Method Coffee: A scientific attention to detail

It isn’t easy for independent coffee shops to fight corporate giants that crowd the market and deliver a uniform taste. Some independents rely on the personality of their baristas, the quality of their furniture, the ease of their Internet connections, and the extent of their merchandising. Many pride themselves on having better, more ethical beans. But what distinguishes a newcomer in the Emory Village, a place so focused and so good that some coffee nerds are waving bye-bye to their usual haunts, is primarily a technique.

Donald Nathan Lowell, the uncannily quiet owner of the aptly named Method, relies on the Chemex, an hourglass-shaped, heat-resistant glass carafe invented by a German chemist in the 1940s. I am from a generation that discovered the Chemex in the 1970s, when it still sported a wooden collar and a leather lace with a wooden bead, and have loved the process ever since. Method uses an elegant, contemporary version of the Chemex that is manufactured with a slim handle.

When a customer places an order, the coffee is ground and tipped into a special filter inserted in the upper third of an individual Chemex. The attendant draws water kept at 201 degrees and carefully pours it over the grounds. The whole transparent process takes no more than two minutes, including the dripping time.

The store sources its coffee from Intelligentsia, a Chicago roaster that specializes in direct trade and single-origin beans of an exceptional quality. The company also supplies impressive teas brewed in individual glass teapots. The desire for quality extends to the milk (organic, from grass-fed cows), the atmosphere (subtle and relaxing, with a remarkable absence of clutter), and the culture (monthly cuppings).

If you are an espresso fiend, Method serves perfect shots from a traditional machine, and the employees know how to transform a simple cappuccino into a piece of art. There isn’t much to eat at Method, save for a few bagels, cookies, and, recently, cute cupcakes by a local baker. But Method scores major cool points for being the first coffee shop in America to take the Chemex out of its normal home setting.

1593 North Decatur Road, 404-549-8942

This review originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of
Atlanta magazine.