Believed to have been invented by Melitta Benz in early 20th century Germany, filter coffee is beloved by coffee drinkers around the world. In some parts of the world, it’s even more popular than espresso.
Furthermore, filter coffee is a key part of specialty coffee culture, which is growing quickly in major consuming markets around the world. Offering it on your menu could help you reach a wider customer base and improve your sales. But how exactly do you choose which coffees to offer? And what type of filter coffee is best suited for your business?
To learn more, I spoke to Ed Buston, Director at Clifton Coffee Roasters in Bristol. Read on to find out what he said.
Why add filter coffee to your menu?
By offering filter coffee alongside classic espresso beverages, you diversify your menu, set yourself apart from the competition, and open yourself up to potential new customers.
Filter coffee is fundamentally different to espresso. Even if you use the same beans to brew both, the difference in extraction means that the taste and mouthfeel are completely different.
Espresso is more concentrated, which gives it a heavier mouthfeel and a more intense flavour; in contrast, filter coffee is lighter and expresses the more subtle flavours of coffee in a different way.
You can make filter coffee in a number of different ways, too: batch brew might be helpful for coffee shops with high customer footfall, whereas smaller, more boutique businesses might prefer to make each cup fresh to order for the customer.
Ultimately, filter coffee allows the flavours and aromas of a coffee to shine in a completely different way to espresso. It’s a great option for brewing lighter roasts and more complex single origins, and the use of a filter means that the cup profile tends to be clean and bright.
Where to begin
Any good cup of coffee starts with quality beans. Firstly, speak to whoever supplies your roasted coffee. Most will offer filter and espresso roasts that are profiled differently to accommodate for the difference in brewing method.
Ed also says that you should think about why you want to offer filter coffee. If it’s to help you work through long queues during peak hours, you might want to focus on volume; for smaller, artisan coffee shops, it might be to add something new for regular customers, however.
He says: “Most roasters will have interesting offer lists that will have different coffees for these different offerings.”
You’ll also need to analyse your audience. In Nordic countries, for example, lighter roasts are popular. These often provide more clarity in the cup and showcase more of the coffee’s origin. Acidity, fruitiness, and loral flavours are all common.
In contrast, consumers in the US traditionally prefer medium and darker roasts, which emphasise the sweetness, bitterness, and caramel or nut-like notes of a coffee.
Ask yourself what your customer base looks for in their coffee. Are they more inclined towards floral flavour profiles, or do they prefer sweet, chocolatey coffees?
Ed also notes that with filter coffee, you don’t have to be limited to just one profile. You can offer multiple coffees to give customers more choice.
“[You can sell] one crowd pleaser and something a little more fancy,” he says.
Equipment requirements for filter coffee
First, Ed says, you’ll need to get your hands on a good coffee grinder. You probably already use one for your espresso orders, but an espresso grind is much finer than a filter grind. A second model on the bar will help you mitigate any possible impact on barista workflow.
Beyond the grinder, you also need to invest in brewing equipment. If you require larger quantities of coffee, batch brewers are an excellent option. They need less time and effort from your staff, and can help to increase beverage consistency and optimise workflow.
Manual brewers, on the other hand, allow the barista to showcase their skills, experiment with the brew recipe, and perfect new techniques. However, it comes at a cost – it is more time-consuming and often less consistent.
Ed says: “The cost of labour for a manual pour over in a café has really restricted the growth of this market. An automatic really helps here, with the benefit of being super consistent, too.”
The Marco SP9 Precision Brewer is a solution to this problem. With precision temperature, time, and volume control, the SP9 allows baristas to brew excellent, consistent filter coffee cup after cup.
It also saves time, allowing baristas to work on other beverages or interact with customers while the coffee is brewing.
Grind size, temperature, and the “golden ratio”
Grind size is one of the most important factors to consider when brewing filter coffee. Make no mistake, it will impact the flavour and extraction of your coffee significantly.
For filter coffee, a medium to medium-coarse grind size is typically recommended. However, it also depends on how much coffee you’re going to be brewing. Larger volumes of coffee require more ground coffee, a longer brew time, and can benefit from a coarser grind.
Water quality and temperature are also crucial. Make sure to use clean, filtered, odourless water heated to somewhere between 90ºC and 95ºC.
Ed says: “Be consistent. Brew [according] to a predetermined recipe, and use scales to help hit the correct coffee and water weight.
“Keep everything hot, too. In reality, you probably need to try and brew as hot as possible, as heat is always escaping with a pour over.”
Keep your coffee-to-water ratio in mind, too. As a general guideline, the SCA recommends a “golden ratio” of 1 part coffee to 18 parts water, around 55g of coffee per litre.
However, it does also note that you can alter the amount by up to 10% in either direction to dial in the right taste profile. Ultimately, it will depend on personal taste and the coffee in question, so most brewers recommend experimenting to find an optimal recipe for each coffee on your menu.
Ed concludes: “Taste your brews and train your taste buds to help you discover where each coffee’s sweet spot is.”
Adding filter coffee to your menu can be a great way to diversify and reach more customers. Not only are you introducing new flavours and giving yourself more options, you can also keep existing customers interested with new and exciting products.
However, when adding anything to your menu, it’s important to be prepared. Speak to your customers, train your baristas, and invest in the right equipment. For filter coffee, something like the SP9 Precision Brewer is a great place to start.