Barista Wars: The Heat Goes On
Chicago, Jackson shop
They’re saying eight inches
Have you seen the new electric pourover kettle, my man Marty asked as they prepared my 4:30 PM cappuccino. N-no I said, or something like that, knowing I should run away before my java jones inflicted another serious hit on my cash flow. But when one of the best baristas in town gets hepped up about something, you don’t split to go tend to your laundry. I followed him to the merch shelf, where the silver Bonavita kettle winked at me alongside its unpluggable stovetop sister. I could feel the bills in my pocket shrivelling. Don’t do it! the voice on my right shoulder shouted in my ear as the one of my left flashed a shit-eating grin.
As you may know, I recently acquired a green Bodum water kettle that I was – am! – quite fond of. It heats the water up more quickly than the stovetop flames, saves gas and just looks good there on the counter. But here was this sleek baby that heated the water and allowed you to pour from it, thus eliminating that crucial (and too-seldom discussed) transition from boiling kettle to pouring kettle. Uh oh. How much? I asked. Sixty bucks, Marty said. Meaning you could get it for forty-five or fifty dollars online. Hmm.
As I entertained visions of heavenly pourage, and better coffee than a millionaire’s money could buy, Marty enthused over the new Bonavita brewer, made in Germany, which supposedly could hold its own in the crucial perfect water-temperture category with the more expensive, Dutch-made Technivorm machine. He started pulling the black coffeemaker apart to show how its shower heads could work with a Chemex: It could do the pouring over for you! But even if I didn’t own a Technivorm, having purchased it back when it wasn’t so expensive, I would be too fixated on the electric kettle to consider the wonders of automatic pourovers.
And Marty is certainly no Chemex slacker. The man appreciates the vicissitudes of the pourover: the grind, the level of the pour, the ideal brewing time, the smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd (just making sure you’re paying attention), and all the other things I’ve been grilling him on for months. He conceded that it’s OK, heat-loss-wise, to go kettle to kettle so long as you poured all of the water from kettle A into kettle B. Are you sure, I asked, giving him the Larry David stare down. Yes, he said.
But I could tell from the look in his eyes that he himself wasn’t settling for that at home. If you were a .290 hitter, his eyes were telling me, and could permanently lift your average to .300 with a better batting glove, would you? Would you mind spending $50 or $60 on that glove if it made that kind of difference in your performance?
Don’t get ahead of me, reader. I haven’t pulled the trigger yet. Times, they are a tough. But I’ll admit I’m sitting here with my finger on the return button, bases loaded and nobody out, itching for the opportunity to drive those runs in. So happens, I know a lot of people who would be thrilled to get a beautiful green Bodum kettle for their coffee nook. How can I let them down?