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.
The chart masters over at Pop Chart Lab have just released an impressively comprehensive flow chart that diagrams the various elements required for all manner of coffee drinks. Including various types of grinders, brew methods, mixers, and the resulting beverages they create. The listed brew methods even include such new and notable options such as the Steampunk and Able Kone.
Overall, it’s one of the most accurate—and impressive—coffee illustations I’ve seen on the web. While obviously well researched, I noticed two glaring mistakes: the categorization of the AeroPress as an espresso maker and (most odd), connecting the “cupping” brew method to iced coffee. It may be too late for corrections, but either way, Pop Chart Lab will be printing 500 of them large scale, for wall hanging glory.
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.
I’ve mentioned before how terrible I think the moka pot is for brewing coffee, but it still remains one of the most iconic symbols of home coffee brewing. It’s a lovely object, albeit one that I’d never recommend anyone use to actually make coffee.
This beautiful blueprint illustration of the Bialetti Moka Express captures its steely geometric form in a truly fantastic way. I continue seeing it show up around the web, but I can’t verify the original artist. If someone knows the illustrator, please share!
There’s a new coffee book that’s been frolicking through the meadows of the internet and floating down the streams of social media called “A–Z Coffee.” This pocket guide for self-appointed coffee nerds is a collaboration between Norwegian illustrator Lars K. Huse and designer Harald Johnsen Vøyle.
Presented as an A-Z; an art-book, and conversational guide about coffee, specialty coffee and coffee culture, filling a gap in the market overflowing with purely informative, and at times frankly boring books. It has been formed over the past six months, pulling and combining resources as both an illustrator and a coffee professional. The book is aesthetically quite simple, classic contemporary, with subtlety in line and production.
This book is far from a complete overview of specialty coffee and explicitly states that it isn’t trying to be. The content of the book is a bit random in its effort to acknowledge each letter of the alphabet, but it’s a clever and entertaining read nonetheless.
I learned, I laughed, and I longed to see Pulp Fiction again. While reading through the book, I eagerly awaited to see how the letters “X” & “Z” would be fulfilled (Spoiler Alert!) and I must say, well done. Xyleborus Coffeivorus! PS: “Hoffmann” has two “n’s.”
I recently worked with the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) to design their latest report illustrating sales trends among coffeehouses. This tool is developed by SCAA to give helpful insight into industry trends among specialty coffee retailers.
If you’re a coffeehouse retailer, the SCAA Coffeehouse Sales Trends Report a useful benchmarking tool available to assess the state of the retail environment and industry. Developed in conjunction with the Cleveland Research Company and a participating group of specialty coffee retailers, this report observes sales and cost trends including an examination of the competitive landscape, a 12 month outlook and category and segment trends. The report also provides an insider’s view of consumer preferences broken down by category as well as big picture trends compared to other foodservice segments. There is truly no better means of understanding your business within the larger industry than through the SCAA Coffeehouse Sales Trends Report. -SCAA
The SCAA is currently looking for more coffee retailers to participate in future reports. If you’re interested, visit the SCAA for more information.
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.
There’s a new Nordic coffee roaster to keep your eye on in Ålesund, Norway named Jacu Coffee Roasters. I first met Anne Birte and Gunnar last fall when I attended a coffee and chocolate pairing at their shop, then called Brenneriet.
At the time, Anne Birte told me of their future plans to begin roasting and gave me a sneak peek at their new rebrand, which I loved from first sight. We kept in touch after I left Ålesund and she even used two photos of mine in the re-design of their shop—mounting them like pillars on the sides of their front door.
Jacu’s name refers to the Brazilian Jacu bird, who like the Civet cat in Indonesia, is known to seek out and eat the finest coffee cherries. While Jacu (thankfully) doesn’t sell bird poo coffee, its goal is to be just as discerning when looking for the best coffees to roast and serve to their customers.
The branding, done by Tom Emil Olsen, begins with a beautiful custom wordmark that with a slight modification transforms the letter “J” into a simple icon of a Jacu bird.
The system is very thorough, designed with modular elements and economic methods of branding various pieces of collateral. There are stamps, wax seals, and embosses that all add beautiful hand-touched flare to envelopes, coffee bags and business cards.
The matte black, resealable bags are labeled with printed kraft paper that share taste and aroma notes along with basic origin information. The bags look and feel elegant, while also capturing the warm colors and textures many people associate with coffee and natural foods—a feat that can be difficult to execute well.
The café (and now roastery) has been updated along with the brand, including warm walls of wood, shelves full of coffee and a shiny new roaster. Next time you find yourself in Ålesund, be sure to visit Jacu’s revitalized home for some of the best coffee in town.
So far, the coffees I’ve tried from Jacu have been quite enjoyable (especially the Honduras, Montana Verde). Although none of them were very unique or exciting, for a new roastery, they’re off to a great start. In a country known for its high quality specialty coffee and high coffee consumption, Jacu will have no trouble finding themselves in good company. I look forward to seeing what coffees are sourced and how their offerings develop in the future—maybe something from Nordic Approach.
To double-down on yesterday’s post about Starbuck’s deep pockets and their ability to build remarkable cafés—I present to you Starbucks: The Bank. Europe’s new flagship store will open this weekend in Amsterdam on the heavily trafficked Rembrandtplein. This giant new location will feature a bakery and “coffee laboratory” and was built inside the renovated vault of a historic bank.
The Bank has replaced the now-standard super-automatics with throwback La Marzocco Lineas and there will be a “Slow Coffee Theater” which will focus on brewing Starbucks small-batch reserve coffees with undisclosed “slow” methods. This will also be Starbuck’s first European location with a Clover system, though it’s not the first time they’ve been used by other shops in Europe. The “laboratory” will be used to try new concepts before sharing ideas that work with other Starbucks stores throughout Europe.
The design was directed by Ductch-born Liz Muller who worked with over 35 local artists and craftsman to add many of the details throughout the space. From vintage Deflt tiles, to bicycle inner tube art, and reclaimed Dutch-oak for all the trimmings, the space is warm and personal with an authentic localism that is hard for chain stores to pull off.
There are multiple levels throughout the space that double as stages for various events with the intent of having The Bank double as a cultural hub in the center of Amtersdam while also maintaining emphasis on the baristas.
The entire shop was designed to respect the architecture of the historic bank, but also to treat coffee as a theater. In fact, the store is constructed like a reversed theater; you can see the baristas the moment you enter the door, and as you move through the niches and platforms you never lose sight of them.
While I will never advocate drinking their coffee, I am continually impressed by the design, marketing and sustainability efforts that Starbucks continues to make. It’s a shame that all of it is done in vain when compared to their undrinkable coffee and heavy entrance into the instant coffee and K-cup markets.
With every move the company seems to make in the right direction, I give them another try. I’ve tasted their “Reserve Coffees” brewed on a Clover and I’ve sipped their “Blonde” roast brewed in a Chemex—but every time it’s the same sad story, burnt and undrinkable. At the very least these new concept stores will be a great place to sit and drink a cup of tea or hot chocolate while checking my email for free.