Imagine it’s late in the afternoon and you just walked into a coffee shop. Sidney Bechet is playing. The baristas are mustached and affable and they drizzle steaming water over cones heaped with grounds like gardeners tending to soil, like—wait, what?
From a distance, the Hario V60 dripper looks a little redundant: like a cup and saucer on top of another cup. It’s got a conical shape with a flat base, featuring a single large hole that allows it to perch over your mug with juuust the right drip speed (if you didn’t know that was a thing...well, it is).
But let’s back up a bit.
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The V60 dripper wasn’t born yesterday. Even before the prototypes came about in the mid-century, the technology dates back to a glass-manufacturer that opened its doors in Tokyo in the 1920s. At that point, they had absolutely nothing to do with coffee—not yet. Hario made laboratory glassware (think beakers, petri dishes, and all that good stuff). Eventually, their science-savvy and extensive research made them the only heatproof glassware factory in the country. Today, Hario maintains that title while also managing to be one of the most sustainable glass factories around. They literally don’t have chimneys, which says a lot for a company that uses a furnace to make its wares.
Now back to the dripper. Those gently curved ridges inside aren’t just pretty. Much like wine, good coffee requires a breather. And, much like a decanter, the ridges allow air to circulate around the coffee as it brews. It’s all in the details, right? This change came about in the early 2000s when they realized the straight-running diagonal ribs in most brewers slowed down the water and didn’t allow paper to grip properly. The new design lifted the filter away from the glass allowing the coffee to degas (fancy word for bloom, which is another fancy word for flavor explosion) after making contact with the water.
While the name “V60” sounds like it might belong to a tangerine-colored Datsun Z, it actually refers to the special angle that the dripper tilts at. So, maybe it’s a good thing that Hario started out in the world of laboratory supplies—after all, their engineers are intimately acquainted with paper filters and glassware of all shapes and sizes.
Hario is part of a movement called the “third wave” in coffee culture. The first wave hit full-force in the 1960s when coffee became widely available. The second, when coffee franchises popped up like dot-to-dots across the country. And the third (oh hey, we’re right smack in the middle of it) is all about how coffee gets to a consumer. More specifically, it’s about consciousness. Rather than being nothing but a commodity, coffee has become a narrative, one in which people are mindful of the entire supply chain, instead of believing it starts and ends with the stuff sloshing in the carafe at the diner. Never before has coffee been a fully-cast story in which producer, importer, roaster, barista, and consumer all share equally valuable roles.
In a way, you could say the third wave is about cultivating gratitude, as in this clip where a writer starts with his morning cup of coffee and goes on a world quest to see how many hundreds of people made it possible:
An extreme case, maybe, but it does capture the new awareness taking the coffee world by storm. And Hario reinforces these ideas by making the process both accessible (exhibit a: this handy digital scale measures your coffee grinds down to the gram) and also a little more mindful and beautiful.
That’s why we’re glad Hario went from lab equipment to coffee. Not only because their V60 dripper is ahead of the curve, but because if we ever reach a fourth wave (whatever that means), we’ll still need top notch heatproof glass. And, well, by the time the sun comes up, we all just want good coffee.
What's your go-to coffee brewing method? Tell us in the comments!