Despite being better known for its tea culture, Japan has actually had a long relationship with coffee, and master brewers all over the country have long pursued the perfect, cleanest, sweetest cup.
Thanks to that dedication, many of the best gadgets have come from our Pacific pals, including the latest coffee-geek obsession: The Kalita Wave series of elegant, hourglass-figure coffee drippers.
Kalita has been manufacturing brewers and supplies since 1958, but the Wave is a relatively new introduction to the company's lineup. The theory behind the design is that the filter's geometry creates something of a reservoir of brewing water above the bed of coffee grounds, which acts as a kind of insulator, absorbing any turbulence caused by the act of pouring water during the extraction, while also retaining heat and allowing for more even drainage.
How to Brew Coffee with a Kalita Wave
1. Bring water to a rolling boil. You'll need 500 grams of water to brew with (about 18 ounces), and a little extra to rinse your filter.
2. Measure out 30 grams of whole-bean coffee (roughly 6 tablespoons) to brew 500 grams (about 18 ounces) of water.
3. Grind your coffee fresh before brewing. The grind should be coarser than a traditional filter brew, but not as coarse as for a French press. Aim for something that looks a bit like coarse-ground corn meal.
4. Rest the paper filter gently in the cone of the brewer, and pour a very thin stream of water directly into the middle-bottom of the paper. You only need to add about 3 ounces of water; the moisture will climb up the sides of the filter to saturate it. (It can help to secure the filter gently with your fingertips; just be sure it doesn't fold over or you'll have to start again with a new filter.) Once the filter's saturated, lift the glass cone with the filter in it off the pot and dump the rinse water out before continuing.
5. Place the ground coffee in the filter and tare the whole shebang on your kitchen scale. We want to measure the water as we pour it to get an accurate and consistent ratio.
6. Start a timer, and immediately pour about 60 grams of water into the bed of coffee, slowly but completely saturating it. The grounds should "bloom," or swell and release gas, for about 30 to 45 seconds before you continue.
7. Pouring in gentle concentric pulses moving from the center of the coffee bed outward, all the way to the filter's ridges, add about 40 grams of water at a time, making sure to keep the water level above the ground coffee at all times. After two or three of these pulses, a little pool should have very clearly formed on top of the coffee bed. This is precisely what makes the Wave so great, so keep at it.
8. Continue to pour in 40 gram doses until you reach 500 grams, and wait for the coffee to completely drain. Your ideal finished brew time should be about 3:30–4 minutes; adjust your pulses or your grind size to speed up or slow down the time it takes. (Remember: Finer grind equals slower brew, and coarser equals faster.)
Of course, there are countless ways to successfully brew with these elegant little pots. Here is a video by Nick Cho of San Francisco's Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters—the sole American distributor of Kalita products—breaking down the technique and getting deliciously geeky for the benefit of coffee lovers everywhere.
Do you use a Kalita Wave? Share your technique with us below.