On a weekday morning, past dawns’ greeting hour, with the sun fully blooming over the earth, I found myself in its sunshine with coffee on my mind and an acaia scale to help me get it. That beacon – the sun – as much as a light keeper and a timing device itself, shared its company with my morning cup, the result of a 4.4 monochromatic designed scale that is worth its near weightless existence. I talk with acaia’s Jennifer Chen on the scale, its collaboration with Japanese makers Hario and the role of design in the coffee consumers journey – enthusiast included.
c.: Can you share with me the story of the moment, that acaia’s founders realized the market and its consumers needed something different? Thus this scale.
Jennifer Chen: The scale came from 3 coffee geeks’ desire to learn more about coffee brewing. They found themselves questioning many items: how to brew, how to take notes on their brew, and why there weren’t any visually functional scales on the market. The scale fits that gap. Having a beautifully functioning scale that reads at high accuracy was really needed in the market. This scale was made to be displayed, without embarrassment.
c.: How important was touch in designing this scale?
j.c.: Touch was very important. When researching scales on the market, we found that many of them were not waterproof. When you’re working with coffee, you’re bound to spill liquid at some point and that really should not damage a scale. You will be endlessly cycling through scales. So the best way to waterproof the scale from the top is to remove any entry point for liquid – which means the buttons are gone. The next logical step was to make them touch sensitive. If you have the app paired with your scale, you won’t even need to touch the scale to tare it.
c.: Coffee enthusiasts are your transparent target. Why? And, how is marketing a product to them effecting its reception in the market?
j.c.: Our customer market is wide – from coffee enthusiasts to pros. Coffee enthusiasts and pros influence each other in a cycle of inspiration. You need the support of both to have a successful product. Scales have long been touted for a more geeky approach to coffee and it is natural that a more accurate scale will be highly received
c.: A cycle of inspiration. I really like that, because ultimately coffee products can inspire us as peers and colleagues to make better coffee and then also share the techniques and tools which help us to do so. In the pursuit of home brewing, how pivotal is a ‘coffee enthusiast’ having a proper scale. And, how would you say that acaia ‘properly’ suits that need.
j.c.: A scale takes your coffee brewing to the next level. You’re in geek territory when you start caring about the ratio of coffee to water and when you start taking notes on your daily brew. It’s widely acknowledged in the industry to use scales for manual brewing, which has influenced the home coffee geek market. Understanding why you need a scale: consistency between brews, honing your recipe, is the first step in the pursuit of home brewing. The acaia pearl helps you brew accurately and with the app’s recipes, learn how to brew & improve on your past brews.
c.: While I do have differing opinions about attributing terms like geek and snob to specialty coffee, I do believe that caring more about coffee and coffee efficiency sets consumers apart from those who are simply habitual or even casual imbibers. The scale is being used by not only enthusiasts at home, but within coffee shops and by ‘pro’ coffee users. What is it about its ability that you feel sets it apart in the market?
j.c.: We are the most accurate coffee scale on the market and we do not claim this lightly.
c.: Please expound.
j.c.: We took into account the many flaws of today’s scales and fixed them. You can turn the auto-off feature off so it doesn’t turn off in the middle of brewing. You can spill lots of coffee and not worry about damaging the scale. The scale has a rechargeable lithium ion battery, same as your phone, and holds up to 25 hours of battery. Many people have reported going months without recharging the scale. The paired app records flow rate and consistency of brew, which is essential in a cafe. Perhaps the best part to understand about the scale is that it is made to last. Technology can be a hindrance or be useful and we very much see this scale as being a mainstay in the industry.
c.: The design of acaia is clean, minimal – smooth too – and inspires the kind of visual that one can easily want to gram and share socially. How much of its design took in to account an enthusiast wanting to share the process of making coffee with others?
j.c.: Coffee is social.
c.: I wholeheartedly agree with that statement.
j.c.: The history of coffee shops dates back to social houses, so we of course designed the accompanying app to be social. Within the app, you can browse recipes from users all around the world and see what they’re drinking. We’ve found that coffee brewers need several items: 1) A place to store notes on their brew; 2) A place to find suggested recipes; 3) A place to explore what everyone else is drinking. As for gramming their scale: people will gram what they find aesthetically pleasing and/or what they’re passionate about. While the scale was not designed with an end-goal to be grammed, it’s a pleasing byproduct of beautiful product design.
c.: On the acaia pearl Collector’s Edition, acaia generously gave me the “acaia x hario” set. It is absolutely beautiful and I’m one for beautiful coffee things. Its now added to my Clive Camano Grill in my brewing repertoire. It took some time for me to really get into beginning to use its nuances. Its been insightful. How did this collaboration come about? And, how important are collaborations like this -merging product x product with wonderful design to the progress of coffee culture.
When looking for other companies to collaborate with, we found that Hario has a deep and attractive history in the design of coffee products. It was a natural fit for us and a way to showcase the products in a way that really highlights what the companies stand for. We produced 1000 units worldwide and we are very pleased with the result of the collaboration. I do believe that collaborations are the future in coffee culture.
As do I.
j.c.: People were made to work together. When two innovative companies come together, the result is often what propels the industry forward. We have a few collaborations in progress and we can’t wait to share their results with the world!
c.: In the pursuit of celebrating hand drip coffee methods, I know that accuracy and precision to making consistent cups of great coffee are coming, with my use and practice. What advice would you give new coffee enthusiasts and even seasoned ones on making coffee at home a journey, a well-run marathon if you will.
j.c.: I would recommend patience. You don’t become a pro overnight and even pros are constantly innovating in their brew. If you take a look at Aeropress competition recipes, you’ll find new ones every year. Innovation drives an industry and coffee is no different. We have recommended recipes stored, but as you brew, you learn what you like. Having the patience to adjust your recipes and learning what you enjoy comes with the natural meditation of hand-brewing coffee.
c.: Finally, we’ve come to a time in coffee culture where a collectors edition is possible, can be well received and is welcomed. How does such novelty and exclusivity propel specialty coffee?
j.c.: It’s an exciting time! We love the feeling of being new to the industry, but at the same time, we’re here to stay. We want to help the industry become more geeky with scales or anything related to weight. Imagine the possibilities if your entire home coffee setup was wired into each other! Collectors’ editions put coffee products (and the industry) on a higher pedestal. It brings to light that we’re to be taken seriously as an industry and that we have the chops to execute a design well. It also says that we are willing to collaborate and innovate together as an industry.