Over the last few years, in the United Kingdom and around the world, there has been a marked increase in cafes intelligently using batch brewers to make delicious specialty coffee. It’s created a new milieu in which progressive coffee bars often offer a few different filter options, some hand-poured, others carefully batch-brewed, and both delivered with a consistency that highlights the coffee itself. This sounds like the kind of coffee bar I’d like to visit, and we here at Sprudge are all for it.
But just as the hand-brewing movement that peaked in, oh, 2010 or so brought about a wave of new inventions and approaches to “slow pour” coffee (imports! widgets! whoozy whatsits!), so too are we starting to see a new wave in batch brew inventioneering. Young inventors are rushing into the market and established companies are modernizing; it’s an exciting time to love filter coffee. One such invention begs the question: What if there was a brewer that looked as good as a Chemex, brewed coffee with the consistency of a batch brewer, and would work in both home and café environments? Though it’s still in pre-production, barista and designer Courtney Brennan’s academic project, the Balance Brewer–no relation to the fancy Belgian style brewers of olde–might be the answer.
The Balance Brewer is made up of three main parts: A lower chamber, a coffee chamber made with a filter, and a Tim Wendleboe AeroPress filter and a water chamber. Essentially, the brewer works like an hourglass. With the three parts put together, boiling water in the bottom, coffee in the middle, and an empty chamber on top (all airtight), the device then gets flipped, and a valve is turned, allowing the water to drip consistently through the ground coffee in about 4 minutes. The process essentially looks like how you might invert an AeroPress brewer, but on a much larger scale.
This is not a batch brewer per se; there’s no automated component, and it’ll still be up to you to control the temperature of the water, the amount of ground coffee, and other, more esoteric variables. The Balance Brewer is philosophically closest to the Chemex above all else, a large format way to make filter coffee, but with a consistency and ease of use that echoes why we love batch brew. It’s also aesthetically pleasing to the eye, with glass curves, wooden finishes, and a leather strap to keep your fingers from getting too hot.
I met up with Mr. Brennan for a hot second during the crowded, busy New Designers exhibition in London to get a few more hints about the brewer and how it all started.
How did it all start?
I was on exchange in Oslo and we got sent a project brief where we were asked to find a client, and for them to tell us what they needed. So I went to Tim Wendelboe, interviewed him, and asked if he needed anything around the shop and he gave me like 6 different ideas, which were too complex to apply to day-to-day use. So I also emailed Has Bean, and they said they would like to see a really elegant brewer on the market. So the design started with a rotating Chemex, but in time it evolved to a simply hourglass shape.
Where did the name Balance come from?
It’s the middle road between an underextracted coffee and an overextracted cup of coffee, and that’s what every barista tries to achieve. A balanced cup of coffee.
Is there anyone that helped you along in the development of the brewer?
Firstly, Konstantine from www.friedel.no was great to work with and made the glass in a day. Without the glass there would be no brewer. My girlfriend Cathleen who has been the backbone of this whole project and helped me get it together. Steve and Dale at Has Bean, and Tim Wendleboe, for all suggestions and help at the start.
It might be a little while yet before you see this brewer in every café and home but simplicity is always the key to the design classics which this brewer has the potential to be.
Mr. Brennan is currently at Edinburgh Napier University, and you can view more works from his portfolio here. Simple above all else, the Balance Brewer merges what we love about batch-brewed and handmade coffee in a tastefully designed device. If this is the future of coffee tinkering, count me in.