Andrew McWilliam - Pouring Over Okanagan Coffee

If you pay attention to advertising and the giant green mermaid you may be lead to believe that Coffee is getting quicker, sweeter and disposable. Yes the popularity of instant coffee's (equal part coffee, to sugar sweetener), POD brewing system's and powder mix caffeinated beverages is bigger than ever. Despite the decline in quality, freshness and the fact that these methods are incredibly costly (POD brewers average about $25-50 per pound of coffee) and bad for mother nature (there are literally millions of these metal & plastic pods sitting in landfills) the general public has taken to the these products like a cat to nip. However have hope my friends, there is a movement afoot to see Coffee made the way it once was: Strong, delicious, fresh and by good ole' fashioned hand.

If you've spent much time in Vancouver or on Vancouver Island you will have likely noticed a rise in independent "third wave" coffee shops. These fine establishments, the likes of 49th parallel, Matchstick Coffee, Revolver Coffee, Habit, Discovery, Drumroaster and a long list of others are bucking the trend and brewing coffee in a different way. The drinks are hand crafted with the finest ingredients, made with love and delivered with care. These companies are quite literally fanatic about the product they produce. The public is taking note and these places are become watering holes for the caffeine thirsty. They are raising the bar on what coffee should and can be.

I moved from the coast to the Okanagan not too long ago. To my dismay there was a serious lack of Coffee businesses brewing coffee with care and passion, in fact when I first moved to town I knew of not a one. Luckily as time has gone on I've been able to watch, and help at times, a quality driven coffee movement being here in our sunny Okanagan.
Pour Over Coffee
One of the great methods of making "slow coffee" is with a method called "Pour Over." This isn't your auto timed drip coffee. This is made by hand with a specific method that when done right will produce a clean, flavourful and outstanding cup of coffee. It's simple. In fact you've likely made coffee this way while camping or before the days of fancy coffee brewers. All that goes on is water is poured (generally with a poring kettle like Hario's Buono through a paper or metal cone filter with the freshest coffee you can find inside. With a little technique and quality equipment and ingredients you can produce exquisite coffee! 

Here's what you'll need to start out making excellent Pour Over Coffee:
  • Hot water. Around 200 F - 210 F.
  • Fresh coffee. Yes coffee has a shelf life. 15-20 days off roast will serve you best. See the list below for a sampling of where to find great beans in the Okanagan.
  • A grinder. Those cheap blade grinders will do in a pinch, but if you want a higher quality cup you must get a burr grinder (hand grinder) or powered. It grinds bean's at a consistent size rather than giving you chunks and fine dust which a blade grinder will do. They were made for spices, not coffee. For pour over coffee you want the consistency of fine sand (we call this filter grind).
  • A pour over device. There are many popular devices: the Melita, Hario V60, Chemex or Coava's Kone.
  • Paper filters. It's important to find the right size to fit your device. Pro-tip: rinse your filter pre-brew. Paper tastes like…. paper. Rinsing the filter get's ride of much of this taste.
  • Love and Patience. To get it right you need to care and be willing to experiment. You may need to tighten or loosen your grind. You may need to find fresher beans. You may need to pour in a different way. You'll get there and when you do you'll be over the moon. 
A great ratio for one mug of Pour Over coffee is 22 grams of coffee to 330 ml's of water (a digital scale is a great coffee tool!).  Start there and add more or less depending on strength. It's also recommended that you pour over a little bit of water (double the bean amount ie. 22 grams of coffee, start with 45-50 ml's of water) to wet the grinds and to let them "bloom". Coffee contains gas and this process releases some of that gas, allowing it to escape before ending up in your cup. The fresher the coffee the more it will bloom. Bloom is coffee's way of burping. Just let it happen. After the bloom pour your water slowly in a circular motion until you've reached your desired brew amount. Ideally you want a semi flat or mound of the spent grounds. 
There are a few fine establishments in the Okanagan that will make you a fine cup of coffee this way. It's a great experience and I highly recommend you try coffee in this delicious "by hand" fashion. Life is way too short for bad coffee so make it count.
Where to try a hand brewed pour over Coffee:
  • Kelowna - Streaming Cafe. Using Matchstick and Phil & Sebastian beans you can order a hand brewed pour over made on a chemex with Coava's Kone. This is also a great place to purchase your pour over gear. They carry everything you'll need! 
  • Vernon - Grey Canal Coffee. This hidden gem is only open when the Vernon market is on (Monday's and Thursday's 8 am - 1 pm at Kal Tire Place). Barista Stewart McWilliam (the 2013 BC Interior Brewer's Cup Champion) brews pour over coffee using the Hario system. Grey Canal uses beans from Drumroaster Coffee on Vancouver Island. You can grab hot & iced pour over coffee's as well as beans for home. 
  • Armstrong - The Wild Oak Cafe. A new (and much needed) addition to the Okanagan coffee scene. Owner Heidi Jordan uses beans from Vancouver's Matchstick coffee to brew all drip coffee. Ask specifically for a hand brewed pour over coffee and her and her staff will be happy to abridge. Your also able to pick up beans for home. Make sure you eat someone - the foods incredible!
  • Summerland - Good Omens Coffee. Although they don't serve hand made pour over coffee Good Omens excels at quality crafted coffee. Using custom roasted beans from Backyard Beans Jason Embree and staff produce espresso based beverages and batched brewed drip coffee that is guaranteed to please! Beans are available for home as well.
Author: Andrew McWilliam, Resident Coffee Aficionado

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