Operators create excitement, drive coffee sales with a variety of coffee brews. Sponsored by Royal Cup Coffee.
Brewing coffee is not terribly complex. Grind roasted coffee beans, expose them to hot or cold water for a sufficient amount of time to extract soluble flavors and separate the liquid from the grounds. Done well, the result is a pleasing hot or cold beverage.
What makes it more interesting are the multiple ways of getting from bean to beverage, each offering different shades of flavor and merchandising possibilities. In addition to the familiar drip coffee traditional in foodservice and the espresso drinks that have caught on in recent years, operators are delving into brew methods such as pourover, single-cup, cold brew and nitro coffee that are creating excitement and variety.
The following are some of the high points of these new wave brew methods.
Pourover. Also known as hand pour, pourover brewing has been trending in hip coffee shops for some time. Lately, restaurant operators who are committed to coffee quality have been exploring it as well. Slowly and methodically pouring hot water from a kettle over ground coffee in a paper filter can bring out subtle nuances of the bean. In terms of merchandising, it is a visual display and a chance to chat with the patron, provided the latter can wait three to five minutes or longer for the brew.
Scone City, a bake shop and espresso bar in Chicago, uses two types of pourover brew apparatus, Chemex and V60. Differences in the filter and the size and shape of each device result in slightly different brewing expressions. In fact, it can be enlightening to compare the flavor of cups of the same coffee brewed with each method. “Perhaps the V60 is getting more fruit out of the coffee, while the Chemex is pulling out more of the darker caramels and sugars,” says John Mook, head of coffee for Scone City.
Most Scone City patrons opt for pourovers after breakfast, when they have time to relax, Mook says. During the hectic morning rush, the majority choose quick espresso-based drinks or drip coffees.
Advanced Single-Cup and Batch Brewers. There are additional ways to make good coffee one cup at a time or in small batches. Some operators use automated brewing equipment that can be adjusted and programmed to run a brew cycle that consistently brings out the best in a particular coffee.
Customized java, just like customized food, seems to be especially important to millennials. “They don’t want just a cup from a big three-gallon urn; they want their specific coffee made their way,” says David Strahl, general manager of H.C. Valentine Coffee Company, an artisan roaster in Birmingham, Ala. “That trend is really influencing restaurants and even some of the larger hotels.”
“This past year we are also seeing the re-acceptance of batch brewers because they do make sense in certain situations, and you can dial them in to brew very high-quality coffee,” says Emma Chevalier, creative director of Revelator Coffee Company, which also is based in Birmingham. Revelator operates coffee shops there and in four other Southern cities.
Cold Brew. One of the hottest aspects of java today is positively frosty. Fans of cold brew say that properly made it is lively, aromatic and smooth, free of the bitter compounds produced in hot water brewing. It can be made in various ways, but one that has a lot of fans these days is full-immersion cold brew, made by submerging ground coffee in a container of cold water in the walk-in overnight.
For operators, cold brew can be the coffee beverage that fills the gap between lunch and dinner, when hot coffee sales typically trend down, Strahl observes.
Scone City’s cold brew — soaked in the walk-in for 24 hours — sells year round, even in a Chicago December. “For some people, that’s all they drink,” Mook says.
Chevalier observes that properly made cold brew can be “as delicious and beautiful and expressive” as other brew methods. “There is a lot of opportunity there, especially for bar programs using it as a component of cocktails.”
Nitro Coffee. One of the trendiest new wrinkles in specialty java, this foamy caffeinated elixir is essentially black coffee in a keg infused with nitrogen gas. It has a unique, creamy mouth feel and an eye-catching visual display when poured, because the bubbles cascade in the glass just like they do in a well-poured pint of creamy Irish stout.
“People get infatuated with it,” says Strahl. “They say, ‘What is that? I need to try it.’ It’s fun, it’s new, and it brings out some really neat flavors in coffees.”