Kalita Wave Brewing

How to Brew Kalita Wave – The Coffee Lovers Definitive Guide

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Kalita Wave has fast become my favorite and preferred method of hand brewing my coffee. Not only does the Wave produce a rich and well rounded flavored cup of coffee, but it does so with such an incredible ease of use. If I want to, I can get really into the techniques of my Kalita and play around with variables. But, first thing in the morning I need a brew method that takes little brain power and coordination.

The Kalita Wave is the sweet-spot for me. You can be as imprecise as simply adding your coffee, and pouring your water until done. You'll still get one of the best cups of coffee you can make (provided you follow standard ratio guidelines).

Without further ado, let us dive into making a great Kalita Wave – along with some tidbits and advanced brewing tips.

Brewing on the wave

The Kalita Wave comes in two sizes, labeled the 185 and the 155. For my brewing guidelines here, I will be advising you on the 185 Kalita Wave. Since you can brew as little as a cup on the 185, I don’t see a reason to get the 155, as the 185 will give you the versatility to brew more. Be mindful that you will need to get the special Kalita Wave filters associated with the appropriate size.

Step By Step – Brewing On the Kalita Wave

Step 1: Setup.

All you need to do is set up the vessel you are going to brew in, sit the Wave holder on top, and then add your filter. Kalita Wave paper filters are thin enough that they don’t need to be rinsed. If you do wish to rinse, it is best to do so by pouring slowly, directly into the middle, and not along the waved edges as you will deform the filter shape.

Kalita Wave Brewing on an Acaia Scale

Also, set your water to heat at this point. If you are inclined to measure the temperature of your water, aim for 202-205 degrees. Otherwise simply boil a kettle and then set it off the heat for a moment. You really don't need to worry about “burning” your coffee in pour-over methods, but you also don't want the water dropping below 202 degrees.

As always, it is recommended that you use filtered water.

Step 2: Grind and add your coffee.

Recommended range of 24-32 grams of coffee.

Grind size in brewing is an important consideration. The standard approach for Kalita Wave is to grind medium, and then adjust from there. The wave does give you some ability to manipulate the grind size for a different effect, but that ability is limited by the geometry of the brewer. In other pour-over brewers, like the V60, you can use the size of the grinds to change the rate of flow of water going through the grounds. This influences extraction of the taste and aroma compounds in the coffee.

Coffee Grind Size for the Kalita Wave

Finer grind means more surface area for the coffee to be extracted by the water. Start with a medium grind, and then figure out if you wish to adjust the strength of flavor (increase the flavor intensity by grinding finer). Changing the grind size will affect multiple taste factors, so it’s best to not change anything else while fiddling with your grind size.

The ratio of course also makes an impact. For the Kalita Wave I enjoy a 15:1 – 16:1 ratio. That’s water:coffee. So for every gram of coffee I use, I’ll add 15-16 grams of water. Doing your entire brew on a scale makes everything simple.

I find that the 185 Kalita Wave brews very well between 24-32 grams of coffee. I’ve gone down to 14 grams and up to 36 with no problems as well. Note, at the extremes you have brewing dynamic challenges due to the amount of space available.

Step 3: Beginning the Brew – The Bloom. 

Add 1:1 water:coffee, and let sit for 30 seconds (or see advanced note)

The Bloom is the common practice of adding just enough water to wet the grounds. The dry coffee absorbs water, expels c02 and the bed rises (‘blooming’). There is not much science to support this having an effect on brewing. I personally observe more flavorful brews when I allow the coffee time to bloom. The logical conclusion is that the expelling gas can interfere with the even extraction of coffee.

My typical practice for a bloom involves letting the coffee to sit and ‘bloom’ for about 30 seconds after adding the initial water. Usually instead of timing though, I’ll just watch the coffee bed. As it’s blooming, you’ll see the coffee swell, and then bubbles will come up and pop through the surface. That may happen for a short period. Eventually (usually after about 30 seconds), the last bit of C02 will release and then coffee bed will relax down.  At this point is when I continue brewing.


Advanced Bloom Tip:

I have discovered when using the Kalita Wave that extending the bloom time dramatically can provide some interesting results. By accident one morning while preparing my coffee, I became distracted working on something else. 5 minutes later, I realized I never finished brewing my coffee, and had just left it to bloom. In a rush, I quickly finished my brew. Upon tasting the result, I was surprised to see more brightness and a bit more richness out of the cup than usual.

I can’t tell you why I get that result. This long bloom technique isn't something I always do – though I’ll always do some kind of bloom, it’s usually in the 30-second range. Just to test, on occasion I won't bloom. The taste result is always more enjoyable with some kind of bloom (whether it’s sweeter, richer, brighter, or just with more clarity).

Step 4: The Brew

At this point, you simply pour in the rest of your water. Depending on how much ground coffee you use will dictate how much water you brew with, and approximately how you add the water. If I’m doing my regular brew of 32 grams of coffee, I’ll fill the wave up to about 1 cm from the top of the filter, then let it drip down a bit, then add more. I’ll continue this until I’ve added all my water (for 32 grams of coffee, about 480-500 grams of water).

Many Kalita Wave recipes will call for incremental, or pulse pouring methods.  I’ve experimented with a lot, and the only thing I’ve found to be a universal statement is that pouring gently is better. If you pour one long slow circular pour, that’s fine. But you can also fill up to a certain spot, wait for the water level to drop, fill again, etc until your each your goal grams.  Either way, as long as you pour gently, you’ll get a better result.  I’ve seen very amazingly done Kalita Waves where the barista poured steadily smack in the middle, no circulation.

Pouring water into the brewer

Why does the way you add water to the brewer have a smaller effect in the Wave? My assumption is that the flat bottom and multiple drain holes mean the dispersion of water in the brew area is irrelevant. What matters is getting the water in there gently.

Advanced Wave Brewing Tip:

One thing you may find is that grinds get stuck in the waves around the edges. The way I used to handle this is to pour a few rounds around the edges to pour down those grounds. I believe this is a mistake. Unfortunately, a lot of the water you pour in that case just ends up down the sides and doesn’t extract coffee. But it’s still best to get those grinds down as much as you can.

Spin the brewer

Velton (of Velton’s Coffee, featured in early Coffee Lovers Boxes), showed me a simple technique. Physically gently swirl the brew cone in circles to sweep the grinds down out of the waves with the water. Not only is it effective in getting all the grounds down into the water and brewing, but I believe I get a more enjoyable brew when doing that.

Step 5: Wait and Enjoy.

Approximate brew time of 3:30.

Once you’ve added all your water, you just need to wait for the wave to finish dripping down. Your full brew time – of water in contact with the grounds – will probably be in the 3:30 range. I personally don’t measure my time anymore, though if I felt a need to troubleshoot my brewing technique, I would start doing that again.

A quick note on your kettle: You can certainly brew with a tea kettle, but you may find the short wide mouth makes pouring into the wave gently a bit difficult. Do yourself a favor and get a gooseneck kettle (for all things kettle related, not just coffee, I now prefer a gooseneck for ease of handling and pouring). I do believe that the slower more precise pour of the gooseneck adds to the clarity and richness of coffee brewed in a Kalita Wave.

Consider picking up a Stagg Pour-Over Kettle for the best experience and results.

Final Thoughts

What makes the Kalita Wave unique?  “More full and even extraction” is the general claim you’ll find. It’s difficult to show you exactly how that’s the case. Here are the main differences and how they probably result in that claim.

The Wave’s flat bottom and 3 small drain holes result in a different behavior of the water than a typical cone-shaped brewer.  Water won’t ‘channel’ in the Kalita Wave. As water flows through the whole ground bed it will find the path of least resistance and flow more through certain spots in the coffee. This is called channeling, and it results in some of the grounds being extracted more than others.  Since the flow in the Kalita is restricted and not focused in a cone, the water sits longer, brews, and then eventually drips out after being filtered.

Metal Wave - 3 holes

The waved filters hold most of the brew off the sides of the brewer. This results in less heat transfer between the brewer and the coffee. It also allows more horizontal space for the expansion of the coffee – which supposedly aids in extraction. The filter paper is also thinner than most – this may result in more tastes ending up in your cup.

If you hand brew at home, I highly recommend grabbing a Kalita Wave and enjoy the results.

Simple Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he immortal Pumpkin Spice Latte – loved by many, and hated by others (mainly because this is about a tasty coffee drink, and not really the coffee itself). I love a good treat myself and prefer to make them with as many real ingredients as possible. There will be no bottled syrups here.

Print Recipe
Pumpkin Spice Latte
Sweet, rich, and tasting of our favorite fall flavor - pumpkin spice. This recipe is simple to put together and intended for use when heating milk on the stovetop. If you are using a steamer to heat your milk, a different approach is necessary (that recipe coming soon).
Cuisine Lattes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
  • 2 cups milk Preferably Whole Milk or Almond Milk
  • 2 tbs pumpkin puree If making your own - use sugar pie pumpkin
  • 1-3 tbs sugar feel free to substitute sweetener - adjust amount to your taste
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract can substitute maple syrup (but won't be as strong in flavor)
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice plus a little more to sprinkle on top
  • .5-1 cups Brewed Coffee Depending on how concentrated your brew is (see video)
  • whipped cream as much as you like
Cuisine Lattes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
  • 2 cups milk Preferably Whole Milk or Almond Milk
  • 2 tbs pumpkin puree If making your own - use sugar pie pumpkin
  • 1-3 tbs sugar feel free to substitute sweetener - adjust amount to your taste
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract can substitute maple syrup (but won't be as strong in flavor)
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice plus a little more to sprinkle on top
  • .5-1 cups Brewed Coffee Depending on how concentrated your brew is (see video)
  • whipped cream as much as you like
  1. In a sauce pan, combine milk, pumpkin puree, and sugar
  2. Heat milk + pumpkin + sugar until you see wisps of steam coming off the milk - stir continuously during heating
  3. When you start seeing wisps of steam coming off the milk, remove from heat
  4. Add vanilla extract, pumpkin spice, and coffee, and stir all together
  5. Portion into cups and Top with whipped cream - sprinkle pumpkin pie spice on top
There are a few important things to note about this recipe. First off, this is intended specifically for those who heat milk on a stovetop. If you use a steamer to heat your milk (like that on an espresso machine), then you'll need to go an entirely different route. I intend on creating a video demonstrating how to make this pumpkin spice latte recipe with espresso and a milk steamer, but I'm still perfecting the recipe at the moment – in short, the milk must be steamed alone (though the best solution is probably going to be steaming half the milk).


On alternatives: this recipe calls for a LOT of vanilla extract. It really does taste amazing with that much vanilla extract, but unless you have access to costco or use fake vanilla extract, this recipe can get expensive, fast. I like the alternative of maple syrup to the vanilla extract and have experimented with that, though I find the taste is not quite as potent (though the added maple is pretty nice). As an alternative to sugar, it's easy to use honey here as well.

pumpkin spice latte with whipped cream

On the subject of the coffee used: I go into this a bit on the video. Picking out the coffee to use in your pumpkin spice latte doesn't have to be a major challenge. I do recommend avoiding light roasted coffees. Light roasts can often be difficult to combine with milk and have the tastes come out well – this is especially the case when adding extra strong-flavored ingredients (like everything else in the pumpkin spice latte recipe). If you find that you have a hard time getting a good ‘coffee taste' out of your PSL, then the easiest solution is to go darker with the coffee roast. Darker roasted coffees have more oils and caramelized sugars that translate well in a milk-based drink. If you want to stay with more medium roasted coffees, then in terms of the natural flavor of coffee, aim for chocolatey and nutty coffees. Central and South American coffees provide a good source of this – Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Brazil will all be a safe bet for coffee in the pumpkin spice latte.

A great source for exploring coffees and finding the perfect solution for your next Pumpkin Spice Latte or Mocha is a company like Beanbox. In particular, their Espresso Lovers Sampler will provide you with coffees that go very well with milk.

Bean Box Espresso Lovers Coffee Sampler - Beanbox

French Press Pouring

How to Brew French Press – The Coffee Lovers Definitive Guide

French Press Coffee is one of my favorite brew methods. It’s a simple process – relatively easy to do, and quite forgiving. So it turns out that French Press is one of the best brew methods for those of you getting into drinking finer coffee at home.

In any case, it is often the method that I recommend for certain types of coffee. There is a caveat because the type of coffee that you wish to drink (speaking in terms of, the way the coffee is roasted, light-medium-dark, and the nature of that coffee) can and should impact the brew method that you chose. Not all brew methods are created equal.

With that being said, French Press is fantastic, so let’s dive in and check it out.

First off – what is French Press Coffee? The French Press, or often simply just called a ‘press pot,’ is a pot within which you brew grounds by fully immersing them in water. After a certain period of time, you ‘press’ a handle with filter down through the coffee, forcing the grounds to the bottom, and leaving the incredibly tasty brewed coffee at the top (without 99% of the gritty coffee grounds in your drink).

This lets you get a delicious brewed, full-bodied cup of coffee which is relatively clean (depending on the quality and type of the French Press you use, as well as the quality of the grind and the coffee you brew with).

How to Brew French Press Coffee – A Simple Guide

Here is my simple to follow guide for making French Press Coffee, presuming a 32 oz (or 8 cup) pot.

1) Start with Fresh whole roasted beans (no pre-ground beans here).  [Pick Up Your Coffee Lovers Box and start with Great Coffee]

2) MEASURING: there are two ways to do this. You can measure using a scale (recommended for all methods), or for French Press you could get away with using a tablespoon. Weigh out 42-56 grams of coffee, or 6-8 tablespoons. This brew method is forgiving and you will likely want to experiment to find your preferred ‘ratio' (coffee to water).

By Weight: You’ll see the term ‘ratio’ used in any proper set of brewing guidelines. Brewed coffee is created when water ‘extracts’ the soluble components of roasted coffee. A good brew is determined by factors like grind size, brewing method, and the ratio of water to coffee measured by weight. Following these guidelines provides a standardized and consistent system. For the French Press, assuming you have a proper grind size, you can start by brewing with 16 grams of water for every 1 gram of coffee. This is noted as a 16:1 brewing ratio. 

By Volume: If you must brew by volume, it is prudent to weigh how much of your specific coffee is per tablespoon (or whatever unit of measurement). Not all coffee is equal by volume and the difference can be dramatic enough to make one brew excellent and the other terrible. Water can be measured by volume with this simple approximation – 1 gram of water = 1 ml of water.

3) Grind at a medium-coarse setting. I recommend starting with a grind size roughly similar to that of Kosher Salt. From there, remember the following. The coarser the grind size the longer it will take for the water to extract the coffee solids, and visa versa.  If your French Press is bitter and rather assaulting on your taste buds – the grind is probably too fine, so you should make your grind coarser. If it seems too watery, make your grind finer.  There are more purist ways of going about this, but that will get you started on the right path. The above troubleshooting is also dependent upon using the proper amount of coffee for the water (see Advanced Brewing).


4) After boiling your water, set the pot aside for 30-60 seconds (this is just to let it come down from the boil a little bit… a temperature of around 205 degrees F is recommended). Alternately, acquire a brew pot with a thermometer. You never want to brew with water just off the boil, as you can actually scald the grounds.

5) Add your ground coffee to the pot, add water up to the 32 oz mark (close to the top but not quite) – set a timer for 4 minutes and wait.

6) After 4 minutes, give your coffee a little stir, and then press the filter down – don't do this too fast. You might see people do this super slow, and that's not really necessary. The reason for pressing slowly is to make sure the filter doesn't let finer grinds through the sides as you press down. After stirring you likely won't feel any resistance, but the finer grinds will be agitated and may creep up the sides past the filter if you push with too much force.

7) Pour and enjoy! I recommend trying your french press coffee without anything added to it at first – this will help you learn the finer flavor elements of the coffee itself, and help you fine tune your brew process to make even better coffee.

8) WASH your French Press! Soap is not necessary, just be sure to rinse off all the grounds – especially around the filter. Every so often you will want to use soap, as the coffee oils can build up.

 The filter of a Frieling French Press

It is a Simple Joy

The delightful aspect of French Press is that the process is incredibly simple. You are merely brewing fully immersed coffee in a container, and then straining it. Ideally, you do this with a press pot – that is, a container made to brew coffee which can be glass, plastic, metal, etc, which has a top that contains a built-in ‘plunger’ that lets you press a filter through the container, pushing the coffee grounds to the bottom.  However, the coffee you get from French Press is really all about the immersive nature of the brew, and not the pressing of the grounds to the bottom of the pot.

This means you can replicate french press style coffee without a press pot. All you need is a way to fully immerse your grounds in water during the brew time, and then remove the grounds from the brewed coffee afterward. I’ve done french press in a jar – and afterward poured it through a regular coffee filter (this actually resulted in an even smoother cup of coffee, because I used a paper filter with a much much finer mesh to it than the metal filter that typically comes in a french press). If you were of limited resources (or traveling, or camping, for example), you could brew in a pot and then strain your coffee through something like a sock (I would recommend a clean one).

So let’s talk about types of coffee. 

Why does the type of coffee matter? Here is a short explanation: The flavors of coffee are a result of extracting elements from the ground coffee beans with hot water. You are extracting acids and lipids. Without going into details, you can simply understand that acids are extracted faster than lipids – and acids are responsible for lighter/brighter flavors, while the lipids are responsible for deeper/richer/fuller flavors.  What matters here is the speed of ‘extraction.’

If you are interested in a more scientific explanation of the extraction of coffee, I recommend this article.

When you brew a French Press coffee, you are brewing for 4 minutes, and the grounds sit within this hot water the entire time. This means that there is time for the hot water to extract the lipids as well as the acids from the coffee – and your resulting brew is full of much more rich, deep, and ‘full-bodied’ flavors (this compares to a drip coffee, where the hot water passes through and past the beans in a matter of a seconds). In short, there are much more oils apparent in French Press after brewing. In addition to this, the lack of paper filter means those oils will not be filtered out – so your cup of coffee does end up with a lot more body simply due to the oils in it.

So what coffee is best with a French Press then? 

You can certainly enjoy any type of coffee in the French Press – don’t let the coffee you have available keep you from experimenting, however medium and darker roasts tend to be more enjoyable because they are balanced better in terms of flavor towards the lipid aspect of the coffee beans. You also get the benefit of more sugar caramelization in these coffees roasted deeper, and that comes out sweeter in immersion than a lighter roasted coffee. 

[Grab yourself one of my favorite dark roasted coffees – Conduit Coffee's ship Canal blend]

The best part about this brew method – aside from the fantastic coffee you get – is that it is so forgiving. There are some brew methods, I find, where precision with your measurements and water pouring technique are really necessary to achieve a consistently delicious brew.  In French Press, you can certainly be precise – if you find a recipe which you like the most – but you can also wing it. As an example, just the other night I made a french press with a new coffee. I did not have a scale on hand, so I simply eyeballed about 6 tablespoons worth of beans (into a 32 oz pot) and then filled the pot.  The resulting coffee tasted great.

So if you haven’t jumped into the adventure that is coffee, just go grab a french press, a grinder, and have fun!

French Press Pouring

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Advanced French Press Brewing

Now that you understand the basics of the French Press operation there are is a particular advanced method which can be used to HIGHLY elevate your French Press experience.

One of the defining characteristics of French Press is that you end up with all of the oils from the coffees in your mug. This is usually one of the main things responsible for the feeling of a fuller bodied cup of coffee. HOWEVER, these can often result in undesirable flavors – so, some folks have come up with a process of brewing with French Press that removes most of this.

The process I'm about to describe is actually quite similar to the brewing process used when cupping (tasting) coffee (check out my article all on cupping coffee here). I learned this from Tim Wendleboe – who is featured on the July 2015 Issue Cover of Coffee Lovers Magazine.

The differences in technique come after the brew is complete. Go through your normal French Press brewing process – grind, pour, and wait your 4 minutes. Do not cover. Be careful not to touch the French Press, or bump the table it is sitting on.

Take note that towards the end of the brew, there is sort of a foam layer on top of the brew in the French Press.

After the 4 minutes are up, take two spoons (you can do this with 1, but 2 is often easier), and very carefully scoop all the foam off the top of the brew. It is ok if you grab some of the grounds up there as well – the goal is to remove as much of the top layer as possible.

Once you have removed that layer, then you may put your lid back on, and slowly press through the coffee – and enjoy as usual.

Watch this process here:

You will discover that the brew is a bit lighter in feel and crisper in flavor. You still get all the benefits of the immersion brew – yet you remove a lot of the caustic elements which end up sitting at the top. If you have a particularly delicate, or finicky roast, this can be a great method to try out (or if you just want to experiment and have fun!).

French Press - coffee magazine

Upgrade Your French Press – Just One Extra Step

https://youtube.com/watch?v=-DFEMiCoPS0Video can’t be loaded because JavaScript is disabled: Upgrade Your French Press With This One Simple Step (https://youtube.com/watch?v=-DFEMiCoPS0) The French Press is one of my favorite brewing methods – but for the longest time it stood below most other hand brewing methods for coffee. The reason for this? It’s not …

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