Storyville – Chapter 1: Hardware

12.17

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.”

Visit Storyville Coffee

posted by on 12.17.2010, under Design, Products

Brew Method: The Sowden SoftBrew

12.13

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!

Shop for Sowden Softbrew

posted by on 12.13.2010, under Brew Methods, Brewtorial, Design, Misc., Products, Videos

Heart Bean

08.03

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.

Designers: Adi Navwany, Michal Shamsian, Itamar Paloge & Danielle Ram
via Yanko Design

posted by on 08.03.2010, under Design, Misc., Products

A Cemented Love of Coffee

07.29

Designer Shmuel Linski has taken his love of coffee to a whole new extreme by constructing an espresso machine from concrete. This incredible monument to coffee redefines, “industrial” as an aesthetic term in product design and truly displays how far one’s love for coffee will take them.

More photos on Yanko Design

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posted by on 07.29.2010, under Design, Misc.