Batch brewers make brewing specialty coffee easy, consistent, and efficient. But just like manual brewing, a little effort can go a long way to getting great-tasting coffee.
So whether you serve batch brew in your third wave coffee shop, are considering adding it to the menu, or simply drink it at home, read on to discover how to improve your batch brew coffee.
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The Moccamaster batch brewer. Credit: NordCoffee Pty Ltd Australia
Why Offer Batch Brew Coffee?
Third wave coffee has a long history of looking down on batch brew, but attitudes are changing. A specialty-grade brewer can make exceptional coffee to consistent standards and in large quantities. What’s more, it doesn’t require as much work from the barista, meaning it reduces labour costs and increases outputs. For cafés, this machine just makes business sense.
Not only that, but the baristas can focus on what’s really important in service: interaction with the customer.
But a batch brewer is only as good as the barista setting it up. So, let’s take a look how you can not just offer batch brew coffee, but offer perfectly extracted, delicious batch brew coffee.
The Hipster batch brewer sits next to the espresso machine at Joe & The Juice, Upper West Side, NYC. Credit: Danielle Kilbride
1. Equipment Choice
You’ll never get great batch brew coffee if the barista has set it up poorly. But, at the same time, you won’t get great batch brew coffee if you’re using a cheap or second wave machine.
The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) recommends 13 different batch brewers for home use, all of which they have tested. Coffee shops with a low turnover may find one of these sufficient; alternatively, there are a range of professional batch brewers you can invest in.
When selecting a batch brewer, quality is key. But remember to also consider size: even good-quality coffee, if left to stew or go cold, won’t satisfy anyone’s taste buds. Work out how much batch brew you’ll be serving and, from there, how much you can make at a time without sacrificing quality or efficiency. Which brings me onto the next point…
A batch of Ethiopia Kercha Natural being brewed on a Breville Precision Brewer™. Credit: E.J. Schiro
2. Brew Time & Coffee Bed Depth
Fresh batch brew is crucial for third wave coffee shops. However, don’t give into the temptation to make less batch brew than your machine is designed for.
Scott Rao has commented on this multiple times, and for good reason. If your bed is too shallow, or too deep, it will lead to poor extraction. What’s more, to compensate for the adjusted brew flow, you’ll be forced to grind finer for a thinner bed and courser for a thicker bed. This means you’re sacrificing your recipe for the sake of brewing less coffee – the exact opposite of how batch brewers are supposed to work.
Scott Rao recommends a bed size of 3–5 cm deep. Of course, that’s still a wide range – so, at the Barista Guild of Europe 2015, he gave some additional tips. One, use a shorter brew time for thicker beds. This will allow you to keep the same overall contact time, regardless of the time it takes for the water to flow through the thicker coffee bed. Two, keep your grind on the course side to prevent grinds from rising up the filter bed and creating uneven extraction.
Ultimately, the coffee bed is important. The V60 is celebrated for its 60° angle, and the 3–5 cm bed depth is just as important for a batch brewer. If you want to make smaller batch brews, choose a batch brewer designed for those quantities.
The Bonavita Batch Brewer. Credit: Reboot Roasting Coffee
3. Recipe Creation
The good thing about batch brewers is that you create the recipe once, programme it into the batch brewer, and then not think about it again. No one has to multi-task, asking the customer about their day while keeping one eye on the scales and another on their pour.
However, this doesn’t mean you should be lax about the recipe creation. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t produce the best coffee.
That darker-roasted Sumatran, for example, might require a lower water temperature to avoid coming out bitter, while a lighter-roasted Ethiopian can handle a higher extraction. Then there’s the grind size, coffee:water ratio, pulsing… High-quality batch brewers allow you to control all of these aspects (except for the grind size, of course), so take advantage of that and craft the perfect recipe for the coffee you’re serving.
Once you have a good recipe, record it and then make sure you use it consistently. Consistency is of huge importance for coffee shops and it’s one of the advantages of a batch brewer. All you have to do is note down the parameters you use and input them the next time to get the same great-tasting coffee.
4. Water Temperature & Quality
If you want to offer pour-over-quality coffee using a batch brewer, you need to understand what actually happens during that pour over brew. And one of the most misunderstood aspects is the water temperature. Fortunately, water temperature precision is also one of the biggest advantages of high-quality third wave batch brewers.
Let’s say that you’ve been brewing your pour overs at 94°C – or, at least, that’s what it says on your kettle or hot water distribution system. But by the time you pour that water, it’s going to have cooled down.
With batch brewers, on the other hand, they really do pulse at the temperature you’ve programmed them to use. As a result, 94°C in a batch brewer could be a few degrees warmer than the “94°C water” you’re using in a Chemex.
Learn more! Read The 3 Phases of Drip Coffee Brewing
Don’t just use your pour over recipe for your batch brewer. These are different brewing devices and so deserve different approaches. Try your recipe, evaluate it, tweak it, and repeat. Do this until you’re confident you have the best possible temperature.
Take advantage of the fact that you can choose the temperature down to the degree and that, with some batch brewers, you can even set the temperature to vary during the different pulses.
Additionally, water quality will make a huge difference to the final taste of the coffee. Forget tap water; at the very least, filter it. And if you really want to see great water, learn about the mineral composition of your local water. Read up on the impact different minerals have, adjust your filtration system, and, if needed, consider softeners.
The Fetco XTS 2131 batch brewer at Good People Coffee Co in California. Credit: Chuck Herrera
A batch brewer will make your café operations smoother and more efficient. However, just because it’s easy to use doesn’t mean it’s filter-for-dummies. Make sure you understand and apply the science of extraction and brewing techniques. Create recipes for every coffee you serve with it. Treat the device with as much respect as you do your V60s, Kalita Waves, and espresso machines.
Every drink we serve to a customer – or make for ourselves – should be crafted with care. It should be the best possible extraction of high-quality coffee beans. And by understanding all the variables that affect batch brew extraction, from bed depth to changing water temperature, we can do just that.
Enjoyed this? Check out The Specialty Coffee Shops That Prefer Batch Brewers to a V60
Written by Tanya Newton.
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