If there's one thing coffee enthusiasts are consistently great at, it's being fickle. Whether it's how one stirs, skims, or pours, each year ushers in new ideas and toys that absolutely, positively contradict and improve upon old thinking. Old like you know, last year. We now take a moment to revisit four of 2012's most trendy coffee tools.
The Steampunk Brewer
Hailed, rumored, regaled, and toured around coffee conventions in 2012 is the yet-to-be-fully-deployed four-headed coffee brewer known as the Steampunk. Conceived by the engineering wizards at Utah's Alpha Dominche, the machine—made for cafes, probably won't fit on your kitchen counter—is a riff on the Japanese coffee syphon, only with steam-driven agitation within the brewing chamber, state-of-the-art controls, and room for barista flair.
The machine began appearing in exclusive coffee labs around the country this year, as well as one tea shop (yes, it's the machine that does everything). While the Steampunk is still under fine-tuning, its retro-futuristic sex appeal and the requisite new-expensive-toy-on-the-block high price tag ($13,000) have people curious to see whether it can hold its own in a busy coffee shop environment. Steampunk, we'll have to see what your future holds.
The Espro Press
Working on a considerably smaller scale is Canada's Espro, whose confidence that they could build a better French Press was proven this year with the Espro Press. The handsome, double-walled stainless press includes a second level of microfiltering beyond the traditional French Press screen—allowing all the aromatic and sweet flavor benefits found in this method, but reducing the cup-soiling silt that's inevitably left behind.
The Espro Press costs a fair shake more than the average Bodum (or IKEA) press-pot, but once you've played around with it (or simply enjoyed how beautiful it looks on your coffee shelf) you're likely to become a convert.
The Prima Tamp
A late entry into 2012's espresso game is Prima Coffee's adjustable coffee tamper, the Prima Tamp. Designed to be ergonomically suited to "any barista of any build," the tamper's handle can be locked into place at the angle of one's choice—potentially changing the wrist game for anyone willing to be a test subject. The American-made, Indiana Black Walnut-handled tamper resembles something of a high-tech dinner bell, and threatens to help baristas and cafe managers rethink everything they've ever known about how they tamp.
The Kalita Craze
Finally, it would be impossible to let 2012 slip by without acknowledging it as the year of the Kalita craze. The unique flat-bottomed brewers manufactured by this Japanese equipment company have gained steady notoriety as easy, ideal brewers for home and cafe alike, largely through the efforts of Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters' Nick Cho, whose considerable megaphone to the internet (as well as a national gear tour) has done much to create buzz for the brand and its unique brewing properties.
The suite of pourover brewers offers a range of choices all based on the same, cone-walled, flat-bed principle, from ceramic to glass to metal (or perhaps you'll opt for the Chemex-like "style set" with its own carafe.) Whichever your favorite device, it may not be long before someone invents something else exciting to pour coffee through, so get in on the action now!
About the author: Liz Clayton drinks, photographs and writes about coffee and tea all over the world, though she pretends to live in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently compiling photographs of the best coffee in the world to be published by Presspop in 2013.