In a marked departure from the by-the-cup nuance and usability demands of the Steampunk, the company's newest product, the Sight batch brewer, officially launched Friday at SCAA. Capitalizing on an industry trend towards quality preparation at volume that's re-embraced batch brewing, Alpha Dominche's newest toy attempts to do one better by building a batch brewer that's not only deeply customizable, but that you wouldn't kick off the front counter for eating crackers.
The gallon-capacity full-immersion batch brewer was designed by Tymer Tilton, Alpha Dominche's principal designer, and Adam Mangold, lead engineer. The prototype on display at SCAA took a spirited eight weeks from inception to expo, Tymer told Sprudge. Its principal goals were to maintain the workflow style of existing batch brewers on the market today—i.e. not adding any complicated steps—while tightening up precision control and “making batch beautiful,” said Tilton.
The company hopes to bring batch brew, so often relegated to the back bar, into the customer's field of vision. The double-hourglass design is striking—bulky and unwaveringly modern. An undercounter boiler keeps water control out of the way, circulating water to preheat and keep all elements evenly heated between brew cycles. The brew carafe itself is lit from the bottom with a halogen bulb that gives the pre-brewing and final stages some theatrical flair. Stands for brewed carafes, too, have dramatic under-glass lighting, which, Tilton tells us, will also act as a freshness timer by flashing when sitting coffee is due to be replaced with new. Both lighting elements are a nod to the beauty of the Siphon process, says Tilton, though in this case neither provide heat.
Recipes are programmed into a phone or tablet based on total brew time visually broken down into proportions: x% of total time for preinfusion y% for brew cycle, and so on. Custom recipes can be uploaded from the external device to the brewer via Bluetooth.
In action, the Sight is an attention-getting sideshow. Coffee is dosed into a filter in the top brew chamber—the massive vertical cone will call for a proprietary paper filter, or reusable metal screens the company is currently experimenting with. The brewing chamber is inserted into the top of the Sight brewer, while the empty carafe is set on the counter below. Once brewing is initiated, what looks like a cone of light extends from beneath the the bottom carafe, which is then elevated upward until it forms a seal with the bottom of the brew chamber. (Tilton describes the valve as akin to the spring-seal valves on traditional coffee makers, only inverted.)
The brewer can then perform the pre-programmed brewing recipe of the barista's choice, be it a full immersion brew cycle with fully user-defined parameters for preinfusion, infusion, and kick-down, or a straight drip-through cycle. (Smaller batches are also programmable, and the company intends to produce a half-gallon size as well.) Sight relies on time-based volume rather than flow metering. (“We're using a pump, says Tilton, “so it's very consistent.”) All agitation comes from the water pulsations themselves, making the Sight a departure from the steam-circulation technology that drove the Steampunk. Once the brew chamber is full and the immersion cycle is complete, a vacuum is applied from beneath to release the valve and coffee drips down into the dispensing carafe—illuminated in heavenly coffee-colored-light all the way.
The carafes are built of thermoplastic with stainless steel parts and an edict to minimize coffee to plastic contact, Tilton tells me. Once brewed and mounted on its stand, a small metal lever near the bottom of the carafe handle becomes a dispenser tap, ready to serve—about 6-8 minutes from start to finish, depending on the brew recipe.
While the Sight is in beta stage here at Expo, Alpha Dominche will begin taking pre-orders this fall, and hopes to be fully launched by early 2017—perhaps dominating the front counter of a coffee bar near you.
Liz Clayton is the associate editor at Sprudge.com, based in Brooklyn. Read more Liz Clayton on Sprudge.