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one byone MANUAL BREWING IN THE 21ST By Mark Pfaff and Keith Gehrke Illustration by Greta Anne Romelfanger CENTURY The Future and Sustainability of Manual Brewing Sitting across from Keith over a couple of tasty Chemex brews, I was scribbling down notes for an article on pour over technique. Our discus- sion had veered from the nuances of brewing parameters to the broader question of the future and sustainability of manual brew. We' d both been very involved in this growing trend, Keith with his innovation in creating the Kone and other brewing devices at Able Brewing, and I in designing Victrola Coff ee Roasters' brew-by-the-cup program, and my involvement in Brewers Cup competitions. Over the past few years we' d seen a rise in popularity of manual brew methods that brought brewed coff ee back into focus and onto the same level as espresso. But where was it all headed? Especially with the proliferation of numerous ''automated'' manual brew machines, the future seemed a tad uncertain. Was manual brewing sus- tainable in our busy cafés? Or would it all bow to speed and effi ciency and the "rise of the machines"? We both felt the discussion of where all this was headed deserved some serious thought in whatever form that might take. So we put our heads together to tackle a few of the major questions: What is the state of manual brew right now in the specialty coff ee industry? What are the current trends and where are they headed? How can we rethink our ap- proach to manual brew to make it more sustainable for the long term? And fi nally, what could the future really hold for manual brew methods in café settings? Back to basics: Why manually brew? Manual brew has been invaluable in elevating the customers' experience of coff ee by so many of the well-executed brew programs popping up in the industry. Being able to walk into a shop and get a crisp, clean Chemex or AeroPress or (fi ll in the blank) of any coff ee on the menu is exciting and opens up our customers' palates to so many varieties of coff ee. Also, eff orts by those involved with Brewers Cup and other brewing competitions are beginning to refi ne the manual brewing experience by focusing not only on quality and consistency, but presentation and connecting the customer to the coff ee. It's an exciting time to be involved in manual brewing as it seems new innovations and refi nements to the process are emerging every day. It would be timely to refl ect on what we're really accomplishing with our brew programs in order to avoid just getting wrapped up in the latest trends. To do that, we need to ask ourselves: what core values do manual brew methods uphold in our cafés? Victrola Coff ee began brewing by the cup for customers with the 68 barista magazine Hario V60 a few years ago. Single origins had always rotated on French press, but there was a desire to give customers the ability to experience a variety of coff ees on the menu at any time. Manual brewing helped to high- light Victrola's core value of sourcing and sharing the most unique and fl avorful coff ees with customers by giving them a broader selection. T is didn't mean the implementation and maintenance of the program was easy, but it fi t with our central mission. We're continually changing our program to adapt to current needs and make sure we're staying true to the reasons we started developing brew by the cup off erings to begin with. Not only is it important to start a program based on solid sustainable principles, but it's also crucial to be fl exible in taking time to rethink those programs and realign with core principles regularly. Highlighting diff erent coff ees is one good reason for off ering manual brew methods, but some other solid reasons could be: to produce more consistent, fl avorful brews; to create space and time to educate customers about coff ees; or to increase revenue through whole bean and brewing equipment sales, etc. Whatever your core reasoning may be, you need to make sure that the program as a whole is continuing to accomplish that goal. How are these principles central to the design, implementation and maintenance of your manual brew program? If your existing program is languishing, it's most likely because either you or your staff are losing sight