Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pour Over Spirographs

Just in time for the communal talkathon that is SCAA, we're posting Charity's distinctive spirograph pour over technique. It's named after the path your spout traces, kind of like overlapping slinky circles.

Is it consistent without a timer? She seems to think so. Commercial outfits will likely beg to differ when it comes to clocking pours, but tasty results with fewer tools gets my (biased) vote for home brews.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Learning Humility with Customers

Some customers are more coffee fuelers than lovers. They may stop in for a quick latte, but they're likely to demand a 16 oz one in a paper cup. While excellent shops can begin to convert these caffeine addicts into connoisseurs over time, it's a tough sell!

You'd think coffee lovers, by contrast, would be the ones we'd love to serve. Not so, at least in my experience. Quite honestly I think they may be harder for us to appreciate and serve well. While a very few home baristas may measure up against competition-level pros in technique and knowledge, the vast majority fall far short. How do you relate to someone who comes in and obviously savors your drinks, buys your beans, takes them home and then slaughters them in the filthy guts of a treasured Mr. Coffee maker?!

Boldy, I'd suggest we start those conversations (and I think we should look for them) around our commonalities -- our common appreciation for coffee as a drink that's more than God's natural alternative to Red Bull, our common stories of important moments shared over coffee. I think we would do well to start by listening to their unique coffee story, even when much of what we hear appears to be completely wrong. And I think listening first will open the door to those coffee recommendations we long to give.

Thankfully, many coffee lovers already ask us for advice, but even there, I think inviting them across that knowledge gap slowly and respectfully will pay off in the long-term, both in terms of increased customer value and terms of valuing and respecting a fellow traveler's love for a beverage that we enjoy so much.

What's in their cup? 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pour Over Panic: The Problem of What to Watch

Pour overs are something of a discipline for me now. I relish the seemingly insurmountable challenge of the perfect pour in much the same way that I used to thrill at the challenge of climbing 5.12 clean.

In both cases, I fall short. One issue in particular that dogs my pour over practice is the challenge of learning what to pay attention to as I pour. Given one indicator to watch, I feel confident of finding flow and getting past the mechanics of technique into the coffee itself. Right now, though, I find myself more harried back and forth between indicators than anything else

While I know my core parameters are pour position and rate balanced against drawdown rate, I find myself slipping with the kettle because my attention is drawn away from the bed to the clock or the serving vessel. Currently, checking time, poured coffee level and pour placement require three different head movements. I suspect a better brew setup could move all three indicators into a single line of sight - a heads down display, so to speak.

Lighting the brew station properly seems to be another common-sense tweak that would improve the visibility of the process, and potentially sharpen my focus and responses. While I've seen several well organized pour over setups, very few of them address lighting thoughtfully. Interestingly, the popular bottom-lit serving vessel seems to be at best irrelevant and at worse a distraction, as it forces a barista to constantly adjust to different light levels between the vessel and the brewing device. I'd like to build a balanced lighting setup with even light levels and minimal shadows both above and below the bar level.

So, the brew station needs work. Aside from that, though, what should I be watching in the pour itself?

Nik Virrey (@xenvoix) brewing on a well-lit setup at new Zoka South Lake Union.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pour Over Technique Followup: Cole's Pour

In the last post, I lamented the sad state of pour over documentation. Cole McBride took pity, and offered to put his technique on film. So here it is, the first of hopefully many pour over videos illustrating the rich and varied ecosystem of specialty coffee prep techniques.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

How Do You Pour Over? And Why? - A Running Pour Over Technique List

Yes, this entire post is about the ways you can pour water over coffee. I've heard (and forgotten) more of these techniques than, well, actually gotten to try them. It seems no gathering of coffee nerds is complete without an extensive discussion of technique that usually far outpaces the number of actual pour overs consumed (which may not be a bad thing for our collective caffeine levels).

The problem arises when attempting to replicate the bomber technique previewed at the local confab on one's home brew bar. With conversation flying thick and fast, I find it difficult to pick up the nuances of brewing technique face to face. Hence, this list, and (hopefully) your help. The idea is to have a handy and growing list that can be referenced, updated and linked to easily.

Below I'll start off with two techniques I practice. Yes, only two. I've seen many other methods, but since I don't practice them myself, I'd rather let actual practitioners do the explaining.

Pour over maestros who append their recipes (or link to videos) below shall be included (with full credit) in a full and updated listing here at a time TBD.

1. Continuous Low Disturbance Pour
Container: V60 into 3 cup press
Filter: what else but?!
Metrics: volumetric, 12 oz
Dose: 23-24g
Time: 2:25

Summary: It's as easy-hard as it sounds. Let bloom for 40 seconds and then pour slowly and continuously in the center, keeping the top of the bed about even with where it was during the height of the bloom. Shoot for hitting 12 oz right around 2:25 and then switch in a drip cup and let the dregs drain out.

2. Continuous Circular Disturbance Pour

Container: V60 into 3 cup press
Filter: ours
Metrics: volumetric, 12 oz
Dose: 22-23g
Time: 2:15

Summary: I may be wrong, but the circular pour seems to extract a bit more quickly than the zen center pour in #1. I tend to bloom for 30-35, and then gently pour in continuously expanding and contracting circles shooting to hit my volume for a 2:15 pull out. Bed height is kept low, about where the top of the bloom is. The idea, if any, is to spread the poured water around to increase evenness of extraction and eliminate the possibility of an over-extracted center. In my very limited experience, it seems a bit trickier than #1, but maybe slightly juicier and brighter?

Ok, now it's your turn. How do you pour over? And why?