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Coffee City

Melissa Allison follows the world's biggest coffee-shop chain and other Seattle caffeine purveyors.

February 10, 2010 at 12:49 PM

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Starbucks will launch pour-over brewing method in March to make quick cups when a pot isn't brewed

Posted by Melissa Allison

AlexTamez.jpgBeginning next month, Starbucks will adopt a brewing method called the pour-over at stores in the U.S. and Canada.

The pour-over is basically a plastic or ceramic cone that holds coffee grounds, over which you pour water that drips into a cup below.

It's been used for years by campers and others wanting a quick single cup of coffee, and some coffeehouses -- notably Blue Bottle in San Francisco and Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea of Chicago (thank you, StarbucksGossip.com) -- have used it for years. Recently, it's become popular at independent coffeehouses in Seattle that want to offer brewing variety.

Starbucks is introducing pour-overs as a way for baristas to serve a quick, fresh cup of decaf or bold coffee when there's not a pot already brewed.

The equipment won't be the fancy four-hole set-up that barista Alex Tamez of 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea (owned by Starbucks) is using in the top photo. She's pouring into Hario plastic cups that have swirled sides and a larger hole at the bottom than better-known brands like Melitta. Hario is considered one of the best pour-over brands by places that have done pour-overs for years, including Intelligentsia (which keeps winning barista competitions but doesn't have a shop in Seattle). Hario is also featured in a great blog that Tamez recommends called PouredOver.

Pour-over.jpgAt 15th Avenue, they use Hario filter paper and wet the filters -- sort of rinsing them out -- before making each cup. The result with my 8-ounce El Salvador Estate Pacamara this morning was "yum!"

15th Avenue also received a set of the new pour-over equipment that's being delivered to U.S. and Canadian Starbucks stores this month (bottom photo). It's not Melitta, but it looks like it, with straight rather than swirled "guides" inside and smaller holes at the bottom than Hario.

The equipment has been tested at a few stores in Colorado for the past year and will not be "customer-facing," according to spokesman Alan Hilowitz. For Starbucks, the pour-over will be about the efficiency of making a quick single cup of coffee rather than the theater of the pour.

Update 2/11/2010: An interesting point that Diane Daggatt at McAdams Wright Ragen made in an e-mail to the investment firm's clients: "This may not seem like a big deal, but it certainly will not be as costly as the $11,000 Clover Brewing machines that are being rolled out to more than 250 stores in 2010."

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