What’s In A Brew Bar?

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In the past year I’ve travelled to Spain, France, Austria, the USA and the United Kingdom and in each place, I’ve sought out the very best coffee shops on offer.

And everywhere I go, two words follow.

Brew Bar.

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Edinburgh Brew Lab

It doesn’t seem to matter which country I’m in or what language I’m speaking – I’ve seen these two words again and again, written and printed and painted and carved into signs outside coffee shops. They’re always there, coaxing me inside to try something new.

But what exactly is a brew bar? And how does it differ from a regular coffee shop?

The fundamental difference is this – a brew bar is dedicated to making coffee without an espresso machine. We’re talking French press, AeroPress, and the numerous pour-over methods such as Chemex and the V60. For details of these methods see Coffee Universe articles AeroPress Explained and Let it Bloom.

All of these methods are made in the moment, by hand. All of them take time – and since time means money, all of them cost significantly more than a regular espresso-based coffee.

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Pic by Shadow Traveller at Jewell Coffee, Singapore

The slower the method, the higher the price.

So while a flat white made with a double espresso might cost 2.50 euro, an AeroPress coffee could easily set you back 4 euro – and prices shoot as high as 6 or 7 euros for the pleasure of drinking a slowly-brewed pour-over.

So what’s the attraction?

The flavour, of course.

Experts agree that these hand-made methods help bring out the full flavour of coffee beans, offering the drinker a complexity of tastes and aromas that an espresso machine can’t match.

In addition, brew bars are generally regarded as fairly sociable place where clients can chat and question their barista while their coffee is being prepared. In my experience they’re usually passionate about their work and happy to explain the differences between different beans and preparation methods available. Plus, it’s fascinating to watch an artist at work.

Stumpton coffee shop and brew bar in Red Hook, brooklyn

Pic by Guillaume Gaudet at Stumpton coffee shop in Brooklyn

The good news is that many speciality coffee shops have incorporated brew bars into the layout of their café, meaning you can always have a sneaky peak while you sip your espresso.

But I’d recommend treating yourself to a brew bar brew. You deserve it.