The third-wave coffee movement is in full force in Bend.
Locals take their coffee selections as seriously as they take their bikes and beer. But the world of coffee art, artisan beans and micro roasting is foreign to me.
I love coffee. I drink it most every day. But the extent of my palate is defferentiating an expensive specialty brew and a standard drip that has been on the hot mat at a gas station—one tastes great, the other tastes not-as-great.
Then along came pour-over coffee, the technique that could turn me into a discerning coffee connoisseur. The brewing method has been popping up all over Bend and is, supposedly, the most pure way to brew a cup.
It's the fancy equivalent of coffee making while you're camping. The technology is just a glorified funnel to which you add ground beans followed by hot water, allowing the coffee to steep through a filter and drip into your mug.
Sounds simple enough until you read the seven-step instruction manual that comes with standard versions of the coffee-brewing apparatus.
"It's like a science project," said Emily Dixon, barista at Crow's Feet Commons, as she measured and weighed out 42 grams of coffee and got her timer ready for the brew. "They say it's the most perfect way to make a cup of coffee."
The idea behind pour-over is an even extraction, giving your beans the best possible flavor, all the subtleties included. Even for a coffee novice like me, I can taste the difference in my cup. Less harsh, more sweet.
At Crow's Feet Commons, they call the pour-over a Chemex. That's the brand name of their pour-over coffee collector, which looks like a cross between a large flower vase and a bong. Crow's Feet uses a digital scale to measure the weight of the ground beans and water involved in the process. They time every little step of the process to ensure that the coffee brews evenly, extracting the best flavor possible.
Even extraction is the key to the getting the most out of your grind, said Scott Witham, barista at Lone Pine Coffee Roasters, which serves single cup pour-overs.
"What you want to avoid is the high and dry, where the coffee makes a cone," said Witham as he poured hot water in small, even circles over the Ethiopian grounds.
The idea here is complete control over the coffee bed, which makes for better extraction.
"You want to keep the coffee bed flat so that it will extract evenly. If it under extracts it will taste metallic and sour, if it's over it will have bitter flavors," said Witham.
If you do it right, you're going to end up with a seriously delicious cup.
"It's cleaner in flavor," said Witham. "It makes it easier to taste the flavor notes."
Going back to the basics of hand-pouring water over beans to create the best tasting cup makes total sense. It may seem like another coffee fad, but at its core, it's really the original formula.
Seemingly the only drawback to the method is that it takes a few extra minutes, four or five, to execute a perfect pour over technique, adding water at intervals rather than flooding the filter and letting it drip.
"It brings out the flavor of the coffee, it takes time. But all good things take time," said Dixon. "When we are busy and someone wants a Chemex we say, OK, I hope you're not in a hurry. The difference in quality is worth a few extra minutes."
If you're like me, it may just get you interested in third-wave coffee. As I talked to Witham, I could feel myself being sucked into a rabbit hole of coffee nerdom as he described the flavors I might get from the different beans, the advantages of the pour over and namedropped the "Scott Rao pouring method," which I had a sudden urge to Google. Turns out Rao wrote the Professional Barista Handbook.
Thanks to the pour over, I got better, sweeter flavor from my morning cup. Try it out—it's old school, it's hip and it's wonderful.
Pour over available at:
Lone Pine Coffee
845 Tin Pan Alley
25 NW Minnesota Ave.
Crow's Feet Commons
875 NW Brooks St.
Palate, A Coffee Bar
643 NW Colorado Ave.
WISDOM FROM THE BACKPORCH
At Backporch Coffee Roasters, one of Bend's premier sources of coffee, you won't find humans making your pour-overs. After finding too much inconsistency from one barista to another, owner Dave Beach says the company switched to the Extractor. It's the same pour-over process, but with the Extractor ensuring water temperatures and consistent pour over the bed of grounds. Here's Beach's take on some of the advantages and disadvantages to human-driven pour-over coffees.
• Waiting for the pour-over cup to brew is a chance to connect with baristas and learn about the process
• Human-controlled cups allow for exploration of variations in coffees flavor based on a different brew methods
• You only brew what you are selling, instead of making a whole pot
• It's a great way to get coffee dialed in at home
• Variation in water temperature, improper dosing and improper extraction
• A barista can get overwhelmed with customer flow and ruin a complete pour-over
• Each barista has a different method leading to inconsistencies from staff member to staff member
• It's time consuming and some customers may just want a solid cup of coffee on the way to work
• Inability to properly make multiple pour-overs at a time
If you do get a pour-over system, Beach's recommended pour-over methods are the Chemex with a white paper filter and the Hario V60 with a white paper filter.
"I do really love our Fetco Extractor," said Beach. "I would 95% of the time defer to drinking from it over any manual brew."