In Italy, the heart of espresso culture, it is believed that four critical factors play a role in the creation of a high quality espresso: miscela (coffee blend), macinzaione (grinder), macchina (machine), and mano (the skilled hand of the barista). However, I would argue, that these factors also apply to the preparation of any brewed cup of coffee, as they all play a role in the art and science that exists in the process of developing each cup. In this article, we look at one of these essential components: machinna; and how our industry has been revolutionized by the single-serve movement with some of the finest and most innovative brewing systems available today.
Manual methods for brewing coffee have become widespread preferences for home enthusiasts and coffee bar baristas alike. The ability to control and regulate every variable in the brewing process, create a cup exactly to one’s preference, and to bring out the qualities and characters of diverse coffees, has made these systems become preferred methods by many. Along with this new popularity, many new methods and devices have surfaced, as well as old methods being resurrected.
This unique device “Is a manual press that uses a paper filter but emulates the rapid espresso process to brew delicious American or espresso style coffee” explains Alex Tennant, General Manager at Aerobie, inc. Some of the main attributes of this brewing system are its lightweight, compactness, durability, and ease of use, making it the perfect traveling coffee maker. Most importantly, it brews a great tasting espresso “delicious rich coffee flavors without the bitterness,” says Tennant. The AeroPress, as many other manual systems, gives plenty of room to experiment. The ways of use can vary from using it in the traditional upright method, to brewing a cup of java using the inverted method. For the later method, the AeroPress is turned upside down, with the plunger inserted just enough to seal the bottom. The AeroPress comes with paper filters, but Able Brewing created the Disk, a stainless steel filter to be used with the AeroPress, broadening the options to alter the brewing parameters.
A fusion between a chic design and a science lab experiment, the Chemex brewing system is a pour over method that involves simply the Chemex carafe, Chemex bonded filters, coffee grounds, and water. According to Eliza Grassy, Vice President of Marketing at Chemex Corp., this system “was designed in 1941 by Peter Schlumbohm PhD, who was an inventor of many devices…He was a chemist, and understood clearly the chemistry behind the extraction of flavor and caffeine from coffee beans. He tested water temperature, flow time, various coffee grinds, chemical reactions of the beans, etc. The Chemex was born from combining functionality, aesthetics, and science…it has remained unchanged for 71 years.” While little training is required, this pour over device inspires creativity and experimentation. “The double bonded Chemex filters are heavier than any other paper filter on the market. The thickness of the paper provides an even extraction of the coffee grounds, and also filters out all of the undesirable sediment and oils… creating an incredibly clean, strong, cup of coffee,” adds Grassy.
The V60 is a simple cone design with many benefits for any aficionado. Edwin Martinez, Founder of Roustabout (formerly Hario USA) explains, “Our most popular products are based on V60 drippers which are cone shaped and have spiral well defined ridges that start at the very top and go all the way down to the bottom of the large opening. They are made in ceramic, glass, and plastic. I had a chance to meet the inventor of the V60 who refined his idea 18 years ago. He has been employed at Hario Japan for over 40 years and has thought about how to perfectly brew coffee longer than I’ve been alive.” One of the benefits of this design is its sustainable manufacturing. “Hario is one the greenest glass manufacturing businesses in the world,” says Martinez. Furthermore, the experts at Prima Coffee Equipment flatter this device by saying, “The design of the V60 helps produce some of the best cups of coffee we’ve had. When pouring carefully, the spiral ridges on the V60 facilitate a more even extraction than other brewers that extract only out of the bottom of the dripper.” 1
Moreover, Martinez explains how he has witnessed single-serve, and for that matter, the V60, make an impact in consumer’s perception of gourmet coffee, “I made it my goal to get some of the more influential small independent retailers to get rid of all batch brew and replace it with V60’s for by the cup brewing. This has made the coffee experience more diverse. Consistency and great execution is the biggest challenge. One of the greatest benefits has been getting consumers to step away from coffee as a commodity and view coffee more as a culinary agricultural product.”
Melitta Pour Over
Dating back to Melitta Bentz, who in 1908 invented the two-part filter system, preparation with the Melitta consists of a cone, lined with a coffee filter and filled with ground coffee, sitting atop a coffee cup. Handcrafting of coffee in a simplistic way creates a bright, clean cup of coffee. Water is slowly poured by hand over the grounds and fresh coffee drips into the cup below. Melitta offers several new items in its line-up of pour-overs. The stylish Stainless Steel 3 Station and 4 Station Pour-Over Bars are perfect for larger quantities of handmade coffee. Melitta also recently debuted a new, bamboo pour-over: A stylish 100% solid bamboo stand and porcelain cone ideal for intimate dinner parties, family breakfasts, or book club gatherings.
Automatic systems have the advantage of requiring little training to use and allowing anyone to brew a great cup of java without tampering with the quality. These systems have permitted the reduction of waiting times, as well as helped maintain consistency in the preparation of each cup. Homes, restaurants, and offices have been privileged with access to a great beverage with the touch of a button.
The SCAA 2012 award-winning STEAMPUNK by Alpha Dominche is a pioneering and striking system. Khristian Bombeck President of the company, explains, “The SteamPunk is an automated, temperature-controlled, 21st Century version of the traditional siphon brewing method. The sleek, single-cup coffee brewing system enables the barista to simultaneously brew up to four types of coffee into four distinctive, well-balanced cups of coffee in as little as 45 seconds.” Besides the sophisticated design, the advantages of the SteamPunk are many; considering that the primary concern with manual pour over among retailers is the amount of time it takes to make each individual cup, this system is an ideal solution. “We created the SteamPunk because discerning coffee customers will always value the customization, variety and full-flavored coffee beverages that single serve preparation allows,” explains Bombeck.
Curtis Gold Cup
The Curtis Gold Cup Brewer, also a SCAA 2012 Award winner, is a twin head, “American-style,” drip, filtered brewer that brews coffee one cup at a time. According to Brant Curtis, Marketing Manager at Wilbur Curtis, “The CGC is the only single cup brewer on the market that creates a cup of drip coffee. Any other single cup brewer either uses a metal filter or pressure to brew the coffee, which results in a coffee that is more similar to espresso than the traditional American style cup of drip coffee… The CGC is the only single serve system that does not use any pressure or portafilter to speed up the brew process.” In addition, 48 different brew recipes can be stored in the brewer itself. Once a recipe is set, it is as easy as pressing a button.
Keurig K-Cup & Vue
It would be remiss not to mention Green Mountain Roasters widespread single-serve machines. The Keurigs are all designed to quickly brew a single cup of coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or other hot beverage. The prepared brewing ingredients are provided in a single-serving unit, the K-Cup pack. Once the machine is warmed up, the user inserts a K-Cup pack into the machine, places a mug under the spout, and presses the brew button. Martinez says “I recall looking at one of the very first licensed Keurig technologies at Tully’s in Seattle and have to tip my hat at the to the automated single serve market that saw the opportunity in the commercial market.”
Recently, Green Mountain Roasters released the Keurig Vue, which uses Vue packs instead of K-Cups. Unlike the K-Cup, the Vue gives consumers the option to make a stronger, hotter, or bigger cup of coffee. Additionally, it also allows consumers to make specialty drinks such as cappuccinos or lattes. For these types of drink, like the Nescafe Dolce Gusto, the Vue uses a 2-staged process, one with the milk cup, and one with a coffee cup. Moreover, unlike the K-cup, the Vue coffee and filter assembly are now detachable allowing individuals to recycle the #5 plastic.
Knutsen Coffee Single-Serve
Aren’t they the green coffee importers? Yup! After more than thirty years of sourcing and importing coffees from around the world, they have now embarked on an innovative journey targeting the single serve market. The systems uses “A disposable filter holding enough ground coffee to brew one perfect cup of the finest coffee, gas flushed for shelf life and wrapped in a convenient, easy open packet. It can be brewed anywhere there is hot water, or used with our simple brewer which automatically heats just the right amount of water,” says John Rapinchuk, Chief Financial Officer at Knutsen Coffees, Ltd.
The GPOD by Grindmaster-Cecilware
This is a pod-based brewing system that combines commercial infusion technology with digitally controlled brew sequencing. It brews a cup in less than one minute. A few advantages of Grindmaster’s exclusive design are that it accepts a wide variety of pods, allowing you to choose your favorite coffee or tea. It has adjustable brew strength control that allows users to fine tune their flavor preferences; and the brew basket is dishwasher safe.
This system is a worthy mention because of their unique technology that differs from others in the market. The MaxEx grinds the coffee with one hundredth of millimeter precision, tests the grounds with laser scanning (bearing 0.1 micron tolerance), then manages the art of compacting the cake in a capsule that masters the often neglected art of “pre-brewing” and modulates the brewing curves, utilizing different pressures even above 15 bars. As stated on their website, TuTTo Espresso emphasizes on the quality of their beverage, “What we deliver is not really an ‘espresso coffee’: more like a ‘liquid praline of aromatic compounds.’”
Single-serve is indisputably one of the hottest trends in specialty coffee. The value that pour over and single-serve have brought to the industry is instrumental; it has opened room for experimentation, creativity, and most importantly customization. Moreover, “café owners can easily charge more for single serve coffee than batch brewed coffee, making single serve a more profitable menu item,” says Bombeck. Single-serve is here to stay, “Consumers are willing to pay for convenience, freshness and shelf life, as well as quality,” says Rapinchuk. The options retailers can offer their consumers have been broadened; innovative technologies have facilitated the control of quality, and made good coffee accessible to all. Regardless of the brewing method or device you choose to use, whether at home or at your shop, do not forget to take the four “M” factors into account. May the best-brewed cup win!
1 Prima Coffee Equipment, prima-coffee.com/blog/a-beginners-guide-to-immersion-coffee-brewing, Retrieved May 23, 2012.