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Behold: Balmuda's "The Brew" - Tokyo-based design powerhouse brings their coffee maker to the USA

Great coffee excites me, and so does great design. So you can imagine what happened when I received news of the two worlds colliding—my excitement was through the roof! So, this "thing" where coffee meets design is—drumroll, ladies and gentlemen—"THE BREW" coffeemaker from Balmuda, which is being released in the US for the very first time this May 18th, 2023.

I could not wait very long before sharing this great news with all of my coffee-loving friends because, one, I like sharing everything worthwhile with my friends (shared joy is a double joy), and two, I genuinely think this is an interesting topic to know about for anyone who loves coffee, regardless of whether they use a home coffee maker or not.

At this point, some of my friends might be thinking, "Has Kei lost his mind? Or maybe he had a little too much coffee this morning. Why is he so hyped about a coffee maker? I thought he would say Starbucks is opening a branch on the moon or something…".

Yes, you are right; to an extent, it is a coffee maker, but the plot twist is that it is not just another coffeemaker; it is a coffee maker from Balmuda that has been developed over a long period of 6 years(!). 

The brand Balmuda might already be familiar to many of you. It is a brand that has been the talk of the town for a while now, at least in the design world. It has won prestigious international design awards and has been featured in numerous magazines (even in Vogue!). On June 30th, 2023, Balmuda’s "The Brew" has even been featured in an article titled, "Pour-Over Coffee Is a Hassle. Can a $699 Machine Make Mornings Easier?" in the Gear and Gadgets section of The Wall Street Journal. In addition, it has been breaking the internet (especially TikTok) with its product, "The Toaster," and its "The GreenFan" has entire NHK Asadora (morning drama series broadcast on Japan's public TV channel) episodes dedicated to its development. I will be talking more about the brand Balmuda and its founder in a minute, but let me start by saying that I had the pleasure of meeting with Balmuda's Marketing Div. Overseas Marketing Dept. Leader, and I will be sharing the content of this meeting with all of you!

Also, another thing I cannot miss mentioning is that in this article, you will find my personal unboxing video for Balmuda's The Brew coffee maker, and I am enjoying a fantastic cup of coffee made by my THE BREW while I write this article.

Balmuda - Apple for home electronics? Why this brand is becoming a cult favorite among contemporary design enthusiasts 

Many design editors have dubbed Balmuda "Apple for home electronics." This is because, similar to Apple, Balmuda focuses on design and 'user experience.' As a result, they turn humble home electronic items such as a 'toaster' into premium luxury items. People are willing to pay higher than average prices because they are not paying for the convenience of using a Balmuda product but for 'the experience.' 

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The birth and growth of Balmuda 

Balmuda was founded in 2003 in Tokyo by Gen Terao (more on him in a minute). The first product was a cooling stand (not vertical) called X-Base, which gained good reviews from Macworld (a digital magazine dedicated to Apple products).

After that, it went almost bankrupt during the recession of the late 2000s but came back stronger than ever with its stand fan called "The GreenFan." The "GreenFan" was featured in multiple episodes of NHK's Asadora (a television series broadcast during the mornings) called Hanbun, Aoi.

After this comeback, Balmuda has released several other premium home electronic appliances, such as "The Toaster" (which became viral on TikTok and was applauded by many design reviewers), "The Kettle""The Speaker""The Lantern", etc.

BALMUDA Electric Fan AC100V

"The Green Fan"

 

BALMUDA The Toaster | Steam Oven Toaster

"The Toaster"

 

BALMUDA The Kettle | Electric Lightweight Gooseneck Kettle

"The Kettle"

 

BALMUDA The Speaker | Portable Bluetooth Speaker | Clear 3 Dimensional Sound with Light Features

"The Speaker"

 

BALMUDA The Lantern | Rechargeable LED Lantern

"The Lantern"  

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Balmuda's Timeline 

  • March 2003: The company was founded by Gen Terao as "Balmuda Design." The first product was a cooling stand (not vertical) called X-Base.
  • 2010: A stand fan that recreates the feel of a natural breeze was created, and it was called "The GreenFan." 
  • 2011: The company's name was changed to "Balmuda."
  • 2012: Balmuda enters the South Korean market 
  • 2013: The company enters the German market and creates a German subsidiary, BALMUDA Europe GmbH.
  • 2014: Balmuda enters the China market 
  • 2015: With their release of "The Toaster," Balmuda starts making upmarket kitchen appliances. 
  • 2017: Balmuda enters the Taiwan market 
  • 2017: Balmuda opens its first retail store in Tokyo's Ginza neighborhood 
  • 2018: Balmuda enters the Hong Kong market 
  • 2020: Balmuda enters the US market 
  • December 2020: Balmuda goes public on Tokyo Stock Exchange
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Why Balmuda is a "Design and creativity powerhouse" rather than an appliance maker 

What sets Balmuda apart from other home electronics makers is the fact that Balmuda, at its core, is not a manufacturer but a center for innovative design and creativity.

Balmuda takes care of the design and development parts of all of its products but outsources all of the manufacturing to other companies. Outsourcing manufacturing allows Balmuda to focus solely on creating the best designs possible and making products that give people joy in everyday life rather than 'convenience.' 

Balmuda's Motto: 

"What people demand from tools and services today is, in a word, experiences, whether surprising, moving, or joyful. At BALMUDA, we create home appliances designed to deliver a thrilling, wonderful experience." 

There is a video I would like to share with you that shows Balmuda's core philosophy: "Better Moment, Better Life."

Coincidentally, this film was shot in Portland, where I live, so this video speaks volumes to my heart.

It is not only TikTok influencers and magazines that approve of Balmuda's products. Balmuda's products have won prestigious international design awards, confirming Balmuda's excellence in design. Two notable awards received by Balmuda products are the iF Product Design Awards and the Red Dot Design.

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Design awards received by BALMUDA 

Year 
Name of the Award 
Country where it was awarded 
Balmuda product that received the award 
2005 
Good Design Award 
Japan 
Highwire (Desk lamp designed specifically for lighting computer screens)
2012 
Red dot design award
Germany 
GreenFan2 
2012 
Red dot design award
Germany
GreenFan Crip 
2012 
Good Design Award 
Japan
GreenFan mini
2013
iF product design award
Germany
GreenFan mini
2013
Red dot design award
Germany
JetClean (Carpet cleaner) 
2013 
Good Design Award 
Japan 
Air Engine (Air purifier) 
2014 
iF Design Award
Germany
Air Engine, Smart Heater 
2014 
Kids Design Award
Japan
GreenFan Japan
2014 
Red dot design award 
Germany 
Rain (humidifier)
2014 
iF Gold Award 
Germany 
SmartHeater2 
2015
Good Design Gold Award 
Japan 
The Toaster 
2016
iF Design Award
Germany
The Toaster 
2017
Red Dot Design Award
Germany
The Pot, The Gohan (rice cooker)
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The genius behind the designs - Gen Terao, Balmuda’s founder 

Balmuda’s story would be incomplete without its charismatic founder, who has a unique personality. After all, he is the chief designer of Balmuda, and when he started the company with its first product, X-base, he was entirely on his own.

Gen Terao was born in Japan in 1973, and since a young age, he has been a free-spirited, adventurous person. Like many free-thinking geniuses such as Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, and Bill Gates, Gen Terao dropped out of high school at the age of 17.

After dropping out of high school, he traveled extensively throughout the Mediterranean coast—Italy, Spain, and Morocco. During this time, he was backpacking with nothing in his bag besides books, clothes, stationery, and a walkman. Memories and experiences from this solo trip are the inspiration behind many of his inventions and are key ingredients in helping Terao make products that ‘move’ people’s hearts. For example, he says about the story of the inspiration behind Balmuda’s iconic creation, "The Toaster":

“The journey of “The Toaster” from the point of inspiration to completion spans a period of 20 years. I was 17 when I dropped out of high school and went on a solo journey. For about a year, I traveled alone along the Mediterranean coast, including Spain, Morocco, and Italy. That trip was fun, exciting, and at times lonely, but an unforgettable experience as a whole. 

On the first day of my trip, I finally reached my first foreign town, Ronda, in Spain, after taking multiple flights, trains, and buses from Japan. I barely had any sleep during the trip, and I was weary, exhausted, and ravenously hungry.

While I was wandering around in Ronda, I smelled the delicious aroma of baking bread around the corner of a street. I looked for the source of the scent, and I spotted a local bakery. I tried to communicate with the people at the bakery through my broken Spanish, and they shared a piece of freshly baked bread with me! 

When I took a bite out of the bread, I couldn’t stop the tears from my eyes. All the emotions I have been carrying for so long - tension, fatigue, hope, and anxiety- came running down as if a dam had broken. That little piece of bread. That little piece of bread - its aroma, and flavor; I will never forget.”

And that was Gen Terao’s inspiration behind creating "The Toaster", so that he could share this joy of freshly baked bread with thousands of people around the world.

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A new step for Gen Terao - The beginning of Balmuda 

After returning from the trip, he turned to music to express his passion for life, and in 1990, he formed the rock band "Beach Fighters." Unfortunately, the group disbanded in 2001, and Terao went on to find another way to share his undying love for life's little joys with the rest of the world. This was also the first time Terao experienced real defeat in life, but he returned stronger with the important lesson that "even our most sincere desires are not always granted ." 

During this time, he was becoming increasingly aware of the importance of tools in his everyday life. Accidentally, he stumbled upon a Dutch design magazine and was deeply moved by an article that described the challenges and bold initiatives of being a designer. This guided and inspired Terao to enter the world of "Monozukuri" (the Japanese word for "making things" that encompasses the Japanese spirit and philosophy of making things with your hands). 

Terao as a self-taught design student without any formal education in design: 

Terao did not have access to lessons from a design institution, but he had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, hands-on experience, and the determination to enter the world of product design. He frequently visited the electronics neighborhood of Akihabara in Tokyo, asking as many questions as he could to the professionals in the neighborhood and absorbing all the information and knowledge like a sponge. He made himself vastly familiar with the electronics and product design jargon, and when he felt that he was ready, he took his next bold step.

The Birth of Balmuda - Gen Terao's one-man show: 

Once he familiarized himself with the vocabulary and gained theoretical knowledge of product design and manufacturing, he had to find a way to gain hands-on practical experience.

Using the vocabulary he learned from Akihabara, Terao tried to contact more than 50 different companies until only one factory responded to him and allowed him to use the factory floor for his work. At this factory, Terao got the opportunity to face actual physical sheets of metal, such as aluminum and stainless steel, and learn the manufacturing process.

After this, Terao learned CAD (Computer Automated Design) and went on to design his very first product, a stand for Apple Macintosh laptops. This was the first product of Balmuda, called "X-Base," which was released in 2003. This is how Balmuda was born through the ambition, passion, and hard work of one man, Gen Terao.

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Introducing "THE BREW" coffee maker from Balmuda 

Now that we are familiar with the brand behind the coffee maker, it is time to start talking about the coffee maker itself.

The Origin Story - The 6-year-long journey of Balmuda's "The Brew": from an idea, to multiple defeats, to the dream cup of coffee

  • The beginning - an electric Aeropress? Challenges and defeats 

Right after Balmuda launched its iconic product, "The Toaster," they came up with the idea for a coffee maker as the second product in their lineup of kitchen appliances.

The initial idea for their coffee maker was quite different from what "The Brew" is now—it was a coffee maker that would automate the Aeropress coffee brewing process. A great technique of using steam and pressure to extract delicious flavors from coffee was developed; however, it was technically difficult to control the amount of pressure in this method, and they gave up on it.

Meanwhile, other products in Balmuda's kitchen series, such as "the kettle," "the cooker," and "the oven," gained success, and the plans for a coffee maker had to take a back seat.

After a few years, they even recruited a team of 10 engineers who worked tirelessly on developing a good plan for the coffee maker. They even tried to collaborate with a coffee-specialized company and create a subscription model for coffee beans, which unfortunately failed as well.

Balmuda's team felt absolute defeat and was devastated as none of their hard work for the coffee maker worked out. According to Gen Terao's own words,

"I thought, "If this doesn't work, then there must be no connection. 
I must have walked down a road that leads to nowhere".”
  • Mr. Ota brings in a ray of hope. 

Over the years, Balmuda grew as a company and hired more staff. One day, a man called Mr. Ota met Gen Terao at the company entrance, introduced himself as a hand drip master and a coffee fanatic, and shared his ambition of developing a coffee maker for Balmuda. Although Gen Terao had utterly given up on creating a coffee maker, he took the leap of faith to give it one last chance.

With the help of Mr. Ota, the research for a great coffee maker began again. One of the countless methods they tried as part of the research was to heat ground coffee beans with water on a tray in a toaster! As you can guess, that didn't turn out very well, but it is a perfect example to show that Balmuda left no stone unturned and tried and tested every possible method on Earth to brew coffee.

  • A glimpse of success - could this be the answer? 

A few months into Mr. Ota's search for the best coffee brewing method, he brought a cup of coffee to Gen Terao one day. Without expecting much, Terao tasted the coffee, and he was pleasantly surprised: the coffee had a welcoming aroma, a strong kick (Japanese people like their coffee strong and bitter), and a refreshing aftertaste. Moreover, he felt that he tasted a truly delicious cup of coffee for the first time in Balmuda's coffee maker development process.

When Terao asked Mr.Ota about the brewing method, he revealed that he had discovered that the unpleasantly bitter, harsh taste of coffee was extracted during the second phase of the extraction process. Therefore, he has developed a unique method to extract the coffee at the earliest stages, using high concentration and precise temperature control. This helps the crème de la crème of the coffee to be extracted, leaving out the not-so-good parts of the coffee's flavor and taste. Also, the extracted coffee is quite thick at the earliest stages, so it is mixed with boiling water later on to create a perfectly balanced cup of coffee.

Based on these tremendous findings, the technical team at Balmuda started their work straight away at 9 a.m. the next morning. As you can imagine, there was A LOT of coffee tasting and sampling. By 3:00 in the afternoon, everyone in the room was 'drunk' or 'high' on coffee; loud bursts of laughter could be heard coming out of the rooms in Balmuda's headquarters.

Thanks to Mr. Ota's undying perseverance and his determination to complete his mission of doing the 'impossible,' Balmuda's coffee maker project rose from the ashes again.

  • Developing "The Brew" 's design: A completely new approach for Balmuda

Balmuda took a new approach when designing "The Brew." Traditionally, for Balmuda, they used to design the product first and then find the technology.

However, in the case of 'The Brew,' they had the technology first, so the pressure was on them to create a design that would do justice to the magnificent cup of coffee the technology brewed.

The design team asked themselves this question,

"What should a machine that creates this taste and aroma look like?"

Finally, a designer brought in a mock-up for the machine, which featured an open brew system (so that the brewing method's aroma, sound, and sight could be enjoyed as closely as possible). It also had an elegant, classic look, the signature of Balmuda products, and took up minimal space on the countertop.

  • Gen Terao's personal experience with "The Brew." 

The Brew by Balmuda

Since the prototype of "The Brew" arrived at Gen Terao's home, brewing a cup of coffee using "The Brew" has become the very first thing Terao does when he wakes up in the morning.

He shares that for him, an ideal morning is when you wake up feeling good after a great sleep. However, not all mornings are like this. No matter the nature of his mornings—quiet or hectic, great or not-the-best—"The Brew" has been his constant morning companion. Some mornings, he likes to take the time and enjoy the waiting time while the coffee is being brewed by "The Brew," taking in the aroma and the comforting sounds of the machine. In contrast, some mornings, he performs his tasks while the coffee is being brewed (thank you, automation!). 

Once he settles down with his coffee at the table and opens his work notebook, he thinks to himself, "Work again." However, it is different and refreshing every time with a great coffee by his side and the room filled with the rich aroma from the brewing process. 

Therefore he says, "Balmuda the Brew, for all kinds of mornings."

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“THE BREW” Coffee maker 

  • Design

When it comes to Balmuda products, design is one of their most stunning aspects, and it was no different for their coffee maker. It is simple and easy to use, yet exquisite with a touch of warmth.

Balmuda "The Brew"

  • Visual aesthetics: 

From a visual angle, it has a matte black and smooth steel finish, giving it an incredibly sleek look. However, the sleekness of the machine is balanced by rounded edges, so it has a certain warmth and homeliness to it. Whether you keep it in your office or on your home kitchen counter, it will not look out of place and will elevate the overall interior of the surrounding space.

"The Brew" Aesthetic

  • The Experience - sight, smell, and sound of the coffee maker 

Balmuda is a brand that places high importance on creating 'remarkable experiences' for its users rather than simple convenience, and its coffee maker stays true to this core value. Having Balmuda's "The Brew" is like having your own personal barista at home. It is like turning a part of your home into your favorite local cafe.

When you think of the unique features of Japanese cafe culture, you instantly think of pour-over coffee, a method of coffee brewing that is slow, rewarding, and requires the expertise and art of a barista's hands to create the perfect cup of coffee. Balmuda's 'the brew' incorporates the essence of pour-over coffee while precisely automating this process with innovative technology.

The fact that the machine has an open brewing system means that the part where the coffee comes in contact with hot water is free to release the rejuvenating aroma of coffee into the surrounding air. When you start brewing your coffee using 'the brew,' your room will be filled with the delicious smell of coffee.

brewing coffee using Balmuda's "The Brew"

When the machine is turned on, the buttons on the machine light up with a warm orange light (so much more welcoming and cozy than the more common red or green light), and the sounds coming from the machine are also very soothing rather than being robotic or noisy.

Once the brewing process starts, the coffee maker starts making the slow, hypnotizing sound of a pendulum clock. It feels like sitting on a rocking chair in your grandfather's library, listening to the swinging of the pendulum of an antique wooden clock. Then there is a sound of the steam being released, reminiscent of the sound of steam coming from an espresso machine in a cafe. The sound of the hot water being poured onto the cafe is pleasant, and you feel as if a barista is making a coffee right in front of you as you sit at a cafe counter. In addition, the sounds made by pressing the buttons are calming sounds similar to a low bell chiming instead of annoying beeps.

All the sounds made by the machine are so meditative and calming. I think it will not be long before social media platforms are filled with ASMR videos of brewing coffee using 'the brew.' 

  • Size and compactness 

For a machine that features innovative coffee brewing technology and allows precise controls over the strength of coffee, 'the brew' takes up impressively small tabletop real estate—the width of the bottom of the machine is only 5.5 inches, not bigger than a usual coffee cup saucer. The whole machine with all the components weighs around 7.5 lbs (3.4 kilos).

As the design is simple, fuss-free, and minimalistic, it is very compact and can be used effortlessly every morning.

Lightweight and compact "The Brew"

  • Ease of use and User-friendliness 

"The Brew" coffee maker's workflow is straightforward and simple. As a result, anyone, regardless of their skills and knowledge of coffee brewing, can make a perfect cup of coffee.

The design of the machine is also not cluttered with numerous buttons. The only buttons are to control the size of the cup and the strength of the coffee (strong, regular, or iced).

The water tank has clear and easy-to-read markings, so the user can fill the tank up to the required mark. Instead of readings shown by numbers (particularly helpful if numbers and scale conversions confuse you, don't ask me how many milliliters equal one ounce!), the marks are divided into 'hot' or 'iced' and then marked by cup sizes. In addition, the carafe comes with an ergonomically designed handle, which helps the user hold it securely and comfortably.

The total brewing process takes 4–7 minutes, depending on the mode and the surrounding temperature. 

Another thing that makes Balmuda's coffee maker so user-friendly is how easy it is to maintain and clean. Cleaning a coffee machine is not for the faint-hearted, and if you have a coffee maker, you know what a hassle it is to take off the different parts or try to remove coffee grinds from the unreachable small holes and corners of a coffee machine.

For Balmuda, they simply have a setting called "The cleaning mode," which can be used where the machine cleans itself—it makes life so much easier!! 

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Good things come in threes - "The Brew" 's Three modes 

They say good things come in threes. Balmuda offers three coffee brewing modes: Strong, Regular, and Iced. When it comes to an espresso machine, you can make an espresso and add more or less water or milk to make it milder or stronger. However, for other coffee brewing methods, it is more complex. For this reason, it is a great feature for a home coffee maker to have, as you can control the strength of coffee with the press of a button. It is like magic!

One point I do want to mention is that for each of the three different modes, you have to add the correct amount of water and coffee grinds to the machine before it can brew your desired cup of coffee; if you're not too sure about the right coffee: water ratio, no need to worry! I will share the correct measurements suggested by Balmuda in the part where I guide you through the whole process of using "The Brew." 

To give you a quick idea of when each of the modes is a perfect choice, I will share more detail about the modes below.

  • Regular: I recommend anyone starting out with their "The Brew" to try the Regular mode first, as it truly represents the classic Balmuda taste. It highlights the aroma of the coffee itself and brews a cup of coffee with a clean aftertaste. So if you have bought a pack of your favorite coffee beans and want to experience the taste and flavor of the coffee in its most genuine form, you can use 'the regular' setting on 'the brew' coffee maker. 

A cup of coffee brewed at this setting is best enjoyed without any additional ingredients, but if you would like to spice things up, you can add delicious flavors such as hazelnut, caramel, or vanilla to create a sweet afternoon coffee. 

Size guide for regular mode: 

SIZE

WATER (approx.)

COFFEE

SMALL

4.0 fl. oz.

0.35~0.50 oz.

MEDIUM

8.0 fl. oz.

0.70~1 oz.

LARGE

12.0 fl. oz.

1.0~1.34 oz.

  • Strong: The strong setting on 'the brew' is for those mornings when you need that extra caffeine kick to jump-start your day. This setting uses hot water at regular intervals to accentuate the coffee's strong taste and flavor components, resulting in a rich and bold cup of coffee. 

Coffee brewed at the 'Strong' setting can be the perfect base for creating recipes such as Cafe Au Lait (the addition of milk would not dilute the taste of the coffee, thanks to this setting) and hot cocktails such as Irish coffee. 

Size guide for Strong mode:

SIZE

WATER (approx)

COFFEE

SMALL

4.0 fl. oz.

0.35~0.50 oz.

MEDIUM

8.0 fl. oz.

0.70~1 oz.

LARGE

12.0 fl. oz.

1.0~1.34 oz.


The 'Iced' setting on 'the brew' utilizes optimized pouring timing to create a coffee that would still be rich and flavorful even after the addition of plenty of ice. You can enjoy a glass of refreshing iced coffee on its own or turn it into your homemade iced cafe au lait, a luxurious dessert like an affogato, or a fancy cocktail such as the coffee tonic.

Size guide for Iced mode 

SIZE

WATER (approx)

COFFEE

SMALL

2.5 fl. oz.

0.42~0.56 oz.

MEDIUM

5.0 fl. oz.

0.85~1.13 oz.

LARGE

7.5 fl. oz.

1.27~1.41 oz.


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A Guide on How to use Balmuda’s The Brew Coffee maker 

Before I move onto this section, I would like you to take a look at the manual for "The Brew" which I received with my sample of "The Brew" coffee maker. I would highly recommend going through the manual at least once before using the coffee maker for the first time. Below are some of the points that I would suggest paying extra attention to:

  • Safety precautions (Page 2 - 7)
  • Using it for the first time (The machine has to be prepared and flushed before you can start using it for the first time). (Page 10) 
  • Cleaning (Page 14) 
  • Error and Troubleshooting (Page 15) 
  • Contact for Balmuda support (Page 16)

Number for their support is 833- 333- 1033

Email support: https://balmuda.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/requests/new

So now, I will guide you step by step through the process of using "The Brew" coffee maker from Balmuda. Further along the article, you will also find my personal experience and feedback from using the sample of 'The Brew', which was sent to me by Balmuda. 

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STEP 1: Decide which size and mode of coffee you want 

Deciding the mode and size of coffee before you start the "The Brew" machine is like that moment when you first enter a cafe, look at their menu board, and wonder, 'Hmm…what do I feel like having today? Is it strong coffee? Do I want a large one or a small one? A hot coffee or an iced coffee?"

For Balmuda's coffee maker as well, you have to add the proper amount of water and coffee to the machine to make your desired cup of coffee, so first, we have to decide our 'order' before we ask our "Brew barista' to make it.

Below is the measuring guide for each coffee mode and size:

If you are wondering where to find the measurement of water, it has been made even simpler, as the transparent water tank has markings indicating the amount to be filled for each setting and mode.

For Regular and Strong Hot Coffee 

Size

Amount of Brewed Coffee

(Approximate amount) (fl.oz.) 

Guide for the amount of ground coffee

(measuring spoon)

(Approximate amount)

S (Small)

4.0

1 scoop (0.4 - 0.5 oz.)

M (Medium)

8.0

2 scoops (0.7 - 1.0 oz.)

L (Large) 

12.0

3 scoops (1.0 - 1.3 oz.)


 

For Iced Coffee 

Size

Amount of Brewed Coffee

(Approximate amount) (fl.oz.) 

Guide for the amount of ground coffee

(measuring spoon)

(Approximate amount)

S (Small)

2.5

1 scoop (0.4 - 0.6 oz)

M (Medium)

5.0

2 scoops (0.8 - 1.1 oz)

L (Large) 

7.5

3 scoops (1.3 - 1.4 oz) 


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STEP 2: Preparing the Coffee grind holder and filter paper 

  • The coffee has to be in a ground state (not beans). The suggested grind is medium to medium-fine (ground for a paper filter). For more details on coffee grind size, you can refer to this article.
  • Remove the dripper from the main body by turning it 90 degrees, with the dripper's handle facing the front.
  • Place the dripper on the dripper holder (an essential step for not spilling the ground coffee, as the dripper itself has a round bottom and will tilt on the surface).
  • Fold the paper filter along the seams and place it inside the dripper.
  • Add the correct amount of coffee for your desired strength and size into the dripper with the filter.
  • Place the dripper into the main body of the machine.
  • Turn the dripper 90 degrees, and you can make sure that the dripper is in the correct position by aligning the markings on the main body and the dripper.

STEP 3: Filling up the water tank and placing the carafe 

  • Make sure that the carafe (the part that collects the brewed coffee) is completely empty.

⚠️ It is important that the carafe does not have any water or ice inside, as coffee might overflow and cause an electric shock or burn.

  • Make sure that the carafe has its lid on the mouth, and place the carafe at the designated position on the main body.
  • Hold the main body securely with one hand, and with your other hand, remove the water tank from the main body.
  • Remove the lid from the water tank and fill it up to the correct mark indicated on the tank (it is marked according to HOT/ICED and then the size, so it is easy to understand how much water to put inside).

    ⚠️Do not fill it up more than the MAX level indicated.

    • While holding down the main body, insert the water tank into the main body. 
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    STEP 4: The fun part! Brewing the Coffee 

    • Insert the power plug into the power outlet.
    • Press the power button to turn the machine on. This will turn on the lights on the power display indicator, the mode indicator, and the size indicator lights. You will also hear a pleasant chime.

    "The Brew" process

    • Press the mode button repeatedly until you reach the desired mode to set the strength you want to brew your coffee at (Strong, Regular, or Iced) 
    • Press the size button repeatedly until you reach the desired size. (S, M, or L)
    • Press the START button and watch the magic happen! 

    ⚠️ It might be tempting to go as close as possible to the machine's nozzles to smell the coffee; however, it is highly advised against it, as the steam and hot water coming out of the machine are at high temperatures. Therefore, your face and hands should not be near the bypass nozzle, the brewing spout, or the bypass brewing spout.

    • The brewing process takes from 4 to 7 minutes. When the brewing process is complete, the swinging pendulum clock sound will stop, and there will also be a sound to notify the user that the brewing process is complete.
    • Before you remove the carafe, ensure that the operation display lamp is turned off and that there is no remaining hot water inside the dripper.
    • Discard the coffee grounds and the paper filter. It should slide off easily from the dripper. Also, discard any remaining water in the water tank.
    • Disconnect the power plug from the power outlet.

    ⚠️Once the brewing process is complete, do not touch the machine anywhere other than the operational panel, the dripper handle, the carafe handle, or the power plug, as there might still be some hot steam coming out of other parts of the machine. 

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    STEP 5: Pouring the Coffee and most importantly enjoying it! 

    pouring the coffee from BALMUDA The Brew

    Hot (Regular/Strong) 

    • Remove the carafe from the main body.
    • Shake it gently in circular motions to even out the strength of the coffee (this is an important step as I have mentioned that the coffee and the hot water come out from two different places in the machine).
    • Pour the coffee into cups. (It is important to make the carafe completely empty after each use.)

    Iced 

    • Remove the carafe from the main body.
    • Remove the lid from the carafe.

    ⚠️ Be careful when removing the lid right after the completion of the brewing process, as the lid might be hot.

    • Add ice cubes to the carafe.

    Guide for amount of ice to be added to the carafe 


    Small

    Medium

    Large 

    1.6 oz.

    3.2 oz. 

    4.8 oz. 

    • Gently shake the carafe in circular motions to cool the coffee down and even out the strength of the coffee.
    • Add a desired amount of ice to glasses or cups (preferably heat-resistant).
    • Pour the coffee into the glasses or cups.
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    How to maintain and take care of the machine 

    Maintaining and taking care of the machine is very easy and straightforward. However, I would like you to take a look at the manual book’s ‘Cleaning’ section and also note that there are two types of cleaning for ‘the brew.’ 

    • Simple cleaning: After every use 
    • Thorough cleaning: to be performed about once a month or before storing the machine for a long period of time 

    Note: ⚠️ I would also like to note that hand-washing dishes in Japan is more common than using a dishwasher. As mentioned in the manual book, the accessories that come with ‘the brew’, such as the dripper, holder, measuring spoon, etc., are NOT dishwasher safe.

    The science behind "The Brew" 's innovative technology 

    When people first encounter 'The Brew', the aesthetic appeal of the machine is so impressive that sometimes the fact that Balmuda has placed equal importance on the technology, unfortunately, loses the spotlight. However, the R&D process for 'The Brew' was unique among Balmuda's products in the sense that, for "The Brew," the technology and the science for brewing the best cup of coffee possible were discovered first. Then the design was created to match the greatness of the technology behind it. Therefore, we cannot forget about the inner workings of 'the brew' and how it makes the sought-after characteristics of a cup of coffee: intense and rich flavors and taste, with a clean aftertaste that leaves your mouth refreshed and energized.

    "The Brew" uses an original coffee brewing method called "Clear Brewing Method"

    Clear Brewing Method

    Mr. Ota, a coffee fanatic and researcher on Balmuda's team, was looking for the best brewing method for barista-level coffee at home, and he discovered that the best parts of the coffee's flavor and taste were extracted during the earliest stages of extraction. Unfortunately, most of the delicious parts were gone towards the end of the extraction process. In addition, further extraction led to unwanted characteristics in the final cup, such as over-acidity, bitterness, and astringency. This finding led to the discovery of Balmuda's original brewing method, "The Clear Brewing Artisanal Taste Technology."

    Clear Brewing technology: 

    • Precise temperature regulation: Throughout the whole process of coffee brewing, which involves Steaming, Extraction, and Finishing, the temperature is strictly regulated by the machine. This temperature regulation ensures that the temperature used at each step is optimum for creating the most delicious cup of coffee. 

    You can see in the diagram that for each process, the machine uses a different set of temperatures that is the optimum for each step. (Size L in REGULAR mode)

    • Warming of the carafe: 212˚F
    • Steaming: 199˚F (At this temp erature, the ground coffee is swelling and the coffee particles are preparing to come into contact with the steam molecules, allowing the best flavors and taste to be extracted.)
    • Drip extraction: During this step, the drip and the temperature are both regulated.
    • 1st Step: 198–196˚F
    • 2nd Step: 196-194˚F
    • 3rd Step: 192-178˚F
      • Bypass pouring: 187˚F 
    • Regulated Steeping Time and Pouring Volume 

    Just like a barista would perform a pour-over, 'the brew' coffee maker does not pour all the water onto the coffee grind at once. Instead, it controls the amount of water poured at each step, the temperature at which it is poured, and also allows the coffee grind to steep for a controlled amount of time. The pouring of hot water on the coffee grinds happens at a precise 0.2 ml increment, ensuring maximum flavor extraction.

    Regulated Steeping Time and Pouring Volume BALMUDA The Brew

    • Bypass Pouring 

    The final secret to the original coffee brewing technology is a unique mechanism called "bypass pouring." Bypassing means that the water, to balance out the coffee's thickness and concentrated taste, bypasses the coffee grinds and flows directly into the carafe. As mentioned earlier, the later stages of coffee extraction add harsh tastes and mouthfeel to the coffee. However, if the initially extracted coffee is left as is, it will be too concentrated and have a heavy mouthfeel. Therefore, they had to find an alternative route through which the hot water could be added to the extracted coffee.

    When you see my video of 'the brew' in action, you will see that hot water is coming out of two parts of the machine. First, it comes out on top of the coffee grinds, but there is also a second part directly on top of the mouth of the carafe, where the hot water is sneaking into the carafe. This second addition of hot water is called 'bypass pouring', and it is a key mechanism for creating the smooth and clean aftertaste of 'the brew' coffee.

    BALMUDA The Brew Bypass Pouring

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    Mouth-watering recipes to try using “The Brew” coffee maker 

    Although ‘The Brew’ presents itself as a simple drip coffee-making machine, the coffee brewed using the machine can be the starting point for many exciting and unique recipes. Balmuda’s website has a whole page dedicated to these original recipes that you can start trying out with your friends and family using "The Brew". Here are some of the recipes you can find on their page:

    • Flavored coffee: flavors like hazelnut or vanilla are added to black coffee to make it a sweet afternoon coffee.
    • Iced Café Au Lait: The Brew has a specific mode for making the perfect iced coffee, which you can use as a base to make your own cafe-level cafe au lait.
    • Iced Black Coffee 
    • Hot Café Au Lait: Thanks to the "Strong Mode" of the machine, you can brew a strong cup of coffee that would not taste diluted even with plenty of milk added to it. Add a piece of freshly baked bread on the side, and you have a perfect start to your day.
    • Affogato: Vanilla ice cream with freshly brewed iced coffee. Need I say more?! 
    • Perfect hot coffee (black) 
    • Irish Coffee: Rainy day or a gloomy winter evening? Irish coffee to the rescue with the sweetness of cream, the richness of Balmuda coffee, and a warm hug from whiskey
    • Coffee Tonic: The perfect summer cocktail that can be made easily. Show off your bartending skills right at your home! 

    For more coffee-based recipe inspiration, make sure to check out these articles below, where I share some unique coffee-based drinks and even food recipes!

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    Balmuda the Brew At a Glance

    The Brew coffee maker 

    Descriptions

    Brand 

    Balmuda (Tokyo-based designer and maker of home and electronic appliances. It has won multiple international design awards) 

    U.S. release date

    18th May 2023 

    Brew method 

    Open drip style 

    Brew modes 

    Regular, Strong, and Iced 

    Amount of coffee brewed (Size control) 

    Small

    Regular and Strong

    Approx. 4.0 fl. Oz (~118ml) 

    Iced

    Approx. 2.5 fl. Oz (~74ml)

    Medium

    Regular and Strong

    Approx. 8.0 fl. Oz (~237ml)

    Iced

    Approx. 5.0 fl. Oz (~148ml)

    Large

    Regular and Strong

    Approx. 12.0 fl.oz.(~355ml)

    Iced 

    Approx. 7.5 fl. Oz (~221ml)

    Brew time 

    Approx. 4 to 7 min. (depending on the modes and the ambient temperature).

    Color palette of the whole machine 

    Matte black and smooth stainless steel 

    Carafe materials 

    Stainless steel (double-walled vacuum sealed structure), PP

    Unit Dimensions 

    W 5.5 in. × D 11.7 in. × H 14.9 in. (with the water tank, the dripper, and the carafe placed on the main body, excluding the power cord)

    Weight 

    Approx. 7.5 lb. (with the water tank, the dripper, and carafe placed on the main body)

    Power cord length

    Approx. 3.3 ft.

    Maximum capacity 

    Carafe

    Approx. 17 fl. oz.

    Water Tank 

    Approx. 16.5 fl. oz.

    Power ratings 

    120V AC, 1450W, 60Hz


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    A meeting between Portland and Japan - my talk with Balmuda Inc.'s Overseas Dept. Marketing Department Leader

    One of the most exciting parts of learning about Balmuda's The Brew coffee maker was having an online meeting with their marketing leader, Ms. Shoko Fukuoka.

    I was surprised to know that she had been in New York recently as a part of their activities regarding the launch of the Brew coffee maker in the States. We also talked about the cold, rainy season in Portland. She has been to Portland in the past, too. Still, she was optimistic about Portland, mentioning that Portland is one of their favorite locations for creating visual media for Balmuda US.

    We can find a lot of information on Balmuda online already. Still, there is always something special about hearing it from someone involved in the company's operations, so I will share with you what we discussed during the online meeting.

    Who is Balmuda as a company? 

    Balmuda is a Japanese home electronics appliance maker. However, what I really understood from the conversation with Ms. Shoko is that, at its core, Balmuda is not a maker of appliances but a maker of 'experiences.' 

    Ms. Shoko shared that what makes Balmuda really special is the mastermind behind the company, Gen Terao, who is a unique person on his own.

    As mentioned above, when he was 17, he quit high school and went on a solo backpacking journey through the Mediterranean countries, and one of the first things he tasted when he was tired, hungry, and exhausted from the trip was a piece of freshly baked bread at a small local bakery in Spain.

    When he created "The Toaster ", his inspiration was to create a toaster that would help people enjoy this unforgettable moment of joy even at home. She also mentioned that the inspiration behind their famous "GreenFan'' was memories from Terao's childhood, when he would enjoy a natural cooling breeze on a hot summer day after long hours of playing outside with his friends.

    Balmuda believes that life is made of many small moments, and if these little moments can be made better, the quality of a person's life will improve.

    For example, when you start your day with the joyful experience of eating a slice of perfectly toasted bread, that can set a positive tone for the rest of the day.

    This is what makes Balmuda so unique and its products so desirable. It's because their products give people a kind of primitive joy that encompasses race, culture, age, gender, and language. By creating enjoyable experiences for anyone in the world, Balmuda has become so popular not only in its home country but everywhere in the world. Balmuda's home appliances are only a medium through which he strives to share the joys of the little moments in life.

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    What sets Balmuda apart from its competitors? 

    In Japan, the way product development usually works for companies is to observe competitors and market trends and make something as a response to those factors. However, for Balmuda, the starting point of product development is entirely different.

    As was true for "The Toaster" and "The Green Fan," the inspiration for every one of Balmuda's products comes from somewhere completely different from market trends and competitors. It comes from somewhere primitive, somewhere close to the heart, like childhood memories or moments of joy and excitement.

    The emotional side of Balmuda's philosophy sounds fantastic, but it's only one part of the story. To make the emotional philosophy of Balmuda's motto come true, they also focus greatly on the logical, scientific, and technological sides of product design and manufacturing. They spend hours and years (6 years for the Brew) studying, researching, and perfecting the technology and design for each of their products.

    Gen Terao, the founder of Balmuda a unique personality in the Japanese business world 

    Gen Terao, the founder, is quite renowned in the world of entrepreneurs and business owners in Japan. Among his peers, he stands out because, although it's slowly changing in Japan, for someone to go the non-traditional way—dropping out of high school, pursuing a music career, and becoming successful as a product designer is extremely rare.

    True, even today, but especially at the time when Terao started his company 20 years ago, it was almost an impossible feat for someone without a formal education to break into an industry like design and luxury home appliances. Beating all his odds and becoming successful with his sheer determination, hard work, free-spirited mind, and vitality, Terao has become a source of inspiration for many entrepreneurs in Japan.

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    Balmuda is a unique company that is involved in many exciting activities. 

    In November 2021, Balmuda opened its first flagship store in Tokyo, Minami Aoyama. The first floor showcases their product lineup, and the second floor is dedicated to giving their patrons joyful "experiences." They hold interesting workshops such as the one going on currently, "Breakfasts of the World" (as of when the interview was held in March 2023), where people can participate in enjoying morning meals from around the world. Apart from their workshops, they also have recipe books for their kitchen products, such as a recipe book for "The Toaster."

    They are frequently featured in magazines and visual media as a unique and exciting brand. For example, the development of their product "The GreenFan" was featured in the NHK morning drama series "Hanbun, Aoi". Ms. Shoko finds it quite funny that although the story was a dramatized version of Terao developing "The GreenFan," the protagonist was changed to a pretty Japanese actress, Nagano Mei.

    Also, Gen Terao, the founder, has published his own book called, "Ikou - Doko nimo nakatta houhou de (Let's Go - through a Path that was not there before). 

    Balmuda's success as a brand 

    Until now, Balmuda's iconic product, "The Toaster," has already been sold over 1.8 million times worldwide. 

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    Balmuda in the U.S. Market 

    Balmuda entered the U.S. market in April 2020. It was a challenging time to enter the market, as it was during COVID time.

    Up until now, four Balmuda products have been available in the U.S. market: "The Toaster," "The Kettle," "The Lantern," and "The Speaker." In addition, Balmuda's "The Brew" will be added to the U.S. list on May 18th 2023.

    One challenge they faced in the U.S. market was shifting from the E.C. (electronic commerce) market to selling from an online store due to the social distancing restrictions during the COVID time. However, they have done exceedingly well with their online and digital presence. For example, their "The Toaster" went viral on TikTok and has earned many titles such as "TikTok favorite appliance," "TikTok kitchen gadget," "a game changer," etc.

    Balmuda’s The Brew featured in Wall Street Journal

    In June, 2023, Balmuda’s “The Brew” was featured in the Wall Street Journal’s Gadget and Gear section, and for a non-U.S. brand’s home coffee machine to be on this elite newspaper is a pretty big deal. Unless it was considered a topic worthwhile to know about, it would not be written about in the WSJ.

    The article was titled “Pour-Over Coffee Is a Hassle. Can a $699 Machine Make Mornings Easier?”, and there was a taste test of coffee brewed using Hario V60 manual pour over, the Brew, and the Bonavita Connoiseur Drip machine. The writer and her sister reviewed the three coffee brewing methods using fresh coffee beans from their two New York coffee roasters. After the taste test, they concluded their favorite was the manual pour over, closely followed by ‘The Brew’ from Balmuda.

    The article also mentioned the words of the author Joshua McFadden about the simplicity of ‘the Brew’ : “If Apple made a coffee maker”.

    Balmuda in Portland 

    As some of you might know, I am based in Portland, so I was thrilled to learn that Balmuda US has collaborated with professional endorsers in Portland. 

    Many of you might have heard of the Portland-based artisan ice cream brand "Salt and Straw." Balmuda has collaborated with the Salt and Straw founder to create an original recipe item that uses Balmuda's "The Toaster." This recipe is called “Ice Cream on Toast with Roasted Berries, Chocolate, and Olive Oil”. YUM! 

     

    They have also interviewed the co-founder of Salt and Straw, Tyler Makek, which can be read on the Balmuda US website.

    Watch Salt and Straw co-founder Tyler Malek use Balmuda's "The Toaster" as a part of his morning routine.

    Another Portland-based business Balmuda is collaborating with is "Deadstock Coffee," owned by Ian Williams. Deadstock Coffee is a sneaker and basketball-themed coffee roaster in Portland, and Balmuda has recently interviewed the founder, Ian Williams, a former Nike shoe developer

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    Collaboration with Miki Suzuki, the first female barista to earn a second position in World Barista Championship 

    Miki Suzuki is a world-famous barista from Japan who has worked for the Japanese specialty coffee company Maruyama Coffee for more than ten years. She has been a finalist in many barista championships in Japan and abroad. (If you're interested in knowing more about her and barista competitions, click here.)

    Balmuda has also worked with Miki Suzuki as a professional endorser for their U.S. launch of "the Brew coffeemaker."

    These collaborations with coffee and food specialists show that Balmuda focuses on the design and is highly aware of the user's preference for flavor and taste.

    The concept behind the tagline - "True flavors, Methodically extracted." 

    BALMUDA The Brew

    After sharing the inspiring stories behind their brand, the founder, Ms. Shoko, moved on to introduce 'the Brew' coffee maker. She explained the tagline for 'the brew,' which is "true flavors, methodically extracted."

    Balmuda's "The Brew" features an original coffee brewing technology called "The Clear Brewing Method."

    The concept behind this technology is that anyone can brew coffee in a way that highlights the authentic taste and flavor of the coffee beans, and that can be done repeatedly every morning through an automated process. They also focused on creating a coffee maker that creates a great cup, regardless of the bean quality. The thought behind it was "for everyone, for every day." What it means is that they wanted the machine to be not only for people with extensive coffee knowledge with access to elite third-wave specialty coffee beans but instead for anyone, even coffee beginners, to be able to use regular coffee beans bought from their nearest grocery store to be able to brew a cup of coffee they can enjoy every day.

    For example, in Japan, this might be UCC coffee beans, one of the most widely available coffee beans and ground coffee on the market.

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    "The Brew" 's design was a big hit in New York. 

    When Ms. Shoko presented 'the Brew' in New York as a part of their pre-launch media campaign, one of the things that was a big hit among the New Yorkers was the compactness of the machine. Especially in a metropolis like New York, where the living spaces are not so big, the slimness of 'The Brew' ’s main body (only 5.5 inches in width, the same as a coffee saucer's diameter) was highly appreciated.

    "The Brew" 's design was a big hit in New York.

    Ms. Shoko also mentioned that coffee machines and home appliances in the States tend to have a glossy, shiny look, which can be a bit much on the eyes. In comparison, 'The Brew"'s black matte finish combined with the elegant stainless steel brings an air of chicness to the interior. Balmuda hopes that due to the classy design, 'The Brew' could find its home on the kitchen counter, in corporate offices, or inside a modern living room.

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    Is the Japanese coffee cup size too small in the U.S.? 

    In Japan, whether it be food or drinks, portion sizes can be smaller than in other countries, such as the U.S. In Japanese philosophy, one thing that is apparent is "Quality, not quantity."

    Balmuda, as a Japanese brand, also reflects this concept, brewing an amount of coffee that might be deemed too little, but in their defense, there is zero compromise on the quality of the coffee brewed.

    When "The Brew" was presented in New York, they received one negative feedback: "Why can't it brew more coffee at a time?" The Balmuda team also realized that drink cup sizes in the U.S. and Japan have a noticeable difference. Other international brands have also faced this issue. For example, a medium-sized McDonald's drink in the U.S. is one ounce more than McDonald's large-sized drink in Japan!

    However, to this little complaint, Balmuda has a logical answer. It might be convenient to brew 12 cups of coffee at a time. However, most of the coffee that has been brewed will sit in the carafe for a long time, becoming oxidized and losing its flavor and taste every second.

    On top of that, Balmuda's motto, "The Brew," is bringing a cafe and barista experience home with their coffee maker. When you go to a cafe and order a pour-over, you receive one cup or a maximum of two cups of coffee inside the carafe. It is an experience to be enjoyed slowly and with awareness of each sip. It is not a large amount of drink to be gulped down or left to be wasted inside the carafe for hours. If you think like this, it makes a lot of sense, and their sizing is quite understandable.

    Conclusion of the meeting

    It has been very insightful and interesting to have a meeting with Ms. Shoko, the Overseas Marketing Department Leader of Balmuda. It was inspiring for me to know about their willingness to collaborate with other Japanese coffee experts living in the U.S. and also how involved they were with the local coffee and food scene in Portland. Many of the questions and curiosity I had about Balmuda and their coffee maker were answered in detail, and I am happy that I can share the content of the meeting with all my friends. I hope you enjoyed it!

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    Revealing my Balmuda "The Brew" coffeemaker, unboxing video 

    As I promised you at the beginning of the article, I will be sharing my personal unboxing video for "The Brew" so you can have a realistic idea of the packaging, all the extra goodies that come with the main machine, and how to set it up on your countertop.

    The Unboxing Video 

    • Opening the box: 

    You can see that even with all the protective packaging around it, the box is relatively compact and reflects Balmuda's minimalistic design aesthetics. I opened the cardboard quite easily with the help of a razor cutter. 

    • Protection around the machine: 

    I really appreciate it when an item is packaged well. As they say, "first impressions matter." Right from the packaging, I can tell that Balmuda cares about its products and the state in which they will reach their customers' hands. The machine parts are covered by protective styrofoam boxing, so there is no breakage or damage during shipping.

    • What to expect inside the box: 

    After opening the styrofoam box, I found the parts and accessories that go with the coffee maker. All the separate pieces were covered in protective plastic bags.  

      • A manual book in English (very easy to read and understand, with clear instructions on how to set up and use the machine) 
      • The main body of the machine (with a power cord attached to it)

    The Brew - Front

    The Brew - rear

    The Brew - side

     

    • A stylish carafe (this part holds the coffee after the machine brews it and can be used to pour the coffee into a glass or a cup)
    • Dripper stand 
    • Measuring scoop/spoon 

    BALMUDA Accesories

    • Dripper cone (this part holds the paper filter during the brewing process)
    • A bag of paper filters (cone-shaped paper filters, five sheets)

    These were the parts that came inside the box, and I hope you can also see the close-ups of the beautiful buttons and lights on the main body of the machine in the video afterwards, where I show the coffee maker in action. I hope you enjoy unboxing your coffee maker as much as I did!

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    'The Brew' in action - my personal experience 

    Here is a video of my 'the brew' in action, where you can also see how it works in reality.

    See if you can spot my cat cozying up to the sounds and smell of coffee-making on the sofa.

    Things I prepared beforehand for brewing my coffee:

    I faced some challenges while doing this and will share them in the next section, where I share some points that Balmuda's coffee maker can improve upon.

    After grinding the coffee, I measured 8.6g (0.3 oz.) of the ground coffee inside the measuring scoop that came as an accessory for the machine.

    balmuda measuring spoon

    I added the water to the water tank, then placed the filter paper on the holder part (the filter paper can be placed in its dry state as it is; it does not have to be wet).

    I really like that the holder (the part that holds the filter paper and the ground coffee) securely locks into the main body of the machine and makes a satisfying sound, as if I have fitted in a piece of a puzzle. Also, you can see how effortlessly the carafe part (the part that is shaped like a jug that holds the brewed coffee coming out of the machine) slides into the main body of the machine.

    When I press the button to turn on the power and select the modes and size of the cup, the machine makes delightful sounds. The sounds are not alarming or robotic, as is typical for many home appliances, but rather sweet chimes and bell-like sounds.

    BALMUDA The Brew buttons

    As you can see in the video, when the steam rises, it makes an energetic sound, perfect for awakening your senses in the morning.

    The hot water on the coffee grinds comes out in small amounts at optimized intervals, similar to a human barista pouring water slowly and carefully during a manual pour-over.

    When the coffee brewing process is going on, there is the hypnotizing sound of an old pendulum clock. It is so soothing! Once the brewing process is finished, the light on the machine lights up and makes a sweet sound again, telling you that your coffee is ready. I mentioned this earlier in the article, and I especially like that the light signals on the machine have a warm orange color rather than red, green, or blue because it makes the entire experience much more homely and cozy.

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    'The Brew's unique coffee-making process - Hot water coming out from two different places 

    In the video where you can see the coffee brewing process, I want to note the part where you can see that the coffee is coming out not only on top of the ground coffee but directly into the carafe's mouth. This is the unique feature of Balmuda's 'The Brew" coffee brewing process that makes the coffee so delicious.

    The most delicious flavor and taste components are extracted from the ground coffee in the earliest stages of the coffee extraction process. In the later stages, if the hot water keeps coming through the coffee, it extracts the inferior flavor and taste components such as bitterness, ashy taste, and astringency. However, if only the parts brewed during the earliest stage are collected in the carafe, then it would be too thick and concentrated, like a shot of espresso or Kikkoman soy sauce.

    That is why the additional water needed to create a perfectly balanced cup of drip coffee is added directly into the carafe, 'bypassing' the coffee grinds. This is how 'the Brew' can make a cup of drip coffee that is rich in taste and flavor but at the same time very drinkable and not too heavy and concentrated.

    Honest feedback from my first-hand experience using Balmuda's "The Brew" coffeemaker: What do I love about 'The Brew' and what can "The Brew' improve?

    As I mentioned earlier, I received a brand new "The Brew" coffee maker from Balmuda, and I was one of the first people in the U.S. to have the pleasure of personally trying it out. There were many things that I loved about it, but there were also a few little challenges that I faced. I will share them with you so you can be fully prepared about what to expect when you receive "The Brew."

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    What I personally loved about 'The Brew' (The Positives)

    • The sounds made by the machine

    The sounds made at the beginning when the buttons are pressed and at the completion of the brewing process—these sounds are music to my ears and remind me of the sounds at Japan's train stations. It makes me feel nostalgic and happy.

      • The lights on the display panel dimming

      You can see this around 30 seconds into my video: how the lights on the display panel become dimmer during the brewing process. It is these little details that add that extra special feeling to using a brand like Balmuda.

        • Precise control of the pouring process

        I am truly impressed with how 'The Brew" imitates the pouring process by a human barista by waiting long enough and allowing the CO2 to be fully released from the ground coffee before adding the next pour. Due to the open brewing system, you can also have a clear view of the magic happening, watch the coffee grinds swell, and enjoy the aroma released by the process.

          Points I think 'The Brew' could improve upon: (The Negatives) 

          • Figuring out the right paper filter type and size 

          After I unboxed the magnificent "The Brew" coffeemaker, I was dying to try it out as soon as possible. However, I was reluctant to go crazy with it, as only five sheets of filter paper were included in the box, and I was worried about running out of filter paper.

          So I thought, "Why don't I buy some filter papers first? And then I realized I needed to know which paper filters to buy. I finally figured it out, and the one I bought fits the filter holder of "The Brew" perfectly, so I can enjoy as many cups of coffee as I want without worrying about running out of filters. I will share my findings here to save you the extra work of figuring out the right filters.

          • Shape: Cone-shaped (e.g. Hario V60)
          • Material: Paper
          • Size: 02 (1-4 cups capacity)

          You can buy Balmuda's original paper filters from their page, where they also have the option to buy the accessories for the brew separately.

          However, it does not necessarily have to be Balmuda's original paper filters. I found out that you can use the paper filters from Hario, and when I tried making coffee with these filters on "The Brew," it worked perfectly.

          Tips: I would like to note that the size is important here, and I almost bought the wrong size of filters (size 01). The right size that fits this coffeemaker is size 02.

          • It is tricky to lift up the whole machine. 

          After I unboxed the coffeemaker on the floor, I wanted to lift it up to a nice sunny area on my kitchen counter. However, I was not prepared for the terror I faced when I almost broke the machine due to holding the wrong parts of the machine—a part that actually belonged to the water tank of the machine.

          The weight of the entire machine is 7.48 pounds (3.39 kilos), and although it is quite light considering all the work it can do, you have to be careful when lifting it up. I have marked the parts in the photo below that should not be held when trying to lift it up.

          • The holder for the ground coffee does not have a flat bottom. 

          When I was trying to make my first cup of coffee with "The Brew," I was super excited, and on top of that, I can be a little clumsy sometimes, and adding to that equation the round bottom of the part that holds the coffee did not help much. I poured the ground coffee into the holder, but it tilted, leaving me with a messy kitchen floor. Although the cup of coffee I enjoyed after cleaning up the floor was fantastic, I would have loved the coffeemaker even more if the holder part had a flat bottom so it sat securely on the countertop.

          Later on, I discovered a 'Dripper Stand' that comes inside the box, so if you want to prevent spillage while placing the coffee grinds into the dripper, make sure to place the dripper onto the stand first and then add the coffee.

          • The instructions on the amount of coffee to be used could be better 

          As many of you already know, I prefer to buy whole coffee beans and grind them right before I brew the coffee so that the flavors and taste can be as fresh as possible. As a result, when I was looking for the instructions on how much coffee to use for each set, all I could find in the manual was to use the measuring scoop included in the box to measure the amount of coffee. Unfortunately, this information on its own is not very helpful, especially for people like me who use coffee beans. So I ground the coffee first and then used the measuring spoon and a weighing scale to measure the exact amount of coffee.

          I wish that the instructions on the amount of coffee to be used were a bit more detailed and helpful.

          • The "Strong" setting on the coffee might be a little too strong.

          The strength of coffee is a very subjective matter and heavily dependent on personal taste and preferences. However, when I brewed the coffee using the 'strong' mode, I felt like the strength of the coffee might have been adjusted towards Japanese coffee preferences, as coffee, in general, is quite dark and strong in Japan compared to the States, where people tend to prefer a slightly lighter Americano-style coffee.

          It is my personal opinion, and the strength of the coffee can be further adjusted by adding a bit more hot water to it, but I think it might need a bit of adjusting depending on each user's personal preference. You could also see it as a positive side of the overall experience; trying out a new coffee machine and many different ways to figure out the best cup of coffee can be a fun experiment!

          • Leftover water in the water tank 

          Even though I put the suggested amount of water according to the indication on the water tank, I noticed that there was some water remaining in the tank after the brewing process was completed. After each use, this remaining water has to be thrown out so that the water tank remains dry and fresh for the next use. It is a bit of a hassle, I would say.

          • The brewing process does take some time. 

          The brewing process using 'the brew' takes 3–7 minutes, depending on the mode and the ambient temperature. I love that it is a slow, meditative process, especially on a lazy Sunday morning, where I can take my time to fully experience the process without feeling the need to rush. However, when it comes to a crazy, busy, and hectic weekday morning, I have counted the seconds while waiting for the brewing process to complete. So if you are the type of person who is in a big rush most mornings and does not have the luxury of spending over 5 minutes to brew your coffee, then maybe the time requirement for the machine is something to be aware of.

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          Conclusion 

          As the world finally returns to normalcy after overcoming the challenges of COVID times, people appreciate the little luxuries of daily life more than ever before. Trends such as #slowliving, #romanticizeyourlife, and #mindfulness have become increasingly popular even among Gen Z, and I think a coffee maker like ‘the Brew’ has enormous potential to become the ‘next big thing’ in the home coffee brewing industry. In that sense, ‘the Brew’ is an excellent coffee maker and a ‘conversation starter," as its unique look and interesting brand story provide an exciting topic to discuss with your guests.

          Buy Balmuda - The Brew

          *Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission.


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          About This Blog:

          Japanese Coffee Blog is a collection of articles related to the Japanese Coffee and Charcoal Roasted Sumiyaki coffee which is unique roasting only found in Japan. Coffee culture in Japan has evolved isolated from around the world and has much uniqueness not found in the rest of the world.

          Authored by popular Japanese Tea Blogger Kei Nishida, he hopes to reveal the wonderful world of Japanese coffee from a different angle to educate and entertain people who love Japan, Japanese Tea, and now Japanese Coffee.


          Author: Kei Nishida

          Kei Nishida

          Kei Nishida is a writer, a Japanese Green Tea and Coffee enthusiast, and the founder and CEO of Japanese Green Tea Company and Japanese Coffee Company.

          His popular Japanese Green Tea and Health Blog has been the go-to place for anything related to Japanese tea.

          He is an author of multiple books, and you can find his work in multiple publications and magazines.

          Read more about Kei Nishida


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