The Influence of Design in Today’s Increasingly Stylized Coffee Market

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kitchenaid-1When asked to choose your favorite coffee shop, what are the qualities that make a compelling case? Of course, there’s the quality of the drinks. Or maybe you’re a fan of the roasters they feature. Is it the friendliness of the baristas? The design of the logo, the upscale lids they use for to-go cups or the layout of the space?

In the context of today’s increasingly-stylized coffee market, we’re willing to bet these latter elements play a leading role. From romantic subway tile floors with Parisian bistro tables to sleek industrial concepts with plenty of space to spread out and work, your favorite coffee shop has as much to do with form as it does function. And we’re willing to bet that aesthetic viewpoint affects other aspects of your coffee preferences too.

Take, for example, the classic Italian moka pot. It’s a thing of old-fashioned beauty. The look is iconic – geometric and sleek – and it’s available in a range of sizes that almost remind you of Russian dolls. But what is it that really makes us love the moka? Is it the flavor of the coffee or the ease of using it? For home brewers who weren’t raised at the hip of an Italian grandmother, it’s not exactly intuitive. So what keeps drawing us in?

The answer, quite simply, is design. There’s something about aesthetics that tell a story, bringing beauty and nostalgia to objects that would otherwise be merely useful. We see that every day in the world of coffee shops, whether in the form of a professional espresso machines with sleek, almost automotive lines or in the stunning visual effects of a siphon coffee brewer. So why shouldn’t we see the same logic applied to all coffee equipment—including that which we use in our homes?
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Let’s consider one of the less aesthetic aspects of the coffee brewing process: the grinder. If you work in the coffee world, chances are you don’t need to be convinced about the superiority of burr grinders. But with their plastic parts and straightforward function, few are built with beauty in mind.

Interestingly, some of the most elegant designs for burr grinders are emerging in the enthusiast market, designed for home use. Take, for example, the KitchenAid Burr Grinder. The 7 oz glass bean hopper on this sleek and sturdy grinder already looks 100% more sophisticated than the snap-on, snap-off plastic you’ll see on many other models. And with the same elegant, simple design style that made the KitchenAid stand mixer the go-to-choice for many home cooks, the KitchenAid Burr Grinder is attractive enough to leave on the counter even when not in use.

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Yet this appliance it’s not just a pretty face; the KitchenAid grinder offers 15 different grind size settings, from espresso to French press—all controlled in half-step settings (from 1 to 8) by a large, central dial. The grinding process, which pulls beans through two stainless steel discs via gravity, also operates at a low RPM, reducing any overheating that might damage the beans in the grinding process. Finally, this design also reduces static, which ensures for a simple clean up. KitchenAid has also recently released a Digital Scale Jar (right) with a built-in scale that allows you to weigh the beans right in the jar.

In the end, the best products have to work efficiently under repeated strain. But with so much visual innovation in the world of pourover coffee systems, siphon brewers and beyond, we’re thrilled to see industrial designers turning their talents to some of the more overlooked aspects of the coffee process, and the burr grinder is a beautiful place to start.