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Pour-Over Coffee Has New Yorkers Torn Between Good Java and Speed

By Ben Fractenberg | January 17, 2012 7:09am

MANHATTAN — The pour-over coffee craze has New Yorkers torn between two obsessions — good java and a fast-moving line to their local barista.

At Joe the Art of Coffee, the conflict between now-now-now efficiency and coffee that can take several minutes to brew has come to a head.

Joe's Upper West Side used to offer its morning customers pour-over coffee. To make it is a painstakingly slow process that involves hand-pouring hot water over beans through a funnel and into a cup.

The company quickly discovered it slowed things down too much. Now, pour-over service starts at noon.

"New Yorkers want their coffee to go. They're not going to wait," said Mikki Adamson, a manager at Joe the Art of Coffee.

Michael Little, 34, disagrees. He owns the Lost Weekend cafe on Orchard Street that only serves its coffee a la pour-over.

Little first fell in love with the pour-over when he lived in San Francisco and was introduced to Blue Bottle coffee, a West Coast chain that's got an outpost in Williamsburg.

Blue Bottle is famous for perfecting the pour-over. They choose their beans carefully from growers around the world, and prepare them close to their retail locations so they can use each batch no more than 48 hours after it's roasted.

"As I've been in New York for the past six, seven years, it's been sort of a search for a cup of coffee that had the flavor profile that I remembered and level of integrity and quality that I remembered from San Francisco," said Little, who lives on the Lower East Side.

"The Williamsburg Blue Bottle location opened two years ago and that was on my radar very early on. I was biking across the bridge to get a cup of coffee."

Little said he would make the trip "several times a week" to get their New Orleans cold-brewed coffee for $4, and two bags of beans.

Eventually, Little got tired of the coffee commute and decided to open his own cafe.

"I thought, there's got to be a better way, and this is now the answer to that," said Little about opening Lost Weekend between Grand and Hester streets five months ago.

Little, who said he was the first cafe to exclusively brew Blue Bottle in Manhattan, decided to only serve pour-over coffee.

"Initially I was concerned that customers were going to balk at a wait of almost three minutes for a cup of coffee. It was a big leap of faith," he said.

"I was confident people here were going to transition into knowing when they come they can put in their order, can check their phones, they can multitask while they're waiting for a cup of coffee. It's not going to drive people out the door that it's not ready instantly."

Gabrielle Kellner was drinking a pour-over and hanging out with a friend at Lost Weekend on a recent morning. The coffee has now become part of her regular morning routine.

"I get here 15 minutes earlier than I normally would in order to have the coffee," Kellner said. "It's less [of a wait] than a cappuccino, usually."

At the O Cafe in Greenwich Village, owner Fernando Aciar, 33, said when he opened his business a year ago, he sold about three pour-overs a day. Now, he averages roughly 20 for $3.20 each.

He sells most of them in the afternoon when people who plan to hang out in the cafe come in.

"It tastes better," said customer Eva Pesantez, 44, who believes it's a good way for New Yorkers to take a break from the hustle and bustle. "It's good to slow down."

Ege Tanor, 35, likes to switch between a traditional brew and a pour-over depending on his day.

"Sometimes I'm running and I want a cup of coffee and someone orders something fancy," said Tanor.

"It bothers me I have to wait a bit.