Barista Magazine

OCT-NOV 2017

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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Y-THE-CUP BREWING IS THE NORM at Olympia Coffee Roasting Company's fl agship downtown location, one of three cafés the business operates in Washington's capital city of Olympia. While all brewed coffee at this location is prepared via pourover, the customers lining up don't see a barista tending to multiple brews at one time. What they see instead is a barista placing the fi lter and coffee in the brewer, then pressing a button to call in some assistance. That help arrives in the form of a metal wand which slides into place and begins pouring water over the grounds, dancing in different directions to dispense it evenly. It's only at the end of this process that the barista returns, pours the brewed coffee in to a cup, and serves it. What customers at Olympia Coffee are being served is coffee brewed on the Poursteady, an automated brewing method released in 2015 that adds a dash of technology to the manual-brewing equation. What the Poursteady indicates is not just a fl ashy new gadget, but rather a sign of the evolution of manual brewing in specialty coffeehouses. While most manual-brewing devices debuted on the market many moons ago, they surged in popularity nearly a decade ago, becoming a go-to brewing choice for leading cafés because of their ability to bring out the best in fresh, amazing-quality coffees, one cup at a time. The ensuing years have seen manual brewing's popularity fl uctuate: Many cafés, tired of the slow pace of this method, have gravitated toward batch brewing. Others—like Olympia Coffee Roasting Com- pany—have stuck with by-the-cup brewing but have sought to make strategic moves to optimize its performance. How have pioneering shop owners and brewing manufacturers helped guide manual brewing's evolution into present day? How does its potentially glacial pace jibe with modern consumers? Here we ex- plore these questions in an effort to discover how manual brewing has evolved to stay relevant in today's specialty-coffee landscape. Manual brewing rediscovered While manual brewing is an all-encompassing term for making coffee by the cup, there are actually several different methods of manual preparation, from full-immersion brewers (French press, siphon, and more) to pourover devices (such as Kalita Wave, Chemex, and Hario V60) to combinations of the two (AeroPress, Clever, and a few others). The most commonly employed option in coffeehouses in the last decade has been the pourover, in which baristas freshly grind coffee, gradually add water to the grounds, and create a carefully crafted cup. Before examining the draws of the pourover, it's worth reviewing one of the key forerunners that helped turn the specialty-coffee world on to the wonders of manual brewing. In 2006, the industry fell in love with the Clover, a full-immersion brewer that gave many people inside and outside of coffee their fi rst taste of by-the-cup coffee. Though its $11,000 price tag made the Clover no small investment, that didn't stop many of the leading third-wave roaster-retailers—such as Intelli- gentsia and Stumptown—from purchasing Clovers and serving some of their best-quality beans via the device at a higher price tag than their other offerings. This trend was short-lived, however: Starbucks purchased Clover's manufacturer, the Coffee Equipment Company, in 2008, and most Clover-owning independent shops sold their machines. Still, the Clover's infl uence was signifi cant, as many specialty-coffee purveyors sought to continue offering by-the-cup versions of their best coffees. Enter the late-2000s resurgence of pourovers and other manual-brewing methods. These devices weren't new—the Chemex, for example, was invented in 1941—but they presented the single-cup experience that shops were missing in the Clover's absence. What was so appealing to a new generation of forward-thinking cof- fee professionals about the old-fashioned process of manual brewing in the café setting? For one, it was economics: café owners could save a lot by using only the amount of coffee needed for each customer. For another, it allowed shops to offer a range of coffees at different prices to refl ect each coffee's cost and quality. This varied pricing often led to conversation, where customers asked about the differences between coffees when making their selection. "Inevitably, conversation about terroir, anecdotes about the farmers, or which coffee goes with fresh plums in the morning always happens," says Jeremy Tooker, founder and co-owner of San Francis- co's Four Barrel Coffee, which has been operating a manual-brew slow bar since 2008. Sam Schroeder, co-owner of Olympia Coffee, adds: "Providing more than one option for [pourover] coffee is a great way to gauge if your customer wants to learn something. It gives them an opportunity to ask a question or not." Also special in that barista-customer interaction during the pourov- er process was the theater element of it: Baristas weren't just making the drink—they were performing a sort of ceremony with the severe arcs of the pouring water and the steam rising off the grounds—all the while providing the aforementioned engagement with the consum- er. "A coffee bar is a show," says Sam. "That doesn't mean that it is not also authentic. If you think about great theater, the show is authentic because it engages us and makes us feel something. If it is inauthentic, we check out." By engaging consumers through the theater of pourov- er, coffee shops were able to deepen consumers' interest in high-quali- ty coffee and bring them back for further interactions. As shops continue to check out modern takes on manual-brewing devices, it's likely that experimentation and innovation will continue to reign supreme. 68 barista magazine

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