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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.