Release Date: Apr 10, 2016
I have been surrounded by specialist Japanese coffee equipment ever since I was little. My mother and father both owned Jazz Kissaten’s in Kyoto and brewing coffee in our house was a normal part of day to day life. All the coffee equipment we owned was Japanese, but I never really thought about why we only ever used Japanese items.
Now as the owner and director of Kurasu, an online store selling Japanese coffee wares globally, I’ve come to appreciate Japanese coffee equipment on a different level. Through establishing relationships with crafters and manufactures and listening to my customers – home brewers and professional baristas alike – I’ve developed a better understanding of the intricacies involved with Japanese coffee equipment. I now understand why my parents and other cafe owners choose to use and trust made in Japan coffee wares.
Although being produced for centuries, Japanese coffee equipment have seen an increase in exposure overseas in the past few years. Many are now familiar with the Hario V60 due to its popularity amongst renowned baristas and specialty cafe roasters worldwide. The minimalistic design along with the craftsmanship and functionality to produce the perfect filtered coffee are key traits in Japanese coffee equipment’s.
Today I want to introduce you to 5 other products that are uniquely Japanese, but are not as well known outside of Japan.
Kono Dripper – “Drip Meijin”
Kono Dripper is produced by Coffee Syphon, a family owned company based in Tokyo that was established in 1925. The founder, Akira Kono was dedicated to producing high quality equipment, and produced the first coffee syphon in Japan. Akira’s successor took over the company in the 70’s, and continued the company’s legacy by creating innovative coffee wares. In 1973 the 3rd generation successor designed a cone shaped dripper, which was later adapted for home use named the ‘Drip Meijin’.
The Kono Dripper Drip Meijin is a distinctive piece that has a conical shape with unique ribbing which ensures that the water is spread evenly throughout the filter and drips through at a slow and steady speed. The design helps the paper filter fit snuggly with reduced sediment, improved airflow and ultimately a richer, fuller flavored coffee that exceeds other standard coffee drippers. Although the Hario V60 has taken the spotlight in terms of overseas presence, the Kono dripper should not be overlooked as Coffee Syphon continues to pursue the perfect dripper for darker Japanese roasts and brews.
Yamanaka-shikki lacquerware originated in the Ishikawa area of Japan, and have been used since the 18th century. The method involves skilled artisans carving pieces of wood using a lathe and a blade. The artisans care in their designs by carefully applying the blade to manipulate and shape the wood. The secret of Yamanaka-shikki craftsmanship is Tategidori – the way in which the artisans trim the wood. Tategidori involves cutting wood horizontally, along the grain, rather than the common practice of cutting vertically. This results in a finished product that is far more durable and long lasting- something that can be appreciated in any century.
The Yasukivo Wooden Dripper is beautifully handcrafted piece of craftsmanship that is made using the Yamanaka-shikki lacquerware method. The Yasukiyo Wooden Dripper is unique in that it can easily withstand hot water without warping or losing form. The dripper has intricately-carved latitudinal ribs that hold the water within the dripper for the perfect amount of time, allowing for extraction of all of the nuanced flavors and aromas from the coffee within. Producing a cup of coffee that is intense and flavorful. Hario V60 and Kono Dripper Cone shaped filters can be used.
Torch Coffee Measure House
Takahashi Nakabayashi san is the designer behind the Torch brand. Torch has slowly gained popularity not only in Japan but overseas as well, featured in the likes of COUTUME in Paris and the Coffee Collective in Denmark.
The exquisite Torch Coffee Measure House is a hand crafted, handy coffee making accessory that not only helps to gauge the perfect measure of beans, but is also a charming object that will stand elegantly in any modern kitchen. The Torch Coffee measure resembles a tiny Japanese house, and each one is hand carved by the woodworking artisans of Odawara, in Kanagawa prefecture, Japan
The Torch Coffee Measure House has a distinctive grain pattern, and a rustic handle. Each one has been specifically designed to hold 10 grams of coffee, which means that this handy coffee making accessory allows you to gauge the perfect amount of coffee every time. What is more, as each piece of wood has variations in grain pattern, so too do each of the individual house measures. This means that in each individual carved house is totally unique.
Nakabayashi san says that the natural walnut and birch used to create each Torch Coffee Measure House are the perfect choice for compatibility with the flavorsome, and deep, natural oils of the coffee beans. These unique measures would be a great addition to any coffee lovers kitchen worldwide.
Torch Mountain Dripper
The Torch Mountain Dripper was also designed by Nakabayashi san of Torch. The slim, stylish design of the Mountain Dripper allows each cup of coffee to be perfectly layered and shaped, extracting the very best flavor. This is possible because each Torch Mountain Dripper is finely-crafted in porcelain, and features special internal ribs which guide the flow of water through the coffee grains, and has a large outlet hole that ensures the optimum rate of water flow. Additionally, each dripper can be used with a range of paper filters, such as the Hario V60 cone, the Kalita Fan shaped, or Kalita Wave paper filters. As each one produces slightly different extraction results, the Torch Mountain dripper is the perfect piece of equipment for those who love to experiment with their coffee, and perfect their style of brewing.
The functionality and beautiful design of the Torch Mountain dripper is becoming an increasingly popular piece of equipment in the professional barista world overseas as well, with Benjamin Lytle of Novel Coffee Roasters winning the US Western Berwers Cup using the Mountain Dripper.
Takahiro is a respected manufacturer of professional kitchen equipment, and produces a range of high end kitchen equipment in a small, quality controlled production line in Tsubame city, Nigata, Japan. The Takahiro Kettle is one such piece of equipment. It is an elegant piece of coffee equipment that has been loved by professional Japanese baristas and passionate home brewing enthusiasts alike; it has also become a staple piece of equipment in many Japanese cafes. The popularity of the kettle is largely as a result of the design of the kettle. It has a graceful, swan’s-neck spout, which is believed by many users to offer the perfect, responsive flow of water required for the preparation of a top-class filter coffee, and the lip of the spout is uniquely shaped, providing the exact precision needed for a perfect-pour.
The Takahiro kettle, as mentioned is very popular in Japan, but it has also started to receive a cult following around the world thanks to its superior coffee making qualities. For example, the Oakland based specialty coffee roaster Blue Bottle Coffee has recently taken the kettle on board, and has dubbed it the ‘Rolls Royce of pouring kettles’. With the different coffee pour over kettles now out in the market, the Takahiro still continues to be my personal go to kettle.
Japanese coffee equipment is beautifully crafted, and specifically designed to produce the perfect filtered coffee. As a result of the increasing demand for good quality coffee at home, and in cafes worldwide, Japanese coffee equipment has seen an increase in exposure as it is so reliable, well designed and functional.
However there are still many amazing small manufactures of coffee equipment that do not have a presence outside of Japan such as the ones I’ve introduced today. This is likely to be the result of a range of factors such as having small production lines, not having the man power to market outside of Japan, and language barriers. Our mission with Kurasu is to work with these brands and help them have a voice outside of Japan. We also want to be the bridge that enables customers from overseas to buy these superb pieces of Japanese equipment. We hope that we can continue to be that source, and can connect Japanese coffee culture with the rest of the world.
Column by Yozo Otsuki (@kurasu_)
Founder of Kurasu (kurasu.me)
Special thanks to Yamamoto Coffee in Shinjuku, Tokyo.