Jason Prefontaine and I visited the Coffee Equipment Company in Seattle recently to see what’s behind their new Clover 1s brewer. Though this machine has been around for a couple of years, most people only know it from what can be seen on the outside. That is an automated by-the-cup brewer that allows the user to make a number of adjustments via a slick iPod-like control wheel. Seeing the machine in operation most people may also guess (correctly) that the Clover 1s uses a permanent micron-scale metallic filter–not disposable paper or cloth filters.Inside the Clover 1s, however, lies the heart and soul of this machine. There you find the meticulous design that makes the 1s such a beautiful device, as beautiful inside as it is outside. The Clover 1s mechanism is laid out logically and pleasingly. The workings of the 1s are crafted from well-conceived components, some of them expensive custom machined parts, meshed magnificently with a brilliant and inspired electronics package. The inside of the Clover exudes a sense of functional robustness and a high degree of engineering competence. I should also mention that the Clover 1s was articulately, passionately, and energetically represented by Coffee Equipment Company super-technician Jason Schroeder who toured us through the inner workings of the machine, and how to maintain it.
The 1s is extremely easy to use, allowing the operator to select cup size and water temperature to create a single, customized brewed coffee on demand, in under a minute if desired. However, this ease of use and well conceived functionality should not lull one from recognizing that the Clover is in fact revolutionary. The Clover device forges new territory around specialty coffee in the context of brewed coffee–this is quite different from espresso–though Clover does refer to operators of their brewer as “baristi”, a nod to specialty coffee’s espresso traditions.While specialty coffee has been mainly about espresso-based beverages, which are chiefly milk based, flavored beverages, the Clover 1s takes us back to the heart and soul of North American specialty coffee, which starts with the recognition that there is a universe of delicious taste sensations to be found in the nuances of flavor that fine arabica coffees offer on their own, when properly roasted and prepared. These flavors are uniquely coffee and more subtle than the bolder additive flavors found in blended coffee beverages.Clover reminds us that the “specialty coffee industry” afterall, started on the basic premise that coffee is far, far from being a homogeneous commodity. Brewing coffee on the Clover 1s reminds us that coffee offers as much specialization as wine or fine cheese. There are literally hundreds of coffee flavors and experiences resulting from the provenance and terroir of particular farms, beans or varietals. To access these coffee flavors and offer this taste experience to customers in a practical way (in a commercial context), could be the mission statement for Clover itself.My hat is off to the brave developers and pioneers at the Coffee Equipment CompanyEric