Confessions of a Pour Over Addict

That’s it. I’m converted. No longer am I chained to that drop of dairy or some milk alternative like almond or coconut milk. I have graduated. I feel grown up like I just ordered an aged single malt whiskey neat. I can now drink my coffee black. I have discovered the pour over. The catch is I only like it at one place…Quantum Coffee.

Perhaps I should say rediscovered. I have tried the manual pour over method before. It involves a barista freshly grinding coffee beans, using a cone brewer with filter, and then custom brewing a single cup by pouring hot water over the beans and letting it slowly drip into the cup beneath it drawing out the coffee’s best qualities.


Full of floral notes, my Rwanda pour over is ready

The source of my addiction, however, is the Poursteady – the automated pour over machine used at Quantum and the first one to be purchased in Canada. Created by NASA Engineers in Brooklyn it is precision motor-controlled and beautifully designed with a sleek metal finish. The Poursteady can make up to 5 custom pour overs simultaneously. Watching it in full force is like witnessing an original choreographed dance being perfectly executed time and time again.

And it is perfection. Each time I drink a pour over from the 3 beans on offer it is smoothness, distinct flavour and reliability in a cup. I’ve never been disappointed. There is a small chance for manual error when the barista uses a pre-programmed app to use the correct setting. At Quantum, each of the 3 bean profiles has a different programmed setting that uses a different volume of water and spout movement. The friendly and knowledgeable barista Emmy tells me the water temperature is the same. I attentively watch the machine in action. I take a sip from each flavour profile and taste the nuances like one does with a flight in a wine tasting session. I am hooked.

Much like the Modbar elevated my daily coffee experience (see the post A Modular Experience), so has the Poursteady though the pour over sets me back more than an Americano costing between $3.5 – $5. My favourite, the Rwanda, is $4.52 including tax and uses a counter clockwise pouring pattern. My Nespresso at home feels abandoned.

IMG_3933There is nothing I dislike about Quantum so far from the buttery and flaky savoury scones and the other beverages I’ve tried, to the lighting evoking energy contained in a quantum field and the event space in the back with extra seating. But I’m going for the Poursteady, even if I have to wait a bit longer.

Our neighbourhood’s newest cafe is in the beautifully restored and renovated heritage building at 460 King St W at the north-west corner of Spadina. Whether you try the pour over or not, Quantum is worth a visit. The former blue painted brick backpacker’s hostel now has a stylish black and white Tudor-inspired exterior and serves the community rather than the tourists.



A Modular Experience

There is no shortage of great coffee spots in the King West neighbourhood. If you frequent Bar Buca, Jimmy’s, Colette, Thor, Soma and Forno Cultura, you’ll know what I’m talking about. As much as I like to vary the venues for my outings I keep finding myself back at Portland Variety.

Replacing the now defunct KiWe restaurant, Portland Variety took up prime real estate along King West at the south west corner of Portland last year. Once I walked through their newly opened doors there I saw it for the first time with my own eyes. It was love at first sight. It was their Modbar.

Mod what? Modern? The 60s youth subculture in Britain that focused on music and fashion? Neither of those make sense in the context of a dark caffeinated beverage. So let’s try Modular. As in a modular espresso brewing system making urban cafes around the world that much sleeker and stylish.

IMG_1357 Before you think me crazy for falling in love with a machine note that I am deeply appreciative of good design, which for me is the attention to aesthetics without compromising function. You have to experience it to believe in it as the baristas working the system and the coffee connoisseurs do.

And what’s not to love? Firstly, instead of a honking piece of machinery I’m presented with sleek stainless steel taps flush with the counter top. From exotic hardwood lever handles for the steam, espresso and drip coffee taps to polished chrome and tantalizing accessories, it’s so darn elegant. The system’s technology is equally beautiful in design. It programmable, has a touchscreen and a power saving feature that finally addresses new methods of sustainability in cafe culture. Truthfully, to give true justice to the system one needs to study the manual.

Secondly, I can actually see what the barista is doing. I have an opportunity to notice that the barista is taking his or her time creating my espresso-based beverage of choice and topping it with a milky design during the final pour. All that machinery blocking my view and hindering a better customer experience is hidden underneath the countertop. If you think the mysterious allure of the barista lacks due to this expose, think again. This customizable system gives the barista tremendous control for enough wizardry that you’ll both see and taste.

Of course, with so many $4 gourmet coffee experiences in the city and the industry’s Third Wave of Coffee craze, so what? For me, breaking down the barrier between customer and barista gave for a mutually engaging and informative experience. That’s what I call value add. IMG_1372 Portland Variety is one of only two places in Toronto to have the Modbar and the only one in the west end – at 587 King Street West to be precise.