Start-up Strategies

Crimson Cup Barista 2 (1)Looking for a way to stand out from the crowd and attract a steady stream of loyal customers? Consider adding pour-over services at your coffee house.

Over the past decade, pour-over methods have become increasingly popular among coffee enthusiasts. Also known as “hand-pour coffee,” this brewing craze migrated to the U.S. and has inspired the “third wave” trend in coffee houses.

Why all the fuss? Hand-pour methods give greater control over the brewing process and better extraction of the coffee flavor. Slowly infusing ground coffee with a stream of hot water produces a more balanced cup that highlights the origin characteristics of each bean.

In hand-pour coffee, a barista carefully grinds and weighs fresh-roasted coffee beans, and then he or she places them in a filter inside a coffee brewer (Chemex, Hario, and Melitta are three of the most popular types). The barista then slowly pours a stream of hot water from a goose-necked kettle over the beans using a circular motion. It typically takes several minutes to prepare each cup of coffee, so pour-overs are priced about the same as espresso-based drinks.

When done right, hand-pour delivers a smooth, sweet, and clean-tasting cup. There are numerous reasons to love hand-pour brewing methods and to consider adding a brew-to-order bar at your coffee house:

•    A brew bar provides an opportunity to feature awesome origin coffees and educate your customers.
•    Hand-pour methods add flair to the brewing process as the barista executes each step in a carefully choreographed dance.
•    The slower, more personal process provides an opportunity to engage customers in conversation and gain a better understanding of their tastes.
•    The brew bar provides a platform for showcasing your expertise and for creating brand ambassadors who share your passion for awesome coffee.
•    Competitors have already started offering these elevated coffee experiences and specialty coffee customers are beginning to expect them.

If you already have a coffee shop, you can ease into a hand-pour program without a big investment. Pour-over brewing equipment is relatively simple and inexpensive. You can begin with:

•    A Chemex coffeemaker and filters for multi-cup extraction.
•    A Hario V60 coffee dripper and filters for single-cup extraction.
•    A gooseneck hot water kettle or hot water tower.
•    A scale, precise measurement of coffee is key in hand-pour.
•    A grinder because most pour-over methods use a medium grind, finer than auto-drip but coarser than espresso.

In addition, you’ll need to source a number of distinctive coffees on a featured rotation. Single-origin beans, rather than a blend, are preferred because they offer a subtle range of flavors that are region specific. Customers who love great coffee love trying new varieties. Keeping the menu fresh and relevant for your hand-pour coffee customers keeps them coming back.

In most cases, you’ll also need to train your baristas in hand-pour methods. As with any other method of preparing coffee, it’s important that brewing methods remain consistent from barista to barista.

As you integrate pour-over service into your existing operations, you’ll want to consider several factors:

•    Where to locate hand-pour so that it fits efficiently into your operation.
•    How to balance the slow dance of hand-pour coffee with the fast dance of the espresso line.
•    Where to source the micro-lot and single-origin coffees that are the most popular pour-over fare.
•    How to integrate pour-over beverages into your menu.
•    How pour-over affects your customer traffic and staffing needs.
•    What marketing and events will you use to advertise your hand-pour service?

Brandon Brewing 1 (1)As demand for hand-pour service increases, you may want to invest in a brew-to-order bar. A dedicated brew bar showcases your hand-pour operations and increases efficiency by allowing you to set up several pour-over stations at the same time. You also may want to expand brewing options, such as French Press, siphon, and cold-brew.

Hand-pour offers a great opportunity to perk up your business with a new product offering. It allows you to interact with customers on a more personal level as you discuss favorite coffees and brewing methods. By sourcing the right coffees, you’ll become known for delivering a distinctive, superior product.

The profit potential rivals that of espresso-based drinks. Depending on the coffee you source and your local market, the price of a 12-ounce cup can range from $3.75 to $5 or more. By purchasing coffee efficiently, you can generate a profit of $3 or more per cup. You also can improve your ratio by converting drip-coffee drinkers to pour-over aficionados.

Greg Ubert, founder and president of Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea, has been roasting coffee in small batches since 1991 and has taught hundreds of business owners how to run successful independent coffee houses. Greg can be reached at

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