Coffee shops bring pour-over bar trend to Sacramento

Insight, Temple invite drinkers to slow down and taste their coffee

Insight Coffee Roasters co-owners Lucky Rodrigues (left) and Benza Lance share a tiny cup of brew.

Insight Coffee Roasters co-owners Lucky Rodrigues (left) and Benza Lance share a tiny cup of brew.

Insight Coffee Roasters

1901 8th St.
Sacramento, CA 95814

Temple Coffee

2829 S. St.
Sacramento, CA 95816

(916) 454-1272

Lucky Rodrigues, co-owner of and roaster at Insight Coffee Roasters, can wax rhapsodic about coffee all day.

And he will, practically, after he pulls up to Insight in a Jeep Cherokee, dressed in hiking boots with red laces and a puffy vest, looking like a time-traveler straight out of 1978.

After an initial cup and a smoke outside—during which he delivers a mini-lecture on sourcing and roasting beans—Rodrigues steps up to his brand-new pour-over bar, which uses a separate register to keep the line flowing for those who’d rather grab a fast cup and go.

Insight, co-owned with Benza Lance, currently only roasts two beans: Aconcagua, an El Salvadorian brew in which Rodrigues tastes “melon … a fluffy citrus cotton candy-type coffee,” and El Secoro, a Guatemalan bean that Rodrigues describes as “clean, consistent …with classic coffee flavor.”

Or, as Lance puts it, “It’s like drinking a cloud.”

Sacramento often lags behind other cities in culinary trends but when it comes to coffee, it’s on the cutting edge—as evidenced by the proliferation of so-called “pour-over bars” popping up in local coffee shops.

At pour-over bars, customers pick their own beans and then watch as the barista artfully brews a single cup. This isn’t just about dumping hot water over beans, however.

Indeed, such coffee bars are a big trend right now, popular with customers who want to slow down the coffee experience, says Barista Magazine editor Sarah Allen.

“Look for more cafes to introduce coffee brewed a cup at a time,” Allen explained in a recent email. “[At a] pour-over bar … an interested customer can really engage with the barista, talk about where the coffee comes from, what notes will shine in the cup.”

“A good barista is a professional, just like a chef and has lots of information to share.”

That desire for customer interaction motivated Rodrigues and Lance to create space for a pour-over bar.

“It’s a little bit more engaging,” Rodrigues says. “We’ll make you a cup of coffee, you can lounge, it takes two-and-half minutes to prepare.”

It’s not just about chatting up a barista and taking your time, however; pour-over bars also utilize high-quality equipment.

At Insight, for example, you’ll find nary a paper filter. Rather, the cafe’s standard cup of coffee is brewed using a French press with a stainless-steel perforated Kone coffee filter that’s manufactured by the Portland-based Coava Roastery and Coffee Bar.

It’s a beautiful piece of design, but Rodrigues says he chose it largely not for its form but rather its function and the quality of its resulting brew.

“The taste [from using this filter] is much, much cleaner,” he says. “When you filter a coffee, you filter out a lot of the undissolved solids which are a product of the brewed coffee. … [That has] a lot to do with the tactile feel of the coffee and the flavor of it.”

That perfect cup requires time and patience. It’s very scientific, actually.

To brew a cup of the El Secoro, for example, Rodrigues grinds exactly 28 grams of beans with a burr grinder. The fresh grind is key, he explains, because “there are oils in the coffee’s cellular structure and oil stales.”

To demonstrate, Rodrigues places the Kone and the grounds into the neck of a glass Chemex coffeemaker, all of which is then set onto a zeroed-out digital scale. Next comes what baristas call “the bloom,” a process in which the grounds are wetted and allowed to release the CO2 that is a byproduct of roasting. Finally, after approximately 45 seconds, Rodrigues slowly and evenly pours a thin stream of hot (but not boiling) water over the grounds.

The goal, he explains, is to pour 400 grams of water over the coffee in a two minute time period. The resulting cup has a full mouthfeel with a particulate level that’s lower than that of French-press coffee but higher than filtered coffee.

The end taste, Rodrigues says, is worth the time and effort.

“[This coffee has] a great bass body to it; it’s like one big boom, one solid foundation,” he says. “The midrange notes of this coffee are kind of baking apple-ish, red apple.”

A note about these lyrical descriptions: There’s a difference between serious coffee people and the rest of us.

For starters, true aficionados don’t care whether their coffee is hot. In fact, they prefer it lukewarm—the better to taste the complex flavors of the brew.

“As a coffee cools you’ll notice flavors will start to come through. … It totally changes and develops,” Rodrigues says.

Andrew Lopez agrees. Lopez is one of four co-owners at Broadacre Coffee, which recently moved into the downtown space previously occupied by Temple Coffee.

A too-hot brew, he says, masks the complexities of the cup.

“You wouldn’t want to eat scalding hot soup because you can’t taste it,” he says. “You would want to sip it and enjoy the flavors.”

Broadacre, which does not roast its own coffee but rather features a rotating cast of top-notch roasters (including such heavy hitters as Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Ritual Roasters, Verve Coffee Roasters and Intelligentsia Coffee), offers four different brewing methods: French press (as with Insight, it’s their standard cup), the Japanese-made Hario V60, Chemex and the Aeropress. The elegant, lab-ware-inspired Chemex, manufactured since 1941, differs from the V60 only in the type of filter used.

The filter papers used for the V60, Lopez explains, are thinner than other types. The Chemex, for example, uses chemically bonded paper.

“[The Chemex] allows all of the oils to still pass through the paper but it captures the solids,” he says. “The V60 captures some of the oils, and the oils are what really have all the characteristics of the coffee.”

As Lopez explains the differences between brews—the V60-brewed cup is brighter and lighter bodied, the Aeropress uses a small, thin filter and produces a brew with complex, heavier body with a faint hint of jasmine, for example—he’s interrupted by a Starbucks employee who’s dropped in to order a lavender latte with housemade lavender syrup.

“I hate our coffee,” she confesses sheepishly.

Of course, it’s not just coffee upstarts trying out the trend.

When Temple moved to its new location (just one block over from the old one), the cafe’s owner Sean Kohmescher saw the change as opportunity to create his own pour-over bar.

The time was right, Kohmescher says, because the new cafe offered just the right amount of bar space at just the right time.

“There is a demand for single-cup brewing to showcase the coffee offering for the customer,” he says.

Longtime Temple employee Nick Minton echoes the sentiments of the other baristas as he slowly pours water over a V60 cone filled with Ethiopia Tchembe. Good coffee, he explains, is about freshness, the ratio of water to coffee and contact time between the water and the beans.

But pour-over coffee bars, he also points out, aren’t necessarily better or even particularly new. They’re simply a reflection of the public’s growing knowledge and passion for coffee.

“Oftentimes, people mistake what a new trend is for being better than another way of brewing coffee. … There’s not really anything that’s better than the other; it’s all just different,” he says.