Empowering VOOM Coffee Scale Launches On Kickstarter

I’ve slowed down on my coverage of new coffee products being released to the market. There are so many to keep up with, but very few stick out in a way that really gets me thinking.

The latest innovation to catch my eye and keep it is the VOOM Coffee Scale.

Departing from traditional scale functions, VOOM’s LCD screen doesn’t just show you the weight and time of your brew, but a variety of things that coffee lovers of all stages will find practical and useful. See for yourself.

VOOM For Experienced Brewers

As someone with plenty of experience brewing coffee, I’m particularly thrilled about the chance to interact with the larger coffee community using the intuitive brewing profiles. I may have the chance of emulating the brewing styles of baristas I look up to like Matt Perger or Chris Baca – and they might even try my profiles once I’ve shared them.

VOOM For Newcomers To Home Brewing

If you’re still new to brewing coffee at home, I think the VOOM could be an invaluable coffee companion. Learning to brew great coffee by watching YouTube videos only goes so far. There’s a disconnect between the digital video and the physical actions of brewing – but that gap is bridged, thanks to the on-screen brewing curves and other data.

I believe the dynamic coffee to water ratio display will also be big for many newcomers. Understanding ratios can be a challenge. I’ve tried to break it down as much as I can, but I understand that doing math early in the morning (especially before caffeine) can be a no-go for many. With the dynamic display of the current ratio, the math is done for you.  All you have to do is pour until you reach your target ratio (I like 1:16).

VOOM For Businesses

This scale’s community-oriented features provides businesses an innovative way to interact with customers. Roasters can create brewing profiles for specific coffees. Cafes can share their recipes with customers who also brew at home. This is a clear and easy way to maintain engagement with customers after they leave your physical location, which can mean increased brand loyalty in the long-run.

As a former coffee shop manager/trainer, I also see training value in the scale. Now trainers can let baristas work on espresso and filter brewing on their own, without the trainer having to stand over them and tell them when to pour and when not to pour. Trainers can then review and compare the brews on the app to see how well the barista is doing. This could help many cafes streamline their training.


Honestly, I’m very impressed with VOOM. I believe the scale’s on-screen features are far more empowering than those of other smart scales in the space. That you can see important brewing data (like the dynamic ratios and brewing curves) is incredibly clever and very empowering for veterans newcomers to great coffee.

You can see the full campaign on Kickstarter. If you’re interested, get in quickly while the VOOM’s available at the $99 price (regular price $199).

Osaka Cold Brew Dripper Review And Brewing Guide

Despite working in a coffee shop for 3+ years, I never had the chance to play with a drip cold brew coffee maker before a couple months ago. I had always used the immersion cold brew method exclusively. And, frankly, I was skeptical of drip cold brewing.

Drip cold brewing just seemed so fickle and tedious. Why would I fidget with the water drip rate if I could just throw it all together in a french press for 12 hours? Immersion cold brewing is consistent and straightforward. Drip cold brewing seemed unnecessarily difficult.

osaka cold brew dripper

When Osaka contacted me and asked if I wanted to try their drip cold brewer, I had to accept. It was time to put my expectations to the test. Would drip cold brewing be as tedious and energy-consuming as I imagined?

Osaka Cold Brew Dripper Review

Honesty time: Osaka provided me with this product in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. If I wouldn’t suggest this brewer to a close friend, I wouldn’t waste your time (or mine) writing about it.

Design

The first thing that struck me about the Osaka Cold Dripper was how different it looked and felt. I see a lot of copy-cat coffee products out there, but this isn’t one of them. This was a breath of fresh air for me.

The carafe is made of borosilicate glass. It feels sturdy and classy like any great coffee carafe should. The other parts (upper dripping chamber and coffee chamber) are made of a durable plastic. These three main pieces stack comfortably and give you a view of the entire process. Altogether, the brewer stands 10.5 inches tall, which makes it suitable for any kitchen.

osaka cold brew dripper

The dripping adjustment mechanism made me nervous initially. Though it doesn’t feel flimsy, I had my doubts about how long the plastic would last with repetitive twisting. After I used the brewer a few times, however, that concern drifted away. It’s there to stay.

Overall, the entire brewer feels streamlined, durable, and simple.

Function + Ease Of Use

The entire process is more simple than I initially imagined:

  1. You grind coffee at a medium-coarse setting and place it in the coffee chamber. Then you place the dispersion screen (stainless steel mesh) over the grounds.
  2. You place ice and some water in the dripping chamber and assemble the tower.
  3. You slightly adjust the dripping speed so that 1-2 drops fall per second.
  4. You adjust if needed over the next 2-5 hours.

After going through this process several times this Summer, I realized that – to my surprise – it’s not much more effort than the immersion method. Adjusting the dripping, finding the right grind size – these things aren’t burdensome or annoying after all. Even clean-up is easy since the grounds are confined to a small area.

osaka cold brew dripper

I also discovered that it doesn’t take 12 hours to make cold brew coffee using the slow drip method. It takes 2-5 hours. That’s a big difference. Being able to set up the brewer in the morning and enjoy a glass of iced coffee in the afternoon is a big plus in my mind.

The only issue I ran into was the melting of the ice. My ice cubes are large and kept fusing into one giant ice blob. A couple times they clogged the draining area, which stalled the brewing and probably messed with my results. I’m not quite sure what I could have done differently in regards to this, but it doesn’t spoil the entire experience for me.

The Coffee

For the most part, the cold brew turned out great. It featured the characteristic low acidity and bitterness I appreciate in cold brew. The mesh filter helped bring out some fuller flavors by letting the oils and some micro-grounds through, but the mouthfeel was still on the lighter side compared to immersion cold brew.

I was satisfied with the coffee quality, but not always amazed. Some of the batches were just not quite there quality-wise. I believe these consistency and quality issues resulted from my ice problem. This could probably be worked out with a little more experience.

In Conclusion

I love brewing with the Osaka Cold Brew Dripper. It’s well built, is simple to use, and brews great cold brew coffee in just 2-5 hours, depending on batch size and drip rate. At $30, it’s far more affordable than those giant Hario towers or other similar devices.

This brewer (and drip cold brew in general) is more than a visual gimmick – it’s a legitimate rival to immersion cold brewing.

If you’d like to explore the world of slow drip cold brewing, I highly suggest this brewer.

Osaka Cold Brew Dripper Brewing Guide

Let’s look a little deeper at the brewing process. While I became well acquainted with this brewer over the course of the Summer, I’m not a slow drip expert. This is my first drip cold brewer, after all. If you find an improvement to the process, I’m all ears!

  • 40g Coffee (medium-fine grind)
  • 125g Ice
  • 75g Water

Collect your materials. Place the coffee grounds in the center chamber, shake to level, and top with the metal dispersion screen.

The official Osaka guide says this about the water to ice ratio:

Do not use too much water as it will not be cold when finished, and do not use too much ice as it will clog the dripper. Try to find an even balance.

Frankly, that’s not helpful at all. I eventually landed on using about 125g of ice and 75g of water. It worked well, but I’m not certain that’s the ideal ratio. You also want to add about 10g of cold water directly to the coffee grounds. This helps prepare the grounds for absorbing and releasing water.

Here’s the fun part.

Slowly twist the drip adjustment handle so that 1 drop of water falls every 1 second or so. The dripping rate will change slightly as the ice melts, so don’t stress over being uber-precise here. You should see the drops hit the dispersion screen and begin to saturate all the grounds evenly.

slow drip cold brew coffee

Come back every hour or so and check the drip rate. If it has slowed or sped up, adjust appropriately. After 3-4 hours, all the ice should be melted and water drained. Take apart the brewer and clean out the coffee area.

You can store your cold brew concentrate in the fridge for up to two weeks. When you’re ready for a glass, enjoy it as is (super strong) or cut it with an equal amount of cold water and top with ice. If you’re feeling adventurous, try out a few of these creative cold brew drinks.


If you’d like to try out the slow drip cold brew method for yourself, check out the Osaka Cold Brew Dripper.

Handground Grinder Review And Grind Comparison

The Handground grinder had one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns of any coffee-related product. The crowdsourced design shook the media and raised over $300,000. But it’s time for the real test: how does the Handground perform?

I commissioned my good friend and coffee mentor, Ryan Giesbrecht, to write this Handground grinder review and grind comparison. He brought me into the world of specialty coffee, has a critical eye when it comes to coffee gear, and is a stellar writer.


handground grinder review

The grinder is one of the most neglected tools in the coffee trade.

Giving the grinder the cold shoulder is understandable. When entering the realm of craft coffee, we have big eyes for the shiny things. The espresso machines, cold brew towers, and eccentric brew methods tend to overshadow boring items like grinders.

The grinder is a necessity. Narrow grind particle size distribution is your bread and butter. It’s your lifeline. It’s more than the icing on the cake; it’s the eggs and flour.

Particle size distribution refers to the size similarity between individual coffee grinds.

All metaphors aside, a consistent grind makes for consistent coffee.

When dialing in your coffee recipe, grind size should always be considered first – as it makes the most difference in manipulating flavor profile. Sadly, grinders can be expensive. This is why many of us go the hand grinder route. Most hand grinders are cheap, keenly portable, and simple to use.

But do they deliver? Some do, many don’t.

I wanted to look at a grinder that found its inception on Kickstarter. Exceeding its goal by over $250,000, the Handground hit the markets by storm. I’ll also briefly compare it to the EvenGrind – a much cheaper alternative. Is this grinder worth its salt?

Let’s find out.

A Handground Coffee Grinder Review

The co-founders of Handground, Daniel Vitiello and Brandon Warman, decided that it was time to conceptualize “a coffee grinder for the third wave”. These two embarked upon a noble quest to create a grinder “specifically for specialty coffee drinkers.”

Third Wave alludes to the specialty coffee movement that evolved post-1974 that focuses heavily on the unique characteristics of black coffee.

handground grinder review

Now, as a craft coffee advocate, I am in favor of a “specialty hand grinder”. Who wouldn’t be?

It could be argued that grinders of poor quality actually waste coffee. Direct trade coffee isn’t cheap, and it’s not an infinite commodity. One goal as coffee supporters and purveyors is to squeeze every last morsel of goodness from each bean. Having an affordable, trust worthy hand grinder promotes quality and sustainability.

But the Handground is not that grinder. The Handground team tried. Their noble attempts fell short, disappointing many of us. We were rooting for them.

Here’s where they went wrong: they focused on ergonomics and neglected grind quality performance.

Let’s focus on the good first.

Ergonomics

This grinder feels right. They knocked it out of the park here. Hand grinders usually lack human compatibility. They feel awkward, clunky, and foreign. Grinding coffee by hand isn’t particularly enjoyable, but the Handground is an exception.

A solid aluminum hand crank is featured on the SIDE of this grinder, allowing for more natural wrist and arm movement. The crank is accompanied by a beautiful pakka wood knob. It feels good and looks good.

There’s even a super grip pad at the bottom of the catcher. This lets you operate the device on a flat surface. I’ll give the Handground this: it’s intuitive, sleek, and user compatible.

Handground’s materials and design are superb:

  • Borosilicate glass catcher
  • Durable triple axle design
  • Easily detachable lid and hopper
  • External grind adjustment knob
  • 40mm alumina ceramic burrs

Everything just mentioned is what the coffee craftsman yearns for. A well-made device that doesn’t get in the way. However, for a grinder to truly be “specialty” it must deliver on all fronts.

Let’s take a look at where the Handground went wrong in terms of performance.

Quality / Performance

The grinder features 15 pre-set grind size options. One can navigate through these via the numbered ring selector (adjusted in increments of 1/2). Each “click” represents a 125-micron increase in coarseness.

When it comes to grind size consistency, the Handground website states…

The axle is mounted on metal bushings in three locations to keep it stable while grinding and eliminate burr wobble. Each axle is milled on a 5 axis CNC that maintains tolerances of 0.004 inches. The combination of added stability and razor thin tolerances allows Handground to achieve a consistent grind, every time.

Now, all of this works in theory. It sounds good on paper, and honestly, I would be sold at this point… if I hadn’t used the grinder myself. This “razor thin” axle tolerance does little to help narrow the particle size distribution.

Up until size 4 on the number ring selector, the grind quality is par.

Anything after size 4 is a maelstrom of boulders and fines. The folks at Handground recommend that the Chemex setting be at 5 and the French Press at 8. But frankly, half of the settings are unusable. Brewing French Press or Chemex with the recommended settings would result in an imbalanced and under extracted cup.

As you can see, Handground missed the mark. The grind consistency isn’t even good for a hand grinder.

To prove this, let’s briefly compare the $80 Handground to the $35 Kuissential EvenGrind.

EvenGrind Comparison

At first glance, the EvenGrind seems to be a lackluster emulation of the Hario Skerton. It’s bulky, plastic, and plain. In terms of appearance, the Handground reigns triumphant. Let’s cut to the chase…

When the quality of grind is observed, the EvenGrind wins. Hands down. No dispute. No question.

evengrind coffee grinder

Regardless of its lack of aesthetic flair and ergonomic integrity, the EvenGrind produces a remarkably narrow particle size distribution! Why is this? How does this $35 grinder beat out the Handground’s “specialty” design?

Well, for starters, its patented stabilizing cage is effective. Handground’s triple axle system is not.

When observing the grind comparison photos below, you’ll notice that after 4, the EvenGrind sees a drop in consistency – just like the Handground.

Even so, the Handground falls short of the EvenGrind on every setting. The difference is noticeable visually – and in the final cup.

 

EvenGrind delivers an even grind. Sometimes simple systems are the best.

Check this out: the full Kuissential EvenGrind review.

Conclusions

An attempt was made. The Handground team advertises a grinder for the specialty coffee drinker, but they instead deliver a pretty mechanism with sub-par grinding capability. I would argue that a quality grind outweighs aesthetic.

Would you rather pay $35 for a better coffee grinder, or $80 for a pretty one that feels good? The choice is yours.

3 Reasons I Love Coffee Sock’s Cloth Filters

For the first time in years, a new coffee product has seriously disrupted my regular coffee routine.

I’ve been brewing coffee manually for a while now. I’ve found my own systems, my preferred brewing methods, my typical routine. Just when I thought no new product could shake things up and cause me to reevaluate my coffee habits, some cloth filters from Coffee Sock arrived in the mail.

coffee sock cloth filters

I’m a big paper filter guy. I love how easy they are. I love the lighter body and crisp flavor. But these cloth filters seized my attention. I haven’t used a paper filter in weeks because I love using them so much. Let me share with you why.

Coffee Sock generously offered me a couple of products in exchange for my honest feedback. Since I’ve enjoyed using the filters so much, I decided they deserved a blog post. I assure you that these words are my own and that my opinions are in no way influenced by the generosity of Coffee Sock.

1. Cloth Filters Encourage A Syrupy Body

I’ve always been a champion of the crisp and clean body that paper filters produce, but the syrupy, juicy body that comes about from cloth filters is captivating. The cloth allows the coffee’s natural oils to slide right through. These give the final mug a smooth, syrupy feel and contribute towards a fuller flavor. The coffee grounds and micro-particles, however, are kept from entering the final mug.

While I still appreciate the thick and clean mouthfeel that metal and paper filters produce, I’m loving this in-between zone where I get to experience the feel and flavor of the oils without the sediment.

3 reasons I love cloth filters

2. Cloth Filters Can Be Used For Ages

I’ve been using these cloth filters almost exclusively for the last two months. They’ve gotten a little darker in color, but I’ve seen no tearing, thinning, or any other kind of decay. They function just as well as they did the day I opened the package.

While rinsing out the filters isn’t a quick as throwing a paper filter away, it sure is more rewarding knowing that I’m not producing a lot of paper waste over time. These cloth filters compliment my values of minimalism, practical purchases, and reusable tools.

3. Cloth Filters Are Travel-Friendly

Lauren (my wife) and I are preparing to travel internationally and work remotely for the next year or so. We’ll be living out of backpacks, so space will be very limited. Instead of lugging around 50 paper filters or a metal cone (which we’re less fond of, though still enjoy), we’ll be able to take a single thin, reusable cloth filter.

travel coffee filter

Specifically, we’ll be taking the Coffee Sock Travel Filter, which is designed to be used on the road. It consistent entirely of a cloth cone and a holding wire. So simple. So travel-friendly.


I didn’t think I’d be crazy about cloth filtered coffee, but I was wrong. I am slowly being converted to a full-time cloth filter user.

If you’d like to try cloth filters for yourself, I suggest taking a look at Coffee Sock. The Texas business (my homies) focuses solely on cloth and sells filters for pour over brewers, cold brew, Aeropress, tea, and beyond.

Who knows? Maybe you won’t be able to stop yourself from converting as well.

Kuissential Versa Travel French Press Review and Brewing Guide

When I learned that Kuissential, the maker of one of my favorite manual burr grinders, was going to release a travel french press, I knew I had to get my hands on one. Luckily, Kuissntial reached to me and sent one my way in exchange for honest feedback. This review is fair, honest, and the words are totally mine.

The Kuissential Versa is a travel french press brewer, but with its own twist. Instead of pushing a plunger and the coffee grounds down, you pull them up and remove them entirely. The idea isn’t a new one, but few brewers have been able to achieve the pulling action without making a mess.

I’ve been using the Versa for about a month. I’ve brewing using a handful of recipes and have played with my own little tricks. After this review, I will lay out my own guide to using the brewer. Let’s dig in.

The Kuissential Versa Review

I opened the Versa with much excitement. Basic instructions covered the box. An insert with brewing information fell on my lap.

The brewing chamber holds the coffee grounds and water. Protruding from the opening is a rod with a fine stainless steel mesh filter at the end. On the opposite side is a pronged based with a little sphere holding the rod. The second chamber (doubled walled – excellent) slides over the first brewing chamber and twists into place. When you’re ready to filter the brew, you flip the whole thing over and pull up on the sphere, separating the grounds from the brewed coffee.

The Good

The Versa brews a solid cup of french press coffee. It has the classic heavy body, but there was very little sludge at the bottom of my coffee each time. I found the flavor to be on par with any other french press brewer.

The brewer feels very sturdy in my hands. Built with stainless steel and a durable, dishwasher-safe plastic, it doesn’t feel flimsy or poorly constructed at all.

The attachable travel-lid really is spill-proof, which is a huge plus in my mind. You could throw that coffee in your bag, throw the bag around, and you wouldn’t have to worry about spilling coffee everywhere.

Overall, the build and idea are great, but I noticed some minor quirks that kept me from falling in love with the Versa.

The Not-So-Good

The distance between the brewing chamber wall and the filter is very small. I didn’t have a problem filling it with water because I have a gooseneck kettle, but I can imagine it being difficult without one.

The outer chamber wouldn’t twist and lock in until I began to pull the filter in a little bit. If I pulled the filter in, the sphere would be out further than the pronged base, making the whole thing wobbly. I ended up just waiting to lock it in until I was ready to flip and pull.

I also noticed that the brewing chamber could afford to be bigger. At only 8oz, it seems small compared to the 15oz outer chamber. The extra 7oz of space isn’t being used during the brewing (or after, if you like your coffee black), and it seems Kuissential could have increased its size to allow for larger batches.

My Conclusions On The Kuissential Versa

In general, I found that the Kuissnetial Versa is a solid step towards travel brewing, but I don’t think Kuissential has quite hit the nail on the head just yet. It brews great coffee, but it doesn’t function ideally.

I believe the small entry and exit area for brewing will be a challenge for users without a narrow spout kettle, and the small 8oz batch size seems like an inefficient use of space (since the larger chamber holds 15oz).

The Versa isn’t the travel brewer for me, but it could be exactly what you’re looking for – especially if you like to add cream or sugar to your coffee to use up that extra space. At only $30 on Amazon, it’s worth a try if you find yourself still interested!

Kuissential Versa Brewing Guide

If you’ve pulled the trigger and are enjoying your Kuissential Versa, I hope you’ll find my method to using it enlightening and empowering. Let’s get started!

For this device, I like to use 15g of coffee and 250g of water, which fills up the brewing chamber to the tip-top.

1. Collect your freshly boiled water, freshly ground coffee, and Versa brewer.

2. Slide your coffee grounds into the brewing chamber, then fill the chamber all the way up with water just off the boil.

3. Set a timer for 4 minutes and set the outer chamber over the brewing chamber. Don’t flip just yet.

4. When the timer nears 4 minutes, grab the Versa by the bottom prongs. Using your other hand, pull the stainless steel filter into the brewing chamber by the sphere, locking the ground coffee inside. Then screw the outer chamber in place

5. Flip the Versa and pull up on the filter rod until it is raised as far as it will go.

6. Unscrew the chambers and lift the brewing chamber out slowly. Be careful! It’s hot!

7. Dispose of the coffee grounds by pushing the filter out and rinsing the device.

8. Enjoy your french press coffee!

You can then pour in some cream or flavor and attach the travel lid and take your coffee to go. Excellent!

Happy brewing, folks!

It’s American Press Review and Brewing Guide

As soon as I saw It’s American Press’ Indigogo campaign last year, I knew the product would be a great success. It’s a year later and I find myself brewing with the device a couple of times a week. It’s captured my attention and is a brewer I will keep close for years to come.

american press

Here are a few of the reasons I love the new It’s American Press.

It’s Designed to Last

There’s no doubt about the quality of the materials. When I opened the box for the first time and held the cylindrical brewer, I was a bit surprised at how heavy it was. Not because it’s bulky (it’s not at all), but because it’s built to operate for a lifetime.

The double walled carafe would probably survive being thrown from a plane and the stainless steel mesh that makes up the two filters on the coffee pod aren’t going anywhere.

It’s Easy to Use

Unlike just about every other coffee brewer, you start the brewing process by pouring water into the carafe without the coffee present. You then submerge a pod full of ground coffee in the water, let it steep for a few minutes, and plunge the rest of the way down.

As you plunge the pod down, the water below rushes through the coffee with intense pressure and sits on top of the silicon pod. It’s a visual coffee experience that I haven’t found anywhere else.

dsc_0152

The Coffee Is Delicious

A rich flavor and medium body have characterized most of the cups I’ve had from It’s American Press, but there are some ways to change that. One cup I made using a coarse grind and a longer brew time had a lighter, tea-like body and a rich, crisp flavor. I typically stick to a medium-fine grind and a 3 minute total brew time for the heavier body.

I was concerned that the metal filters would produce too much sediment to allow me to really fall in love with the It’s American Press, but that fear was quickly laid to rest. It seems the mesh filters are very fine and capable of producing a cup that is sediment light.

It Will Go Anywhere

I’ve already taken my It’s American Press all over Texas and can say it’s been one of the easiest brewers to travel with.

  • There’s no paper waste
  • Clean up is very quick
  • It’s cylindrical with no protruding parts
  • It’ll survive longer than I will

If you’re constantly on the move and don’t need to brew more than 12oz at a time, this is a brewer to keep on your radar.

My Only Hesitation

The current press only brews about 12oz of coffee (14oz if you live life on the edge). It’s enough for me and my wife on most occasions, but some days we need a bit more. Being so easy, brewing coffee twice isn’t painful, but it’s not quick either.


Overall, I find It’s American Press to be a very capable no-fuss coffee brewer without any serious faults. It’s durable, easy to use, brews great coffee, and is a great travel companion.

Check out It’s American Press Brewing Guide to see the exact recipe I like to use.

Make sure to visit the It’s American Press website to learn more about how the device was designed and to keep up with future developments.