Why we hate the tableside pour-over coffee service

Categories: Coffee

640px-Die_Chemex_6_Cup.jpg
Wikimedia Commons
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.

See also:
Why we hate "his and hers" cocktails

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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26 comments
Kenneth Alan
Kenneth Alan

I'm wonder when CP became an authority on coffee. It's getting a lot easier to say "NO" when CP calls my company and asks us to advertise.

Kenneth Alan
Kenneth Alan

It doesn't seem like you did any real research before writing this article. It pretty much makes you look dumb, especially if the reader knows anything about coffee, the way it's brewed and tastes, and its history. I would remove it.

Sandy Kelly
Sandy Kelly

My mother, who was born in 1926' made her coffee like this all the time. It's sure not new. She just always said it was better brewed this way.

Matt Werner
Matt Werner

Wah... Oh my god stop finding things to bitch about city pages do some actual journalism...

shitty_journalisn
shitty_journalisn

These points aren't good at all, but then again I'm reading city pages.  Chemex coffee brews at a similar temperature as drip and the wait is like 5 minutes per carafe, I make it daily. The portions are fine, coffee isn't meant to be consumed by the gallon, especially with a meal. If you want to drink 40oz of "ready this instant" burn your tongue off coffee, I suggest Super America.


Everything else is a mark of bad service.  there should not be wet grounds on your table, and the restaurant should purchase the chemex lid to slow heat loss.

k2yeb
k2yeb topcommenter

You can spend all your energy on creativity and theater, but at the end of the day its always going to be coffee. Who cares where it comes from (as long as its fair trade), how its made, or who made it. If its good, then it deserves a spot at the table. To each their own....brew. 

Brian Hoffmann
Brian Hoffmann

Whine much? Not only has the chemex been around since the 40s, it's main selling point is the fact that the brewing process accentuates the high flavor notes and removes bitterness, not that it's "trendy".

Jess Brasted
Jess Brasted

Sounds like you had one bad experience from someone who clearly sounds like they don't know what they're doing and decided to write up a whole "story" on it. Points are weak.

Al Pann
Al Pann

Who's "we", you and Rupar?

laura_thieret
laura_thieret

Too expensive, and it really bothers me when coffee isn't piping hot...

unfoodie1
unfoodie1

I've witnessed a shortage of Chemex carafes during peak brunch hours at one Eat Street establishment, which lead to a 30-minute wait time for coffee.

Patrick Birke
Patrick Birke

All of these points are weak. Bad article city pages

chezjoey74
chezjoey74

I didn't really like black coffee until trying a pour-over. The flavor is superior and well worth the fuss, in my opinion.

DavidFoureyes
DavidFoureyes topcommenter

5. It's pretentious and filled with unnecessarily precious paraphernalia.

swag
swag

@DavidFoureyes Come on. My great uncle has used a Chemex since the late 1940s. Don't call him a hipster just because people were too clueless to notice for 60 years.

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