I am just curious about this. I'm not sure if a discussion has already been started on this, frankly I'm too lazy to check! When a customer asks what a pour over is, or whatever your shop calls it, how do you explain it to them in a few lines?

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Depends on the age of the customer/guest. 

One approach is to recall his/her childhood when grandma was using a ceramic filter with either pre ground beans or torturing the beans with a roto blade grinder. Many recall this and the bitter unpleasing taste at that times. Now i explain what I do differently when preparing a wonderful cup for my guest. I explain that I use fresh beans, grind them only on demand, pay attention to the water temperature and use a scale to have the correct brew ratio. 

Now I let them taste. If they enjoy the cup, I explain that there's no need for a $$$$ or €€€€ machinery just to have a great cup of coffee. A Melitta filter holder, a handmill like the harios, a kettle, a thermometer and a small scale is all one needs. 

The barista's skills to work reproducable is what sets him/her apart.

What's there to explain?  Can't they see you brewing coffee in the devices?

Jay- ideally we would say "just watch..." as long as everyone was ordering them... Realistically, when a customer is standing in line reading the menu and asks a question, I'm sure at some point every barista has had to explain. If what we do in more progressive shops is to try and educate the customer base, then we need to explain things in occasion in a very consice manner.

Our typical response is "It's our manual method of brewing coffee. We have compete control over every aspect of the brew and are able to really highlight each coffees inherent qualities, as opposed to the fetco which is more for brewing larger batches for high volume."

Ideally, we would only be doing pour overs, but that's just not where we are at the moment. We have a long way to go in educating the customers and creating an environment where they don't mind waiting 5 minutes for a coffee, even though that's a norm for an espresso drink. I was just curious about how the not-so-arrogant baristas don't just assume people will know, or watch, and be excited to educate the customer that has a question.

This is how we explain it.  We also like to draw comparisons to other brew methods that we offer and that they may be familiar with and mention how each cup is made fresh.  This approach has worked well for us and we sell a good number of pour overs in a town that had never been offered the method and was for the most part unaware of pour over brewing before we opened.
Phil Roberts said:

Our typical response is "It's our manual method of brewing coffee. We have compete control over every aspect of the brew and are able to really highlight each coffees inherent qualities, as opposed to the fetco which is more for brewing larger batches for high volume."

I worked in a shop where we offered the Fetco drip as well as using an aeropress to highlight the single-origin coffees we carried as well. When customers were curious about the aeropress, or why they should try that instead of the larger scale brew in the drip pots, we needed a verbal answer as we generally weren't able to show them at that point in time and let them taste. We generally highlighted the freshness of the coffee- the grind and the brewing happens when the drink is ordered. We also compared it to other more common brewing methods, such as a French press- the cleanness of the cup (no mud on the bottom, no silty mouthfeel), the way flavors of the individual coffees were more prominent, how the control and time created a full, flavorful coffee experience. While a pourover is a little different in technique and presentation, the resulting cup also has all these things. We also posted a small sign near the pickup point on our bar that gave a bullet point list of these same reasons why we loved serving our single-origins that way. It gave a customer a chance to quickly get an idea of the concept and then gave us baristas a chance to expand even further if they came back with questions. I loved the discussions that came because of this, and the people I converted to single-cup brewing because of it!

We put a paper filter in here (while showing them a beehouse) then put coffee in the filter, then pour how water through it!

I don't want people to leave feeling like what I do is magic. I also want them to buy a beehouse dripper, and maybe they will if I make it sound simple to use.

At our shop we have an aeropress, clever dripper, and chemex on brewbar. we try a very relaxed approach and highlight the differences between the different brew methods. 

Our part of the world isn't at the top of the food chain for coffee culture so we are doing our best to introduce new ideas without making them seem to complicated or high brow.

What we do is relatively simple.  We offer a menu of coffees ranging in price from $2.75 to $9.00 a cup. Each item has a description along with a little note on which brew method is paired to that coffee (we use seven).  We really don't say much about the way we brew because our approach is much more subdued.  We don't do silly things like make a big deal out of it because this is just what we do and we're more matter-of-fact about it.

The magic of our approach is that our shop is designed to allow the guest to see our processes completely. The guest sees their coffee being made a la minute and now they realize that something different is going on.  From there, the questions begin.

What makes it work is a thought out approach to displaying the methodology and a crafted environment designed to subconsciously inform the customer that our place is different, they should expect different and we're here to deliver.

One thing we don't do is offer batch brewed coffee. We're here to offer the best quality coffee made fresh and anything less is a compromise on our values.  We shun those arguments telling us that they need batch brewing for the "rushes".  You come to Spro at any time and you'll receive the same cared for, hand brewed coffee at all times.

First, remember your audience. Frankly, if they are asking what a pourover is at this point in the game, their starting point is pretty basic. With that in mind I would keep the initial explanation very simple.

To some others' points, keep your menu straightforward (using standard terminology) and minimize the need for questions by making your approach as self-explanatory as you can. Have a couple of devices handy or visible so you can say "we use that" in the explanation. Keep the discussion focused on them and the coffee though - the results and the service.

I personally highlighted the "just for you" aspect. These methods probably allow them to select from a wider variety of coffees and have it made for them when they order it. If you do utilize different methods, highlight the custom-tailored aspect... mention that you can emphasize the aromas, bringing up the body, coaxing out the sweetness, highlighting or mellowing out the acidity. The big draw for newbies is the ability to tailor the cup to the drinker, making a more enjoyable experience. I also tried to have a couple of ready recommendations for them, based on what they respond to in the initial explanation (perhaps they lit up when you said "mellowed acidity" or "good body"). Give them a clear and easy choice wherever you can to improve the chances that the education becomes a sale.

I'd avoid making the process seem like rocket science. We tend to be awfully proud of what we can do, this can really turn off the uninitiated. Remember, its about the coffee. This is probably not the time to hold a clinic (though you certainly can if they seem really intrigued). If you do a play-by-play while you make their brew, keep it simple.

Also, talk up the positives of the pourover without trashing batch-brew in the process. Be realistic too - since the difference in the cup vs batch will probably be subtle, don't over-promise the benefits. If the cup quality of you manual brew is really head-and-shoulders better than your Fetco, you need to improve your batch brew program.

Hope that helps.

Spot on as usual Brady!

Thanks for the responses! We are working on improving our pour over sales. Our situation is probably a familiar one to many quality-driven baristas. I accepted a position for the opportunity to roast and build a wholesale program. The cafe itself, coffee is just one part of several quality driven areas. When I came on, they had just started offering pour overs. The staff aren't baristas and arent even necessarily passionate about coffee. I have been hesitant to introduce an espresso program for the simple fact of this. My overall goals are to bring it to where I would like it within a year. Since we are using a fetco, and it would be a huge mistake to switch to all pour over at this time, I developed a blend that tastes great out of the fetco and began training on that.

When it comes to our pour over bar, I have been working with the staff to practice pours, taste, and recommend. Going to an all pour over bar would require more staff at any given time than we currently have and working with the owners to see the benefits is an on going conversation. If coffee were the main focus, I think it would be easier to get there. Right now, I've developed a blend that is great via fetco, and we use pour over to highlight our single origins.

I would honestly rather add the espresso machine before going all pour over. That is our goal for the next six months. Install the machine at the roastery, train the staff and find out who will be dedicated baristas, passionate about crafting drinks, and hire more dedicated baristas. The bad thing is, the number of passionate baristas in Buffalo compared to Boston is much lower. I know their out there, but we need to draw them into our vision and hope they come on staff.

One thing we never want to do is alienate our customers or implement a change before we are ready. Everybody jokes about the pretentious baristas they run into, and it's largely justified. If we are doing fetco, we will do the best damn drip we can offer, no apologies. When we do espresso, we will do the same. I just hope that within a year we can develop the staff and program that I'd love to see.

Thanks again for the responses!



I think your idea of adding espresso first is a sound one. It gives everyone a chance for greater interaction with the customers and more education by the cup.


When you look to implement pour over, it's best to go all in. You can't do both pour over and batch-brewed drip. It shows both the employees and the customers that you don't believe in what you are saying, and it encourages the employees to let the pour over take a back seat because they perceive it as more "difficult".


The notion that you alienate customers is not true at all. Your idea of adding espresso first is sound because it allows progression. As you move forward and serve a higher quality beverage you lead your customers and they will follow. Those who don't come really weren't your customers to begin with, they were there for convenience or some other reason. Just let the coffee do the talking and customers will eagerly follow where you take them.


Also (if it's your call) you need to take a hard look at the current staff and find those who are on board and passionate about coffee and replace those who are not. Perhaps they've never been introduced to good coffee or espresso, so give them all a fair shake, but as you know, the barista are the core, the face or what's going on, if they aren't all in, there's really no place for them.


Good luck and happy brewing!



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