Happy New Year everyone! While looking forward to great things in the coming year, here’s a look back at 2012—a great year for drinking coffee. It was my first full year living in Sweden so there was a big shift in the coffees I was able to have on a regular basis at home. Thanks to a few trips back to the US and those generous and willing enough to ship overseas I was still able to get a fair share of coffee from US roasters as well, many of which the bags were given away to other coffee lovers on this side of the world.
A few things I noticed in 2012 that I’m looking forward to becoming even more prominent in 2013 are the continued variety of fantastic coffees from El Salvador and coffees from new areas in Ethiopia, which taste great, but nothing like Yirgacheffe. I can also confirm that every coffee I tasted from Sumatra was still absolutely terrible.
All of the coffee bags above can be browsed in large scale on Flickr (or Pinterest)
For the second year in a row, Verve Coffee Roasters in Santa Cruz have wrapped their limited Gesha offerings in lovely cans that reflect just how special these coffees are. While I won’t be reviewing the coffees, which Verve was kind enough to send all the way to Sweden, but I will say that they were two of the finest I’ve tasted in 2012.
Gesha (or Geisha) coffee is a variety of coffee cultivar that is known among coffee connoisseurs as one of the most unique and complex coffees available. Excluding the immoral and over-hyped coffees that are extracted from animal poop, Gesha coffee is the most expensive in the world. In 2010, Gesha from La Hacienda Esmeralda set a new record at auction with a price of $170/lb. for green, unroasted beans.
Last year’s cans were dressed in black, but this year they’ve taken on a lighter tone, adding a new level of elegance to the industry common theme of black-on-craft aesthetic. The labeled cans are letter pressed, foil-stamped and hand numbered, but are beautifully simple and refined, contrasting the complexity of Verve’s standard bags.
The cans remind me of whiskey bottles that often come packed in elegant tubes to better protect the luxurious products inside. When you’re paying $45 to $65 for half a pound of the world’s finest coffee beans, the buyer may expect more than just a different sticker on a standard coffee bag. While others have used glass jars in equally elegant ways, these cans create the same impact without greatly affecting the shipping weight.
Investing in design to better communicate the value of your product is a great way to change the perceptions of those who see coffee as a cheap commodity with no difference in quality, no matter where it comes from. If specialty coffee truly is special, it should begin to look and feel that way more often than it does now.
Hopefully you’re reading this and a great wave hasn’t destroyed our coastal cities and the world hasn’t come to an end. But if it does, I hope you had a great cup of coffee this morning, the Mayans never even had the chance to taste it.
However, one civilization that does have a taste for coffee are Lithuanians, who I had the tremendous pleasure of meeting several this past weekend. Coffee Inn, Lithuania’s largest specialty coffee chain, has over 20 locations throughout the country and plans for many more. While I’ve yet to visit one, they roast their own single origin coffees and brew them with Hario V60s alongside a full espresso menu.
Last month, the company released this great ad, inspired by Hokusai’s famous woodblock print “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa,” for a campaign introducing the flat white to Lithuania. A quite poetic way of illustrating the message of “less milk, more coffee” to woo latte drinkers away from so much dairy.
My good friends at Koppi Coffee in Helsingborg, Sweden have teamed up with local tattoo hero Jonas Pedersen at Crooked Moon to bring us this fantastic t-shirt. Jonas has several unique styles, but his Cherokee inspired mandalas and native indian art have always been personal favorites (she’s crying because she ran out of coffee).
Koppi is taking pre-orders to cut down on excess inventory and to try and deliver before the holidays. If I were to add one more item to the DCILY Coffee Lover Gift Guide, it would be this t-shirt and a few bags of Koppi coffee. These shirts are un-branded, 100% cotton, and delightfully soft. Sizes run small (think American Apparel fitted).
Price includes shipping from Sweden: 220sek ($33 or 21£ or 25 €)
Orders must be in by 5 December
If you’d like to order one, send an email with subject “T-shirt” to firstname.lastname@example.org
Prima Coffee (a DCILY sponsor) has just unveiled an innovative take on a standard tool of the barista trade—the tamper. With an attempt to aid better tamping technique and reduce strain due to of awkward positioning, this adjustable angle tamper allows those who have been searching for a better way to try something new.
The Prima Tamp is our answer to the challenges of everyday espresso prep: fatigue and form. Proper tamping technique allows the barista to compress coffee evenly and comfortably over and over again, but this is tough to achieve with an ordinary tamper. A handle that sits perpendicular to the base either forces one’s wrist and arm off center or requires a specific posture that’s just unnatural. With a tilted handle, a barista can easily take a position that encourages improved technique. -Prima Coffee
I haven’t worked regularly on a bar in years and have never considered any other way of tamping, but I can understand the potential benefits of this and would be interested to hear feedback from anyone who’s given it a try. This beaut is made in the USA using Indiana black walnut and Kentucky stainless steel ($140).
At every coffee event I attended this year, the Hario booth always had some of the most lust-worthy products on display. The highlight of their product line was always the newly released V60 Drip Scale. In a departure from Hario’s specialization in glass, this scale represents the companies continued focus on the growing coffee market. The scale includes the simple but brilliant addition of a built-in timer, which may not be new, but it’s the first time I’ve seen one specifically made for coffee brewing.
The scale is beautifully designed and upon its release became one of the nicest looking available on the market. It has a small footprint (140mmX190mm), but is still large enough for a Chemex. Its clean lines, touch sensitive buttons and unique shape are finished in a lovely matte black that looks great, but emphasizes finger prints.
The scale has a 2kg (2000g) maximum capacity with 0.1g increments up to 200g and 0.5g increments up to 500g. After you reach 500g, the scale only measures in 1g increments. Powered by two AAA-batteries, the scale automatically turns off after 5 minutes of inactivity, so a mid-pour shut-down should never be an issue. The display is clear the scale measures accurately, but it’s not as fast as I’d expect for the price ($70).
What makes this scale different than others available, is that it was specifically designed with coffee brewing in mind and includes a timer right beside the weight display. This may seem like a trivial addition, but once you’ve used it, you’ll wish every scale had this feature. Best of all, you no longer need to lay your smartphone below a stream of water (freeing it up to take photos for Instagram).
Hario also designed a clear acrylic pourover stand and drip tray that pairs perfectly with the scale. While it’s obviously designed with the V60 in mind, any pourover cone from Kalita to Melitta would work just as well.
The scale and stand are sold separately from each other, and the stand isn’t necessary to enjoy the scale. The clear acrylic is easily scratched with cleaning and also costs nearly as much as the already pricey scale ($65). However, if money isn’t an issue and you feel the need to brew with a stand, go all in like Petraeus.
I’ve always been a fan of Hario’s design and the quality of their products. The new scale and drip stand are no exception, however I do believe they’re priced too high when compared to other quality scales on the market (i.e. Jennings CJ4000). That said, once design is factored into the equation the new Hario scale has little competition and will look better on your counter than most options available.
What do transexuals, exotic bird lovers, lake monster hunters, historic reenactors and a railway brass band have in common? They get lonely—and in this case they’re Swedish.
Löfbergs, following a recent rebrand, have launched a new ad campaign to celebrate the numerous and unique associations in Sweden that bring people together—and as a result drink a lot of coffee. The campaign features: The Association for Transsexuals (Free Personality Expression) in Malmö, The Great Lake Monster Association in Östersund, The Gothenburg Tropical Bird Association, The Swedish Railways Band Association and the Historical Society of King Gustaf’s Toast.
Along with video and print advertisements, Löfbergs launched a National Register of Associations where you can find other like-minded enthusiasts or create your own organization and fight loneliness in the company of others—over coffee. Memberships in associations have been declining in recent years and Löfbergs would like to reverse that, because associations contribute to less loneliness.
The new ads were created by, Volontaire, the same firm who developed the brilliant idea for @Sweden, the world’s first democratized national voice on Twitter—sparking the worldwide phenomenon of rotation curation.
Löfbergs, formerly known as Löfbergs Lila, is the largest family-owned coffee roaster in Sweden and are well-known throughout the country by their trademarked purple color (lila). Founded in 1906, it’s the coffee of choice at the Swedish Royal families gatherings and they’re also one of the world’s largest buyers of ecological and Fair Trade coffee.
I know Löfbergs as the purple bags in the grocery store filled with dark-roasted coffee. But they would like you to think less about their coffee and more about why we drink it—to be with others. No matter what’s in your cup, that’s a great gesture of humanity.
Taking their love for cycling, sustainability and espresso to a new level, Amos Reid and Lasse Oiva, two product design students from the Royal College of Art in London have built a belt driven, mobile espresso bar dubbed “Velopresso.”
The three wheeled bike uses a carbon belt drive system (grease free) to not only power the bike, but also a custom made grinder that shares a slight resemblance to the HG-1 hand grinder. With the change of a gear, five seconds of pedaling will grind enough coffee for a double shot—three if you’re doping.
Currently the Velopresso uses a camp stove to heat water and steam to power its leva espresso machine, but the designers have been experimenting with various ways of creating their own fuel from spent coffee grounds. The goal of making it even less dependent on carbon fuels—aside from the belts used everywhere else—would add to its sustainable caché. The project was recently bestowed the 2012 Deutsche Bank Award in Design and the creators are currently looking for ways to produce them commercially.
“Velopresso was conceived against the backdrop of a global renaissance in cycling culture that is being driven by the desire for more sustainable cities and lifestyles,” says co-creator Amos Field Reid, pictured below kneeling behind the machine. “The urban coffee scene is also expanding and diversifying, including a convergence with cycling culture. Velopresso engages directly with these cutting-edge urban cultures.” -Carbon Drive
Velopresso isn’t the first coffee bike that’s been featured on DCILY (Trailhead, Kickstand Coffee), but this is the first that takes advantage of the bicycles efficiency for powering heavy-duty equipment. This would be an appreciated addition to bike paths everywhere.
There’s a new coffee brewer vying for attention on the internet, but without an $11,000 price tag, this one has received much less fanfare. The Impress, a stainless steel AeroPress-like contraption, is the latest coffee product to raise production costs through pre-orders on Kickstarter. The campaign will have most likely reached its $50,000 goal by the time you read this post—with 25 days remaining.
This latest attempt to improve how we brew coffee comes from Raleigh-based Gamil Design. The husband and wife led design team have taken elements from several brew methods to create a simple and streamlined product with curiosity inducing potential.
The primary concept is based on full immersion brewers like the French press and Eva Solo—pour in hot water, ground coffee and steep—but the Impress utilizes a new way of separating the grounds from the water. It uses a plunger like contraption resembling one from an AeroPress, with an inverted portafilter basket attached to the bottom. After the proper amount of time has passed (3-4 min), pushing down on the plunger will draw the coffee through the microfilter, while trapping the grounds at the bottom.
The tight seal of the plunger combined with the more precise holes in the metal filter, are designed to allow far less sediment through than a French press (an AeroPress using a Disk filter comes to mind). Once the plunger has been pressed all the way down, the Impress becomes a 12oz travel mug that carries your freshly brewed coffee.
While my immediate thought was the over extraction that would occur from continuous steeping, the designers claim that it’s virtually nonexistent because of a much more prominent barrier created between the coffee and extracted grounds than what you find in a French press—if nothing else, the affect is most likely reduced a fair amount.
The double-walled exterior, combined with the steel plunger create 3 walls of insulation that’s sure to keep your coffee temperature stable and offers an attractive new coffee brewing option for traveling and camping (although its current design can’t be used to boil water). The designers experimented with a version that worked with interchangeable filter baskets, including VST baskets, but ultimately decided to use a proprietary filter design that screws in place for added durability while plunging.
Without having tested the Impress, it’s hard to say how well it brews a cup of coffee, but the idea was intriguing enough to support and I look forward to giving it a try.
Three months ago, I shared an article from Eater which broke the news of Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski’s plans for the future—a shop of their own in LA that prepares delicious coffee and uses minimal disposables. Kyle, the 2008 US Barista Champion, and Charles, this year’s 2nd place USBC finalist, both left Intelligentsia Coffee this summer and have finally opened doors to their own coffee bar this week.
This new space is somewhat temporary while they look for a permanent home, but it gives them a way to try out ideas with customers while further shaping their concept for the perfect shop. G&B have partnered with Jessica Koslow who runs SQIRL, a confiture kitchen that specializes in deliciously named organic jams made from local produce. The unique partnership is sure to offer some of the best coffee, tea and toast in LA.
The starting line-up of roasters would excite any coffee lover, offering a variety from 49th Parallel, Heart, Intelligentsia and Ritual. For those wanting something cold in the SoCal sun, G&B have also bottled cold brewed coffee and teas to complete their menu.
Over the last few months I’ve had the pleasure of working with Kyle and Charles to develop their brand and it’s exciting to finally see parts of it alive in the world. I look forward to its evolution as all the details are refined and it expands in the future.
Kyle and Charles both have a great vision and talent for service and exceptional coffee experiences, so if you have the opportunity to stop by for a coffee and some toast—I highly suggest it. Follow G&B on twitter for daily offerings and updates.