Tokyo-based appliance design company Balmuda, known for their iconic steam toaster with a cult-like following, recently debuted their contribution to at-home coffee culture in the form of Balmuda The Brew ($699). Measuring only five-and-a-half inches wide, the slim profile and counter friendly design of this automatic coffee maker bring the experience of café-quality, pour-over coffee into the home kitchen.
Some of the most award-winning coffee professionals are impressed with the capabilities of The Brew—including Miki Suzuki, a three-time barista champion in Japan (who also placed second in the world championship in 2017) and lead barista at Hide Izaki’s Cokuun coffee tasting experience in Tokyo. As she spends her days serving the world’s most exclusive coffees in a custom-built private café space pulling shots of espresso and brewing coffee on the most high-end equipment, we were curious what Suzuki thinks of Balmuda The Brew.
“There are many things that make this machine attractive,” says Suzuki. “First, the open dripper. The good thing is that the aroma spreads throughout the room, just like in a café. I believe that the appeal of pour-over is not only in the flavor, but also the flavor of the coffee that is created from the aroma and appearance in the act of brewing. The Brew can create an experience from the look and smell as well as pour-over.”
The Brew is easy to get started straight out of the box. “The appeal of this machine is that anyone can reproduce a certain level of flavor,” Suzuki explains. “I am glad that anyone in the family can make coffee, rather than having to decide who is in charge of coffee duty.” It’s as easy as popping in a V60 cone-shaped filter, pouring in freshly ground coffee and shaking lightly to level the grounds for even brewing. Then, setting the dripper above the stainless-steel carafe and turning it to click into place.
Suzuki also believes that the machine’s bypass technique, which adds water to the carafe at the end of the brewing cycle, balances the flavors by incorporating separate finishing water that also regulates the temperature. “On a technical point,” she adds, “I like the clear taste that comes from the use of bypass, a hot water brewing technique.”
Taking into consideration the desired style of coffee for each drinker and depending on the beans roast profile, Suzuki suggests starting with a medium grind. She also recommends starting with 12 to 14 grams of coffee for small, 18 to 22 grams for medium and 28 to 34 grams for large. Then increase or decrease the amount depending on flavor preferences. “But it is interesting to see how the flavor changes with the grinder and filter paper as well,” she says. Suzuki uses a Comandante hand grinder—and a Fellow Ode grinder is also recommended.
Dedicated design details on The Brew make the process of brewing coffee efficient. The easily detachable water tank has a flat bottom that can be set on the counter and is also small enough to fit into most refrigerator filtered-water spouts. The dripper cone can be set on a dripper stand to measure coffee on a scale or with the provided measuring coffee scoop. Coffee can be ground at a setting about an average between pour over and automatic coffee maker. On the Fellow Ode, the 5 grind size offers an aromatic cup. Brewing one cup at a time gives easy access to experiment with larger and smaller grind sizes.
Simple, straightforward settings on the top operations panel are readily accessible to make brewing decisions with regular, strong and iced options and three sizes: small (4 ounce), medium (8 ounce) and large (12 ounce). Once in operation, The Brew showers the coffee grounds with water and steam.
The top of the dripper is open to be able to witness the whole brewing process and enjoy steam and aromas emitted during the cycle. It feels almost like a coffee-making show with an atmospheric and romantic series of sounds and smells. The indicator light on the left glows while in operation and a pleasant series of chimes signal that the coffee is ready.
Images courtesy of Balmuda