Fantastic Friday: Coffee Paraphernalia

Unknown to both my wife and I, our coffee grinder was losing its edge.

Nearly four years ago, Anna bought me a Bodum Bistro Grinder for my birthday. It was an awesome little grinder for a great price.

I used it every single day. Until one day, it broke.

new grinder - baratza virtuoso

We replaced it with the king of the hill: a Baratza Virtuoso.

And wow. The first cup of coffee using our new grinder was a revelation.

Who knew a great coffee grinder was so important? I mean, I knew they were important, but seriously the difference was huge.

In addition to the new grinder, the other (somewhat recent) addition to my coffee arsenal is the Kalita Wave. We’ll get to it in a minute. But I have to say that the Wave has officially replaced the AeroPress as my daily brewer. What a time to be alive.

All that said, this week you get to peek into the four key components of my daily coffee. (Since I keep the list to just four things, one thing had to leave out was my kitchen scale.)



1. Crema.co

It all starts with beans. Freshly roasted coffee beans make all the difference.

Here in Kansas City, we have local coffee roasters coming out our ears. Such as PT’s, Broadway, Oddly Correct, Messenger Coffee, Roasterie, Thou Mayest, Parisi, Post, and Second Best. To name a few.

However, you may prefer to have freshly roasted beans delivered to your door. This is great for folks who don’t like going outside or for those who don’t have a great coffee roaster nearby where you can easily get access to freshly roasted coffee.

If you’re searching for a coffee delivery service, I highly recommend Crema.co.

Crema.co is like Netflix but for coffee. You add the coffees that you want to your list, and then you select how often you want a bag of coffee shipped to you.

This differs from coffee subscription services like Blue Bottle, because Crema lets you pick what you get. Where as with Blue Bottle, you get what they’re roasting.

I’ve gotten beans from Crema and I was very impressed. Great service, great pricing, great coffee.



2. Baratza Virtuoso Grinder

This is the grinder we went with, and it’s fantastic. Here at the Blanc household, we like to buy things for life. So we went with a grinder that is excellent at its job, but also should last us for quite a while.



3. Kalita Wave, Pour-over Coffee Maker

As I mentioned last week, this pour-over coffee maker has become my new favorite.

What I like about the Wave is that it can make a larger cup of coffee than my AeroPress (350g+ versus 250g), and I think the coffee it makes is much better than what you get from the v60.

I know everyone says that the AeroPress is super duper easy to clean. And it is, but I think a pour-over contraption like this is even easier to clean. You just dump the filter into the trash and rinse out the dripper itself. There are no moving parts, no lids, etc.



4. Double-Walled Glass Bottle

There are about 150 different variations of this glass bottle on Amazon. I’m pretty sure they’re all made at the same place, and everyone gets a turn putting their logo on the front.

What I like about my double-walled glass compared to my stainless-steel thermos is that the bottle is easier to clean in the dishwasher and it doesn’t fiddle with the flavor of my coffee.

Of course, the tradeoff is that the glass bottle doesn’t keep my coffee as hot for as long.

The glass bottle is also great for cold drinks, since the outside of it won’t sweat onto your desk.



* * *

What better to go with awesome coffee than something to read? I’ll be sharing some great quotes and articles in next week’s edition of Fantastic Friday.

Fantastic Friday: Coffee Paraphernalia

What’s So Special About the AeroPress

In more ways than one, I grew up in a fussy coffee home. My parents didn’t want me drinking coffee until I was 16 because they were concerned the caffeine would stunt my growth. Who knows.

My home was also fussy about coffee because my dad only ever brewed with a french press. I grew up thinking that brewing and drinking coffee was a special thing. I still think that.

I’m now 33, and have more than made up for the cups of coffee I missed out on the first half of my life. In my kitchen we have a cupboard dedicated entirely to coffee contraptions: a Mokapot; a stovetop espresso maker; an Espro brand french press, a classic Bodum french press, and a single-serving french press; a vacuum siphon coffee maker; two different styles of V60; the Clever Dripper; a Kalita Wave; an Able Kone system; and, of course, the AeroPress.

They’re all great — each one is unique in its own way and brew method. The vacuum siphon pot is a lot of fun to use on special occasions; the Espro makes a large pot of coffee for guests; Able’s Kone Brewing System looks cool; etc.

But the AeroPress is by far and away my favorite. And I know I’m not alone here.

The AeroPress has become this sort of cult classic, popular geeky way to brew coffee. Everyone with a Twitter account recommends it. There’s even an AeroPress world championship competition. And yet, while you can go to your local hipster coffee shop and buy a french press or a pourover, you’d be hard pressed to find a shop that sells (much less even uses) the AeroPress.

So for something that isn’t found in mainstream coffee shops (or even most “hipster” coffee shops), why all the hype? What makes the AeroPress so cool?

I’ve brewed over 1,000 cups of coffee with my AeroPress. Here’s what I think is the good (and the bad) of the the AeroPress.

  • It’s cheap to buy. If you’re getting in to fussy coffee (or if you lose or demolish your AeroPress), a brand new one is just $25.

  • It’s cheap to use. For one, filters are super cheap — a year’s supply of paper filters cost just $4. And secondly, most AeroPress brew methods call for just 16-18g of coffee to brew a cup. There is very little waste.

  • Clean-up is easy. The AeroPress basically cleans itself as you use it. When you’re done brewing a cup, you twist off the cap and pop the puck into the trash. Then rinse and let dry. (Though I will say that I don’t think clean AeroPress cleanup up is quite as easy as with the V60. With the V60 you just toss the filter with grounds into the trash and then rinse the thing out.)

  • The AeroPress is easy to use when you’re away from your nerdy home coffee tools. The markings on the side of the AeroPress are helpful for measuring out coffee and water. Obviously you won’t need the markings if you’re using a scale to measure. But I take my AeroPress camping and on vacation, so I’ll pre-grind some coffee to take with me, and I know just how much water to add to make a great cup of coffee without having to guess or eyeball it.

These are things you probably already know about. What really makes the AeroPress such a great coffee maker is just how versatile it is. There are a lot of ways you can use it.

For my cupboardfull of aforementioned coffee brewing contraptions, each one has only one best way to brew coffee. The AeroPress has at least three different ways to brew coffee: espresso-like, pourover-esque, and french press-ish. Each way is completely legitimate and delicious.

Now, the AeroPress does have some cons of its own. As I mentioned above, it’s not quite as easy to clean as the V60. Also, the AeroPress can’t brew a big pot of coffee — for that, I use my Espro Press (the Chemex is also a fine choice).

In short, the AeroPress hype is real. If you like variety then the AeroPress lets you mix it up. If you mostly prefer this or that type of coffee, you can find a great way to brew it with the AeroPress. Regardless of the coffee beans or the style of coffee you prefer, there’s a good way to brew it with the AeroPress.

What’s So Special About the AeroPress

Charlie Burt has a great interview with Gregory Kolsto, the owner of Oddly Correct, one of KC’s best local roasters and fussy coffee shops:

My mission in life, I think, is to make people feel something. I’m more interested in staff being kind and engaging with people coming through the door than being psyched about coffee. I mean, it has to be both, but because coffee has a tendency to be pretentious on the surface — like you almost expect it to be “hipsters” doing some weird thing with coffee — well, if you can engage people with kindness and information and art beyond that, I think its a beautiful thing. It’s totally disarming to both the weird art world and the weird coffee world. I feel like we have a fun opportunity to engage people where they’re at.

(Thanks, Jorge.)

Letterpress and Design With Oddly Correct Coffee Roasters

Zachary Crockett wrote a profile of Alan Adler and his story of inventing the Aerobie Pro disc and the AeroPress:

This is the story of how Adler and Aerobie dispelled the notion of industry-specific limitations and found immense success in two disparate industries: toys and coffee.

And you’ve gotta love this line, when comparing the marketing tactics of the Aerobie Pro in the ’80s compared to how the word got out about the AeroPress in the early 2000s:

Whereas Alder had previously relied on traditional media and television to market his flying discs, the internet brought the AeroPress great success…

Now I think I’ll go brew an afternoon cup of coffee. (Thanks, Mitch!)

The Invention of the AeroPress

Marines-turned-coffee-aficionados, Michael Haft and Harrison Suarez, writing for The Atlantic:

We’ve hung up our uniforms, we’re in the kitchen, and we’re making coffee. Great coffee. The kind that reminds you first thing in the morning of everything else you appreciate in life.

This is a fun and informative read (it’s adapted from their $5 iBook, Perfect Coffee at Home). I think I’ll go make a fresh cup right now.

How to Make Great Coffee

The Kone Brewing System

The Kone Brewing System

In the far-right cupboard of our kitchen you’ll find more than a few coffee contraptions. The most recent addition being the Kone Brewing System.

The Kone Brewing System is a custom fabricated coffee pot, built specifically for the Kone coffee filter.

The Kone filter is a reusable stainless steel filter originally designed for the Chemex pour over pot. The newest and best incarnation of the Kone filter (I think this is the third version Able has made), as well as its accompanying custom fabricated brewing system, were Kickstarted thirty times over last June.

I backed at the $125 level, which got me the whole brewing system with filter as a reward. And it all arrived about two weeks ago. I’ve since brewed 4 pots of coffee with my Kone Brewing System and they’ve all been quite delicious.

The Brewing System

The first thing I noticed after opening the box is how big the Kone Brewing System is. I was expecting the Brewing System would hold around 500ml of coffee, but it actually can hold twice that amount.

The Brewing System is made up of four components: the pot, the filter, the filter casing, and the lid.

Kone Brewing System Components

When brewing, the filter rests inside the casing which rests on top of the pot. When done, you remove the top casing (using the rubber heat shield grip), and place the lid on top of the pot.

It’s an extremely handsome rig, and I’m very impressed with the design. It looks great on the breakfast or dinner table, and it looks great sitting on the shelf in our kitchen.

There is no doubt that the guys at Able put a lot of thought and attention into the entire Kone Brewing System. Everything — from the packaging to the included card of instructions to the filter and ceramic pot themselves — exudes attention to detail, care, and thoughtfulness.

Alas, the Kone Brewing System can only be used with the Kone filter. The ceramic top-piece which holds the filter is, as I mentioned, custom fabricated specifically for the Kone filter. There is no internal “V” shape which could accommodate a paper filter if you wanted — you must use the Kone metal filter.

The Kone Filter

They say the advantages of using a metal filter rather than paper are: (1) reusable; (2) you never have to pay for paper filters again; and (3) metal filters allow more oils from the coffee bean to pass through when brewing, thus making a fuller cup of coffee

You can’t argue with 1 and 2. And if you are making a big pot of pour over every single day, in the long run a metal filter will pay for itself.

As for the taste. Well, I personally haven’t been able to tell any significant difference between a cup of coffee brewed with a paper filter and one brewed with a metal filter. In fact, if I had to chose, I’d pick paper filters.

The AeroPress is certainly my favorite brewing contraption, and I use paper filters with it. I even have a metal disk filter that fits my AeroPress and I haven’t noticed any difference when using it rather than the paper filters.

One of the disadvantages to using a metal filter is that some of the “coffee dust” gets through the filter and into the bottom of your cup of coffee. Such as the grit you get when brewing with a normal french press.

Daily Brew?

When it comes to the day-to-day practicality of using the Kone Brewing System, it is not going to be my new daily driver.

For one: compared to the AeroPress or v60, cleanup of the Kone is more involved and tedious because I have to rinse and scrub the filter to get the coffee grinds out of it. Secondly, the Kone Brewing System is intended for making several servings of coffee — it’s a lot of coffee gear to use and clean for the 10-ounce cup I usually brew each morning.

I see the Kone Brewing System as being akin to my Siphon vacuum pot. The Siphon is quite impractical for day-to-day use, but it’s great for when company is over because it’s so fun to use. The Kone is in a similar category (making table-side pourover is always fun), and it can make almost 3 times as much coffee as my siphon.

If however, I was regularly brewing a larger pot of coffee instead of just my single cup, then a big pour over pot like this is just what I would use each day.

If you already own the Kone filter, the Brewing System is $120 by itself. Otherwise it’s $160 with the filter.

Being one of the Kickstarter backers I was privy to much of the behind-the-scenes of what goes in to the molding, firing, and packaging of the Kone Brewing System. And without significant economies of scale, $160 is probably as affordable as Able could get it. Which is unfortunate because as much as I like the Kone Brewing System, $160 is a hard price to swallow.

My verdict?

As cool and attractive as it is, it’s incredibly hard to justify the extra cost of the Kone Brewing System over a Chemex. The Chemex is just as capable of a coffee maker, but it’s one-third the price, holds 10-percent more liquid, works great with the Kone filter, and also works with paper filters.

The Kone Brewing System

Did you recently come into possession of an AeroPress, a siphon pot, a Clever dripper, a V60, or the like? Well, then you’d probably enjoy spending some time here next time you’re relaxing and drinking your coffee.

For the AeroPress especially because there are so many ways to brew a great cup of coffee with it. Unlike a French Press which has pretty much one best way to brew (coarse grind, 4-minute brew time, stir half way), the AeroPress can make a great cup of coffee with so many different variants.

Curiously, the Brew Methods site doesn’t list the the 2012 world championship recipe. I came across this method last spring and have been brewing that way almost every day since.

Coffee Brew Methods

The Espro Press

Since I’m caffeinated, I’ll get right to it: The Espro Press makes an amazing cup of french press coffee.

These things are finally starting to show up for sale, so it’s time to review the one I got from Kickstarter back in April.

The original Espro Press is an 8-ounce single-serving press pot. I’d never even heard of it before I saw their project on Kickstarter, where their aim was to build a 32-ounce version. Since I am genetically predisposed to back any coffee-related project on Kickstarter, I pitched in my $85 and “pre-ordered” one of the large Espro Presses.

Their project was funded (more than five times over), and in early April of this year I received my 32-ounce (1,000 ml) press.

AeroPress, Espro Press, and classic Bodum french press

Seven days a week I brew a cup of coffee. Most days it’s with my AeroPress, but once or twice a week I like to make french press. People often ask me what makes a better cup of coffee — AeroPress or french press? Well, they both make fantastic coffee with their advantages and disadvantages. I enjoy both for different reasons; they’re both favorites, really.

So what is it about the Espro Press that makes it so much nicer than my Bodum french press? Two things:

1. Double-walled Steel Vessel

The pot is durable and rugged. And it’s heavy. Since it’s stainless steel, the best way to keep it clean is to hand wash it. But I’ve been putting it in the dishwasher since I got it and there are no rust spots.

The double-walled steel construction helps keep the coffee hotter for longer. Normally after brewing a pot of french press I would pour it into a vacuum thermos. Now I just bring the press downstairs to my office with me. Though the Espro Press doesn’t keep the coffee piping for 3-4 hours like my vacuum thermos does, it does keep it hot enough for over an hour (about how long it takes me to finish a pot) and it means one less vessel to clean.

Time (min.) Temp (F)
41 168°
10 166°
15 162°
30 156°
45 149°
60 144°

Since the press rod and lid are metal, they conduct a good amount of heat. Which means some heat is lost through the rod and lid, as well as the fact that the lid gets very hot to the touch. But it also means they are built to last — a tradeoff I’m willing to accept.

Double-walled stainless steel french presses are not a new thing. For example: the $100 Frieling french press has a high-quality double-walled stainless steel carafe, not unlike the Espro Press. But the Frieling has the same basic steel mesh filter that you’ll find in a common Bodum french press.

What makes the Espro Press the Espro Press is the filter.

2. Double-Layered Micro Filter Basket With Rubber Seal

Breakdown of the Espro Press filter (image courtesy of Espro Press website)

It’s a double-layered micro filter basket with a rubber lip seal. It’s unlike any other press pot filter I’ve seen, and it makes a great cup of coffee.

The filter basket is designed to keep as much of the grit out of the brewed coffee as possible. Here’s a comparison of the grit left at the bottom of a cup of coffee by an AeroPress, an Espro Press, and a classic french press:

Grit comparison between an AeroPress, Espro Press, and French Press

Obviously the AeroPress wins the “keep as much grit out as possible” competition because I used a paper filter.2 The Espro Press, however, has far less grit than the classic french press. And since the Espro uses a micro filter, you don’t lose any oils to a paper filter. (Though I don’t know that I’d even be able to tell the difference.)

I drank all three of the now empty cups of coffee you see above. Comparing the Espro Press to the French Press side by side like that I realized just how superior the Espro Press is. The classic french press coffee was noticeably more acidic and bitter (not horribly so) than the Espro Press coffee.

I’ve always loved the rich and bold coffee that a french press makes, and the Espro seems to make the best version of it.

Cleanup

The Espro Press, despite having a much more complex filter than your average french press, is still just as easy to clean.

Removing the filter basket from the pot, I simply rinse off the grounds from the sides of the basket, rinse out the pot itself, and then put the whole thing into the dishwasher.

The basket can be easily separated so as to clean out the middle zone of the double walls. Until today, I had yet to do this. Here’s a is a shot of the grit that accumulated inside the middle filter wall after 30 or so uses of the Espro Press (and, for the record, I intentionally didn’t clean the inside wall of the basket, because I wanted to see how dirty it would get over an extended period of time):

Grit caught inside the middle of the Espro Press filter

There’s no reason to let even that much grit accumulate. Taking apart the filter basket is quite simple (it easily twists apart), allowing you to easily separate the outer and inner baskets every time you put it in the dishwasher.

Deconstructed Espro Press filter basket

The Best Recipe

The Espro Press carafe can hold 1,500 ml of water. But that leaves no room for any coffee grounds or the filter basket. You can brew up to 1,000 ml of coffee, but I’ve found that the best recipe is when you brew 750 ml.3

The reason I shy away from brewing the full 1,000 ml capacity is that large filter basket gets in the way when you are brewing that much liquid. About 230 ml of liquid are displaced into the basket and thus don’t fully brew with the rest of the water.

Therefore, when brewing 1,000 ml of coffee I do 70 grams of grinds instead of the recommended 60. This causes the water below the basket to brew stronger, and then be diluted a bit once the basket is pressed down and the previously displaced water rejoins the brewed coffee.

The recipe I prefer is the one that Espro recommends for a 3/4 pot:

  • 45 grams of coarsely ground coffee
  • 750 ml of hot water
  • Pour most, stir, pour the rest, wait 4 minutes, press

Now, if you’re looking for an iPhone coffee app, I can recommend one of those as well.


  1. For comparison: I brewed a Bodum glass french press alongside the Espro Press. At the 4 minute mark, just after pressing the grounds, the Bodum coffee temperature was 158° — a temperature it took the Espro nearly 30 minutes to reach.
  2. This is one reason I love the inverted AeroPress method with a coarse grind. It’s not unlike brewing a pot of french press, but thanks to the paper filter you keep all of the grit out of the brewed cup.
  3. For reference: the classic Bodum french press has a maximum brewing capacity of 750 ml.
The Espro Press

Exclusive, Hands-On Review of This Americano

I’m on location at The Roasterie coffee shop in Leawood, Kansas, where I was just handed a hot americano with steamed breve.

Americano at the Roasterie

My initial impression is that it’s delicious.

Americanos at The Roasterie are available hot or iced, and in four different sizes: 8, 12, 16, and 20 ounces. I chose the 12-ounce which, including the extra cost for the breve, cost around $3.

The drink comes in a white paper cup with an additional paper sleeve around the cup. The sleeve not only helps to keep the drink warm, but it also protects your hands from the heat of the cup. There is also a black plastic lid which secures to the top of the cup. The lid serves a dual purpose: it not only helps keep drink hotter for longer, it also acts as a low-level form of spill protection should you accidentally knock your coffee cup over.

After consuming nearly all the contents in this cup, I’ve found that drinking coffee is not only enjoyable and relaxing, it also stimulates the little grey cells when any sort of thinking and creative work is being done.

Highly recommended.

Exclusive, Hands-On Review of This Americano

Not in a million years did I ever imagine that I’d link to a Martha Stewart article. But with Spring here and Summer on the horizon, this is a clever idea for use in iced coffee or tea:

If the ice is made from coffee, it won’t dilute your drink as it melts. Freeze hot coffee (or tea, if you prefer) in an ice-cube tray, then use the cubes to cool your brew.

I’m not a big fan of just plain iced coffee, even toddy. I like iced lattes or iced tea. And I have a killer sweet tea recipe that I make using mint we have taking over the flower bed on the south side of our house.

Coffee or Tea Ice Cubes