Steal this Idea: “Be Your Own Barista” Bars

Last week, I went to New York City for my very first time. The city was amazing: iconic landmarks, outstanding food, and a mix of people from all walks of life. I don’t think I could see myself living in New York, but I’d happily go for a vacation at the drop of a hat.

One thing that struck me, however, was the lack of great coffee. Perhaps it was just my neighborhood (Tribeca), but even great shops like La Colombe Coffee offered an espresso bar or drip coffee. No pour-overs, no French Press, nor Chemex; my choices were coffee-plus-something or black coffee that’s been sitting in an airpot. It wasn’t until a colleague and I wandered into Everyman Espresso that I was actually able to get a Chemex, and it blew every other coffee I had that week out of the water.

A Chemex pour-over being prepared in a coffee shop

Photo credit: Karl Fredrickson

I get it: pour-overs and other fancier brew methods can be expensive for a coffee shop. It’s not the materials or equipment, however, but the time; a pour-over can typically take 4-8 minutes to brew, depending on the method used. That’s 4-8 minutes that a barista is either taken off-bar and is either unable or limited in their ability to help other customers. Then again, especially for shops that roast their own coffee (or serve well-revered, small-batch beans from another roaster), is that airpot really doing your coffee justice?

Steal this Idea:

I’m someone who travels a reasonable amount, and am always looking to try great coffee when I land in a new city. While I have a hand grinder and an Aeropress and thus could brew some great coffee in my hotel room, I’d rather take in the local flavor. I’m also perfectly competent brewing my own coffee (and with some brewing methods, like the Clever or a French Press make it really difficult to do it poorly) and don’t mind doing it myself, if the equipment’s readily available. Why not combine these two, and let customers who really want a more sophisticated brewing method do it themselves?

Imagine something like a “build your own sundae” bar, but for coffee snobs. I pay at the register and get my mug and freshly-ground beans, then I take these over to a “Be Your Own Barista” bar (I’m sure someone can come up with a better name), where there’s a source of hot water, a gooseneck kettle, filters, and an assortment of brewing methods. Perhaps there are nice, laminated cards with instructions too – we’re speaking in hypotheticals here, so let your imagination run wild! I take my mug and beans, select a brewing method, make the coffee myself, then have the satisfaction of knowing I’m getting the best coffee experience I can.

Imagine the benefits

Not only would coffee snobs like myself be ecstatic, but customers who learned all they know about coffee from standing in the line at Starbucks would also be exposed to a whole new world of coffee brewing. Sure, there would still be plenty of customers who just can’t even without their double lattes (pro-tip: espresso isn’t any more caffeinated than drip coffee) or perhaps thinking that brewing coffee should be either a push of a button on a Keurig or paying somebody else $4 to do it, but you can’t save everyone.

No, seriously: steal this idea.

I’m putting this idea out there for the world, for free. Public domain. Do with it what you will, just please let coffee lovers on the road get more than just a damn drip coffee out of an airpot.

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