There are many loyalists who take a firm stance on either using filtered or unfiltered brew methods. Both sides have many valid points, and that’s why I usually spend my time brewing both through the Chemex and Cafe Solo. Being a filtered method is only one of the differences between brewing through the Clover and the pour over drip bar using Hario drip cones that Millenium Park switched to a few weeks ago for the Pick of the Day.
Regardless, there are three main reasons I like to cite when asked why we switched over to the pour over brew bar from the Clover.
The first is accessibility — the pour over method is not only easy to understand, it’s easy to replicate. If a customer really enjoys the cup we made at the store, they can purchase the same equipment as well as the same coffee and make it at home if they wanted to. Plus, it’s an easy system to understand. If you order a coffee, you can see the water go in the top, and the coffee to come out the bottom. And if you’re tall enough, you can even see into the filter to watch it brew (admittedly, the top row of drip cones are a bit tall for some or our baristas to pour).
The second is manual control — the Clover machine is an amazing triumph of technology that yields an amazing cup of coffee; that’s why we’re keeping one around to offer additional coffees. But the one thing the Clover doesn’t offer is direct control over extraction. With the brew bar, we can control the rate of
extraction by how fast or slow we pour, and are able to adjust on the fly. The brew bar also brings the focus back to the coffee instead of the technology of the brew method. You don’t have to coax different intricate flavor profiles out of the coffee; it does the work itself with a slight assist from gravity and your pouring speed.
Finally, I just like how personal each cup is. It brings a bit of gravitas to coffee making. There’s a science behind it, sure, but like making an espresso drink, there’s also a bit of an art to it — each cup is an individual creation prepared by the barista (with the help of a grinder and a temperature controlled water heater). Not only that, but it helped eliminate a barrier between the person working the brew bar and the customer. You no longer have to talk over a row of machines, and since pouring requires your attention, you have the chance to stand around a bit more and chat with the customers.
It’s still a work in progress, even though the cat’s out of the bag. We’ve been promised a more functional brew array (at a shorter height!) and amazing technological additions (mainly just a drain built into the drip tray so we don’t have to manually dump it anymore). But no matter what changes occur, the glory of the brew bar is that the essential function won’t change: coffee grounds, hot water, drip drip pour.