There's a new coffee brewer on the market, and it's probably worth more than your car. The brewer -- Blossom One Limited -- is what happens when a thermodynamic engineer at MIT wants the perfect cup of joe. He doesn't reach for the French press. He builds an $11,000 brewing supermachine.
That man is Jeremy Kuempel, the founder and president of Bay Area-based Blossom Coffee, and the machine is his artful way of, among other things, taking inconsistency out of the brewing game and making great coffee less elusive. The company itself is an extension of technology that Kuempel invented as an undergrad, technology that he developed to nurture a growing passion for beautiful coffee as an ambitious, bleary-eyed college kid pushing coffee after coffee through an Aeropress. When he noticed the way the taste he loved waivered, he got curious.
Entering the heat of his coffee nerdom, Kuempel noted the way coffee research, in its qualitative way, lacked some insight into exactly what made things taste the way they do. And so, he approached the question like a good scientist does. With experiments.
"I've always been fascinated by the way you can use formulas and science to predict the way things will happen in the natural world. Simple equations have very real outputs, and it can be a way of making what you want to happen, happen," says Kuempel. Soon he developed a precise, single-cup brewing device to make great coffee happen.
After school, he partnered with Matt Walliser -- a likeminded engineer who clocked time at NASA designing experimental rovers -- and later with design guru Joey Roth, and Matt Leanse, a design prodigy fresh out of high school. Together, including Kuempel's own time at Tesla and Apple, the Blossom Coffee crew have a professional pedigree fit to build an army of invisible, flying robots. As it turns out, they'd rather make coffee.
In view of the machine's remarkable capacity for precision, you've got to wonder if such subtlety might be lost on the general population of non-supertasters. As it turns out, it's not. Not when it comes to temperature. In one casual experiment, the Blossom team brewed the same coffee at two different temperatures for 50 people at a tech conference. An overwhelming 48 out of 50 people preferred one. The temperatures? Only two degrees apart.
Kuempel, who also spent some time as a product design intern at Apple, knows a thing or two about the power of design, a sensibility you'll find elegantly echoed in the inaugural Blossom brewer's slender, sleek lines. The machine aims, at its heart, to empower its user to both manipulate and mimic what he loves about a certain coffee by controlling every single fundamental variable that goes into brewing. It's a way of using science to guarantee pleasure and beauty. Say a certain Kenyan coffee tastes like grapefruit, or a Guatemalan like dark chocolate. It would hard to promise the same experience of those flavors by brewing the coffees with a kettle and a ubiquitous V60 pourover set-up where things like humidity of the room and the water's falling temperature, among other variables, go mostly unmeasured. You can get close, and approximate the taste, but there's always a margin of uncertainty. The Blossom One is meant, given the right recipe, to eliminate that.
The brewer is also equipped with a computer and a camera that reads QR codes that, in the future, will contain the ideal brewing parameters determined by the coffee's roaster. In a word, all you have to do is scan and the machine takes care of the rest.
Even with the Blossom, though, some things are still done by feel. In lieu of privileging one "agitation" (read: stirring) technique, the machine lets you open the chamber during brewing to stir as you like. As the nerdiest of coffee nerds knows, there are a hundred ways to stir. The Blossom One is also a good bit quicker than the standard pourover method, some coffees brewing in under a minute. One expert barista I know guessed two minutes tops from preparation to a finished, fresh brew. Standard pourover time is over three minutes, and other processes longer than that. In the morning, that's a lot of time.
Per the name, the Blossom One Limited will be made in an extraordinarly limited quality. The price? $11,000. (You thought your Chemex was fancy, didn't you.) When I ask about the price, Kuempel points to location and design.
"That's what you get for 'handmade in San Francisco,'" he says.
The first commercial Blossom One Limited brewers will appear at upcoming Artis Café in Berkeley this December, and at Contraband Coffee in Nob Hill sometime next season. Expect news about the model's next iteration sometime this January.