Manual Brewing: On the Rise or On Its Way Out? Barista Magazine Takes a Look.
In the automated age, convenience and complexity reign as kings. Simple human tasks are readily handed over to advanced machines that carry them out with eerie precision. Robots replace factory laborers, guitar strings are tuned at the press of a button, and Will Smith doesn’t even drive his own car around (or was that just in the movies?). Yet even as technology takes over, the do-it-yourself movement explodes and artisans emerge in nearly every industry. Twenty-first century baristas and homebrewers must ask, “In which of these directions is coffee headed?”
To be sure, both.
State-of-the-art coffee machines are undoubtedly on the rise, and have already taken several impressive forms. Bonavita’s SCAA-approved drip brewer consistently disperses water at 205 degrees Fahrenheit with technology that has rarely been implemented in a machine of its type. The Trifecta, from Bunn, individualizes coffees by controlling ten user-defined brewing parameters (pre-infusion, turbulence, and others). And super-automatics from brands like Astoria do it all – grinding, brewing espresso, and steaming – at impressive speeds: over 400 cups per hour! Is there room in this rat race for the merely human barista, who still likes to get his hands dirty?
Mark Pfaff and Keith Gehrke think so. In the April-May 2012 issue of Barista Magazine, these two coffee professionals share their thoughts on the future of manual brewing and its place in the cafe. Both gentlemen have a distinguished history in the field: Mark championed Victrola Coffee Roaster’s brew-by-the-cup program and Keith is well-known for his innovative filters for the Chemex and Aeropress. They insist that brewing by the cup is here to stay and that it’s a viable method for making coffee in kitchen or the cafe. Their questions and conclusions are helpful for either the at-home aficionado or pensive professional who is considering this craft.
1. Does brewing by the cup achieve your cafe’s goals? Pfaff and Gehrke suggest that reasons like “it’s cool and eye-catching,” “it’ll make us more money,” “we need more variety on our menu,” and “we want to be on the cutting edge” aren’t really sustainable. Moreover, manual brewing isn’t the only – or best – way to satisfy these desires.
2. Is your workspace – professional cafe or at-home kitchen – conducive to manual brewing? An entirely new lineup of equipment comes with brewing by the cup. Several stellar methods exist – V60, Chemex, siphon, Aeropress, and more – and each require unique accessories. Lots of clean workspace is essential to make this brewing experience practical and enjoyable.
3. Can you produce a flavorful cup of coffee? In short, whether you’re brewing for yourself or a customer, learn a trustworthy technique and dial it in.
Like every emerging trend, manual brewing will continue to be refined and revamped. Pfaff and Gehrke are certain, however, that it will endure:
“The one thing you can bet on is that coffee drinkers will continue to brew coffee in their homes with methods that are simple and give them decent consistency without a lot of hassle. Hence there will always be a place in our cafes for these techniques...”
In an industry as volatile as that of specialty coffee, it’s comforting to be assured that this treasured craft should survive even the next robotic revolution. Apparently, convenience and complexity haven’t yet displaced the simplicity of the manual brew.
Surprise of all surprises, the artisan and the automatic can co-exist.
The full article by Mark Pfaff and Keith Gehrke can be viewed online at Barista Magazine.
Like this post? Then Subscribe to the Prima Coffee blog by email and get slick articles delivered right to your inbox. No web surfing required.
We've looked long and hard for a scale that we can recommend for our avid manual brewing friends. The scale needed to have a high weight capacity, fast response time and precision calculations, and the ability to disable the auto-off feature to ensure the scale would not shut off mid-brew. The Jennings CJ4000 is the first scale we have offered that meets all of these requirements. With a 4000 gram capacity, accuracy to .5 gram, and the ability to disable the auto-off feature, the Jennings scale is the perfect companion to manual brewing.
For most companies it's hard to find motivation for pushing out new products if you find yourself on top already. This is not, however, the case with La Marzocco. The Italian based espresso machine manufacturer continues to push the envelop when it comes to innovations in espresso machine technology. The newest line from La Marzocco continues their progression in the specific areas of temperature stability and pressure profiling. We've discussed the Strada Electronic Paddle version in detail in our Strada EP blog post and listing for the 2 Group Strada EP. The Strada Mechanical Paddle employs technology similar to the Mechanical Paddles on other La Marzocco models but with a few new features including individual pressure gauges, digital PID control, and dedicated group boilers.
Small, lightweight, and portable, the Skerton is the ideal hand grinder for the traveling coffee enthusiast, or the home enthusiast on a limited budget. The Skerton employs adjustable conical ceramic burrs for grinding any of the wide range of grinds employed in today’s coffee market. It can easily handle anything from fine espresso to a coarse French Press setting. The Skerton’s detachable 100 gr. glass jar is perfect for collecting the grounds, and in combination with the plastic screw-on lid (included in order) can even double as a storage unit for whole beans on those long trips. After grinding is finished, cleaning the Skerton is as easy as placing the unit in the dishwasher since the entire grinder is dishwasher safe. Whether you desire a quality, handy grinder for the road or enjoy the fine art of manual coffee preparation, the Hario Skerton is the ideal candidate. For an even more portable hand grinder from Hario, check out the Mini Mill (for a more detailed comparison of the two grinders, check out this blog post: Hario Skerton vs. Mini Mill).