Kalita Wave Brewing Video

October 28, 2011

Brief demo outlining some basics for brewing with the Kalita Wave. You can pick them up at Prima Coffee (prima-coffee.com/​brewer/​kalita-wave-drippers) or Wrecking Ball Coffee (shop.wreckingballcoffee.com/​).

Olympia Coffee roasters has a fantastic video on the wave here: vimeo.com/​30414920

Nick Cho also has a great video here: vimeo.com/​25068779

Kalita USA Chicago Demo

September 9, 2011

Nick Cho of Wrecking Ball Coffee will be in Chicago to host a Kalita Demo at the shop I work at, Caffe Streets Tuesday September 13th at 6pm. I’m very excited about the potential that the Kalita Wave drippers have for making both an outstanding and delicious cup of coffee, as well as making it easy to brew.

Nick will have the Kalita products for sale at the event, the first time they are available in Chicago I believe, so be sure to come by, drink some coffee and pick up a dripper for home!

Find Wrecking Ball Coffee and browse the Kalita Products HERE.

Read my review of the Wave line of drippers HERE.

Vario-W

September 3, 2011


Really looking forward to messing around with this guy. Weight based grinding seems like such a simple idea, but Baratza seems to have executed it perfectly, moving around many of the issues possible.
More thoughts will be coming soon as the week progresses.

NOTE: This content was originally posted over on the Prima Coffee blog, who asked me to write this review for them. Definitely go check them out and pick up a couple brewers from them, they’re great people!

The New Wave
Since the relatively recent return of manual brewing methods as legitimate brewing options in the professional specialty coffee industry, cone brewing devices such as the V60 and the Chemex have been the focus of discussion. The ubiquity of both brewers at this point in time makes the focus understandable, but there are certainly more diverse and perhaps more efficient brewers. Since Scott Rao’s book Everything but Espresso, the disadvantages of cone brewers have become more apparent, but there seemed to be very few viable alternative with such overwhelming support for both the classic Chemex brewer and the V60, both sold by Prima Coffee.
However, several companies (including Prima Coffee) recently began to import and proselytize the benefits of the Kalita line of brewers, focusing specifically on the Wave series and Kantan disposable drippers. The perceived benefits of flat bottom brewing geometry as well as the coffee geek early adopter syndrome led to the perfect storm of large early interest in these little Japanese brewers. While the rest of this article will focus on some theorization and opinions on the benefits of the Wave line of brewers, the most important aspect of these brewers is the ease and efficiency at which they brew. For the home user this is key, as it allows consistency and freedom that is not possible with other rather temperamental and inefficient brewing devices.

The 155 Series Method
The 155 Series, the smaller of the two available Wave sizes, is designed to brew within the range of 18-28g of coffee dose in the filter basket. This equates to somewhere in the ballpark of the 250-500ml range for the final brewed volume, depending on the user’s preferred ratio of coffee to water. I found my best results around a sweet spot of 24g of coffee, as it allowed for the water level to reach the top brewer without fear of flooding the brewing bed. Brewing to the capacity of these brewers also allows for minimal distance from the pouring kettle to the slurry, cutting down on uncontrolled turbulence to the top of the brewing slurry.
With such a small volume of brewing water, I preferred total brewing times within the 3:00-3:30 minute range with a pulse brewing style of multiple fills throughout the brewing time rather than continuous pouring. This style is necessary for the small brewing basket of the wave dripper, as it is quickly filled to the brim with the brewing slurry. My brewing time is structured with a 30-60 second bloom followed by 100ml fills over a period of 20 seconds with 10 second pauses to allow for the brewing slurry to drain partially, my final fill is finished at the 2:30-3:00 minute mark followed by a final draw-down time, allowing for a total brewing time of just about 3:00-3:30 minutes. Grind size is near impossible to communicate, but I found myself on the coarse end of what I would normally use for pour-over brewing, due to the small three hole style of the brewer restricting the flow of water.
While brew methods will always change based on each person’s preferences and variables beyond the control of prescription, one of the most important things about the Wave is the filter and the rinsing process. The filter somewhat resembles a paper wrapping of cupcake and is very delicate in maintaining the ridges that suspend the coffee bed away from the sides of the brewer–possibly allowing for better heat retention, but certainly forcing the coffee to flow through the bottom of the filter rather than out of the sides like one very popular brewer. In order to maintain these ridges, pre-rinsing means pouring straight on the bottom of the filter quickly, filling up the brewer to the brim to fully rinse all of the paper and heat up the brewer thoroughly. If one instead pours along the sides of the brewer, the ridges will droop and cause for an uneven and unpredictable brewing bed.

Results and Final Thoughts
Possibly due to the efficiency of the brewer, I found my normal coffee to water ratio to be unnecessarily high in dose. Through the use of the R2 mini refractometer and the MojoToGo app on the iPhone, I realized I preferred a distinctively new coffee to water ratio. I found myself using lower doses yielding a lower or equal total strength as before, meaning a slightly higher average extraction yield. Whereas with other brewers I am prone to dose somewhere around 24g to 370ml of water (19% Extraction, 1.40 TDS), with the Wave I much preferred a ratio of 24g to 450ml of water (22% Extraction, 1.30 TDS). The lower TDS is not so much necessarily strange, as sometimes I prefer a slightly lower strength coffee, but I found myself liking coffee best at an average extraction yield of 21-22% at a wide range of strengths.
Not all users will have the resources to measure these numbers to find a particular preference for Extraction Yield and Coffee Strength. However, it is beneficial information for users to know as it means using slightly less coffee to achieve an equal volume of brewed coffee out of the wave in comparison to other less efficient brewers. As well, my coffee off of the wave consistently remained very structured and balanced as it cooled in comparison to other manual brewing methods I often use, which will often lose structure and fall apart as they cool off completely.
Along with the choice of the 155 series versus the 185 series Wave, there is also the choice of different materials. The 155 series offer both Glass with a plastic base and Stainless Steel. While I generally prefer glass for brewing, I found myself leaning towards the benefits of the stainless for this particular brewer. Both are very lightweight, however the glass feels rather thin and delicate, while I personally prefer a slightly heftier material that is not prone to break, especially considering the high comparative price point of the wave. The stainless offers this, yet I worry somewhat about the possibility of rust buildup with running high temperature water over the shaped metal. The stainless material is perfect for travel, as one does not have to worry about any possibility of damage to the sturdy material, and the filters can even stack up in the brewer to protect the ridged shape.

Go check out Prima Coffee’s selection of Wave drippers and other Kalita Products.

Wet Grinding

July 13, 2011

This presentation from David Walsh and the paper he mentions attatched is extrememly important to advancing the field of grinding. Fascinating stuff and I can’t wait to hear what everyone continues to play with as this video reaches a wider audience.

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/hK86gsfiNAI.html width=”450″ height=”317″]

Download Paper with the link below.

Aroma Recovery from Roasted Coffee by Wet Grinding

I’ve been spending quite a bit of my time home-brewing with these little guys. Definitely check them out and think about picking some up from Wrecking Ball (and a bag of their Costa Rica Finca Genesis, an absolutely lovely coffee I’ve been enjoying this week). Shortly I’ll be blogging some thoughts on them for Prima Coffee and their Blog alongside John Letoto, or as some know him, Hermitudinous. Will definitely let you all know here once that material is posted!

This is the first guest post of hopefully many more to come from Pierce Young of Visions Espresso in Seattle. 

The world of coffee equipment is littered with work horses, turds, diamonds in the rough, and a plethora of machines that could have changed your life, did change your life, and ones you wished hadn’t changed your life. It seems as if, the only certification you need to pass if you wish to make coffee equipment, is that you’ve tried a cup of coffee before. However, I think that most of us can agree that we’ve had some sort of experience where a piece of equipment blew our minds. In fact, it seems that we keep searching for that piece of equipment all the time–even in a time where we know how much depends on, not the equipment.

Working for a machine distributor and service company, I am often faced with the difficult-to-answer question, “Which coffee machine makes the best coffee?” And as much as I strive to tell the consumer how much the outcome cup depends on the barista and their skills, I think that we all have an innate understanding of how much the equipment really matters. In fact, I would venture to say that we can only hold our third-wave attitude up on the good equipment crutch. When you think about it, the Linea was released far before the term “God Shot” was ever invented. And yet, you still see almost every Stumptown and Intelligensia account (or any other self-respecting coffee-slinging shop for that matter) with a La Marzocco at the forefront of their display.

You could say that Kent Bakke and his team of technical geniuses were responsible for the massive boom in espresso which the industry saw in the early 90’s. After all, Starbucks was founded on the back of the Linea. One might go as far to say that, without the Linea, Starbucks could never have delivered the level of quality espresso which made them famous. Sure, interject your own opinions about the Jolly Green Giant here. But at the time, Starbucks was leading the industry in consistency and quality. American coffee was just getting started, and the Linea provided a consistent tool to work on, while Duane Sorenson and Doug Zell were still having their “Ah Ha!” moment with coffee.

La Marzocco boomed, and Kent Bakke had found the espresso machine which made good coffee better. The industry was poised for the taking, and LM was poised to take it. Still, aside from the Swift, LM was still just a one trick pony. It was time for a new machine on which Americans could rely for great coffee. Then, the GB5 came out. The GB5 was everything the Linea was not–bulky and ostentatious. It was supposed to be the cornerstone on which a cafe could support itself, demonstrating to the customers that the cafe had a tradition in quality. But quality it wasn’t. A few key design errors made the GB5 nothing more than a glorified Linea with a whole new set of nuances for the barista to deal with…It wasn’t exactly what the industry had been anticipating. And furthermore, it wasn’t exactly what the people at the USA faction of LM were pushing for.

Then, Synesso was formed. Synesso is a company who’s inception was more like the cutting of the corporate fat, rather than a new idea. The founders of Synesso, Mark Barnett, Dan Urwiler, Eric Perkunder and with additional help from David Schomer, made the machine that La Marzocco USA had been trying to make for years. Cue instant success. Not only did the company have the industry cred to give their dreams of profit wings of stainless steal, but the machine was as sexy as the GB5 wasn’t. Where the GB5 was just an iteration of the Linea, Synesso was able to deliver quality on a new level the industry needed. It was more stable, more flexible, and definitely better looking than it’s GB5 competitor. For a while it was the only thing worthy of a quality oriented cafe. Until Slayer Professional Espresso had a thing or two to say about making coffee.

Being a company formed by an inspired few who were on the Synesso and La Marzocco teams, Slayer took what Synesso was doing to the next level. They created a machine which was able to take the amazing coffee which had emerged from the sparks of the Linea, and make it taste better. I’m not sure that any machine can teach a roaster more about their coffee than a Slayer. With it’s unique flow restrictors, and sleek sex appeal, the Slayer created quite a buzz about what coffee could be for your cafe. But, not every start-up coffee shop was ready to dump the $18,000 required into an espresso machine, when you could still buy a sweet heat exchanger for a cool $6,000. Could the difference really be worth the money?

At this point, I have to take a step back and say a thing or two about our ol’ buddy the heat exchanger. Now, while it may sound all fancy and technical, the heat exchange machine really isn’t. Tube inside a tube is a more fitting name for the machine, which is controlled in a very Rube Goldberg sort of way. I mean, the temperature system is based off of a spring activated micro-switch, which turns on a heating element for Christ’s sake (pardon my French). The thing is about a bowling ball and a ramp away from making it into the next <aOk Go! video.

As far as heat exchangers go, there are really only three kinds worthy of note. First is the CMA machine. Astoria, Rancilio, Wega, and a huge list of others make up a group of machines which all basically function the same. In fact, you can use almost all of the same parts to rebuild the key components in any of them. Aside from usability features, such as button pads, and steam knobs, these machines are all interchangeable as far as the cafe owner is concerned.

Then, comes the E61. The E61 is a group head which was invented by Faema. This group head is exceptionally good at retaining heat, and is so simple to maintain that they sell the rights to it for other manufacturers to use on their machines. Internally though, it’s pretty much the same as any CMA machine.

Finally, is the Nuova Simonelli. In my humble opinion, a Nuova Simonelli machine is a head and shoulders above any other HX machine there is. This has to do with a series of more intricate nuances which lend themselves to the retention of heat, the amount of brew water ready at any given time, and the recovery time of the boiler to stay at an optimum temperature when drawing steam from it. If I were to get an HX machine for my cafe, it would be an Aurelia, the pride and joy of the Simonelli line. Of all the HX machines out there, the Aurelia really delivers the quality that most cafes need without sacrificing their budget. Still, the Aurelia has been around for about two decades. And really, aside from minor improvements, it hasn’t changed much.

So, what I’m trying to get at is: out with the old, and in with the new. All of these machines were invented by people who were around at the creation of espresso in America. In fact, most of them pushed the industry to what it is today. However, there is a new group of people out there. I’m not talking about third wave, or fifth wave, or whatever wave we are on at this point. What I am talking about is a group of kids, who learned to make espresso on their custom Synesso Hydra. They learned about coffee from the accomplishments of people who have already put in 15-20 years of serious ground-breaking work. Most of all, they started with a clean palate, and no pre-conceived notions about what coffee was supposed to taste like. These are the people that are going to take coffee and push it to the next level. These kids are poised to create the new Linea and the new Synesso. But, as far as the American coffee scene is concerned, there have only been a handful of people who have done any legitimately innovative work so far, building espresso machines. They hold the most knowledge about the equipment we work on, and create more and more great innovations on all the old ideas. Can the new generation of coffee professionals acquire enough knowledge and insight on espresso to usurp the current oligarcy of equipment engineers? Or are we looking at perhaps the last innovative espresso machine having already been built. As with couture fashion, if you didn’t learn it from the people who were around when it was invented you can’t learn it.

Perhaps, all of the best work on espresso machines is about to be over. I would venture to say, that if I don’t see a innovative take on an espresso machine in the next seven years, we may only see iterations of the same idea. Now these iterations may get better and better. But, I daresay, that there may be nothing else as ground breaking as the Linea, Slayer, or Synesso.

Housekeeping

May 2, 2011

Coming soon:
Review of these cute little Kantan Drippers (single use disposable drippers that brew around 300ml maximum)

Thoughts on experiences with VST La Marzocco 18g Baskets.

Found my Mojo

May 2, 2011

I picked up a R2 Mini Refractometer over the SCAA conference as well as upgrading my MojoToGo app on my iPhone to full Coffee mode from Coffee Lite mode. Already have found out some interesting things about my home setup, with more info to come!

Resolution

January 24, 2011

I received a nice shipment of used cupping glasses from the SCAA store (for $1.50 a pop, it’s not a bad deal at all), a Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel poster as well as a couple 33 Coffee‘s notebooks that I received for Christmas.

Here’s the thing, I try to cup often when I’m at the shop working to keep educated on coffee so I can better serve my customers as well as for quality control. However, I don’t cup at home hardly ever. Not only does this keep me from really experiencing coffees for all they have to offer because of possible brewing experiments I’m doing at the time, it also leaves me a bit rusty in how I communicate flavors and simple in my tasting notes.

So here’s my resolution. Every time I get a new coffee, I’m going to try my darndest to cup it at least once against one or two other coffees (of other roasters if possible). Honestly, I think you should do the same. As a shop barista, I often have the opportunity to taste a 4-10 coffees every single day side by side with different brew preparations, whereas most consumers hardly ever have the chance. Especially being unemployed in Chicago at the moment, I am realizing that I have to work exponentially harder to continue my education, while at the shop I feel like I am learning through dealing with problems and issues every single day.

This semester I’m going to try to be better about blogging and experimenting, as well as making my 33 Coffee’s handbook public domain. Hopefully this will keep me focused and accountable in my tasting, and hopefully its of some sort of service to you in deciding coffees to buy and tasting the coffees the same I have.

Heres to 2011, eh?