Matt Perger, the 2012 World Brewer’s Champion, has put together a lovely V60 tutorial for ST. ALi in Australia. The two and a half minute tutorial is a fully annotated, “real time” brewing demo filmed to the sounds of Frank Ocean.
While there are a couple moves I’d consider a bit risky for those just learning, it’s worth trying out if you’re not satisfied with your own pourover method. Tap dat.
There are a few things a person needs to help them brew better coffee at home and the tool most often overlooked by beginners is a digital scale. Weighing coffee and water, rather than using scoops and cups, allow consistency when measuring your ingredients.
Different coffees have different densities depending on how they are roasted or the size of the bean, so one tablespoon isn’t equal for all coffee. You’ll also notice that many of the better coffee brewing tutorials found on the internet use grams as the common unit of measure. Since 1mL of cold water weighs 1 gram, it’s simple math to calculate your dose ratio and learn to measure and brew coffee this way. Most coffee shops concerned with quality use scales, if not for brewing, at least for weighing the proper dose.
When I make coffee for friends, the first reaction to my scale is usually, “whoa, you’re really serious about this, huh?” Well, yes, but the scale shouldn’t be an indication of that. The digital scale is a valuable tool that every kitchen should have (even the New York Times agrees) and cost between $10-$50. When it takes less than a gram of coffee or a milliliter of water to alter the balance of a good cup of coffee, the scale shouldn’t be reserved only for “coffee nerds,” but should be embraced for the consistency it adds to the brewing process and the quality it creates in the cup.
The NYTimes article, though specifically about cooking, shares this coffee revelation:
The scale also ensures repeatability. I once calibrated exactly the amount of beans that I need to make coffee the way I like. Now, every morning, I place my can of beans on the scale, and then scoop out 28 grams — allowing me to repeat the same pot every day.
You don’t need to buy a scale that’s super fancy, just something with accurate gram measurements and a tare function will do fine. After fresh-roasted coffee beans and a good grinder, a scale will help improve your coffee brewing the most. Understanding your dose and being able to consistently repeat it, will contribute to better coffee on a regular basis without much added effort.
When Tim Wendelboe announced the launch of the Nordic Coffee Culture blog, he also hinted at the unveiling of a new brewer that he had been working on with Norwegian housewares company Wilfa (and Europe’s largest design consultancy, Designit). When the top baristas from around Scandinavia gathered last week for the Nordic Barista Cup in Copenhagen, they had the chance to test out the new product.
The new brewer, called the Wilfa Svart (Black) Manuell, consists of a matching electric kettle and carafe with a funnel hanging above it. The funnel has a flow control valve which allows the user to pre-infuse the grounds and better control the extraction time. The kettle can also be pre-set to heat water in 10 degree increments—from 60° to 100°C. Making the kettle useful for more delicate teas as well various brewing preferences.
The Svart isn’t available yet on the Wilfa site, but I hope to demo one soon.
[UPDATE] This is still in prototype stage. Tim says they’re working on implementing a scale and timer + (addressing) some design issues.
There are many ways to brew coffee at home—as many bad methods as good methods. Aside from auto-drip, instant and K-cup machines, I personally think the worst cup of coffee one can make at home comes from a Bialetti. There are a few techniques to improve the coffee from a moka pot—like pouring pre-heated water into the lower chamber—but I still think the outcome is on par with burnt metallic sludge.
Coffee taste aside, the object itself is a beautiful and iconic part of design history, with a place in several major museums around the world. Which is why it looks great on posters, sitting on a kitchen shelf, or even oddly contorted into a ceramic mug.
Yesterday, The New York Times ran an article about the invention of the Moka Express that says 9 in 10 Italian homes own one—which is an incredible saturation of the home brewing market. But just like Italian espresso, ignoring progression in the name of tradition can limit the quality that good coffee can produce.
The moka pot is often referred to as a stove-top espresso maker, but it doesn’t actually make espresso. While, it does use pressure to push water through the coffee grounds, it’s a substantially less amount than what’s required for a proper shot (1-2 bars of pressure instead of the required 9 bars). In many ways it’s just a well designed percolator.
However, if you love using a moka pot as much as looking at one, atleast give the tips in this video a try to see if you can improve the taste. If you’re buying fresh roasted coffee, you shouldn’t sacrifice flavor for the sake of romanticizing an inferior brew method.
Today is the one year anniversary of Coava’s coffee bar and roastery in Portland and they’ve released photos of the new Able Disk (AeroPress filter) packaging just in time for the celebration. As I’ve mentioned before, I totally love Coava. Their continued innovation, attention to design, stellar baristas—not to mention great coffee—make them a truly inspiring company in the world of coffee.
Since opening the doors of their shop a year ago, they swept the Northwest Regional Barista and Brewers Cup competitions, released a new and improved version of their popular Kone filter and spawned a second company, Able, which will focus solely on creating quality, sustainable coffee brewing equipment that’s made in the USA.
The packaging itself mirrors the thoughtfulness that exists throughout both companies. The package doubles as an envelope for easy shipping and the custom designed postage stamp nicely illustrates an adept attention to detail. The generous use of white space, simple color palette and solid typography make it lovely all around. Who wouldn’t want to pull this from their mailbox?
There’s a new coffee doctor in town, Dr.Drip, whose medicinal looking product aims to combat the virus of instant brew across the land. Each pack comes with five “pop-up” pour over stands and five packs of pre-ground coffee—available in four mediocre sounding blends: Organic Blend, Premium Signature Blend, Dark Sumatran Blend, and Decaffeinated Premium.
The product was created by Gordon Grade Coffee, a father/son company who wanted to develop a simple and portable single-cup brewing device that didn’t need any fancy equipment. Its a good looking product. Sadly, they’ve chosen to market their product in the most trite sounding terms available, using every catchphrase of the moment:
All of our Gordon Grade Coffee is made from 100% superior quality Arabica beans, carefully selected from the world’s best growing regions. Artisan roasters escort the beans through the roasting process, crafting rich, flavorful all natural, fair-trade or organically grown blends before the beans go on to receive a precision grind.
I haven’t personally tried these, and won’t have time to before leaving the country, but they piqued my interest for two reasons. First, I think the design, although very pharmaceutical, is kind of nice. I’m a sucker for simple geometric illustrations. However, the perpetuation of marketing coffee as a drug is rather annoying. Second, they reminded me of the Kalita Katan disposable drippers that Wrecking Ball Coffee sells (and for much less). A pack of five Dr.Drip pouches costs $9, while a pack of 30 Kalita drippers costs only $8—but you must supply your own questionable pre-ground coffee.
I think the drippers are a great idea for travelers, and they look sturdier than the Kalitas, though I’m not sure how they compare brewing wise. My suggestion to Gordon Grade Coffee would be to start selling just the drippers (at a more competitive price) and let the customer provide their own coffee. If the product performs, I bet they’d have a bigger market in Specialty Coffee than they realize.
Storyville is a small coffee company in Seattle, Washington doing big things. Their mission is simple, “the best beans, artfully roasted, and rushed to your door while they’re still fresh.” They only offer one coffee, a regular blend called Prologue and its decaf counterpart, aptly named Epilogue. The goal at Storyville is not to offer the newest or largest selection of blends and origins, but instead provide the fresh and consistent cup of everyday coffee that their costumers enjoy. They also make an effort to educate new customers about the crimes of “Big Coffee” and their bitter, over-roasted beans.
Storyville knows that in order to best enjoy fresh coffee, you need to have a few essentials—a good grinder and a press pot. That’s where their newest, soon to be released, offering comes into play. Introducing Storyville Hardware—or as I call it, “the mind-blowing home coffee transformation kit.” It provides you with the elements needed to grant you freedom from bad coffee.
When I first discovered Storyville a few years ago, the high quality of their design made a lasting first impression. It’s obvious that design shapes every aspect of the company, even though none of the owners are formally trained in the arts. From their identity, packaging, and website—to their roasting studio, which looks more like a Maserati showroom than a roastery. There is an attention to detail you don’t often find in the coffee industry and the design and experience of opening the Hardware package is no exception. If Apple started a coffee company, it would look like Storyville.
When brewing at home, the most important thing you need after fresh roasted coffee, is a solid burr grinder. The consistency of the grind will make all the difference in the extraction, while excess powder from a poor grind can add unwanted sediment and bitterness. So Storyville built a custom grinder to provide this vital piece of equipment.
I spoke with Chad Turnbull, Co-President of Storyville and he told me that they collaborated with a German designer, think BMW and Porsche, to help develop their grinder. The construction is solid, and the body design is more streamlined than similar grinders on the market, while reflecting the essence of the Storyville brand. The internal components are on par with those of a Baratza Virtuoso. It includes a timed on switch, but no pulse button. The polished finish and laser-etched logos are a beautiful touch that almost make you want to cherish it more than use it.
After you grind the beans, you need a proper way to brew. There really isn’t an easier way than with a press pot. It’s one of the most basic and transparent brewing methods, that’s difficult to mess up. No paper filters to impair the taste, and nowhere for bad beans to hide. The oils that aren’t filtered out by the mesh, provide full flavor in the cup while a bit of sediment adds a pleasant texture to the body.
While you can pick up a basic press for about $20, Storyville wanted something that would look nice on the counter next to their grinder. So they partnered with Bodum to offer a custom, 12-cup Columbia press pot. The stainless steel matches the accents on the grinder, and it makes enough coffee to serve everyone at your dinner party.
The design and consideration doesn’t stop at the packaging and the products, but continues through the literature as well. The instruction guides are nicely illustrated with pleasant typography to guide you through using, cleaning and maintaining each piece of hardware. When an instruction guide is so beautiful that you actually want to read it all the way through, it says something for the power of design.
On Monday, I’ll talk more about some unique things Storyville is doing as a company, as well as review the coffee itself. Until then, check out their website to watch a video tour of their amazing roasting studio and a fun parody about ex-employees of “Big Coffee.”
If you haven’t heard of an Aeropress, you’re missing out on one of the best ways to brew your coffee. This relatively new invention has been rapidly rising to prominence in the coffee world recently, it even has its own World Championship. While, its initial popularity was among home brewing coffee geeks, many cafes serving specialty coffee now have one behind their counter as well.
The Aeropress was invented just 5 years ago by Alan Adler, who also invented the Aerobie flying disc. To be honest, when I first heard about the Aeropress, I dismissed it as a gimmick destined for SkyMall and late night infomercials, precisely for that reason. Afterall, what could a guy who makes frisbees and yo-yos, know about brewing coffee?
Apparently quite a bit. The Aeropress has made some of the best cups of coffee I’ve ever had—and in some of the better cafe’s I’ve visited, it’s used exclusively to brew drip coffee. Adler’s intent for inventing the Aeropress was based on his personal desire for a cup of coffee that was as full in flavor as a French press, but created a cup that was cleaner, smoother and less acidic.
Adler’s solution was to affix a thin paper filter, which allows for a fine grind, to a plastic tube a svelte 2¼ inches in diameter. (The smaller surface area is easier to plunge.) In many drip methods, the size of the grind dictates how long the coffee brews. But with the AeroPress, you choose the grind, and you decide when to plunge. –New York Times
While the Aeropress is extremely simple to use, it is also open to a wide range of experimentation. One great aspect of the Aeropress is the ability to play with various grinds, brew times, and water temperatures to achieve new results. However this can unententionally lead to endless hours of trying to dial in the “perfect” cup. The clean up is also remarkably simple, it packs well for travel or camping and it only costs about $30. Just add coffee grounds, hot water and plunge.
There has been a steady rise in the variety of new (old) brew methods being used in the last few years. While the hardcore have always played with multiple methods, the average coffee fan generally doesn’t wander far from the French press, percolator, or Mr. Coffee™. Recently, a sexier and less violent, Italian cousin to the french press was introduced to the world.
Meet the SoftBrew, designed by George Sowden, who has a distinguished career as an industrial designer for Olivetti, Alessi, and Pyrex. He knows his coffee and believes that making a good cup of it seems to have become complicated and violent. Now designing for himself for the first time, Sowden has created a line of housewares, this beautiful porcelain coffee maker being the first product.
The way the SoftBrew works is straightforward, but it’s Sowden’s application of a new technology that’s makes the method unique. Inside the porcelain pot, a stainless steel cylinder with half a million photo-etched holes contain the coffee grounds, while the hot water softly extracts the flavors of the bean. Let steep for 4-8 minutes and enjoy.
The only retailer in the US right now is Oren’s Daily Roast in NY and he seems to be sold out already. When the time comes, I’d love to try one out. And if it doesn’t brew the greatest cup I’ve ever had, at least it will look great on my kitchen counter.
While I was in New York in May, I drank a lot of great coffee and hung out with a lot of great friends, including the brothers behind eco-fashion company Holstee. Their shirts and accessories, made from recycled materials, are awesome—but they also voluntarily curate their store with other responsible products they love and support.
One of those products is the Presso—a manual espresso machine, that’s fun and easy to use. Just add hot water, fresh ground beans, and a little tricep power, and you get a surprisingly good shot for much less than most home espresso machines ($150).
So we got together, drank a lot of espresso (I think I had 8 shots myself) and made a video showing how the Presso works. Enjoy!