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Comparing Kalita Wave Recipes
There are numerous pour over brewers out there these days, but one of our favorites is the Kalita Wave . It is a flat-bottom dripper, available in two different sizes (155 and 185) and three different materials (steel, glass, ceramic).
Why is it one of our favorites? Oh, thanks for asking!
Due to its unique design, the Kalita offers better extraction than many other brewers.The Kalita’s flat bottom allows water to come in contact with, and drain through, a wider coffee bed, while the three holes in the bottom of the dripper protect against channeling. Taken together, the wide brew bed and multiple drainage points allow for a more even extraction when compared to a cone-shaped brewer such as a V60 or a Chemex. Furthermore, improved extraction is also promoted by the minimal contact between the dripper and the filter; this is because coffee is allowed to pass through the walls of the filter, rather than solely through the apex of certain cone-shaped filters.
As the Kalita Wave has been quite popular in the last 5 years, especially since James McCarthy won the World Brewers Cup with it in 2013, we’ve curated seven of the most notable brew methods and put them each to the test. Through it all we have taken notes, got highly caffeinated, and now submit our findings to you. Whether you are a Kalita pro, looking to add methods to your repertoire, or are just getting started with a new brewing device, we hope you will find this to be a helpful resource as you work on your brewing game.
The format below includes the specified parameters, the Method, our corresponding Notes, and a Score based upon a scale of 1-10. For this review, we used Honduras Las Flores from Quills Coffee, a Baratza Encore, and Third Wave Water.
- Dosage: 27g coffee to 400g water (1:15)
- Grind: 17/40*
- Temp: Off boil. 205°F (96°C)
- Pre-Infusion: 30g for 30 seconds
- Total Time: 3:30-3:50
* Refers to grind setting out of 40 on a Baratza Encore.
- Rinse filter with boiling water by pouring in the center of the filter.
- Grind coffee and pour into Kalita. Give it a little shake to level the grounds.
- For preinfusion, pour 30g of water and wait 30 seconds.
- Pouring in slow, concentric circles, raise coffee bed to about halfway up the side of the filter.
- Continue pulse brewing: let the slurry drop a little and then add more water to bring it back to the same halfway point, submerging the crust each time. Finish pouring water (400g) by 2:45-3:00.
- Give it a little stir, if needed, and let drain. Total brew time should be 3:30-3:50. (You know you’ve done it correctly, if the bed is flat after draining.)
This method is a pretty common approach to brewing with the Kalita. And for good reason. It produced a great cup and was quite simple. We noticed quite a bit of caramel and grape, with a soft citrus note, followed by a nice milk chocolate aftertaste. There was a little bitterness in the backend, but overall a great first method to try.
The only issue we saw with this one was when it came to the preinfusion stage. We used a Fellow Stagg EKG and had a hard time covering all of the grounds with only 30g. This then affected the first pour, due to the fact that the coffee had not released much of its carbon dioxide. The bed puffed up quickly, keeping water from properly flowing through the grounds.
- Dosage: 24g coffee to 380g water (1:16)
- Grind: 14/40 (fines sifted)
- Temp: Off Boil. 205°F (96°C)
- Pre-Infusion: 50g for 45 seconds (exact water amount not specified)
- Total Time: 3:30
- Grind and sift coffee.
- Rinse filter, pour coffee into the Kalita, and shake to level the grounds.
- For preinfusion, pour 50g of water and let pre-infuse for 45 seconds.
- Using a high-flow kettle, pulse pour up to 190g, maintaining an even column of water above the grounds.
- Then, switching to a flow-restricted kettle, pulse pour up to 380g of water.
- Total brew time should be 3:30.
We tested this method both with a sifter (Kruve) and without. Both approaches seemed to feature a prominent caramel flavor, with a slight hint of grape and a chocolaty finish. The biggest difference between sifting was seen in the mouthfeel and sweetness. The sifted cup had a lighter body and increased sweetness, while the unsifted cup was less sweet and a little more bitter.
Using multiple kettles isn’t probably something that everyone is going to be able to do, or even want to do, but it has to do with extraction theory. The idea is that coffee releases lots of flavor quickly and then slows down as the brew time extends. A high-flow kettle, then, will agitate the grounds more quickly, while the flow-restricted kettle will cause less disturbance in the coffee bed, theoretically resulting in better extraction and more sweetness.
A great kettle that allows you to switch flow rates quite easily is the Kalita Wave Pot.
- Dosage: 14g coffee to 260g water(1:19)
- Grind: 10/40
- Temp: Not Specified. 205°F (96°C)
- Pre-Infusion: 40g for 30 seconds
- Total Time: 3:00-3:15
- Rinse filter to remove paper flavor and heat the vessel.
- Grind coffee, pour into dripper, and give it a little shake to level the grounds.
- For preinfusion, pour 40g of water, trying to wet all the grounds.
- Stir five times, back to forth and left to right, making sure everything is saturated.
- After preinfusion period of 30 seconds, begin first pour in a spiral motion up to 150g.
- From 1:10-1:20 complete second pour, using the same spiral motion up to the total brew weight (260g).
- Total brew time should be 3:00-3:15.
Jānis Podiņš from Five Elephant, a barista and Cup Tasting Champion, created this brew method for a particular Brazilian coffee that was sent to each Barista Hustle Superlatives Subscribers.
This method was created for a specific Brazilian coffee and did not work very well for the Honduras Las Flores that we used. While this method suggests a medium grind, we had to make the grind size pretty fine, so that we could reproduce the 40-55 second draw-down. And between its fine grind size and its particularly long total brew time, the result was a very over-extracted coffee, with a lot of bitterness and hardly any sweetness.
- Dosage: 25-28g coffee to 390g water (1:14-16, depending on desired strength)
- Grind: 14/40
- Temp: 201-205°F (94-96°C)
- Pre-Infusion: Not Specified (65g for 30 seconds)
- Total Time: 3:30
- Rinse filter until dripper feels warm.
- Weigh coffee to desired strength (25-28g) and grind.
- Pour into Kalita Wave and shake to level grounds.
- Pulse pour by adding 65g of water in 15 seconds, followed by a waiting period of 15 seconds and repeat 5 more times (pouring timeline below) . Each pour should begin in the center, work its way outward, and then return back to the center.
- Total brew time of 3:30.
Pouring Timeline: 0:00-0:15 - pour to 65g; 0:30-0:45 - pour to 130g; 1:00-1:15 - pour to 195g; 1:30-1:45 - pour to 260g; 2:00-2:15 - pour to 325g; 2:30-2:45 - pour to 390g.
For this method, we used 25g of coffee, going for a stronger brew (1:14), and a starting water temperature of 205°F. Using a flow-restricted kettle, the Fellow Stagg EKG, we were able to pour exactly 65g in 15 seconds. Timed pulse-pouring seemed a little tedious, but it worked well, probably offering a more consistent extraction. Also, keen observers will note that there is not a specified “preinfusion period” with this method, but it essentially happens during the first 30 seconds.
We were left quite surprised by how fantastic this method worked for the coffee we were using. It brought out the highest amount of grapefruit-like acidity, offered superior sweetness, and featured the grape, caramel, and chocolate like the others, but also brought out some tropical notes like papaya.
- Dosage: 25g coffee to 400g water (1:16)
- Grind: 16/40
- Temp: 203°F (95°C)
- Pre-Infusion: 50g for 30 seconds
- Total Time: 3:00
- Rinse filter to remove paper taste and preheat brewer.
- Grind coffee, pour into dripper, and shake to level bed.
- For the 30 second pre-infusion period, pour 50g of water, starting from the center and spiraling outward, and stir, ensuring that all grounds are wetted.
- At 0:30, pour 110g of water, lifting the coffee bed to about an inch from the top. The goal is to pour 6 circles, spiraling from the inside to the outside, with the final circle hitting the filter, washing the high-and-dry grounds back into the slurry.
- In increments of about 15 seconds, pour 4 installments of 60g of water in 3 concentric circles, from the center to the wall. Between each pour, let the bed fall down two lines on the side of the Kalita. Finish pouring (400g of water) by 2:00 and let drain.
- Total brew time of 3:00.
This was one of the most detailed methods that made the list, requiring not only timed pulse-pouring but also a specified number of circles. This method worked best with the Kalita Wave Pot, due to its ability to use a high flow rate. When using a Fellow Stagg EKG, I was unable to both pour 60g and let it drain down two lines in 15 seconds; by the time I added 60g, it was time to add another 60g.
While this method produced a good cup of coffee, offering high acidity, with notes of grape, caramel, chocolate, and some various spices, it tasted somewhat over-extracted. This could be because of the necessity of a high-flow kettle, agitating the grounds more quickly, or because of the slightly longer drain-time.
- Dosage: 21g coffee to 375g water (1:18)
- Grind: 15/40
- Temp: 205°F (96°C)
- Pre-Infusion: 60g for 30 seconds
- Total Time: 2:45-3:00
- Rinse filter to remove paper flavor and warm everything up.
- Grind coffee, add to dripper, and shake to level the bed.
- Saturate the grounds with 60g of water in 10 seconds to allow it to bloom. Then, give it a stir.
- At 0:45, pour up to 200g of water in a spiral motion by 1:00.
- From 1:00-2:00, pulse pour in small amounts (25-50g) until hitting the total water amount of 375g.
- Let drain for 45-60 seconds, resulting in a total brew time of 2:45-3:00.
This method was similar to Onyx’s approach, other than the fact that it didn’t require meticulous, timed pulsing. The final cup offered prominent notes of caramel and chocolate. The fruitier notes were a little hazy, and overall it tasted a bit over-extracted. The higher coffee to water ratio and the slightly longer drain-time didn’t work well with this coffee, somewhat hiding the coffee’s natural complexity with a watery mouthfeel and increased bitterness.
- Dosage: 27g coffee to 350g water (1:13)
- Grind: 16/40
- Temp: Off boil. 203°F (95°C)
- Pre-Infusion: 40g for 45 seconds
- Total Time: 2:45
- Rinse filter for paper flavor and preheating.
- Grind coffee, pour into dripper, and shake to level bed.
- Begin preinfusion by adding 40g of water and wait.
- At 0:45, pulse pour in increments of about 100g up to total water amount of 350g by 2:00.
- Let drain for 45 seconds, resulting in a total brew time of 2:45.
This method offers a similar approach to some of the others on this list, yet it requires a smaller coffee to water ratio and a shorter total brew time. These factors, it seems, brought about a heavier bodied, slightly under-extracted cup for this particular coffee. While there was some sweetness, and some quieter fruity notes present, the resulting cup was a bit sour and maybe even a little salty.
In the end, our favorite Kalita Wave brewing method was the one from George Howell Coffee. It offered the highest amount of sweetness, acidity, and complexity, and the timed-pulsing seemed to help with improved extraction, resulting in more fruitiness than any of the other methods. Not only did it result in the best tasting coffee, it was also quite easy to reproduce the specified parameters, especially with a flow-restricted kettle.
Now, there are some caveats to keep in mind when repeating this test. First, some coffees are going to shine with different brew recipes. So play around with them until you find the best fit. Second, water makes a big difference. We chose to use Third Wave Water so that you could more easily repeat our particular experiences. Third, your grinder is going to play a big role too. We used a Baratza Encore, because it is one of the most popular home grinders, but you may have a grinder that produces more or less consistent grind sizes, which will affect your overall brewing experience. Also, the suggested grind size parameter is only for general orientation, as not all grinders are alike. Each of these methods requires a medium-fine grind size (a little smaller than sea salt), some slightly finer, some slightly coarser.
If you need help finding the right tools for your particular set-up, check out our Baratza and pour over kettle comparison posts. And as always, feel free to hit us up with any questions or comments. Now paddle out and go ride that Wave!