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.

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