My sister and her husband showed up to Topsail Beach this summer toting an odd contraption among the towels, sunscreen and always necessary Apple TV.
After a night on the beach and a Topsail Steamer bucket, the next morning my brother-in-law reached into a shopping bag and pulled out an empty, hour-glass-shaped carafe.
Next he brought out a bag of coffee beans, a scale, filters and a mini-coffee grinder. And then the pièce de résistance, an electric tea kettle with the oddest looking spout.
I sat silent while watching him weigh out the coffee on the scale to the exact milligram, trying to come up with something sarcastic to say about his labor of love.
The best I could muster was an, "ain't nobody got time for that," because it was still too early.
After grinding the perfectly-measured beans, the tea kettle was roaring. He set a paper filter on the carafe that I was told is a Chemex, available for purchase at a Williams-Sonoma near you. With the skinny spout of the kettle, he swirled water onto the filter, explaining it "released" the filter of a paper flavor so it wouldn't get in the coffee. Then he poured in the ground beans and poured again, swirling the water as it dripped into the carafe.
My grandparents just used whatever measuring cup that came in Folgers tin rather than a scale. My parents just used a Kitchen-Aid coffeemaker -- one that would cause panic on the drive to church on Sunday.
"We're gonna have to turn the car around -- do you remember if I turned the coffeemaker off," my mom would ask me, as a Pop-Tart hung out of my mouth.
Like the rest of the mouth-breathing population my husband and I drink moo moo vanilla lattes and Donut Shop blends from a Keurig. With one touch of a button we have coffee without even having to cease scrolling through Instagram. It is the Jetsons' lifestyle we always wanted, if only Elon Musk would invent a laser to brush our teeth.
So I investigated this week around Wilmington to see if I was missing out on hipster coffee. Is pour over brew really better? Is it worth the 10 minutes and a few more dirty dishes?
Well I can say it was certainly worth someone else doing it for me. You can find cups of pour over coffee at places like Bespoke Coffee and Dry Goods (202 Princess St. in downtown Wilmington), Annex Surf Supply (534 Causeway Drive, Wrightsville), Drift Coffee & Kitchen (110 Dungannon Blvd. in Wilmington and 20 E. Second St. in Ocean Isle) and more.
Logan Beam, a barista at Annex, helped me make sense of it all.
"It's more hands on, definitely better tasting, definitely more smooth depending on roast," Beam said.
"Why are all the hipsters and surfers doing it?" I asked.
His theory is that the Chemex and other devices are just more portable than appliances.
At Drift Coffee & Kitchen, owner Michael Powell and I talked about the inspiration behind his newest location in Autumn Hall, which opened several weeks ago and is already bringing in big crowds.
After he explained coffee extraction, water-to-coffee ratios and, yes, some equations, he shared about the heart behind Drift and what "a perfect cup of coffee" is all about.
"There is a case for it," Powell said. "People can slow down and pause for coffee."
Beam told me something similar -- that in this post-Starbucks wave of coffee, people are really seeking a coffee experience.
Watching a barista weigh and grind coffee beans before pouring water over it by hand is about taste perfection, but also a little about the show. Who hates their fried shrimp rice after a hibachi chef flings it on your plate?
Hipsters or not, I guess we could all stop and smell the coffee sans pressing buttons on a machine or sans Pop-Tarts in our mouths.
Reporter Ashley Morris can be reached at 910-343-2096 or Ashley.Morris@starnewsonline.com