year. Where the coffee trees don’t produce as much as they would in an ‘on season’ year," said Phil Flynn, Senior Market Analyst of Price Futures Group. "That’s part of the problem. Then you exasperated the problem because you had a drought in Brazil."

Brazil is the third largest producer of Arabica coffee beans.  

Vietnam is also a leading coffee producer of another popular coffee bean --- Robusta.

The problem there is not the weather, but the pandemic.

"At the same time, other beans that are sort of substitutes for those produced in Brazil, such as those that are produced in Vietnam … they are simply hard to get out of the country because of COVID-related issues that have controlled or reduced port capacities," Hewitt said.

So what does this mean for you and your wallet?

Marianella Baez Jost is a coffee producer from Costa Rica. She supplies Brewpoint with the Specialty coffee beans it uses from around the world.

"I think Specialty coffee will be available, but it will become more rare," she said. "And it will become more expensive."

"The average person who drinks a cup of coffee a day, you are going to notice some level of quality changes," said Villanueva. "But I don’t think it’s going to keep you from drinking coffee every single day."

Once the prices go up, it’s going to take a while for them to come down.  

"A lot of these issues you can’t fix overnight. You can’t make coffee trees produce any faster. You can’t make them bounce back," said Flynn. "It may take a couple of years for things to get back to normal."

"The pandemic accelerated what we already knew," said Villanueva. "So we were already in the process of diversifying what we need to diversify and build the relationships we need to build … in order to make sure we don’t run out of specialty coffee."

For Brewpoint, part of that diversification also means expanding its menu to now include cocktails and charcuterie.

While coffee companies usually try to shield consumers from price increases, some experts don’t think that will be possible this time.

If you don’t see a price increase for your favorite coffee, check the amount in the bag. Some experts anticipate coffee makers will charge the same amount for a little bit less product.