Go into some coffee shops and ask for V60 or Chemex, and they’ll politely say no. They don’t offer them, but they do have batch brew. Yet these aren’t second wave establishments we’re talking about. They’re high-quality specialty cafés. One of them is even run by the German Brewers Cup Champion 2017.
We got in touch with some of these coffee shops, as well as with some that offer batch brew alongside manual, to find out why.
The Hipster batch brewer. Credit: Populus Coffee
Quality & Consistency
There’s no doubt that manual brewing can produce exceptional drinks. But for many cafés turning to batch brew coffee, it’s because of two things: consistency and control.
I asked Christian Gullbrandsson of da Matteo, a Swedish specialty chain that has been around since the ‘90s, why he uses a Hipster batch brewer. He told me, “I would say control. Controlling the temperature and pulses during the brewing has made the coffee so much better… To be honest, most of the time I think that the Hipster delivers a better and more consistent result than with manual brewing.”
Constantín Hoppenz of Bonanza Coffee, who became the German Brewers Cup Champion in November, believes it opens the door to more intricate recipes than is possible with hand brewing in a café. “Finally workflow issues are no longer an excuse to not use highly complex filter coffee dial-ins. Have you ever thought of using three different kettles with three different temperatures for a single pour over? I bet not.”
Making coffee is a technical skill. Water temperature, grind size, pour time… it all affects the taste. Cut the water sooner for a more acidic brew; pour longer for greater body. And as an industry, we love our tools for measuring these precise details: refractometers, high-quality scales, apps, and more. A high-quality batch brewer gives the ability to further control these aspects, dialing in precise temperatures, bloom times, water volumes, and pulses. And what’s more, it will do it the same way every single time.
But the advantages of this don’t just end with a great brew.
The Hipster, a batch brew coffee maker, at Bonanza Coffee. Credit: Bonanza Coffee
Recipe Development & Training
Kenneth Kastberg, Roaster at MokkaHouse.dk, a Danish third wave coffee house and online shop, prefers to use his batch brewer for recipe development.
“Having total control over the coffee brew is like having the perfect barista working 24-7. I can always trust the Hipster to do exactly the same brew every time, over and over… I use it for testing all my coffees and to test brew profiles for manual brewing.”
He even uses it for practising triangulation cupping. This is a cupping of multiple, very similar, coffees to practise spotting minor differences. It’s useful for honing your cupping skills, as well as for quality control. But brewing the coffee is unusual. Since brew methods and recipes add variations to the coffee extraction, normally cuppers simply pour hot water over ground coffee, before scooping off the grinds that rise to the top.
“I find it very useful for triangulation cupping practice. I believe that it is the best brewer to ensure the same brew ratio on all coffees.”
But that’s what the pros think – what about the customers?
A traditional cupping table. Credit: Kaldi’s Coffee KC
Converting Customers to Specialty
A batch brewer requires a smaller investment in time and labour, and has the ability to make larger amounts of coffee at one time. And so, while Contstantín Hoppenz thinks it can offer better-quality coffees, he also thinks it’s more accessible to commodity consumers.
“One of the greatest things [about batch brewing] is also being able to offer samples of all our filter brews. We can make sure the final cup is to our guests’ liking.”
“‘You’re not experienced with specialty coffee? You’re not sure if you should get a bright and vibrant Kenyan or a mild and full-bodied Brazilian filter? No problem, have a tasting flight and compare.’ There is a huge possibility for us to introduce specialty coffee to a wider audience – without making them immediately pay €5 for a hand brew they’ve been waiting on for 15 minutes and might not even like in the end.”
Unless a café is in a train station, airport, or petrol station, it must aim to convert one-time customers into regulars. Part of that is converting people to specialty coffee. And offering tasting flights and samples will help ensure they try a drink they’ll like.
A tasting flight of three coffees. Credit: Boxcar Social
SEE ALSO: It’s Time to Reconsider the Batch Brewer
The Specialty Customer’s Perspective
Constantín Hoppenz tells me that, when his café stopped serving manual brewers, there was some initial backlash. “This transition was, of course, not easy and created some discussion around the value of hand brews. We all love a great hand brewed filter coffee from a V60 or Kalita for the art of the craft and the high dedication to perfection.”
Yet he was convinced it was the right decision – and over time, his customers came to agree with him. “Comments from people who were used to ordering hand brews were slightly negative at the beginning, but we were especially prepared for them. We took our time to explain the ideas behind the change and why we believe in the technological progress with the Hipster. However, as soon as they tasted the filter coffee we brewed with the 3TEMP, almost everyone changed their minds.”
“Losing the visual effect of hand brews in favour of technological progress is sad, but necessary. No one is nostalgic about antiquated manual espresso machines any more, because they’re inconsistent and no one in specialty coffee wants to sacrifice coffee quality for tradition.”
“In return, we have been rewarded for our decision to only offer filter coffee from the 3Temp. Customers appreciate the time at which they get served a wonderful and complex filter coffee and we enjoy having more time for our customers.”
Costas of Sweden offer espresso, filter, and batch brew. Credit: Costas of Sweden
Do Customers Still Ask For Manual Brewing?
Costas Pliatsika of Costa’s Roastery tells me he offers both manual and batch brewing. He adds that often the same customer will order both manual and batch brew, depending on what they want at that moment in time.
Marco Merhwald of Man versus Machine Coffee Roasters also offers both, but serves mainly batch brew. “Nowadays we offer hand brew on request only. If someone really wants to have their coffee brewed by us, we are happy to do so.”
For some of his customers, ordering manual brews is just a matter of convenience – not preference. “We might do [a manual brew] if someone wants a coffee that we do not offer as a batch brew that particular day. You can always choose between two different batch brews when coming to us, but we have more coffees in our portfolio.” He adds, “We believe that a great batch brew gets more people into great filter coffee.”
3Temp, the creator of the Hipster, is a sponsor of Perfect Daily Grind. Perfect Daily Grind is not affiliated with any of the other individuals or bodies mentioned in this article, and cannot directly endorse them.
These interviews were conducted in accordance with our editorial policies, and 3Temp has had no greater influence on the final copy than any of our other interviewees.
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