We launched filter coffee a few months after our CWTCH kiosk at Wandsworth Town. This was something we could never do under our tent and we were excited about it. As usual we use some great coffee from MOZZO: for a while this was a single estate coffee from Colombia but currently there is a little (20%) of coffee from Rwanda mixed in to give it a little more acidity.
I have to be honest - we do not sell very much filter coffee and I have spent much time trying to work out why (other than marketing - which is a 'business hat' that often gets left getting dusty in the corner, while we are brewing coffee or cooking bacon). I thought I might share my views and possibly sign up a few espresso defectors along the way?
The way we drink our coffee is different in each country. In America filter coffee is very popular, in Italy it is all about espresso and in the UK we drink instant coffee. I know, I know - us Brits have had a huge uptake in cafe culture over the last few years and we are getting to know lots more about coffee - but instant counted for 77% of the coffee we drank at home last year* (vs 7% in the US and 1% in Italy). I am not an instant coffee hater and it has its time and place but it simply is a completely different product to a quality filtered coffee - just as much as they both are to an espresso coffee. Espresso makes the difference very clear with its steam and its noise and its pretty patterns in the milk and I wonder if the subtle gurgling and pouring of our bulk brewed filter means it is just, well, a little 'out muscled' by its Italian cousin.
However, lets not write off filter quite yet. Quiet - yes - but as is often the case with the unassuming it can also be complex and interesting when you get to know it. Espresso is super concentrate coffee and often goes with a mixer (water or milk) - a little like a cocktail. Filter coffee is blended with the water over time. Drunk black you get a clear taste of the region and processing method of the coffee - a little more like a wine. Sometimes you want the showmanship of a cocktail and sometimes you want the story telling of a wine - where you can connect to the place and people that it originated from. I think as we continue down our coffee adventure in this country, filter coffee will have a huge part to play in teaching us more about the provence and journey of the product (which is the really fun part of coffee). Also, as it is really easy to make at home - it may tip the balance away from the convenient but monotonous instant coffee we drink so much of.
As I mentioned, we 'bulk brew' our filter coffee at CWTCH using an American made BUNN brewer (they are the experts). It is a very clever machine indeed, and pours and pulses over the coffee in exactly the way we ask it to and puts it all in to an efficient urn that keeps it at the perfect temperature for up to two hours (although we make it fresh every 50 mins or so). We understand it does not look as sexy as pouring from a kettle over a filter paper or pushed through an aeropress - but the coffee that comes out is super consistent and super tasty (and around 5-6 mins quicker when you order it!!). Most importantly we grind the coffee fresh for each batch - just as we do with espresso. This makes sure we don't release the flavour in the beans till the last second - meaning we get as much of it in the cup as possible.
Lastly I have wondered about peoples perception of the "coffee kick" we are all looking for from our cup in the morning. When we started with filter we asked all our Americano and Long Black drinkers if they wanted to try the filter. A few people mentioned the strength - this new filter drink was not going to give the caffeine hit they required in the morning from their espresso. However, as it is brewed for longer and so has more time to extract caffeine - a cup of filter has more caffeine than espresso, so it packs the required wake up punch in the morning and some.
I am not sure what the conclusion is after all this - is filter not strong enough, not sexy enough or just not enough of a showman? Or is it just taking its time to come out of its shell and show us what a great way of enjoying coffee it can be? In any case - I am a big filter fan and I promise here and now to do this product some justice over the next few weeks (even dusting off the marketing hat if I can find the thing).
Have a great weekend
Pete from CWTCH