Posted Fri Feb 10, 2012, 6:02pm Subject: Re: "Third Wave" cafés and the pour over revolution: The emperor has no clothes.
There are murmurs of a return to batch brewing, at least partially, in the specialty arena. Coffee pros are hesitant to approach it, as batch has drawbacks as well, from problematic sprayheads to issues with freshness. At most normal rates of use, the first cup from an urn will not taste the same as the last. Perhaps it's stubbornness, but the idea here is that pour-over would be more consistent with competent staff. Obviously, in practice, that's more of an idealism than truth. So there are drawbacks to each, with the obvious speed problem of pour-over, and the automation and "batch" parts of batch brewing (bad cup < bad batch). We may think that the big brewers work fine, but if the guy who needs to buy one doesn't, it's not happening.
In my opinion, I'd rather put some trust into my barista, rush or not, in what is at least guaranteed to be a fresh cup of coffee. If it's bad, I'm not afraid to ask for a re-brew, but in my experience the results are often at least on par with what I brew at home (worth $4 to me). I've had good urn coffee as well, but I do find that more often than not, there's a lingering bit of staleness, and the refill isn't going to taste better unless it's a fresh batch. As for higher demand, sure, I understand doing a combo batch and pour-over offerings. Gimme! in Ithaca does that, with the typical brews on batch and the more characterful coffees on Clevers. I haven't had a bad cup there yet, of either variety, and honestly, I think that's the safe model if you're looking to appease a greater audience.
In a big city, though, where consumers have got lots of options, I think doing straight pour-over could work, as people will learn where to go for the quick stuff, and where to go for the good stuff. You see this a lot with well-loved bakeries or small restaurants: the line down the block just before the place opens, because what's inside is worth the wait. If you can't wait, you go somewhere else, but that bakery will stay in business. I'd wager that can work in coffee as well, as Intelligentsia seems to prove. Their Monadnock cafe, I believe, is purported to serve 1,000 cups per day just on pour-over, which is likely a bit more than one per minute (multiple baristas brewing). I've never been, but if the coffee were bad, would they still see that kind of traffic? I'm tempted to say "not really." I doubt they can consistently brew every cup the same, but that doesn't mean the less consistent ones are at all bad. The imperative is on the cafe though, to produce a high-quality beverage that's worth the cost, effort, time, no matter what the line looks like.
As for the Clover - with Starbucks in control, it'll probably cost a lot more to fix than it's worth, no?
Cerridwyn Senior Member Joined: 6 Jun 2010 Posts: 395 Location: Inland Empire California Expertise: I live coffee
Posted Fri Feb 10, 2012, 7:15pm Subject: Re: "Third Wave" cafés and the pour over revolution: The emperor has no clothes.
In most places, I put my trust in the barista. If it fails me I won't do it again.
I can remember going into the Roastarie in KC. It's not 3rd wave but they listed the coffees they were serving and the best way to have them. You could order them anyway you wanted but I felt it was showing a respect for their product.
If I say barista's choice of brew method and they say no it's the customer's, the odds are they know nothing about what they they are serving. Now, if they say it is customer's choice but and tell you why a method is better, I'll listen.
I had Verve a few weeks ago, made and served in a batch and I was very disappointed. That being said, if you are serving 5 cups in 10 minutes, why not. However, most that do that, don't.
Posted Sat Feb 11, 2012, 9:10am Subject: Re: "Third Wave" cafés and the pour over revolution: The emperor has no clothes.
Enter another variable involved with single-cup brewing:
"Make more. For a somewhat mysterious reason, filter-brewed coffee tastes better the more you make."--Tom Owen
I consistently find this to be true. My go-to brew method is one cup from the V60. Good and sometimes great, but when I brew the same coffee in, say, 32 - 64 ounces in a BUNN VPR-APS, it is almost always better.
JasonBrandtLewis Senior Member Joined: 9 Dec 2005 Posts: 6,099 Location: Berkeley, CA Expertise: I live coffee
Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -... Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -... Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup Drip: CCD, Chemex Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Sun Feb 12, 2012, 6:31pm Subject: Re: "Third Wave" cafés and the pour over revolution: The emperor has no clothes.
(Presented in the FWIW mode)
At any café, one can -- potentially, at least -- have great espresso and really crappy espresso. Indeed, all but a tiny handful of cafés have disappointed me with their espresso at one time or another. I only give up on them after two (sometimes three) bad experiences in a row. After all, anyone/everyone can have an "off" day.
At those cafés which do pourover, the same thing is true. I think it's largely dependent on crowd, i.e. how busy the shop is at the time. If the individual has the time to prepare it properly, it can be superb. If not? Well, just like a poorly-made espresso . . . it's gonna be below expectations, at best, and downright crap at worst.
If a particular café is crowded, I'd going with espresso, not pourover. If they have a nice setup, however, and no one is around . . . I'll go for the pourover/siphon -- at least once!
The one place where I'm never disappointed in pourover is at the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Co. They've been making individually brewed cups of coffee for over 30 years. Now, is it the greatest cup of pourover coffee I've ever had? No. But is it consistently enjoyable? Well, I started going there in 1978, and it's still good. But they are doing "straight" single-cup Melita cups, without pretense. One person making six individual cups at a tie, for six customers who all wait patiently for the dripping coffee to fill their paper cup, so they can finish the walk to work . . .
Spectral Senior Member Joined: 13 Feb 2012 Posts: 4 Location: Wellington, New Zealand Expertise: I like coffee
Posted Mon Feb 13, 2012, 2:06am Subject: Re: "Third Wave" cafés and the pour over revolution: The emperor has no clothes.
I compared a pour-over with the Clover and the Clover won. By a nose, and the pour-over was hotter. But the huge advantage the Clover has is to offer is absolute control over temperature and time, which other than the impossible-to-obtain Clover Precision Pour-Over Machine, I suspect will be impossible-to-obtain from any other pour-over system.
With the Clover's control of brewing variables and the consistency this produces, single-estate coffees can be fine-tuned for both optimum flavour and to extract variations in its flavour due to changes of temperature or brew time.
While I have little experience of pour-overs, it seems to me that they rely more heavily on barista skills, which may be hit and miss. Even then, you won't have a coffee that beats a Clover's. These skills may be missing from a machine which you simply juggle time and temp and with a minute you have a predictable cup of coffee. There's a transendence which comes with a great barista's artisanship which may well affect the appreciation of coffee, that the mere semi-automated production of a better cup can't achive.
Then again, with a Hearthware i-Roast which never worked properly (single temperature roasting only, probably because the Yanks can't handle single-phase 230V) I don't really trust the quality of my roasting. The Clover helps overcome this (after making several cups of second-rate stuff) to make a good cup. It helps to have a Clover at home, too.
In sum, I think the stores that sold their Clovers may regret losing its speed and consistency, especially if they lose their top barista, or have to pay them over the odds to keep them. The risks of Clover's failure and difficulty in obtaining parts may be overstated. Having pulled mine apart, I found that other than the main PCB, most bits are off-the-shelf available or makeable. This is what happens when real engineers design and make a machine, before the value-engineers get in and produce a domestic model impossible to repair.
Cerridwyn Senior Member Joined: 6 Jun 2010 Posts: 395 Location: Inland Empire California Expertise: I live coffee
Posted Mon Feb 13, 2012, 6:06am Subject: Re: "Third Wave" cafés and the pour over revolution: The emperor has no clothes.
Had pour over Ethiopian Roma at Intelligentsia Pasadena on Saturday. It was very yummy. The barista that manned the pour over station and the one that manned the espresso station were different people. I later had a cappuccino and it was nummy too. But I'm not an espresso expert.
In a Clover or a Trifecta, correct me if I am wrong, it takes time and materials to figure out what the exact settings are for that particular coffee for the machine to produce the best possible cup. And if you are serving more than 1 varietal at a time, you have to change the settings each time.
Is pour over more forgiving if you are patient and good at it? I would say so. Or maybe, overall, I have just been lucky. I find it brings out more of the unique qualities in a coffee. Maybe that's just my personal taste.
I think it is a great thing that there are choices out there. That you can have your clover, someone else can have their french press, etc. It allows each of us to enjoy our coffee.
Do I think those places that can charge $5 for a cup of coffee will ever go back to an airpot? Goddess I hope not. And I don't because they make their money and reputation on being on the artisan side of the coffee wave.
I'm not a wine drinker, but I will compare chocolate. You can buy Hershey kisses in the super market. Like Folgers they are consistent and bland. You can also usually buy a little higher end chocolate there, sort of like buying Dunkin' Donuts or the like at the store. Or you can go into a specialty store and get some very awesome 'new wave' chocolate that costs you 3 or 4 dollars for a half-ounce bar and it tastes so good. That same store may sell coffee from a local roaster, undated, just like you can buy Barefoot at Whole Foods in San Jose. And you can go into a place that makes their chocolate there on site but hires clerks off the street that know little about what they sell but can parrot what they have been told, sort of like going into 'most' local coffee shops that still have an airpot. Or you can go into a shop with a Master Chocolatier and get a little bite of heaven so rich that every one of your taste buds tingle. That's what I enjoy in my coffee when an expert roasts it and an expert prepares it with love.
Posted Mon Feb 13, 2012, 6:46am Subject: Re: "Third Wave" cafés and the pour over revolution: The emperor has no clothes.
While it's certainly understandable - and by that I mean, I can conceive of the reasons contributing to the outcome - that a cafe would serve bad coffee periodically, I don't know if that's a great excuse. If your output quality depends on how busy you are, you may have bad priorities. Chances are that if your customers really care whatever benefit a pour-over affords, they're willing to wait for it to be done right. If you rush it, it undermines the entire concept. In that sense, it's an existential dilemma (and I mean that in the literal sense). I hope I stated that fairly - that's essentially my biggest complaint with this "movement".
I agree with the previous comment that French Press is a dependable method of serving variety. It's not everybody's taste, though - a pour-over can resemble a "Bunn" brewed cup in profile, making it widely acceptable, whereas French Press for a variety of reasons is a bit more divisive. I think the vac-pot is a brilliant way to do this, but there again - there's a lot of variety in how those are prepared, and I'm given to understand there are safety concerns that make serving them in a commercial environment easier said than done. I tend to think, however, that they're reasonably safe given proper maintenance and use, and easier to standardize around variables (grind size, water amount, dwell time, stir). Full immersion and filtered - who doesn't love that? You can (and should!) tweak it for the coffee you're brewing, as well. It's a brilliant blend of presentation and efficacy. Assuming you have a water tower, you can churn these out in short order. I'd like to see this become a more popular "by-the-cup" method.
And then of course you have the Trifecta - a great idea, but very pricey.
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