From Plain Jane to Fancy Joe

What’s Fueling Coffee's Meteoric Rise on Instagram?

Coffee, once condemned in 17th century Europe as a bitter drink spawned by Satan, has reached such high levels of popularity that a brand can generate a mainstream, commercially viable unicorn-themed drink. Coffee can be found in grocery stores, large chains like Starbucks, and independent roasters. But coffee doesn’t just occupy physical spaces — it is equally prevalent online, especially on social media. Scroll through Instagram and it won’t be long until you see idyllic photos of coffee, some of which undoubtedly required multiple iPhone or DSLR shots and heavy editing.

Hanafusa Coffee. Kyoto, Japan. This man made me one of the finest cups of coffee I’ve ever had in my life. Not pictured was the older man in the corner, the only customer at that moment. He sat quietly in his weathered leather jacket, hair slicked back, smoking a cigarette, and reading his newspaper quite contently. I took my time, savored my coffee, and felt grateful to have silently shared in that small moment. Shot with #Canon 6D | Edited in #Lightroom. #kyoto #japan @instagramjapan #coffee #hanafusacoffee #hanafusa #wanderlust #travelgram #travelandleisure #tlpicks #lpfanphoto #theadventurehandbook #adventure #trailblazer #outbounderlife #onephotoaday #vsco #vscogood #vscogrid #vscophile #vscocam #theRogersTravel #teamcanon #instastockphoto

A post shared by Jason Rogers ( on


It is no surprise that people share content about their personal lives on social media, but sharing images of their food and drink has become more popular in recent years, especially when people value food and drink for their appearance as much as their taste. The social aspect of drinks like coffee also lends itself well to photography. Instagram swooped in with a photo-first social platform, promising users a way to share filtered snapshots of their lives. Between 2015 and 2016, nearly 73 million people shared photos of their caffeinated creations on Instagram.

Our analysis uncovers the reasons behind coffee’s rising popularity on Instagram, extracting valuable information about consumer preferences, when and where people drink coffee, and what coffee features can attract the most purchases and photos. Useful to both researchers looking to understand coffee trends and coffee brands seeking to engage with consumers, the Instagram data on coffee reveals a story about how the modern consumer interacts with coffee.

With people’s interest in inventive new coffee trends and desire to share vignettes of their lives through coffee, the social conversation surrounding coffee is brewing on Instagram.


If the world of Instagrammed non-alcoholic drinks were Hollywood in 2017, coffee is Beyonce and soda is a D-lister who fell from B-list fame years ago. At the beginning of 2015, coffee was already the most Instagrammed drink, with a 52 percent share of conversation. Coffee was followed by tea, milk, juice, and soda in popularity. By the end of 2016, coffee increased its lead, owning 58 percent of the non-alcoholic drinks conversation.

While Coca-Cola devised a successful “Share a Coke” campaign (647,215 posts), soda may not be as prevalent on Instagram compared to the litany of health-conscious trends. Some juices (pressed juices) are trendy, milk is more of a grocery store staple, and tea is a healthy, pretty drink. But they pale in comparison to people talking about coffee’s wide variety of drinks (10 percent of posts) ranging from cold brews to flat whites, social situations for drinking coffee (7 percent of posts), and the appearance of coffee drinks and coffee shops (5 percent posts). Together, these three topics drive coffee’s Instagram popularity.

A Latte of Variety

Lattes, espresso, and mochas make drinking coffee much more interesting — there’s only so much you can do with flavor shots and different types of milk before you become bored.

Lattes are the most Instagrammed coffee drink, followed by espresso, mochas, frappes, then macchiatos. Because lattes can serve as a blank canvas for customization, there are plenty of possibilities that go beyond basic vanilla — charcoal, pistachio-rose, horchata, and rosemary ginger molasses to name a few. Espresso is for the workaholics according to Instagram — 3 percent of posts about espresso were related to working. Mochas are consumed in the winter, frappes and macchiatos are popular at Starbucks, and cappuccinos are too complicated to make at home so people buy them at coffee shops.

Rainbow latte art from @bulldogontheblock. So delicious and pretty!

A post shared by ?Sylvia. (@tarochipz) on May 20, 2016 at 1:10pm PDT

The Social Network

The topic waves for coffee reveal that it is more than a caffeinated drink. It is an integral part of someone’s lifestyle. Coffee with friends is the topic with the most significant share of the conversation, holding steady from 2015 to 2016. Oftentimes, people meet up with their friends at coffee shops. Breakfast and brunch, meals frequently enjoyed with friends, has the second highest share of the conversation. Other topics reveal that people are integrating coffee into a healthy lifestyle, lattes are rising in popularity, Starbucks still dominates coffee brands, and lifestyle bloggers incorporate coffee as part of their brand.


Armed with Instagram and an iPhone, coffee is elevated from a drink served in a coffee shop to a part of someone’s visual diary. As an app that lends itself to aesthetic customization, many people curate photos on Instagram to match a style. Unsurprisingly, people seek photogenic coffee drinks they can share on Instagram with mentions of latte art as the most-discussed topic, at 37 percent share of voice.


Like many other famous pairings — wine and cheese, beer and pretzels — coffee and Instagram are made for each other. Instagram data yields clues about what types of coffee are trending, how people are drinking coffee, and why appearance matters. Analyzing this data provides deeper insights that explain why people take photos of their coffee and what it reveals about consumer preferences.
For more insight into consumer coffee preferences, download our Nespresso global marketing strategy case study here.

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