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Flying Baron | Ethiopia Yirga Cheffe Konga Natural

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Moonshot Roasters | Guatemala La Libertad & Todos Santos

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Flying Baron | Tablon El Tempisque

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Agápē Roasting Procject | Sulawesi Tana Toraja

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Agape Roasting Project - Denver, CO

Ethiopia Sidamo Wadada

Agápē Roasting Procject | Ethiopia Sidamo Wädäda

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Agápē Roasting Procject | Sulawesi Tana Toraja

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Corvus Coffee Roasters | Denver, CO

Jackon's Select

Corvus Coffee Roasters | Jackson's Select

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Michacoy

Corvus Coffee Roasters | Michacoy

$18.50

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everyman Espresso

Corvus Coffee Roasters | everyman Espresso

$15.00

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Maker's Blend

Corvus Coffee Roasters | Maker's Blend

$17.50

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Corvus Coffee Roasters | Finca La Novia

$16.00

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Corvus Coffee Roasters | Moreninha Formosa

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Brand Corvus

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Acaia Coffee Scale: Interview with Aaron Takao Fujiki


 

Nothing excites me more than toys, tech toys to be exact.  And if that tech toy happens to involve coffee in any way, shape, or form.  Well, let's just say that gets my blood pumping.  So when I came across the Acaia Coffee Scale on KickStarter.com, I was pretty excited. So excited, that immediately after committing to buy one, I made contact with Aaron Takao Fujiki, the co-founder, via Twitter to see if he would let us interview him or his partner Rex Tseng.  

Let me tell you a brief bit about this fantastic piece of technology.  It's not just a kitchen scale. It's a scale specifically for brewing the perfect cup of coffee.  Complete with industrial grade internals, ample processing power, and so feature-rich, your head will spin!

 

Here's a few features from Aaron's press kit that will give you better idea of what the Acaia is, and why it's better than anything on the market.

  • Coffee and liquid proof - no nooks or crannies for elements to seep in.
  • Smart auto-off feature - as long as there's weight on the scale, it stays on.  So your brew methods that take 5, 10, 15 minutes… will work perfectly with this scale.  It won't shut off on you.
  • Accuracy to 0.1 grams - I'm not this nerdy with my coffee, but maybe you are?
  • Built-in stopwatch - time your brews for the perfect taste!
  • It's small but not too small - 6in x 6in to be exact.  You can fit your Chemex on it, no problem!
  • Even bottom - on piece of silicone covers the bottom to ensure that it's always level.  Most scales have four legs that can wear or fall off over time, this silicone pad will stick forever well, almost.
  • Lithium-Ion battery and USB charging - if it's good enough for the iPhone, then it's good enough for the Acaia!  Try and find another scale with this battery I dare you!
  • Micro-controller chip - only found in industrial scales (SM59R16G6) - Acaia is the first consumer-grade scale to incorporate this kind of processing power.
  • Bluetooth connectivity - You can go do laundry and check on your brew progress with your iPhone!  Now that's cool!
  • iOS App - remotely view the scale, monitor brews, time brews, take notes on your favorite coffee beans and brew methods for later use!
  • API for Developers - This means more apps can be made by third-party developers, adding additional functionality to your scale!  Check out the interview below, Aaron tells a bit more about the Acaia API.

 

Interview with Aaron Takao Fujiki - Co-founder of Acaia Coffee Scale

SipLocal: How long have you been working on the Acaia?

Acaia: Been working on it for like 2 years. I talked to my friend Rex about coffee brewing, on how to improve the taste of my coffee, then we came up with the idea of a smart coffee scale, and started doing some research and prototypes. 

SipLocal: Many projects on Kickstarter or Indiegogo rarely ship on time, how did you decide on January/February delivery, and do you feel you will still be on time?

Acaia: We decided because we wanted to give backers who loved our product the shortest waiting time. The delivery is a real challenge since we have changed our design during the kickstarter campaign to better our products.  We wanted to build the product better and better, so we improve from the feedbacks of our backers. It took us some time, but we want to keep our promise and work hard on it. So far we are still looking to ship the early birds in January. 

SipLocal: From the photos and video, it looks like you have an operational prototype, how far along is the project?

Acaia: We are very close to completion. The prototypes in the photos and videos are real production parts. We are now tweaking the features and software to make it better for our backers.

SipLocal: Is the app already done?

Acaia: The acaia scale is already in production, and we just released a backer only update of the iOS App this week, the feedbacks are pretty positive, we are going to release a public update on the iOS App and the Android app soon.

SipLocal: The scale obviously has ever tool a coffee lover would want, do you have any plans to add functionality for any other kitchen uses (i.e. foods)?

Acaia: A lot of people is asking this question, right now we want to focus on improving the acaia coffee scale’s user experience for coffee brewing, because we want to make sure the acaia coffee scale can satisfy the need for every coffee lover. After we perfected the acaia coffee scale, we will then proceed on developing a product line for different purposes of the acaia scale, one step at a time, we don’t want to sacrifice the quality of the acaia scale, because the acaia is a designer product, a result of the combination of art and science for the coffee community, not just an ordinary piece of consumer electronics. 

SipLocal: Once the Kickstarter project ends, will you be accepting pre-orders through your website?

Acaia: Currently our plan is to make the products for the backers on kickstarter first. We will then gather feedbacks and inputs from these backers, for they are the first to use this product and we really like to know what they think. We are committed to this product, and we want to learn from our users how to make it even better. We are the first to introduce connected APP for the brewing community and we want users to help us build the future products. So at this moment, we will not be doing pre-orders on our website, but if anyone is interested, they can still contact us and we’ll see what we can do.

SipLocal: After the Kickstarter, do you have any retailers lined up to sell the acaia?

Acaia: We have some retailers and shop owners who are interested in selling it, but we have no definite plans yet. We just want to make sure we will deliver a great product to the consumers. I am sure there will be a lot of feedbacks from our backers. Whether it is good or bad, we will listen, learn and improve. I think this is very important in building a great product. That is also why I wanted to make this product on kickstarter, so I can interact with the users.

SipLocal: Can we sell it? haha

Acaia: Sure!

SipLocal: Do you have a post-Kickstarter retail price in mind?  /  What can consumers expect to pay for acaia after the Kickstarter?

Acaia: We are planning the retail price to be around 89, but we still want to gather the feedbacks on the product from the kickstarter backers. Since we are building both the hardware and the software APP, there are a lot of features and functions that we can add/remove from the product.

SipLocal: Tell me about the API.

Acaia: We wanted to build a scale that can have many talented developers make their own APP to work with our scale. We believe that having a connected weighing sensor can do a lot of things. You can build tools for diabetes patients or apps that provide cooking recipes. We want to provide people with a great device that they can create their own applications with it!

SipLocal: Do you have any developers lined up to make apps for the acaia?

Acaia: We have got some developers and companies that shown a lot of interest in the acaia, so we are quite excited about this!

SipLocal: Do you have any plans to release an android or windows mobile/rt/8 app or a web app for those without an iPhone, or would like to use their computers?

Acaia: We are already developing Android APP that works on android 4.3 with bluetooth 4.0 supported devices. We will have a public update on our software status this week. Currently we have no plans on windows mobile yet, we got our hands full with iOS and Android at the moment. 

 

If you want one… you had better act fast!  Only four days left in the KickStarter campaign.  After that, as Aaron said, they're looking to raise the retail price and you'll have to wait a lot longer.  Here are the colors currently available (more have been added to KickStarter) for shipping early 2014:

X

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Should I Buy Coffee Online or at the Store?

When I was kid, people would have thought I was crazy for asking such a thing.  I can imagine the response being something like: "The internet's for email, not buying food.  You crazy kid!"  But times have changed.  Sure, there's some things I won't buy online such, such as milk and eggs.  But less perishable items like hard-to-find candies, alcohol, tea, and coffee... why not?  I already buy everything else online.  It's convenient, I don't have to go anywhere, and a few days later it shows up on my doorstep.  What better way to knock out a to-do [to-buy] list than online?  Think about it... if someone offered to go find a specialty store that offered the specific brand of coffee you wanted, then drop it off on your doorstep or in your mailbox, would you pay $5-10 for that?  Heck, I would. Gas and my time cost more than that.

So way back when I was in sales, you know, the annoying kind of sales, I was taught the Franklin Close.  It goes something like this:  "When Benjamin Franklin was faced with a difficult decision, you know what he would do?  He would draw a line down the center of a sheet of paper.  On one side he would write the pros (or good) of that decision, and on the other he would write the cons (the bad).  So why don't we do that to see just how good of a decision this is?"

Why don't we do that?

 

Pros Cons
Guaranteed fresh, roasted-to-order Left empty on purpose... I did the work for Pros, it's your turn :)
Find many local choices in one place
Learn about different local roasters before buying
Don't have to drive anywhere to find local coffee
Coffee is nearly always weeks and even months fresher than store bought
When you consider time and gas, it may be cheaper than going to a store
Don't have to guess which coffee is good and which is bad
Support local businesses by purchasing from local roasters
In some states, avoid having to pay sales tax
Read other's opinions and share your own before and after trying a coffee
I might add more when I think of them in the future...

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Bonaverde's Roast-Grind-Brew Machine

I'm serial Kickstarter viewer.  There, I admit it.  Every time I go to Kickstarter I start with the search "coffee" to see what new and awesome contraptions are being invented, and today, a pretty neat machine by Bonaverde Coffee Changers caught my eye.  It's definitely a game changer.  It gives people like you and I the ability to roast coffee in our own homes... and it's affordable!  Not only that, in addition to roasting your green coffee beans, it will grind and then brew the coffee in 12-14 minutes!  Is this too good to be true?  My guess is going to be yes... and no.  

Keep in mind, this is purely speculation.  I haven't actually touched one of these machines, though I have pre-purchased one.  The first issue that came to mind was the degassing period nearly every roaster will tell you is *required* after roasting.  If this machine can roast-to-brew in 12 minutes, there's obviously not enough time for the ~2-3 day degassing period.  And most roasters will tell you that freshly roasted coffee typically doesn't taste good, or as good, as it does after it's been allowed to sit for 2-3 days.  Bonaverde made sure to address this concern, in fact, it's the first question on their FAQ's, which should tell you as the consumer that this has likely been a chief concern.  Their response didn't exactly give me a warm and fuzzy.  They essentially side-stepped the issue by saying "Opinions differ... [but] 15,000 people (blind-)tasted our coffee... [and] Their overwhelming feedback gave us the confidence to go viral."  Maybe I'm just a cynic, but I need a little more science and substance than that.  Read for yourself and let me know what  you think.  I'm sure 15,000+ tried a Keurig and said it was awesome before it went to market.  Is it awesome?  Yeah.  Does it make really great coffee?  Not so much.

My next logical thought was: "You know, if they want to appease everyone - the I want it now guy, and those who want to degas before grinding - they should just put a setting on on the machine to allow you to stop the process after the roast.  Then remove your beans and wait a few days before grinding and brewing."  Seems simple enough. Apparently I'm not the only one who thought that because the added a stretch goal of $500k.  If they reach that point, they'll add the ability to stop the machine mid-process and yank your beans out.  Thank god.  The only problem is, they haven't made it to $500k yet, but they're very close!  So it's my hope that they make it so my machine will have that ability.

Now that I've bashed the machine, let's talk about why it's super-cool!  

I meet with roasters all the time.  Roasters that are super small and roasters that make millions (over the course of a year, in gross revenue... lol).  And [almost] all have one thing in common: they started small.  Some started on re-purposed popcorn poppers, while others roasted over a stove.  So as you might assume, this machine could give budding home roasters the ability to launch their craft fairly quickly.  It's a natural evolution in our recent DIY revolution in technology.  That's why I decided to give one a try.  I love the smell of roasting coffee, I love the smell of ground coffee, and I certainly love the smell of freshly brewed coffee!  This machine promises to give you all of that, every morning.  The best part is, it's your own special roast that you created.

Even if this machine doesn't live up to expectations, it will certainly have served its purpose as a trail blazer.  If you were on Kickstarter when all the 3D printers started popping up, you probably noticed that after the first came many others who aimed to improve or add a new spin on it.  I believe this will also happen with coffee machines that roast and brew.  So if you're not sold on this gadget, wait a few months, another will soon follow!  And they'll only get better.

The next reason I think this machine is awesome is because their aiming to connect the farmers directly with us, the consumer.  Essentially taking direct trade to a whole new level.  In theory, this can help to improve the living conditions of coffee farmers and their communities since they will be making much more profit than they do with the current direct trade and fair trade models.  On the flip-side, farmers aren't exactly prepared to package their goods and ship for consumer use.  As of now, nearly all farmers package in bulk, burlap sacks, ship by container load, and deal with importers who buy palates or containers at a time.  Moving to a retail-based business will certainly present its own unique set of challenges.  Challenges that could potentially cause detriment to small farming communities.  How so?  For one, it will require more employees to handle the work.  Sure it creates jobs, but a lot of this will be in preparation for more retail orders.  In other words, they'll be gambling on the hope that more retail orders will come in.  This shift will also require the purchasing of new machinery for retail packaging and shipments.  It's much easier to pack a burlap sack with 50-60kg of beans and load them on a truck, than it is to individually package 1lbs-5lbs packages and individually ship them out.  I don't know exactly how they plan to execute this new supply chain, but I'm sure it will encounter a few growing pains along the way.

Back to the machine.  My next concern was roasting, how much control will I have?  I'm not a roaster, so I can't pretend that I really know how to do it.  But I'd like to learn a little along the way, and I would like a machine that will allow me to take control as I learn.  Unfortunately, this machine seems fairly hands-off.  They say that it will have 6 different roast settings, from light to Italian espresso dark.  This makes me happy.  Even though I won't be able to become the master roaster I dream of being, it will at least give me a place to start.  I'll be able to try varied degrees of roast with the same beans to explore the differences in flavor before moving on to a real roaster.

How much coffee can this machine roast at once?  The short answer: "I don't know."  I've searched both their website and their Kickstarter page and have yet to find a definitive answer.  The closest tid-bit of info I could find is that this machine will make between 2 and 12 cups of coffee.  So if you guess between 7 and 10 grams of coffee per cup, then between 84 and 120 grams of beans can be roasted.  I would definitely like an answer to this.

Anyway, I could talk your ear off about this... but I'd probably only bore you.  For now, check out the Kickstarter page and let us know your thoughts.  I think it's pretty cool, in spite of the issues I mentioned, it will certainly pave the way for innovation in home roasting and possibly the world coffee community as a whole.

 

 

 

 

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