Consumers are subject to a ceaseless flow of products all claiming to offer some never-before-seen level of convenience, beauty, or the cleverest combination of zany, magical features.
The coffee category is no exception, even with its high rate of piggyback products — the dozens of french presses, travel mugs, pourover systems and kettles that may bring nothing new to the table outside of perhaps a fresh aesthetic. Few bring much new in terms of innovation, and what’s interesting is that in 2018 there appeared to be some recovery from what we might as well call “peak digital,” the trend in recent years involving the IoT “smartening” of everything under the sun.
While connectivity is still a hot commodity, only four out the 17 consumer products highlighted below require electricity at all, and only one necessarily depends on the internet for its functionality. In era where everything from forks to toaster ovens to herb gardens may require wifi to perform their best, we think that’s refreshing.
2018 saw an interesting spread of new brewing products, including some with carefully considered tweaks to the process, and a couple impressive upgrades to existing equipment and methods.
Numerous premium manual grinders came about in 2018, with increasingly massive burrs housed within staunch yet beautiful columns complete with gearing for greater ease of operation. We anticipate continued development on the high-quality home grinder front, both manual and electric.
Here are 17 of the most interesting consumer coffee product stories in 2018:
Parent company Intact Idea is in the process of launching a higher-capacity, fortified edition of its portable, electronics-free espresso maker, called the Flair Signature Pro. The Pro features a number of upgrades aimed at enhancing the durability, ease of use, versatility and other attributes of the original Flair Espresso design.
At the top of the clear, dual-walled borosilicate glass vessel, a finely perforated stainless steel filter emphasizes depth and verticality substantially more so than more common conical, wedge-shaped or flat-bottomed pourover brewers. The cylindrical format results in more contact time, according to the company, which yields both a longer and more even extraction that avoids “high and dry” grounds at the outer edges of the coffee bed.
As with the Clever, the user determines the duration of an open-air steep with a declining temperature profile, then the brew is drawn downward through a filter by vacuum force as air is removed from a sealed vessel below, as with a siphon brewer. The similarities to either method end there, however, as the motorized pump-oriented design of the FrankOne transforms the brewing platform into something more flexible, and ultimately unique, within the immersion brewing category.
The forehead-slappingly simple device encourages users to combine fresh grounds and hot water in an insulated steel tumbler and screw on the lid to seal it shut. The lid holds any Aeropress-compatible metal or paper filter. Heat from the mixture causes the trapped air to expand, applying pressure to the brew. Upon twisting open a valve built into the lid, the same pressure then pushes the finished coffee in a gush through filter and straight into a cup.
In its standard automatic mode, the GCMW3375 Pour-Over Coffee Maker maintains water at 200°F and brews at 1:16 coffee-to-water ratio, utilizing info from a built-in scale to determine proportional bloom water volume and pause duration. The scale is built into the base below the carafe that holds the grinds in a cone-shaped filter assembly on top. In manual mode, users can alter the water temperature in two-degree increments from 180-212°F and can adjust the brewing ratio from 1:10 to 1:20.
Beyond its wood exterior and the design of the optional steel stand, the Aram also differs from the Rossa in that the user fastens a loaded espresso basket to the bottom first and then pours water into a chamber from above, as opposed to the Rossa, where those steps are reversed. Water is released by the Aram onto the coffee for pre-infusion by winding the crank counterclockwise, raising the piston and allowing the hot water to pass. Cranking clockwise then lowers piston back downward to apply the necessary and user-variable pressure for extraction.
However, the time may be coming for wider embrace and study of the ghost burr, as pioneering Idaho-based manual grinder manufacturer Orphan Espresso, maker of the Lido line, is currently breaking new ground with its development of the Apex Grinder, a manual countertop grinder that centers on the stubby-toothed grinding plates that it contends perform excellently for all methods coarser than espresso.
Australian grinder manufacturer Helor Design has upped the game for handheld grinders, introducing a new product called the Helor Flux, featuring 71-millimeter conical burrs. With one of the largest burr sets available in any manual grinder currently on the market, the Flux is even more impressive considering it’s a handheld device.
The Malwani Livi grinder is built around a 83-millimeter conical burr set — the same as found inside Mazzer electric grinders for the European market and as an option for the Lyn Weber HG-1 manual grinder. The burr setting is adjusted steplessly by a knob at the top. Rotational force is translated through a three-gear differential system, which the company says makes grinding easier including for dense, lightly-roasted coffee. Polished aluminum and brass exterior surfaces are offset by either oak, mahogany or wenge.
Two new manual coffee grinders entering the consumer market — the Bean Me Up grinder by German manufacturer Finum and the JIA Coffee Grinder from China’s JIA Inc. — take a novel approach to the art of compromise. While some products make lofty claims of excellence in every way, these two, each in their own way, accepts one shortcoming or another while also offering a built-in solution.
Tools, Accessories and More
The Smart Espresso Profiler (SEP) is a Bluetooth-connected device that collects data from an increasingly wide spectrum of compatible groupheads, and coordinates with Acaia Lunar espresso scales to visualize a wealth of critical info on any connected device’s screen, thereby making new heights of espresso geekery available to exponentially more geeks.
The Ameuus product line is launching with two options. The first is the o2, a system of two filters, each with roughly 50,000 holes etched into its surface and an alignment hole on the edge. When filters A and B are stacked with the edge holes in perfect alignment, their 100-micron holes are partially blocked to result in a maximum of 30-micron filtration fineness. The second option is the o1 10K, a single filter featuring 10,000 holes of 100-micron fineness.
A new device called the 2Pour, which has just passed the threshold of its Kickstarter funding round, addresses this by providing a platform for pressing down on an Aeropress and, like a dual-spouted portfilter, neatly directing its brew into two separate, equal portions.
Now Colonna-Dashwood and Hendon have returned to make another splash, as it were, with the Peak Water jug, drawing from the knowledge and perspective originally offered in the book and translating it into a handy household-style filter pitcher that aims to cost-effectively optimize regular tap water into something closer to ideal for brewing coffee.
With all the shiny hardware and fascinating gadgetry on display at the 2018 SCA Expo in Seattle last month, it’s a sign of the times that Best of Show in the Best New Product competition went not to any machine or accessory, but to Coffunity, a consumer-focused iPhone app for coffee discovery that’s still in the beta stage.
Two and a half years in the making, the Jamber Mug features a wide handle that allows for a more comfortable and sturdier grip that can be especially helpful to people with arthritis or other similar conditions, according to the company. By guiding holders into an anatomically neutral hand position, the Jamber handle aims to reduce stress on joints, ligaments and tendons, while a stabilizing foot under the bottom of the outer curve of the handle reduces accidental spills.
While the classic French press brewing method remains popular around the world, cleaning the thing is no one’s favorite task. The Grums, which takes its name from kaffegrums, the Danish word for coffee grounds, is a deceptively simple solution developed by a small group of Danish French press lovers. It’s a little cup that fits snugly at the bottom of a French press carafe to collect the grounds for more efficient removal.
Howard Bryman is the associate editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. He is based in Portland, Oregon.