Eva Solo CafeSolo

Described simply, the Eva Solo CafeSolo is a glass carafe with a metal mesh filter and a neoprene jacket for (very effective) heat insulation. Like a French press, the grounds sit fully immersed in the water and there is no paper filter to soak up the oils and block out that rich body some of us crave in our coffee. I like the idea of a full immersion brewing system, so I bought a CafeSolo and was rewarded with a very strong cup of the most flavorful and bitter-free coffee I’d ever produced.

The CafeSolo may look simple, but is surprisingly well-designed. The conical mesh filter is ideally shaped to prevent blockage (the grounds sit outside the inverted cone when you pour), yet has very fine holes. So you can use a finer grind than you would for a French press and won’t get any mud in your cup or problems pouring through the filter. But you’ll probably first notice the pourer and lid, which are cleverly arranged to seal in the heat, while allowing a dripless pour. As for me, my focus is all about the wonderful brew this simple carafe produces.

I’m told it has to do with the final pour.

“Huh?” you ask.

Whether this was Eva Solo’s original intent or not, the CafeSolo is designed so that the pour-out does not force liquid back through the grounds. The carafe is tilted and the grounds settle under the cone-shaped filter.

The liquid flows over and around the grounds, and out through the wire mesh. I think it’s for this reason that the CafeSolo tends to be very forgiving, yielding bold flavor and yet a very smooth result within a wide range of brew time and fineness of grind.

Eventually, every coffee afficionado figures out that coffee making is an art. If you want a truly outstanding result, you have to refine your technique. My journey went something like this:

   The Way of Coffee
I found that I couldn’t control the extraction consistently. Also my grounds would have too much fine powder. So I stopped using a blade grinder and bought a burr grinder. That solved the problem.  Eventually, I even upgraded to a better burr grinder (Baratza Virtuoso Preciso) and found that the greater consistency of particle size and lower amount of fine powder made a big difference in reducing bitterness.
I was not happy with the coffee beans. My coffee seemed to be lacking in rich flavor, and dark roasts seemed to have just one flavor: burnt. I stopped buying the stale beans from the supermarket and the over-roasted beans from the popular coffee houses. I tried internet suppliers (2-3 weeks since roast). For the first time, I could taste the flavor profile they described. Eventually I found a local roaster (Portola Coffee Lab — 1-4 days since roast), and my coffee has never been so rich and flavorful (both light and dark).
After switching to better coffee, I found that minute changes in the grind and amount greatly affected the result. I was able to fine-tune the setting on my grinder (I set the fineness to where I could just begin to taste a hint of bitterness from the fine powder in my cup and then backed off one click). I also bought a small narrow glass container and a scale to measure the grounds by weight. I use approx. 64 grams of grounds per 900 ml of water, but if you don’t use sugar and arf ‘n’ arf like I do, you’ll want to try as low as 60 grams per 1 liter instead (people who try my coffee black all agree it’s very strong… but smooth!).

Ok, now for the mechanics of how I brew the perfect cup:

   Instructions
1 Boil 1 liter of water and pour into CafeSolo. Top with filter and lid to heat entire aparatus.
2 Boil another 1.25 liters of water. Use fresh, good tasting (filtered or bottled) water. Do not reboil previously boiled water or it will adversely affect flavor.
3 While second batch of water is heating up, grind beans. Just before water boils, transfer water that was heating CafeSolo into a thermal carafe to warm it (unless you’re making iced coffee, in which case you won’t be using the thermal carafe–so just discard water instead). Pour fresh coffee grounds into CafeSolo.
4 Wait 30-45 seconds after second batch of water boils to let it cool to correct temperature, pour enough water into CafeSolo to make grounds bloom with foam, and start timer for 4 minutes. After 30 seconds, stir down the foam and floating grounds, and add remainder of water.  If you’re doing this by Eva Solo’s instructions, you want the liquid level to be approx. 1 inch below narrowest point on neck of carafe.  But I found that placing the CafeSolo on a scale and simply measuring the water in grams is a quicker and more accurate way to complete the process. Because I use less water (900 grams), I don’t have to spend as much time stirring the foam–it doesn’t get trapped in the neck of the carafe.  Place filter/lid on top, zip the neoprene jacket, and wait for timer to run out.
When I first used the CafeSolo, I was surprised at how fresh roasted and ground coffee reacted when I poured in the hot water. There was a huge bloom of foam and grounds that would have overflowed the carafe if I didn’t start stirring (I’m told fresh roasted coffee can foul some automatic drip machines for this reason). With the CafeSolo, you end up perfecting your pour and stir technique to get the lid on and the jacket zipped before too much heat loss.
5 After 4 minutes, pour out water from thermal carafe and pour coffee from CafeSolo into thermal carafe (unless you’re making iced coffee, in which case see next section). Coffee is ready to drink.If you leave the coffee in the CafeSolo, the grounds will continue to extract and the brew will begin to taste bitter after another few minutes. Also, I found that mixing up the liquid by pouring it into another carafe always results in a better tasting cup. (This is all relative; that first pour still makes for a very good cup.)

For me, coffee is a dessert drink–the delightful adult equivalent of chocolate milk. It’s kind of ironic how cacao, which is far more bitter than the coffee bean, was first popularized as the basis for an adult drink, but ended up being used in a children’s drink because you had to add so much sugar to make it tolerable. But I like cream (half and half) and sugar in my coffee, and that allows me to make great iced coffee, because I don’t have to dilute it with ice to stop the extraction.Without adding something cold immediately after brewing, coffee will turn bitter and/or sour, due to over-extraction. So I use cold half and half to bring the temperature down rapidly, after which the brew is cool enough to place in the fridge.

The recipe?

   Iced Coffee
I use almost 1/2 pint of half and half and 4 tablespoons of raw sugar, but you can adjust those quantities to taste. Remember, I make my coffee strong to begin with, and for iced coffee with cream and sugar, so should you: 64 grams grounds/liter water. (Yeah, ok, or you can just add less cream and sugar — did I mention you can adjust this to your taste?) Place the sugar and the half and half into a (heat-proof) glass pitcher before the coffee has brewed. Then just pour in the coffee (1 liter) and stir. Let it cool a few minutes, then place in the refrigerator.Makes approx. 1 1/2 quarts.  Enjoy!
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