Start-up Strategies

Pour-Over Perks Up your Profit Margin

by Greg Ubert

Crimson Cup Barista 2 (1)Look­ing for a way to stand out from the crowd and attract a steady stream of loyal cus­tomers? Consider adding pour-over ser­vices at your cof­fee house.

Over the past decade, pour-over meth­ods have become increas­ingly pop­u­lar among cof­fee enthu­si­asts. Also known as “hand-pour cof­fee,” this brew­ing craze migrated to the U.S. and has inspired the “third wave” trend in cof­fee houses.

Why all the fuss? Hand-pour meth­ods give greater con­trol over the brew­ing process and bet­ter extrac­tion of the cof­fee fla­vor. Slowly infus­ing ground cof­fee with a stream of hot water pro­duces a more bal­anced cup that high­lights the ori­gin char­ac­ter­is­tics of each bean.

In hand-pour cof­fee, a barista care­fully grinds and weighs fresh-roasted cof­fee beans, and then he or she places them in a fil­ter inside a cof­fee brewer (Chemex, Hario, and Melitta are three of the most pop­u­lar types). The barista then slowly pours a stream of hot water from a goose-necked ket­tle over the beans using a cir­cu­lar motion. It typ­i­cally takes sev­eral min­utes to pre­pare each cup of cof­fee, so pour-overs are priced about the same as espresso-based drinks.

When done right, hand-pour deliv­ers a smooth, sweet, and clean-tasting cup. There are numer­ous rea­sons to love hand-pour brew­ing meth­ods and to con­sider adding a brew-to-order bar at your cof­fee house:

•    A brew bar pro­vides an oppor­tu­nity to fea­ture awe­some ori­gin cof­fees and edu­cate your cus­tomers.
•    Hand-pour meth­ods add flair to the brew­ing process as the barista exe­cutes each step in a care­fully chore­o­graphed dance.
•    The slower, more per­sonal process pro­vides an oppor­tu­nity to engage cus­tomers in con­ver­sa­tion and gain a bet­ter under­stand­ing of their tastes.
•    The brew bar pro­vides a plat­form for show­cas­ing your exper­tise and for cre­at­ing brand ambas­sadors who share your pas­sion for awe­some cof­fee.
•    Competitors have already started offer­ing these ele­vated cof­fee expe­ri­ences and spe­cialty cof­fee cus­tomers are begin­ning to expect them.

If you already have a cof­fee shop, you can ease into a hand-pour pro­gram with­out a big invest­ment. Pour-over brew­ing equip­ment is rel­a­tively sim­ple and inex­pen­sive. You can begin with:

•    A Chemex cof­feemaker and fil­ters for multi-cup extrac­tion.
•    A Hario V60 cof­fee drip­per and fil­ters for single-cup extrac­tion.
•    A goose­neck hot water ket­tle or hot water tower.
•    A scale, pre­cise mea­sure­ment of cof­fee is key in hand-pour.
•    A grinder because most pour-over meth­ods use a medium grind, finer than auto-drip but coarser than espresso.

In addi­tion, you’ll need to source a num­ber of dis­tinc­tive cof­fees on a fea­tured rota­tion. Single-origin beans, rather than a blend, are pre­ferred because they offer a sub­tle range of fla­vors that are region spe­cific. Customers who love great cof­fee love try­ing new vari­eties. Keeping the menu fresh and rel­e­vant for your hand-pour cof­fee cus­tomers keeps them com­ing back.

In most cases, you’ll also need to train your baris­tas in hand-pour meth­ods. As with any other method of prepar­ing cof­fee, it’s impor­tant that brew­ing meth­ods remain con­sis­tent from barista to barista.

As you inte­grate pour-over ser­vice into your exist­ing oper­a­tions, you’ll want to con­sider sev­eral factors:

•    Where to locate hand-pour so that it fits effi­ciently into your oper­a­tion.
•    How to bal­ance the slow dance of hand-pour cof­fee with the fast dance of the espresso line.
•    Where to source the micro-lot and single-origin cof­fees that are the most pop­u­lar pour-over fare.
•    How to inte­grate pour-over bev­er­ages into your menu.
•    How pour-over affects your cus­tomer traf­fic and staffing needs.
•    What mar­ket­ing and events will you use to adver­tise your hand-pour service?

Brandon Brewing 1 (1)As demand for hand-pour ser­vice increases, you may want to invest in a brew-to-order bar. A ded­i­cated brew bar show­cases your hand-pour oper­a­tions and increases effi­ciency by allow­ing you to set up sev­eral pour-over sta­tions at the same time. You also may want to expand brew­ing options, such as French Press, siphon, and cold-brew.

Hand-pour offers a great oppor­tu­nity to perk up your busi­ness with a new prod­uct offer­ing. It allows you to inter­act with cus­tomers on a more per­sonal level as you dis­cuss favorite cof­fees and brew­ing meth­ods. By sourc­ing the right cof­fees, you’ll become known for deliv­er­ing a dis­tinc­tive, supe­rior product.

The profit poten­tial rivals that of espresso-based drinks. Depending on the cof­fee you source and your local mar­ket, the price of a 12-ounce cup can range from $3.75 to $5 or more. By pur­chas­ing cof­fee effi­ciently, you can gen­er­ate a profit of $3 or more per cup. You also can improve your ratio by con­vert­ing drip-coffee drinkers to pour-over aficionados.

Greg Ubert, founder and pres­i­dent of Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea, has been roast­ing cof­fee in small batches since 1991 and has taught hun­dreds of busi­ness own­ers how to run suc­cess­ful inde­pen­dent cof­fee houses. Greg can be reached at

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