Operators Break New Ground

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By S&D Coffee & Tea

Brewing coffee and tea boils down to mixing grinds or leaves with water — either hot or cold will do — and then waiting. For centuries brewing did not get much more complicated than that.

Inevitably, other methods addressed taste, speed and convenience. In 19th-century Italy, the invention of a machine that forces hot water through finely ground coffee was a milestone. Today, in addition to semi-automatic espresso machines that reward a practiced hand, super-automatic models do all the dosing, grinding, extraction and milk frothing.

Modern drip brewers control water temperature and flow rate to produce consistent coffee and tea in volume. Conversely, when one fast, easy beverage is desired, popping a premeasured cup of coffee or tea into a single-cup brewer fills the bill.

istock000061187644smallManual brewing methods are increasingly trendy where customers are willing to wait for a more nuanced brew. One example is the French press, a pot equipped with a hand-operated plunger for straining grounds after extraction. Also popular are pour-over devices like the Chemex, which holds a filter of ground coffee over a carafe to receive hot water poured from a pitcher. Imaginative operators are also breaking new ground with java-based niche beverages such as nitro coffee and coffee soda.

The drive to continually improve the precision, speed and consistency of brewing has led to further innovation. For example, some Starbucks units brew rare reserve coffees by the cup with the Clover brewing system, which features vacuum technology and precise control of water temperature and brew time. Other operators use the Alpha Dominche Steampunk, an advanced device that fine tunes coffee and tea brewing parameters.

At Dolcezza Gelato & Coffee, about 85 percent of morning patrons choose drip coffee or espresso-based beverages over time-consuming hand-poured coffees, reports Wahid Osman, regional manager of the eight-unit, Washington, D.C.-based chain.

“But around 3 p.m., you see a lot more pour-overs, when people have more time to enjoy the process of a specially crafted drink,” Osman says.

French press coffee delivers lots of body and texture, Osman says, while a barista-poured Chemex java is typically a lighter-bodied, “very tea-like” brew.

But in Osman’s opinion, the best way to experience the nuances of a particular coffee is to steep it in cold water for 12 hours. That avoids extracting bitter, acidic compounds released by hot water that obscure flavor subtleties, such as the blueberry notes of some Ethiopian coffees, Osman says.

In addition, concentrated Dolcezza cold brew is the base of its popular nitro coffee, which is dispensed from a tap with a blend of 75 percent nitrogen and 25 percent CO2.

“The nitrogen gives you the creamy texture, beautiful head and cascading effect, and the CO2 gives it a lively pop and energy and makes it a lot more refreshing,” says Osman.

In Nashville, Tenn., Steadfast Coffee, a months-old specialty coffee shop and restaurant, embraces hot brewing for its signature flash-chilled iced coffee.

“We brew it hot exactly the way we want it for flavor purposes, then drop the temperature instantly so that the coffee doesn’t stale or oxidize over time,” says Jamie Cunningham, a Steadfast partner.

A heat exchanger of the sort used in commercial brewing and distilling drops the temperature. The flash-chilled coffee is also combined with sugar and citric acid and carbonated to make Matchless coffee soda, served on the rocks with a slice of citrus peel as a summer refresher.

Unlike many java emporiums, Steadfast does not make pour-over coffee.

“We contemplated using alternative brew methods, things like Chemex, but we believe that batch brewing is better,” says Cunningham.

A drip brewer is programmed with multiple settings to manage brewing variables such as water temperature, bloom time and extraction rate for a variety of beverages.

“Those presets do exactly what a barista would do by hand, except in gallon batches and perfectly every time,” Cunningham says.

At San Francisco’s Samovar Tea Lounge, which operates four locations, both traditional and high-tech brewing methods are practiced. Tea tenders make Japanese matcha tea by hand with bamboo whisks as well as dial up specialty brews on the $15,000 Alpha Dominche Steampunk. The latter is programed to precisely steep whole-leaf teas and herbs in transparent brewing crucibles.

“We’re trying to bring the same qualities that coffee has to tea,” says Samovar owner Jesse Jacobs. “It’s high quality, full bodied, consistent, highly caffeinated and it’s fast.”

Certain items, like Green Ecstasy, a combination of Japanese sencha tea and matcha, are best brewed on the Alpha because they are tricky to perfect by hand, Jacobs says.

“[The device] allowed us to perfect our recipe so there is only one way to brew it and it always comes out right,” Jacobs says.

Source: Nation’s Restaurant News