1. Life & Culture

Third-wave coffeehouses look for better ways to brew

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Published Oct. 24, 2012


Buddy Brew owner David Ward tells it like this. First there was Peet's and Starbucks and a dawning awareness that the Maxwell House blue can wasn't the end-all of a brewed cup of joe. � The second wave in the evolution of coffee — getting better beans — came when roasters began to go out into the world to create direct trade relationships with growers. Coffee farmers began seeing that there was more money out there for them if they adopted best practices, aiming for quality over quantity in the growing process. � And now, the third wave — finding better ways to brew — has come to Tampa Bay with interesting and maybe even odd-looking brewing machines becoming more prevalent. Third-wavers think of coffee as an artisanal foodstuff, akin to wine, beer or even cheese, with beans given single-origin and "estate" designations and microbrewing elevated to the level of art. But it's not all about a hill of beans.

"As coffee beans got better, it makes sense that more attention would be paid to the brewing methodology," Ward says. "There's been new exploration into making the cup that much better."

Ty Beddingfield, who has overseen coffee brewing at Buddy Brew for two years, says, "Third-wave coffeehouses delve deeper into the details. When choosing beans of character, you won't hear us talking generally about roasts. We roast each one to maximize the character of the beans."

But Beddingfield and others are increasingly maximizing character in other ways as well.

Melanie Cade, co-owner of Mojo Books and Music in Tampa, launched a third-wave coffee concept in 2011.

"It's been a little bit of a journey. Essentially, the idea is that it's not equipment making the coffee. It's you making the coffee, and thus the end product is going to be more special. French press and pour-overs and Chemex — it's about using manual coffee-making methods."

Chemex? Sounds high-tech. But here's the deal: Many of these "new" methods date back more than 100 years, adopting low-tech and no-tech strategies for extracting just the right flavors from just the right beans.

For years, barista competitions have pitted espresso drink professionals against each other in pursuit of a textbook cappuccino or espresso. This new wave of coffee brewing has spawned similar competitions, with the aim of producing the perfect cup of coffee, using many of these methods.

But as dramatic as some of these methods are, Beddingfield sees the mission of the "brew-ista" as fairly simple. It's about showcasing the charms of a particular coffee from a particular place roasted to a particular degree.

"What I'm doing is not messing it up," he says as he plunges the stopper on an AeroPress. "This isn't about making that coffee. It's about getting out of the way."

A small number of local coffeehouses and restaurants (from Edison to Wine Exchange to the newly opened Oxford Exchange, all in Tampa) are taking pains to brew coffee these ways, offering consumers unprecedentedly good cups of coffee. We spent some time with Beddingfield and others to walk through some of these third-wave methods.

Laura Reiley can be reached at or (727) 892-2293. Follow her on Twitter, @lreiley.

The inventor of the pour-over was a German woman named Melitta Bentz, who in 1908 experimented with notebook paper, using it as a filter to eliminate the bitterness and grounds from her brewed coffee. Today every Melitta filter used in North America is made in the Melitta factory at the ICOT Center in Clearwater.

Regaining popularity a couple years ago, the pour-over method employs a conical filter, with coffee beans ground fine and water at just the right temperature (no less than 197 degrees). Then, according to Beddingfield, the filter is rinsed and the cup is heated with hot water, and then enough water is poured over the grounds to "bloom" it and release gas. From there, keep pouring slowly over the grounds. Total brewing time: nearly 3 minutes.

"What you get in a pour-over," says Ward, "is a much bigger cup. You're going to experience all the greatness dynamic beans have to offer — nothing muddy, you can taste the citrus or underlying nuttiness or dark chocolate."

Price: As low as $4 for cone, $4 for box of filters, available most big-box stores and even groceries

Best beans: Central and South American coffees, with bright acidity and citrusy notes

An old, Northern European method, Chemex is similar to a pour-over, the difference being that the Chemex is usually in a much bigger, glass vessel, and generally makes more than 1 cup at a time. What makes it unique is its denser paper filter, which allows the grounds to be immersed in water. Because of this longer immersion time, beans are ground more coarsely.

It results in magnifying the acidity of the coffee, says Beddingfield, setting up perfectly for coffees that have a higher acidity. Is it suited to every kind of coffee? Maybe not.

"For a lower acidity coffee like Sumatra," Ward says, "it almost adds acidity that shouldn't be there."

Price: About $40, available at and kitchenware stores like Williams-Sonoma

Best beans: A Colombian coffee, as Beddington says, "famous for its well-balanced sweetness"

This method is a cross between a pour-over and a French press (a traditional plunger method that can yield a fairly muddy cup). The dramatic-looking pot operates as a siphon. The bottom vessel holds the water, which is heated with butane. As the water heats, it turns to vapor and pushes the water upward. The coffee and the water are suspended by this ongoing process of steam and then, as it begins to cool, the coffee gets sucked back down.

"Instead of a muddy cup, you get this very clean cup of coffee," says Ward. "But you're getting all this body that you wouldn't get in a pour-over. It's the best of both. It shows off the coffee and you're not losing those acidity notes. Also, it's the hottest method. The coffee is scorching hot."

Price: Starting at about $70, available at kitchenware stores or

Best beans: Beddingfield suggests an Ethiopian coffee "with more exotic and complex flavors, typically fruity, with a blueberry acidity."

Invented in 2005 by Alan Adler, sport toy inventor and Aerobie president, the AeroPress looks like a huge syringe without a needle on it. A quick method that yields an espresso-like, concentrated coffee, it requires a finer grind.

Two inches of ground coffee, the same amount of hot water, it takes about a minute before you flip and press the coffee out into a cup.

Price: About $26, available at

Best beans: Exotic, floral and fruity coffees but very earthy, such as beans from Burundi

Melanie Cade at Mojo uses a glass Yama Kyoto iced coffee maker to make some of the tastiest iced coffee around. Cold brewing is said to reduce the acidity and bitterness of a coffee and to maintain a brighter, rounder flavor, "almost a wine-ish quality to it, bringing out the complexity of the beans," says Cade.

Beans are ground coarsely, and at the top is a paper filter that protects the grounds from agitation as the water falls gently, one drip every two seconds. Gravity pulls the water down, where the extracted coffee accumulates at the bottom. A ceramic disk filter at the bottom superfilters the finished coffee. The whole process takes 8 to 10 hours, says Cade. At Buddy Brew, which uses a similar method in the refrigerator, cold brewing can take up to 18 hours.

Price: 8-cup Yama Kyoto iced coffee makers start at around $200, available at, but you can cold-brew in jars you have at home or with a "toddy" system available at kitchenware stores like Williams-Sonoma

Best beans: Brazilian coffee with a chocolatey character and naturally low acid