The zarf, which I first learned about while reading A-Z Coffee, is basically a historic version of the coffee clutch—also known as the cardboard sleeves placed on to-go cups.
However, in the 1800′s, coffee drinking Turks had a bit more style than post consumer cardboard. While taking part in ceremonious coffee rituals, the simple shallow cups that held the coffee, were nestled in ornamental stands like this one, coming up for sale at Christie’s for $150,000 to $200,000—get your bids in now!
Zarfs were generally made in metals, including brass and silver, but examples in wood, ivory and tortoiseshell are also known. At the beginning of the 19th century, Geneva was the world’s capital for luxury goods, and the jewelers and gold-box makers there created the most precious examples of the zarf in gold, enamel, and jewels for the Ottoman court. This object is one of only two zarfs known that are almost entirely formed of gems—this one of rubies, offset by large diamonds & military trophies topped by the Turkish crescent.
From the peddlers of the internet’s best coffee video comes another gem. This time, Coffee Circle has turned the production value up to 11, while dialing down the content to pure gear lust. No tutorial or deeper meaning beyond the simple message, “good coffee, good gear.” A sales pitch at its core, but pure art on the surface. It’s subtly themed for autumn and the year’s greatest holiday—Halloween. Brew a fresh cup and Enjoy.
What’s priced like a Clover ($11,111), designed like an industrial-chic home espresso machine, and works like a manual Trifecta? The Blossom One—I think.
This quirky looking prototype has been making the rounds at cafés, offices, and trade shows for several months to demonstrate its current version—Dev2. While actual photos are limited on their website, the technical drawings illustrate several brewing concepts mashed together to create, in their words, “better brewing through technology.”
Coffee is brewed by first pouring filtered water into the reservoir and loading ground beans into the standard espresso portafilter (but not tamping). Next a brew profile is selected from a list of presets or programmed in using manual mode. Then the machine comes to life, a portioned volume of water is pumped into the boiler and heated to the required temperature. The system then pauses to allow the user to get ready to brew. On the user’s command hot water is dispensed into the brew chamber with attached portafilter. At this point electric heaters in the brew chamber take over. The chamber adds heat to the brewing coffee to maintain a constant temperature. The brewing coffee is stirred manually. After the specified brew duration, the machine beeps to alert the user that it is time to dispense the coffee. The outlet valve is opened by the user and the plunger is pulled to force the coffee out into a cup. The spent grounds are left in the portafilter for easy cleanup.
Blossom One uses standard E61 baskets or a paper filter adapter nestled inside a La Marzocco group head to hold the coffee. With its ability to use paper, I would assume it’s possible to brew coffee that’s cleaner than the Clover or Trifecta—a common critique of both brewers. However, the entire system seems a bit complex for the benefits it offers.
The One proposes a systemized way of brewing that utilizes QR codes for consistent, programmed recipes and temperature stability to name a few. Although, by maintaining manual agitation and plunging there still seems to be ample room for inconsistency in brewing, in which case I wonder how this is better than a $20 AeroPress.
While I’m always fascinated by innovation for coffee bars and improvements in coffee quality and consistency, I also question the energy exerted in making the process of brewing coffee so complex. With an all-star development team that includes notable designer Joey Roth, along with a former NASA engineer and a product designer with experience at Tesla Motors & Apple, they’re more than capable of building something great. I just hope they’re receiving constructive feedback from the coffee industry to make it practical as well. I’d love to hear from anyone who’s given this a try.
Less than three months after Able launched their successful Kickstarter campaign to fund a production run of its latest Kone coffee filter, their beautifully designed white boxes have begun appearing in mailboxes and Instagram feeds around the world.
The new Kone and soon to be released ceramic brewer raised $150,000 more than the initial $5000 requested for tooling and production costs. Now with over 1200 backers supporting Keith Gehrke, the founder of Able Brewing, it’s become clear that his company’s new life after Coava, will create a bright new path on its own.
The Kone is a reusable, stainless steel coffee filter originally designed to fit the Chemex coffee maker, but can really be used with any vessel that supports its size and shape. The filter uses hundreds of thousands of micro-sized holes, created using a process of photo-etched steel, to form a precise filter pattern for uniform extraction.
I prefer not to compare the Kone with Chemex paper filters, because there is little comparison in the resulting coffee. The Kone is a unique brew method that incorporates pour over techniques to produce a heavier, oil-rich brew that’s still cleaner than a French press, which many people enjoy more than paper.
I’ve used the Kone since the first version was released more than 2 years ago. It’s been great following the progression of the filter and the company as it’s been refined over the years. The third and newest version is no exception.
The most obvious changes in the new design is the black plastic ring around the edge along with a new blunted tip. My reaction to the black ring was negative at first for altering the elegant, streamlined aesthetic of previous versions (it also slightly affects how well it sits in a Chemex).
However, once I handled the new Kone, the extra rigidity added to the shape and structure by the plastic ring becomes obvious and appreciated. For the coffee shops who use the Kone all day long, the new lip will greatly improve emptying spent grounds and seemingly extend the filters overall life.
The new blunted tip not only makes the Kone safer to handle, but it eliminates the small gap found on the tip of older versions, which was a clear path for fine grounds that increase sediment in the cup. This new “cap” plays a part in catching fines and helping produce a cleaner cup overall than the previous Kones.
With even smaller holes and a new pattern that becomes more concentrated near the tip, the new Kone offers more uniform passthrough as well. More of the water makes its way to the bottom, instead of leaking dramatically through the sides of the filter.
When the first Kone came out, I thought it looked incredible and worked great. It was new and there was nothing to compare it with. Once version 2 came out, the first one suddenly looked and felt like a prototype and the quality of the brew greatly improved.
The latest version, while losing some of its elegance, looks like a retail-ready product that could be sold on the shelves of Williams-Sonoma. From the packaging to the product itself, there’s a much greater feeling of value.
Below I’ve run an experiment to illustrate the progression of the Kone and how much the sediment has been reduced with each new version.
I brewed coffee with each version of the Kone using the same parameters and technique: 40 grams of coffee to 600 grams of water, 30 second bloom followed by a slow and steady center pour, using a medium grind (5-O on a Baratza Vario-W).
After each coffee was done brewing, I poured the result through a rinsed, white V60 filter to capture the sediment. Results pictured below begin with version 1.
From my highly unscientific experiment, you can clearly see how much the sediment is reduced with each new version, but there is always some sediment. With a refined technique, it’s likely possible to minimize the sediment even more, but I don’t find the current amount distracting and have been surprised by the clarity achieved.
Overall, the new Kone is a great improvement over its predecessor. From its reinforced new structure to the increased clarity in the cup—if you were a fan of previous versions then you’ll love the latest. If you’re just now discovering the Kone or have been waiting to purchase one, this is definitely the best version so far and you’ll be happy you waited.
Patrick Norguet, an esteemed French designer who has worked on interiors for McDonald’s across Europe, has designed a reusable coffee cup for its locations in France. Five million of the ceramic cups with colorful heat-resistant wraps are being given away this summer with the purchase of a meal and coffee.
There’s nothing I find inherently special about these cups, but I do find the company’s emphasis on design for such an “everyday object” interesting. It places a respective value on the experience that is often overlooked by companies who don’t specialize in coffee.
While you couldn’t convince me to drink McDonald’s coffee, I’ve noticed in Europe, the company takes an entirely different approach to design. I’ve been lured into several just to explore their interiors. There tends to be a more café-like atmosphere where people socialize and work that creates direct competition for coffee chains like Starbucks.
Tigere Chiriga, a North Carolina-based entrepreneur, had a problem that many of us struggle with—failing to always use a coaster. So instead of continuing to ruin furniture and upset his wife, he began thinking of ways to design a mug that didn’t need one. Not long after defining the problem did he encounter unlikely inspiration from a banana.
Chiriga’s idea led to the creation of prototypes for personal use, but the project never developed any further. After many requests for where to buy them and his recent discovery of Kickstarter, he’s now raised enough money to have many more of these beautifully brilliant mugs manufactured at a factory in the US.
With three weeks left in the campaign, you can still support the project, though its already surpassed its initial goal by almost $10,000. The mugs cost a hefty $40 a piece, but if it saves your favorite table from dreaded halos, it will pay for itself rather quickly.
The Juggler is a new milk delivery system for coffee bars from Sydney, Australia based company Six Simple Machines. The system employs sensor activated taps that are connected to 10 liter milk bladders stored in refrigerators below.
The system is designed to minimize bottle waste and the time spent taking milk cartons in and out of the fridge. The sensors allow for proper hands-free milk dosing that minimize milk waste from over-pouring and frees up a barista to pull their shots and engage with customers, while an integrated pitcher rinser streamlines the whole routine.
There are many details that baristas and shop managers must keep in order to maintain drink consistency and prevent slowdowns during a rush (or in high volume shops—throughout the day). Efficiency improves the workflow of a barista and ideally it will help them produce more consistent drinks all day long.
The delivery of milk is an overlooked part of the bar workflow and this is an interesting exploration in how to improve it. One of the more time consuming efforts during Coffee Common events I worked at, have been keeping baristas stocked with milk—a system like this would definitely free up time for other things.
Flipboard has been my favorite app to read content on the iPhone and iPad since discovering it last summer. In December, DCILY became a part of Flipboard’s featured content listings—making it the only coffee blog in the collection. Flipboard was finally released for Android devices on Friday, making it available to a lot more smart phones.
So if you’d like a new way to keep up with DCILY as well as other great content, you can find and add DCILY in the “Living” section of the Flipboard directory.
The fashionable, eco-conscious lifestyle company Nau, is no stranger to collaborations. Their latest project is a deluxe titanium coffee set designed with Snow Peak that’s sure to improve any campsite or picnic. The set includes a French press, double-walled mug, milk frother, a bag of Stumptown coffee, and a clever cutting board that encases a Japanese-made knife. It’s the brunch kit in a bag that you never knew you needed.
I’ve been a huge fan of Nau since their early days as a company—before they were almost a casualty of the economic crash in 2008. In fact, all of my outerwear comes from their collection. So if the integrity and quality of their collaborations are as solid as their own products, this is most likely an equally good investment.
With summer upon us, you will hopefully get to spend some quality time outdoors. Here in Sweden, there are 5 weeks of mandatory holiday were most of the country runs off to a cabin, boat or archipelago—but coffee is still a daily necessity.
My preferred coffee companion while traveling may be an AeroPress, but in some cases a French press may be more practical—and it’s still an appreciated brew method. My only complaint is that it comes with a milk frother instead of a hand grinder—a much more practical and necessary tool for great coffee.
For three days last week, while the world’s best baristas were competing, some of the world’s best coffee equipment and sourcing companies had also gathered to showcase what they have to offer. The World of Coffee event, organized by the SCAE, took place in the shimmering Messe Wien convention center in downtown Vienna.
These events can quickly lead to sensory overload, from all the free coffee, conversations and shiny things to touch. So these are only highlights that captured my attention.
La Marzocco got my vote for the best designed booth. From the use of Jon Contino’s black and white illustrations to the wood paneled GS3 centerpiece. I was surrounded by visual awesome while waiting for Michael Phillips and other high caliber baristas to pull shots of rotating espresso on the candy colored Strada.
If you wanted to get a feel for the equipment yourself, you could pull your own shots at the Strada station or wait in line for a glimpse of the hybrid Linea—the Strinea?
If you weren’t in the mood for espresso, Marco built an epic brew bar staffed by an international roster of baristas brewing a rotating selection of the world’s finest coffee. The cross shaped Marco bar was outfitted with Über boilers, Über hoses, and Vario-W grinders, as well as ample space for brewing demos and experimentation with guests.
There was a second brew bar at Marco’s main booth nearby, where you could hang out with Koppi’s Anne & Charles who were working alongside Charles Babinski to brew even more delicious filter coffee and serve it with a smile.
If espresso or filter coffee weren’t what you were looking for, Nordic Approach (Tim Wendelboe & Morten Wennersgaard’s coffee sourcing company) were hosting very popular cuppings every few hours throughout the week.
Both the Ethiopian and Kenyan cuppings were too full to get a spoon, but I showed up for a Honduras and Guatemala cupping that had several delights on the table.
Several pour over companies had a presence at the event as well. For the first time, I encountered more Kalita waves than Hario V60s being used at various booths. Kalita also had a stand of their own, showcasing their lovely selection of brewing kettles and glassware that continue to grow as a popular alternative to Hario.
Hario was also present with the new products they showed off in Portland, including their new timer/scale, smaller and electric Buono kettles, syphon concept and double walled glassware. Even with all the new competition, I think Hario make some of the best looking glass products you can buy—all brewing preferences aside.
Swedish-based Espresso Gear was also showing off a variety of Tiamo gear which is one of the newer brands to appear in the growing pour over scene. Tiamo is priced at the lower end of the cost spectrum, but offers several unique designs—as well as some questionably blatant knock-offs of their competitors products.
After an overload of pour over cones and pouring kettles, I wandered back to the espresso side of the showroom to get a better look at the French-made Unic espresso machines and learn about their new Viper pressure profiling system on the Stella di Caffé.
The machine offers a unique design, more akin to an 80′s arcade than the sexy lines of a La Marzocco or the grown-up aesthetic of a Nouva Simonelli. A touchpad interface and glowing light bar, combined with manual hot-rod levers add to its MechWarrior vibe.
The pressure profiling system is computer programmable (with a manual option), making the profiles consistent and repeatable. It also has a unique hydraulic assist in the grouphead, making it surprisingly easy to lock in the portafilter.
I’d be interested to hear feedback from any baristas with more experience who have worked with the Viper System. While I’m not a huge fan of the machines overall look, I was definitely impressed by some of its details and features.
I was also pleased to meet Julie Smith-Clementi, one of the owners of notNuetral—who makes specialty coffee’s iconic ceramic cups that were developed in partnership with Intelligentsia. Their booth had a spread of various cup sizes and graphic samples, including these from NYC’s Doughnut Plant (a personal favorite).
Julie also gave me an exclusive peek at a prototype of their next product in development—a thinner, more refined version of their popular Lino espresso and cappuccino cups. I look forward to sharing the final product once they’re complete.
With soo much to see at these events, it’s impossible to capture it all while also trying to watch as much of the barista competitions as possible. Overall, this was another great show that’s a bit more intimate and manageable than others I’ve been to in the past. But with so many great people gathered in one place, it’s impossible to not enjoy yourself.