By James Gallagher for Steampunk Coffee
The V60 and Kalita Wave are both excellent pour over brewing devices - but which is best for a beginner who is just starting to experiment with brewing? James Gallagher investigates.
When I was thinking about buying a pour-over device, there was one big question on my mind: which device would be best for a beginner?
With no experience using a pour-over device, coming from brewing on an Aeropress, I wanted to brew a decent cup of coffee without having to spend too much time learning technique. I opted for the Kalita Wave, a pour-over device with a flat bed. This device is often referred to as "forgiving" by coffee brewers. This means that small mistakes will probably not derail your cup of coffee. You can make a good cup pretty quickly as long as you have the right recipe and grind.
This turned out to be the right choice. I was able to make some good cups pretty quickly, but I still had to spend some time learning technique. I had a different experience with the V60, which I bought next. I spent some time trying to dial in my grind, figuring out which grind would work best. I tried different recipes and I struggled to find one that worked. I now know why people say the V60 requires more technique than other devices.
While both the V60 and the Kalita Wave are pour-over devices, they have subtle differences.
You will notice the V60 and Kalita Wave look quite different. The Kalita Wave is shorter than the V60. This is because the Kalita Wave has a flat bed, meaning the base does not open up into a big hole. The V60 is a cone-shaped brewer, which means the walls are at an angle like a cone and there is a big hole at the bottom of the device. It turns out the shape of these devices plays a big role in how they are used.
The Kalita Wave is forgiving in part because the device regulates how much water flows through. There are three holes at the bottom of the Kalita, meaning only a certain amount of water can pass through. The V60, however, has one big hole, so the water can flow through faster. I find that the V60 has a slightly quicker brew time if I use a continuous pour -- where I pour all the water in during one pour after the bloom -- than the Kalita, probably due to the big hole in the V60.
I have learned grind size is important on the V60. Whereas a few different grinds worked on my Kalita, yielding varying results, my V60 was a bit pickier. I tried a grind setting a few notches coarser on my Baratza Encore grinder and my cup was almost undrinkable. The manufacturer recommendation of a 15 grind size turned out to be just right, but this is just a guide; you can play around with your grind.
The V60, in my opinion, requires a bit more technique than the Kalita Wave. What do I mean by "technique"? I mean that you are probably going to need to do a bit of practice with different recipes before you make a cup that is just right for you. When I first got my V60, I made some cups that were fine. But they were just fine. I could not help thinking "this device has so much more potential!" I was right; some experimentation helped me produce a much better cup.
I tried stirring at the start of my brew, which massively improved my cup quality. I tried different grind settings to find which one worked best. I tried different pouring techniques. Finding a recipe that produced a cup as good as the Kalita took me a bit of time. If you have the time to experiment with new techniques -- and enjoy the process -- then the V60 is definitely a good investment. I found myself thinking more about the mechanics of how coffee is brewed, and I learned a lot about how to make a better cup of coffee.
The Kalita Wave, on the other hand, produced really good cups at a much earlier stage in my brewing journey. I tried stirring versus a recipe with no stir. I tried a spin to remove grounds from the side of the filter. But I found these changes did not have a massive impact on the cup, not nearly as much as they did on the V60. I'd recommend looking out for a recipe that is specifically written for the Kalita Wave, because a lot of what applies to the V60 does not apply to the Kalita.
The Cup Profile
What about taste? After all, the taste of the end product is the motivation for spending so much time on making a cup of coffee. I found that both the V60 and the Kalita Wave produced excellent cups, cleaner than those I had made with my Aeropress in the past. I enjoy the clarity I get from these methods of brewing. The Aeropress can be a bit silty and muddy if you push the plunger too hard. My Kalita and V60 brews have never looked cloudy like coffees I've made with my Aeropress.
While I have not compared the Kalita to the V60 side-by-side, I would say they both produce quite similar cups. But, one of the best cups of coffee I have made came from the V60. In that moment, I thought to myself that the time I had spent learning the V60 was worth it. I made a delicious cup of coffee and was happy with the results. But the Kalita Wave produced many great cups, and with less technique.
I could not compare these two brewers without a quick mention of the price. I bought my plastic V60 kit for 10 pounds. The V60 came with a measuring scoop (which I do not use) and a pack of 50 filters. A plastic V60 by itself usually costs about 6 pounds. You can get ceramic and metal V60s but these cost more money. The entry-level Kalitas, which are made of ceramic and glass, start at about 20 pounds. Metal brewers cost even more.
To make the most out of both brewing devices, I'd recommend buying a gooseneck kettle so you have more control over the flow of water. I have not tried using a regular kettle with either brewer but I know how difficult it is to pour slowly with a kettle that does not have a gooseneck.
I'd recommend starting with the Kalita Wave if you're interested in pour-over coffee brewing. The Kalita Wave may be a bit more expensive than the plastic V60 but it is forgiving and produces a tasty cup without too much investment in technique (in my opinion). The V60 took me longer to learn how to use but now I have a few techniques in my head I've been able to produce tasty cups. If you are up for a challenge, the V60 is a good brewer to buy.
Contributed by James Gallagher, a home brewer and coffee enthusiast. View his excellent blog at jamesg.blog
Want a recipe to get started brewing with Kalita - take a look at our brew guide and video HERE.