Coffee Talk With Tyler: Clover vs. Brew Bar

by Tyler Rovenstine, Roasterie Barista and Cafe Manager

If you’ve been in to either Roasterie Café lately, you may have noticed that we removed our Clover brewers from our Brew Bars. Since we’ve been getting lots of inquiries about the Clovers’ whereabouts, we wanted to explain our thought process regarding this decision.

New, Better Brew Methods

At The Roasterie Café, we are always looking for new ways to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee. It is The Roasterie’s mission to find the best coffee in the world, roast it the best way known to man (air roasting) and deliver it as fast as humanly possible. So it should be brewed the best way known to man, as well.

Just over a year ago, we added what has come to be known as a “Brew Bar” to our Cafés in Brookside and Leawood, to enhance the brewed specialty coffee experience for our customers. We expanded our hand-brewed options by adding French presses, Hario V60 pour-overs and siphons to our by-the-cup coffee menu. These brewing methods were meant to provide our customers with more ways to get a freshly-brewed cup of one of our reserve coffees. Before we added these new brewing methods that made up the Brew Bar, the staff almost exclusively used the Clover to brew their own coffee during their shifts. But when the pour-over, siphon and French presses arrived in the Café, nearly everyone immediately switched over to one of them as a new favorite. We quickly realized that we were able to consistently get a better tasting cup of coffee by using a Hario V60 or a siphon to brew the coffee. We loved using the new brew methods, and we loved how the coffee tasted.

Taste

So, the primary reason that the Clovers are no longer in our Cafés is taste. Aside from this very important reason, there are other positives for not having the Clovers in the Café.  First of all, some coffees profile better in different brewers than others. For example, if you would like a heavy-bodied Sulawesi to drink, the barista can suggest having that coffee brewed in a French press that would allow its syrupy body to take center stage. Or, if you want a crisp and citrus-y Yirgacheffe, we can brew that in our siphon brewers to accentuate that particular coffee’s unique flavors.

We also love the hand-brewed methods because they are financially sustainable and practical. The Clover is something that most people couldn’t afford to put in their kitchens, or maintain over the years. The hand-brewed methods are something that any customer could easily do to get a better tasting cup of coffee at home. Obviously, we love having customers in the Café enjoying our coffees, but we also like to think that our customers can enjoy the same quality at home, and we love talking about how to do that with an affordable piece of brewing equipment.

Next time you order a coffee from our Brew Bar, watch the barista as he or she prepares your coffee. The techniques that we use are pretty simple and we are happy to walk you through our processes. If you are around, we’ll even encourage you to smell the dry grounds before we begin brewing your coffee.

Time

The Clover had the ability to deliver a fresh brewed cup in about a minute. The speed and usability of the Clover were two things that made it a great fit in our Cafés for a long time.  The problem as that a 40-second extraction is not enough time for the coffee to fully extract from the grounds. The result of a short steep time is under-extraction, and to cover it up, we had to use a lot more coffee to brew a 12-ounce cup of coffee from the Clover than one should normally use to brew a 12-ounce cup of coffee. This did prevent the coffee from being watery, but it was still under-extracted. The Roasterie and the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) recommend using two tablespoons of coffee per six ounces of water when you brew coffee, and this very near what we use when we hand brew coffees in our Cafés. This ratio is more likely to result in an even extraction, and the difference in taste has been significant to us.

Quality

When we evaluate any brew method, the question for us isn’t: “Does this brewer make good coffee?” but rather, the question for us is: “Does this brewer brew great coffee well?” No brewers “make” good coffee. The coffee is either good or not good before it ever reaches any brewer. If you brewed bad coffee in the Clover, the Clover could not somehow make up for that coffee’s poor quality. The same is true with any manual brewer. But we have discovered that our amazing coffees tend to taste better when we brew them by hand.

The new brewers take more time and effort on the part of the barista than the Clover, and that is fine by us. If you’ve ever taken a tour of our roasting facility, you know about the nine sets of human hands that our hand-picked coffees go through before they end up in Kansas City, and that one coffee tree only produces about a pound to a pound-and-a-half of roasted coffee a year. So, we feel that taking a bit of extra time to carefully hand-brew a cup of coffee is an appropriate way to pay respect to those who have come before us on the coffee chain.

I hope that if you were a fan of the Clover (and many of you were die-hards, I know) that you would allow us to prepare your coffee by hand next time. We have a new-crop Ethiopia Sidamo Watadero that tastes fantastic when brewed in our siphons. Try it out.