The Impress Coffee Brewer: Potentially Impressive

10.09

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.

Impress Coffee Brewer

posted by on 10.09.2012, under Brew Methods, Design, Products

The Holdster Mason Jar Handler

10.05

Mason jars are beautiful vessels for drinking everything from lemonade to ice tea. While  some people have tried promoting them for hot coffee, it never seemed very practical on account of the heat. But now, thanks to a couple crafty guys in Vermont, the mason jar is not only a viable take-away option, but it just got a bit sexier.

The Holdster is a leather coffee clutch designed by Marsh Gooding that has been made by hand and sold locally in Vermont, until now. The company’s dream of expanding nationally has been realized by Kickstarter backers who easily helped them surpass their goal. The company currently sells 4 models, with and without handles, ranging from $20 – $30 (much less than an early 19th century zarf).

The Holdster offers a unique, reusable solution in a new form that is well designed and beautifully crafted. Now any standard wide-mouth mason jar can become your new favorite coffee mug. Congrats to Marsh and Bobby for successfully funding their goal, and giving us one more way to avoid paper. Damn thy disposable.

Holdster USA

 

posted by on 10.05.2012, under Design, Products

Zarfle the Garthok: The $200,000 Coffee Clutch

10.01

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.

This makes the Jimmy Choo coffee sleeve seem like a bargain.

[h/t Unconsumption]

posted by on 10.01.2012, under Design, Products

Video: Good Coffee, Good Gear

09.24

 
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.

Video by Florian Döring for Coffee Circle

posted by on 09.24.2012, under Products, Videos

The Blossom One Coffee Brewer

09.17

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.

Blossom Coffee

[hat tip Baratza]

posted by on 09.17.2012, under Brew Methods, Design, Products

The Able Kone 3

08.26

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.

Able Brewing Equipment

[DCILY tip: Dry & store the Kone upright with an unused AeroPress funnel]

 

posted by on 08.26.2012, under Brew Methods, Products

McDonald’s Cups by Patrick Norguet

07.23

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.

Patrick Norguet

 

posted by on 07.23.2012, under Design, Products

The Floating Mug by Tigere Chiriga

07.10

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 Floating Mug on Kickstarter

posted by on 07.10.2012, under Design, Products

The Juggler Milk Tap System

07.09

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.

The Juggler

[hat tip Simon Cunliffe-Jones]

 

 

posted by on 07.09.2012, under Design, Misc., Products

DCILY on Flipboard on Android

06.25

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.

Learn more about Flipboard and download free for your iOS or Android device.

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posted by on 06.25.2012, under Misc., Products