The Coffee Joulies Joke

04/11/2011


Coffee and love taste best when hot. -Ethiopian proverb

When my non-coffee loving friends begin sending me links to things before I’ve seen them, red flags immediately go up. This isn’t because I think I know everything about coffee, but if something has bypassed all the normal industry channels and immediately lands on the pages of non-coffee blogs, there is usually something gimmicky or blasphemous about its existence. Coffee Joulies happen to be both.

The creators of Coffee Joulies are currently raising money on Kickstarter. While they only needed $9,500 to begin production of their product, they’ve already raised over $134,000 with another 3 weeks left. That’s awesome for them—it really is. I support entrepreneurship and getting that kind of financial backing is a dream come true. They’re even going to produce them in the USA, reviving an old silverware factory and probably create more jobs than the US Government. However, their product is a joke.

In a video that demonstrates the Joulies ability to cool coffee, it takes less than 90 seconds to bring the temp of boiling water down to 140°F (60°C). Wicked fast, right? But here lies the ultimate problem with the product. According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America, 160° (71°C) is the temperature when flavor and aftertaste are at their greatest intensity. Those flavors continue to evolve as it cools, with 160°–140° being the ideal temperature range to best note the acidity, body and balance of a coffee.

With a set of Joulies making your coffee race past both temperatures, it takes less than 90 seconds before you miss the opportunity to enjoy some of the best moments your coffee has to offer. You may be able to chug 3 minutes sooner, but you’re going to miss out on the coffee’s unique flavor notes the farmer and roaster worked so hard to discover and highlight—assuming it doesn’t look like the charcoal they used in the photo above.

For $40, you’re better off investing in a burr grinder, which many people fail to do. This will improve you’re coffee dramatically, as long as you can wait a couple minutes before you start sipping it. If you have a grinder, treat yourself to a couple bags of really nice Direct Trade coffee instead. While I’m constantly trying to get people to stop putting things in their coffee (cream & sugar), along comes someone asking them to drop a few steel “ice cubes” into their mug. How long before an eager coffee lover chips a tooth?

I’m tired of reading praise for design solutions to non-problems and seeing people—who seem to know very little about coffee—flooding the industry with more junk we don’t need. Who keeps a cup of coffee for 3 hours anyway? Even Starbucks dumps airpots in their store every 30 minutes if the coffee hasn’t been purchased because of quality loss.

They say there’s a sucker born every minute. In this case there’s over 2000 of them. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for the punchline.

More info on Kickstarter or at www.joulies.com

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20 Comments

  • Reply Adrian 04/11/2011 at 11:40 am

    I had planned to use them to keep my coffee warm. I usually use an aero press and let the water cool to 175f before using it. By the time i’m half way through my cup it has cooled considerably. Guess I’m a sucker for investing?

    By the way, I only use fair trade organic coffee

  • Reply Meaghin 04/12/2011 at 10:08 am

    When I first read you had written it was a ‘joke’, I actually thought you meant it was some sort of April Fool’s joke and I was relieved.

    I can’t believe the kind of money they’ve raised! I’d rather not tote a cup of luke warm coffee around w/me for 3 hours. Yuk!

  • Reply Greg 04/12/2011 at 3:36 pm

    I think they blew up b/c websites like uncrate.com picked them up. I think it hurts uncrate’s credibility to advertise something as unproven as this. I normally look to the site for all things manly and cool. Big fail on this one though…

  • Reply Drew 04/13/2011 at 8:17 pm

    I just did a test on a hot cup of tea. At 160 degrees F, it was completely undrinkable for me. It has just become a drinkable (though still slightly too hot) temperature at 138 degrees according to my thermometer.

    I was excited when I heard about the Joulies because I often have to wait 30-45 minutes after making a cup of tea before it is down to a drinkable temperature for me. Since I wait so long anyway, I often end up waiting too long and getting tea that isn’t warm enough anymore. Obviously, there are other solutions (ice cubes water the tea down, but I could make ice cubes out of tea or get some whiskey stones), but the Joulies sound great to me. They cool the drink down to the right temperature in 90 seconds and then keep it at the right temperature longer?

    I have to admit that I think my temperature sensitivity is higher than normal. My fiancée thinks drinks are too cold when I find them a comfortable temperature.

    But for me, if the Joulies do what they say, they’ll have a positive impact on my daily routine.

  • Reply Willard 04/13/2011 at 10:05 pm

    I guess I don’t get you point. You state that the optimal taste range is 160-140, and that is product will cool the coffee down to 140 quickly. It will also keep the coffee at 140 longer as the material solidifies. It appears that this product will keep coffee in the ideal range longer than it normally would on its own. For us who drink coffee at work and cannot stop everything because our coffee is now in the perfect temperature range, this product would appear to allow us to better enjoy the coffee when we can get back to it.

  • Reply Dear DCILY, where have you been my whole life? « Bean Again, LLC 04/15/2011 at 8:20 pm

    […] being disappointed in myself for not finding DCILY sooner, I was immediately impressed with their excellent blog post about Coffee Joulies. I had previously seen the Coffee Joulies on Kickstarter and was skeptical. Every doubt I had about […]

  • Reply Mark 04/22/2011 at 7:02 pm

    “I’m tired of reading praise for design solutions to non-problems and seeing people—who seem to know very little about coffee—flooding the industry with more junk we don’t need.”

    Exactly, Brian! Well put.

    Also, this: http://www.keepcup.com/
    Thought it was a kiddie cup first time I saw it.

  • Reply Will Lam 04/24/2011 at 5:51 pm

    Hey Mark,

    I think this is a great way of stirring up conversation on a product that hasn’t been released yet.

    However, I believe it boils down to personal preferences of how people choose to have their coffee and not the way mandated by the Specialty Coffee Association. Being a snob myself, we can all harp on people putting milk, cream and coffee into their coffee. But they could give a flying rats ass.

    When I first about Coffee Joulies on Kickstarter, my thoughts were “awesome! I’m sure there are plenty of people who have the problem of their coffee being too hot. ultimately has to do with preferences of a person.

    Before brushing it off as a “non problem”, I think the 3000+ plus people who’ve backed it with their own money can draw their own conclusions (myself included) about it serving a particular pain point in their lives.

    They’ve certainly validated their idea with people putting their hard-earned money behind it. Only time will tell if this will be a commercial success in the long run.

    Another “faddish” product maybe, but at least they’re contributing something that’s adding some sort of value to the coffee ecosystem.

    Looking forward to your response.

    – Will Lam

    • Reply bwj 04/25/2011 at 9:21 am

      Don’t confuse adding money to the coffee ecosystem with adding value to it. I think this product does a disservice to specialty coffee (for reasons mentioned in the post) and ultimately devalues the industry.

  • Reply Will Lam 04/25/2011 at 11:20 am

    What are you specifically referring to when you say “devaluing” the industry. How would it “devalue” the industry?

    That’s a pretty bold statement for a little old product that hasn’t even launched yet ;)

    • Reply bwj 04/25/2011 at 11:41 am

      Will,

      I think it devalues coffee by relegating it to a caffeine delivery system that should be kept at a sustained temperature. The Joulies essentially rob coffee of the flavor evolution that takes place during temperature changes and it limits the culinary aspects of the drink. Why would someone want to reduce the flavor experience created during the complex process of sourcing, harvesting, roasting, and brewing such a complex beverage?

      Any gimmick that perpetuates the idea that coffee is a cheap beverage meant for nothing else than waking you up in the morning, devalues the industry.

  • Reply Mark 04/25/2011 at 4:55 pm

    Hi Will,
    Thanks for the note – I would agree with you that this product will probably find a crowd that loves it, and I’m not trying to poopoo someone’s effort at creating an innovative product. It’s not for me, and I’d never sell it on my site, but the market will ultimately decide if this is a good product or not.

    Brian,
    Not making it to SCAA this year, but definitely next year. Had too many projects going this spring… Would love to meet you sometime! Be sure to let us know when you’re in PDX…

  • Reply Will Lam 04/25/2011 at 5:46 pm

    Oh, I had no idea there are two people behind DCILU. I’m new around these parts :)

    Pleasure to meet both of you. I really do enjoy your design-centric focus.

    I don’t know how I dug up your name for your post Mark, I think it was in the about section somewhere.

    Hey Brian,

    Fair enough, I don’t think the product will create “SCAA level coffee enthusiasts” or even make a “ripple in the water” in terms of what SCAA mandates as optimal temperature and affects those who subscribe to their best practices.

    Neat product for people who find it solves a pain point in their lives (but probably not for SCAA level folks).

    Are you going to be in Houston this week?

    – Will

  • Reply Will Lam 04/25/2011 at 5:48 pm

    ok, I’ve officially confirmed that I’m an idiot ;)

    I misread the about page.. my apologies Brian.

    And pleasure meeting you around these parts, Mark!

  • Reply Kyle 05/03/2011 at 9:06 am

    Hey guys not sure I can add to much to this conversation that hasn’t already been said. I was curious whether or not you had a chance to stop by the Joulies booth at the SCAA show? Also, here is another review from sprudge — http://sprudge.com/scaa-2011-a-first-look-at-coffee-joulies.html –. I’m sure you’ve all read it but just in case you hadn’t.

    Great discussion guys!

    Cheers,
    Kyle

    p.s. I’m Still up in the air and a bit skeptical of these little guys as of right now. I’d like to play around with them before making a real decision though.

    • Reply bwj 05/03/2011 at 1:03 pm

      Thanks, I did see the Sprudge article and their thoughts on it being used in a cupping situation is definitely an interesting consideration. I didn’t field test them but they are much larger in person than I thought they were. No mention in their post about whether it was weird having them in the cup and if they tumbled around as you drank the coffee. The process still seems to skip the evolution of flavors too quickly.

  • Reply West Coast Dave 05/06/2011 at 11:13 pm

    Hey everyone, thanks for presenting both sides of the argument. First off I’d like to say that Dave and I really do know nothing about making coffee compared to the regulars on this site and all the people we met at SCAA in Houston. We bow down to the baristas of the world and what they’re able to create from these magical brown beans. What we do know, though, is that no matter how good coffee is you won’t be able to appreciate it fully if you burn your tongue on the first sip.

    Our intention in visiting SCAA was to fill in the massive knowledge gaps we have by talking to everyone we could. We also wanted to put ourselves out there to see what the real coffee drinkers of the world think about our product. This was a dream we had well before anything exciting happened on Kickstarter and we’re really happy we were able to make it.

    I’d love to have an open dialogue with all of you about how we can help improve your personal coffee drinking experiences. I don’t have to tell any of you that coffee is a very individualized ritual, and our hope is that people will be willing to explore Coffee Joulies in their own way, suspend disbelief, and come to their own conclusions about these little shiny beans that we have been working so hard to make. If you like them, that’s wonderful. If you don’t that’s even better, because that gives us an opportunity to learn.

    We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

    Best regards,
    Dave & Dave

  • Reply Ted 06/21/2011 at 10:39 am

    Why did they not build this into a stainless steel thermos coffee cup, instead of these rattling beans? If anyone patents this I’d like two mugs for my trouble.

  • Reply Ted 06/21/2011 at 10:41 am

    I can see someone dropping one of these into a glass thermos and getting a surprise bath. Who will they sue?

  • Reply Ben 06/14/2012 at 9:41 pm

    Finally an article which doesn’t blindly shower the Joulies with praise.

    As an engineer, I was initially intrigued when I heard of Phase Change Materials being used in “coffee”. However the claims put forth by the Joulies left me feeling doubtful at best.

    -Cools coffee faster?
    That is already to be expected as the joulies are initially at room temperature.
    Of course, the magical PCM’s heat of fusion is supposed to enhance the amount of heat that the joulies can absorb.

    -Keeps coffee warm longer?
    Safe organic edible PCMs with a melting point of 60 celsius have rather low heat of fusions. I am unsure of the PCM used in joulies, but I can safely say that the effect is at best minimal.
    If they had created a edible PCM which had better thermal properties than already available in the industry, they would be raking in the dough instead of selling joulies.
    A workaround would be to use more of the PCM, but that only increases the volume of the damn joulies and hence less coffee, and as the saying goes: “No coffee, No workee”.

    -Conclusion.
    Innovative use of PCMs.
    Over-hyped product with limited effectiveness at best.
    Not worth reducing the volume of your coffee.

    Hopefully someone will integrate PCMs into the existing vacuum insulation technology, this should allow for more of the PCM to be present without limiting the volume of coffee, inorganic/inedible PCMs with higher heat of fusion can be used safely as well. Furthermore, heat will be distributed more evenly compared to joulies during the solidification phase.

    Hey! Maybe I should get cracking on this and post it on kickstarter. Call it a Nm-ug or something…
    Newton(metre) = joule, get it?

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