Why we hate the tableside pour-over coffee service
When pour-over coffee first became "a thing," it seemed like a breath of pure oxygen amid the slowly fading '90s coffee culture of no-foam, half-caf, and whipped cream-topped. Its process is transparent, allows for control over a number of variables, and can easily be adapted for a single drinker.
We're lucky to have a number of coffee shops who specialize in the single-cup, pour-over thing including Blue Ox, Spyhouse, and Parka, and though we're still fans of the actual coffee this method produces, a growing number of us at the Hot Dish are finding frustration with pour-over as the weapon of choice for restaurant coffee service, particularly at brunch. Scoff and moan, but here are our four most salient points in the case against Chemex.
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4. It's messy.
On more than one occasion, we've experienced tableside Chemex gone wrong. In what is likely intended to be a fun spectacle and mark of attentive, knowledgeable service, you can easily end up with wet coffee grounds in the decanter and on your brunch table. Which leads right into our next point.
3. It takes a long time.
Should the best-laid pour-over plans go awry, the coffee you've already been waiting to have brewed right before your eyes is whisked away only to start the countdown to caffeination all over again. Since a cup of coffee is an important part of the "which eggs to order" decision-making process, that's a major con.
2. It doesn't retain heat for very long.
Once the grounds have been steeped, filtered though, and it's finally ready for drinking, the coffee is often no longer piping hot. If you like a more tepid temp, bully for you. But it only gets colder as it sits and the heat escapes from the top. The last cup of coffee from the tableside Chemex is like the last swig from a bottle of champagne: It doesn't taste terrible, but it's definitely lost its essence.
1. Most often the portion is less than ideal.
Though amounts can easily be adjusted for the number of people you're serving when you make pour-over at home, at a restaurant it's usually priced out so you can either get way too much coffee for one or two people, but not enough for four. Of course you can always order another carafe mid-way through brunch, but that typically that means you're looking at upwards of $15 spent on coffee. Might as well get a couple of cocktails and do some socially acceptable day-drinking.
Of course this can all be avoided if you go somewhere with drip coffee (pros: someone will always top you off, it's hot, and often bottomless), but as restaurants try to carve out their respective niches and keep up with the coffee culture of the times, regular old drip is increasingly not even an option. Is this the future or a passing fad? Are you pro or con? Have at it in the comments below.
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