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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ritual Ditches the French Press ... and the Clover, Too

Posted By on Wed, Feb 3, 2010 at 1:30 PM

Ritual's V-60 pour-over station.
  • Ritual's V-60 pour-over station.
On Monday morning, a slightly flustered cashier at Ritual Roasters on Valencia had to tell customers in line, over and over again, that they could no longer just get a cup of coffee. "We have a new pour-over system called the V-60," he'd say, nodding at a new station that replaced the old vacuum pots and French presses that morning. Then he'd direct the customer to the new pour-over menu listing single-estate coffees with their single-cup prices.

San Francisco microroasters aren't just differentiating their coffee by region or roast anymore. They're each backing a particular brewing method. Four Barrel has stuck with the French press, but the rest are picking different pour-over systems. As anyone who's ever passed a Blue Bottle kiosk will recognize, the standard is the Bee House filter, a stylish upgrade of a $2 plastic Melitta cone that takes supermarket-bought filters. Sightglass Coffee belongs to the Chemex revival camp (this how-to video from Chicago's Intelligentsia may have you investing in one ― price out the proprietary filters before you make your decision). Now, it seems, Ritual is backing the V-60.

Top view of the V-60.
  • Top view of the V-60.
V-60 cones are made by the cult Japanese device-maker Hario. "V-60s don't

clog up or back up," a barista named Jason explained this morning. "There's really big hole at the bottom for quicker extraction ― the water doesn't back up, resulting in some of the grounds being overextracted and some being underextracted. It's a cleaner, more efficient cup of coffee." Another barista said that Hario's light paper filter doesn't give the coffee any paper taste. Ritual's using the

installation of its new V-60 bar to a) showcase its single-origin

coffees and b) sell more of the pricier coffees by the cup. The cafe now features three V-60 coffees each day, which range in price from $2.25 (about the same as a basic cup at other local microroasters) to $6.50 (about the same as Blue Bottle's luxury siphon-bar cups).

What was the reason for the banishment of the Clover machine, which is supposed to be the ne plus ultra of coffee makers? "It created a really good smelling cup of coffee, but it didn't taste as good," Jason said. "Plus it was

really expensive to maintain." (Not to mention the Starbucks association, which caused a couple of A-list roasters to sell off their machines in 2008.) If you're interested in picking up one of Ritual's four discarded machines, they're on the market at a discount: $8K apiece.

You can also buy a V-60 setup for home use at Ritual for $25 (or directly from Hario

for as low as $7); the coffeehouse sells a pack of 100 filters for

$8.50. Of course, that's only just the beginning. If you, O Third Wave convert, go down the

rabbit hole, you'll next have to drop $100-$250 on a proper burr grinder, $40 on an electronic scale, and $70 on a tea kettle with a fine spout so you don't "drown" the grounds.

Which makes a $6.50 cup of coffee at Ritual seem a little cheaper.

Ritual Coffee Roasters 1026 Valencia (at 21st St.), 641-1011

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Jonathan Kauffman

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