Coffee and Kickstarter: A retrospective
Coffee entrepreneurship always fascinate me. This is exhibited by the fact that whenever there's a new gadget being built to aid the brewing process, I'm always quick to write about it. Why? For one, I love coffee, as well as enjoy the act of making it. But just as much, I think there's a very unique entrepreneurship angle to it. Those who succeed in the coffee business need not only be good designers and businesspeople, but also grasp the weird contingencies of making a good cup of coffee. It takes a certain breed of weirdo.
In this same vein, these coffee entrepreneurs frequently turn to sites like Kickstarter when they have a crazy new ideas. Over the last year there have been some cool and bizarre new coffee-centric gizmos that have surfaced with the intent of streamlining and improving on the age-old concept of making a good, strong cup of coffee. Here are a few highlights.
The Cold Bruer is perhaps the most innovative. It takes the task of making cold brew coffee, and makes it easier than most other device out there.
Traditionally, if people want cold brew coffee, they buy something called a Toddy, which makes great iced coffee but is messy and, for those who don't make make coffee for a living, can be unruly. The Cold Bruer uses a similar brewing process than that which the Toddy relies on, but is easier and more straightforward, as well as generally nicer looking product.
Bonaverde's Roast-Grind-Brew is another novel coffee concept that took the crowdfunding scene by storm a few months back. The concept is bizarrely simple, one that I hadn't seen nor heard of before: You feed the machine un-roasted coffee (which, I guess, last longer than that which has been roasted) and the machine, on its own, roasts and brews a cup of coffee.
It's an interesting idea, and is perfect for those who focus on the source of their coffee. At the same time, I am of the belief (as are many others) that coffee that has been newly roasted should rest for a few days before being brewed. Even with this slight critique, this machine is definitely a fresh take on coffee roasting and brewing.
The Pour Mason is a bit infantile compared to the prior campaigns, but I think its fun, and hipsters will love it. So I decided to give it a few words. It is simply a way to make pour over coffee, but instead of pouring into a carafe, the makers had it screw on to a Mason Jar. That's it. Cool? Sure. Kind of dumb? Maybe. That being said, people must have wanted it, because the campaign far exceeded its goal.
The KONE Brewing System is a bit over a year old, but I'm including it because it's a great example of coffee engineering at its finest. The KONE is a reusable metal filter for pour over coffee. It uses a simple and really well-crafted design, something that many baristas I know use. The overall brewing system KONE makes is just a simple ceramic shell to cover the filter for those who don't want to use their other brewing methods, such as Melita or Chemex.
More often than not these campaigns make devices for home brewing. The KONE is of note because it is something that professionals and home-brewers can use alike. I will say that this specific campaign was for its brewing system (which is a nice system on its own), and not for the actual KONE. Either way, it's a great all-round product and definitely deserves a mention.
Undoubtedly there a bunch of devices that entrepreneurs have put on Kickstarter with the hope of making the coffee big-leagues. Some work, others don't. It really takes a knowledge of -- perhaps an obsession with -- how the process works, as well as the ability to build simple designs that accentuate it. Coffee is something that's been made for thousands of years, so there are few real issues that need to be improved upon. Because of this, whenever there's a new product that does actually improve it, people generally notice.
These are just some of examples, I'm sure there are other. But, for right now, I'm going to go drink my first cup of coffee of 2014.