The Kalita Wave is an iconic pour-over with a graceful aesthetic, a large following, and several unique strengths. It comes in two different sizes: the Kalita 185 and 155.
The Kalita was our gateway into pour-over coffee and is still regularly used after many years.
The particular appeal of the Kalita coffee dripper is that it is far more forgiving than some of the other popular drippers, such as the Chemex and the V60. This makes it a gentle entrance into the world of specialty coffee.
Read on to see whether the Kalita dripper might be the right coffee maker for you.
This forgiving Japanese-made dripper makes a superb, balanced, and clean cup of coffee. It is particularly set apart from other drippers by the wave-like ridges descending on its walls and the flat bottom with three small holes. Combined, these features make for a more consistent extraction.
The Kalita Wave
The Kalita Wave is a pour-over coffee dripper. Pour-over drippers have experienced a resurgence since the early 2000s and are still the iconic brewer for the specialty coffee movement. The most popular is the V60, the Chemex, and the Kalita Wave.
Unlike drip coffee machines or French Press, pour-over coffee requires an involved process and additional brewing equipment. It involves careful technique, precise ratios and measurements, and lots and lots of practice.
When brewed correctly, pour over produces a very light and clean cup of coffee that is similar in texture to tea, which showcases the differences between single-origin beans.
However, to put it simply, pour-over coffee is difficult and often frustrating. The coffee can taste very sour and astringent or overly bitter and generally unpalatable if done incorrectly.
Enter the Kalita Wave. Japanese company Kalita designed the Kalita Wave dripper to produce complex coffee while offering a greater level of forgiveness than similar drippers. This would make it accessible to the beginner while still being efficient for the experienced coffee brewer.
There are two design decisions that help the Kalita Coffee Dripper achieve this goal.
The first is the wave-like ridges that run down the interior sides of the stainless steel and ceramic versions. As you will note, the Kalita uses unique-looking coffee filters that resemble a cupcake wrapper with 20 indentations.
These Kalita Wave filters alongside the ridges are designed to limit the contact between the slurry (the bed of coffee and water) and the dripper. This means that water is directed to the coffee bed and that air acts as a natural insulator. Basically, it helps the even extraction of all the coffee grounds for better-tasting coffee.
The second distinctive feature of Kalita pour over coffee makers are that they are a flat bottom brewer. So, where the Chemex and V60 have a big hole at the bottom of the dripper, the Kalita Wave pour-over has a flat plate with three ridges and three small drilled holes.
This slows down the speed at which the water passes through the coffee grounds. The water cannot pass any faster than the three small holes will allow, and so there is a longer period where the grinds are soaking in hot water.
This makes the Kalita dripper more forgiving of a poor pouring technique or other imperfections than similar drippers.
As we will discuss below, the actual speed at which the coffee can pass through the three holes depends in part on the material of the given Kalita Wave.
But these features combined make for a thoughtfully designed pour-over that can be used by all experience levels.
In fact, when we lived in Melbourne, one of our favorite cafes (Higher Ground for those who know Melbourne) used the Kalita Wave 185 exclusively for their pour-overs. So there is no doubt that this coffee dripper can make the highest quality of brewed coffee.
The Taste of Coffee brewed on the Kalita Coffee Dripper
So the million-dollar question, how does the coffee taste when brewed on the Kalita Wave? And the answer depends in large part upon the one brewing with it.
In broad strokes, the Kalita produces a slightly heavier coffee than the V60 as there is a longer contact time between the water and ground coffee. Perhaps more similar to the coffee made by an Aeropress or Clever Dripper.
When used correctly and alongside a quality burr grinder and quality coffee beans, it produces a delicate, light-colored, and complex coffee. Kalita coffee is typically drunk black to highlight the distinctive flavor profiles of the single-origin coffee beans being used.
However, it is basically axiomatic among coffee gurus that the Kalita can produce drinks just as delicate and complex as anything the Hario V60 could produce. Almost all the differences between good pour-over drippers can be overcome by correct grind size, technique, and ratios.
Kalita Wave 155 vs 185
As you may be aware, there are two different sizes of the Kalita coffee maker; the smaller Kalita Wave 155 and the larger Kalita Wave 185.
In general, the Kalita Wave 155 is designed to brew a single cup (similar to the Hario V60 01). It has a max capacity of around 300ml. The Kalita Wave 185 is designed to brew 2-3 cups or up to 500ml.
While there are advocates of both models, we recommend the Kalita Wave 185. This size can still easily be used to brew a single cup of coffee while allowing larger brews as well. The Kalita 185 is probably the more popular model for this reason. It also somehow looks more right in terms of proportions.
Which Material is best for the Kalita coffee Maker?
Kalita Wave pour over coffee makers come in a range of different materials, including stainless steel, glass, ceramic, sandstone (sagan), and copper. The difference between these materials can be summarized in terms of price, looks, sturdiness and flow rate.
The last of these may come as a surprise. It has actually been shown that there is a significant difference in flow rate between these materials in the Kalita. In particular, the popular stainless steel model is actually a bit of an outlier and has a significantly slower flow rate that the other materials.
This can be altered by a couple of different modifications but is a downside to the stainless steel model. The stainless steel also seems to clog more often than other models.
There are basically two simple ways to modify the stainless steel Kalita. The first one (which we employ) comes from Scott Rao and basically involves making a stainless steel mesh filter. It is easier than it sounds. Basically you get an old tea strainer from around the house and remove the mesh. Cut this into a circle that fits in the bottom of the Kalita coffee maker and you have your filter. This both helps flow rate and prevents clogging.
The second way which is also relatively simple requires an electric drill. Basically you get a drill piece that is slightly wider than the current holes and use it to enlarge each of the three holes. Again this is very easy to do for anyone and does away with any flow rate or clogging issues;
The stainless steel Kalita is very sturdy and durable and is the classic look. They work very well with either of the above mods, but without do have some issues.
The glass model has great thermal consistency and works well but is fragile and easily broken.
The Copper comes in either copper or stainless steel color. It has excellent thermal management and flow rate as well as sturdiness. However, it is more expensive than other materials.
Ceramic, in general, is pretty good all-round, although the sagan (sandstone) models seem to have some problems with flow rate.
If you can afford it, then the steel Tsubame (Copper) is undoubtedly the best option and looks incredible. Alternatively, we still do like stainless steel despite its shortfalls.
What Coffee Equipment will you need with the Kalita coffee dripper?
As a pour-over dripper, the Kalita really does require some additional kit for optimal performance. These pieces of kit include:
Brewing With the Kalita Wave Pour Over
When it comes to brewing with the Kalita Wave, the three essential components for excellent coffee are:
Get these three down, and you will enjoy delicious coffee day after day. In this article, we will not go in-depth into brewing with the Kalita Wave. However, our favorite Kalita Wave recipe is the following by Scott Rao.
Kalita Wave Recipe
Step One: Grind 20 grams of coffee to a medium grind size.
Step Two: Insert the Kalita Wave filter into the dripper and pre-rinse.
Step Three: Pour in 60g of hot water in concentric circles to ‘bloom’- make sure all the ground coffee is wet by a gentle stir with a teaspoon or spin. Leave for 45 seconds.
Step Four: Pour water in concentric circles up to a total brew weight of 210 grams.
Step Five: Wait until the slurry has gone down by half and pour water in concentric circles up to a brew weight of 340 grams.
Step Six: Give a gentle spin and wait for all the water to drip through.
Kalita Wave vs V60
One of the the common questions around the Kalita Wave is how they compare to the V60 pour over coffee makers? Having owned and used both we can answer with some authority.
The basic answer is that the V60 pour over brews more quickly and is less forgiving. Both of these can be traced to the large hole at the bottom. The large single holes means that the speed the water passes through the beans is restricted only by grind size and pouring technique.
With the Kalita coffee dripper the water is also restricted by the size of the three small holes. This means it is more forgiving of mistakes and imperfections.
In terms of taste, Kalita coffee tends to have a greater mouthfeel and be more heavy. V60 coffee by contrast is slightly lighter.
However, as we noted above these comparisons really are simplistic caricatures and can be overcome by both grind size and consistency, as well as technique and ratio. So they will probably hold true for the beginning barista but not for the experienced one.
Kalita Wave- The Takeaway
In summary, we would highly recommend the Kalita Wave. We have owned and loved this pour-over coffee dripper for years and still really enjoy using it. It is well designed, a pleasure to use, and can make delicate and balanced coffee that is a delight to drink.
Again, we recommend the Kalita Wave 185 in Tsubame (copper) if you afford it. Alternatively, the stainless steel model can be superb with a few expert tips. You can often buy the Kalita dripper bundled together with Kalita Wave Filters so you are set to go.