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).
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.
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.
I’ve been a big fan of the Kone filter for Chemex and the Disk filter for AeroPress since I first started using them almost two years ago. From reducing waste, to highlighting certain elements of a coffee that may not make it through paper filters, the Kone and Disk are both used frequently in my brewing rotation. So I’m thrilled to share the latest progression of filters and brewing devices from DCILY sponsor, Able Brewing.
After Able Brewing amicably parted ways with Coava Coffee earlier this year to focus solely on brewing equipment, Keith Gehrke has officially reintroduced the new company. Today, Keith launched an elegant new website (designed by Jolby) while also unveiling the latest (and possibly last) version of the Kone with its beautiful new porcelain companion—a coffee brewing system designed specifically for the filter.
KONE Brewing System:
We really wanted a way to showcase the KONE’s unique coffee. So we teamed up with a local ceramic studio here in Portland with the goal of producing a manual brewer that is as versatile as possible, a joy to use and a centerpiece in your home. The brewer beautifully houses the KONE and after the coffee is done dripping, the filter support can be removed and replaced by an elegant lid. Up to 32 ounces of Coffee can be served directly from the kettle. While designing the brewer, we also realized that with the KONE resting inside the kettle you could steep a full pot of tea.
Initial orders for the new products are being taken though Kickstarter to help offset the tooling and production costs of the first run (made in the USA). In less than 2 hours, the Kickstarter campaign surpassed the initial $5000 goal, so there’s no doubt this will happen. But if you have any interest, you can take advantage of the significant savings opportunity by pre-ordering yours in the next month.
Congrats to Keith on what will likely be another beloved coffee brewing device.
When I first saw this video I thought it was from The Onion. But it’s real. And for just $89.99 you can lug the most absurd coffee maker with you on your next camping trip! In just 18 minutes, this propane powered monstrosity will brew up to 10 cups of the same terrible drip coffee you love at home! The reviews are raving:
Way cool piezoelectric push button lite. Fast, modern, safe homestyle coffee. Almost as easy as carrying a thermos bottle of coffee. Keep it in the trunk with your lantern for coffee anywhere, anytime, no stove necessary. –Lloyd
Almost as easy—except for it being twice the size of a thermos, needing a propane tank, and taking 18 minutes to brew your coffee. I’m honestly baffled that something like this not only left the idea phase of the product development department, but was actually produced and found its way to market.
If you’re a big outdoor person, camper, hiker, picnicer—try a stainless steel French press, an AeroPress, a Melitta. While these won’t make 10 cups of coffee at once, I’m sure you could come close with 18 minutes to compete with.
Finland is known more for the quality of their design than their coffee, but they drink a lot of it—so well-designed coffee accessories shouldn’t come as a surprise. While browsing the Design Forum in Helsinki last week, I came across a nice solution to the problem of coffee bags without closure tabs—the Kapu.
The Kapu is both a bag clip and coffee scoop, made from Finnish Birch plywood, that will help keep your bag sealed and your coffee fresh. Designed in 2003 by Teemu Karhunen, the early prototypes where entered into a design competition and a small batch where given as gifts to a few friends who became big fans of them. One of those friends was the manager of the Design Forum Shop, who encouraged Teemu to produce more of them.
A few years later Teemu joined his girlfriend Hilja Nikkanen, who founded the socially responsible design company Hile, to relaunch the Kapu as part of their product line.
The production process of the Kapu is kept within a 100km radius of Helsinki and the simple, high-quality design is typical of the Scandinavian style. Even the packaging, with one color printing on raw cardboard, maintains an elegant feel that matches the craftsmanship of the product itself.
At $25 the price is steep, but it’s a beautiful object that should last a lifetime or more.
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.”
Two months ago, I wrote about a new way to brew with the Sowden SoftBrew. I immediately fell in love with the object itself and looked forward to comparing it with my trusty press pot. An early article by the New York Times helped the SoftBrew sell out quickly through its only US distributor at the time, and it was initially back ordered until mid-January. I was fortunate enough to get ahold of one a few weeks ago and since then, Sowden has caught up with demand in time for the holidays.
Initially I was disappointed and skeptical of Mr. Sowden. After brewing a number of really weak pots, I increased the brew time to 6, 7, and 8 minutes as suggested by the manufacturer, but that just seemed way too long for a pot of coffee to brew. So, I started playing with the grind to discover the micro-filter’s sediment threshold—slightly finer than drip—and after a few days I dialed in my method. I settled on a 4-minute brew time with a grind that’s in-between a drip and a French press.
The SoftBrew has replaced the press pot as my preferred morning brew method for a few reasons. First, I just love using it. The porcelain is solid, feels nice in my hands and it won’t shatter with a slight tap on the edge of the sink. I can pull the grounds out of the pot right after brewing to prevent over-extraction and the micro-filter creates a cleaner cup, while still producing a full flavor. The porcelain also maintains heat better than a glass carafe and it’s much easier to clean.
Last week, I included the SoftBrew in the DCILY Gift Guide, but realized not everyone is familiar with it, so I made a video to show it in action. Enjoy!
To love coffee is one thing, to get up close an intimate is another. This coffee grinder was conured up by a group of students at the Bezalel Academy for Arts and Crafts (Israel’s national school of art) to make a statement about the disconnection we have to our purchased objects. So they designed one that needs to be embraced and caressed in order to function.
Their protest takes form in this beautifully designed “Heart Bean” coffee grinder. Made from a single piece of carved wood, this coffee grinder has a built-in heart beat monitor and will grind your beans to the rhythm of your heart … So basically, you wake up, you make sweet, sweet love to this giant piece of wood and it spits out coffee grinds. Gosh I love humans, we are so weird and wondrous.