Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sweetest Pour-Over

It seems that every decade or so we re-discover some aspect of coffee. Forty years ago we learned that grinding beans made for a more flavorful cup of java. And since then we've come to appreciate espresso, cappuccino, French press and small batch coffee. So what's the latest revelation for this freshly minted decade?


Pour-over? You mean, taking hot water and pouring it over a filter loaded with freshly-ground coffee?

That’s right.

After a four-decade voyage through the multi-faceted and increasingly complex world of coffee, we’re realizing that sometimes the simplest approach is the best. And the pour-over couldn’t be simpler: grind beans and place in a filter suspended over a carafe, boil water, and pour water over the ground beans.

See, coffee machines can diminish flavor, so the more straight forward your approach to brewing coffee, the tastier and fresher the resulting beverage.

In Chicago, standard-bearer Intelligentsia has converted its buzzing Loop café into a frenetic but highly functioning pour-over zone. Instead of brewing giant vats of java, baristas prepare dozens of cups of fresh coffee via pour-over.

Of course, it helps when the coffee you’re serving is award winning, and Intelligentsia’s no slouch when it comes to sourcing and roasting the tastiest beans on the planet.

And while I’m tempted to give the rapidly growing West Side roaster credit for being the first in the city to offer pour-over, credit goes to Asado on Irving Park Road, according to Intelligentsia’s Todd Burbo.

“But their coffee’s not as good,” he’s careful to add.

Interestingly, Starbuck’s and other spots with less coffee cred plan to follow Intelligentsia’s lead, though none appears likely to fully convert from vats to the more labor-intensive pour-over model. (For more info, check out this recent Seattle Times article.)

If you’re in the Loop or even if you’re not, a stop at the Chicago chain’s Old School café in the historic Monadnock Building is worth a trip—even if you eschew a pour-over for one of the best cappuccinos this side of the Appian Way.


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