company - education - coffee

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Something missing on your brew bar

In recent trips to coffee destinations to see their per cup bars, one aspect was missing almost universally at every stop.  Temperature.  That is really a tough one to leave ignored and really calls into questions the credibility of the per cup movement.  If temperature is not a factor and every brew varies, then per cup brewing for many shops is just a fad or just about style points.  It makes one feel that it's not a movement towards fresher brews crafted one cup at a time but rather a trend that shops need to carry to fit in with the 'cutting edge'.  This is frustrating but also makes for heartbreaking visits to other shops seeing Syphons brewed at almost boiling temps, pour overs that two in a row are completely different cup to cup.

In some ways, we are lucky to have been instilled with a strong cynicism for the larger coffee culture we're supposed to be part of.  It can isolate us sometimes but we get less caught up in trends.  These days, we've been less interested in what is happening in the larger coffee culture and more focused on doing what we want to do but being lumped into the per cup movement, having this contrast matters to us.

One of the really nice things in shop is what were are doing with the Luminairecoffee prototype.  To do a pour over for any method, you walk up to the tap and get started.  You can set temperature, ending volume of water, and total time (if you are lazy) and it will figure out exactly the flow rate and adjusts to compensate while hitting the temp you set.  So, we often do the pre-infusion in such a way that the grounds are saturated to a balance point and then use the time/volume settings for the rest of the brew.  Since it measures the water volume/flow rate as it brews, a scale is unnecessary (aside from measuring grounds).

That makes testing a set of brews where only one variable is different in each of the sets.  For example, we can test 3 pour overs at three temps with identical parameters for everything else... and we do that often.  One of the first training sessions for pour overs includes doing exactly this set for varying temperatures to explain what too hot and too cool  by a degree or two can do to the coffee.  We have the data right in front of us daily that says brew temperature is a fairly sensitive variable and can have a noticeable impact on the resulting flavors.

If we were brewing manually with a kettle, we'd heat water, weigh the grind, measure the water temp and pour with a timer running.  Use the right kettle flow rate and you don't need a scale underneath (unless you want to). Basically, the idea is really the same approach for both which is why we find it intuitive.  It's less repeatable but with attention, the results yield the same observations.

Temperature does matter.

The question is why aren't you paying attention to it?