Change a-Brewin’

Cream, sugar...siphon?

chagne a-brewin

Illustration by Raymond Biesinger

Our morning savior has been made over. Nearly a dozen high-end coffee shops have opened in Boston in the past year and a half, and inevitably, local restaurants have started giving coffee the same service as cocktails. That means more than simply procuring premium beans: The entire brewing process has been overhauled. “When you’re getting the best coffees, you aren’t going to throw it in a big machine that’s going to burn it,” says Chris Dadey of the South End’s Render Coffee. So now we’re seeing a rise in rigorous by-the-cup preparations, ranging from the old-school pour-over (water goes into a filter-lined cone full of grounds, and coffee trickles into a mug below) to, yes, the siphon (water and coffee go into separate orbs of an hourglass-shaped vessel; heated water bubbles up; brewed java filters back down). There’s also the Aeropress, an upgraded French press that uses air pressure to filter the grounds, and the Chemex, a variation on the pour-over that uses a beakerlike device. The cold-brew method, meanwhile, involves steeping grounds for hours in room-temperature water. The payoff? A complex cup that retains more of the beans’ natural oils — and plays up the unique flavors of each variety.

How to Make Your Coffee Right

  • Practice Patience  Expect to wait about five minutes for your brewed-to-order fix. Cafés like Pavement, Thinking Cup, and Blue State Coffee offer pour-overs at their “slow bars.” At Island Creek Oyster Bar and Journeyman, diners have the option of Chemex service, which, including grinding the beans, usually takes about 10 minutes.
  • Think Small  The reason these coffees are crafted by the cup is to give the barista more control over the process. This yields a stronger brew than the drip variety, so there’s no need for a venti. At Kendall Square’s Voltage Coffee & Art, the Japanese cold-brew tower produces coffee that’s so concentrated it’s used as a liqueur in morning-friendly mocktails.
  • Skip the Splenda  Most of the new cafés forgo added cream and sugar. “If you are going to spend the extra time and money to get a coffee by the cup, then you probably want to drink it black,” says Anil Mezini, owner of Jaho Coffee & Tea in the South End. New to black coffee? By-the-cup brews tend to be less bitter and acidic, making them easier on the palate.
  • Get Schooled  While anyone can operate a Keurig, it takes more finesse to perfect the pour-over or Aeropress methods. Luckily, North Carolina–based Counter Culture Coffee, whose beans are used at Render Coffee and Pavement, is opening a training center here this year, offering courses on everything from “brewing science” to “coffee origins.”

Where to find the fancy new coffee-prep methods: Chemex: Island Creek Oyster Bar, Journeyman, Jaho  Pour-over: Thinking Cup, Voltage, Clover: Pavement, Render Coffee, Blue State Coffee  Cold brew: Saus, Voltage, Render Coffee, Blue State Coffee, Pavement   Aeropress: Blue State Coffee   Siphon: Render Coffee, Jaho