Reviews

Kalita Wave Review

November 17, 2018

So you’re looking for a new coffee maker? One that is cheap but still effective at making top-tier coffee? Yea, you’re in the right place.

I’ve written previously how good I think the Kalita is – I ranked it as the ‘best overall’ in my roundup of Pour Over coffee makers – and thought it deserved its own review.

Also, I’ve got my new camera setup sorted and have loads of photos I want to share (I’m not much of a photographer so this is a big step!)

I own about 15 different coffee brewing devices (and have tried about a hundred more!) and this one regularly makes it into my rotation and is the Pour Over I’d recommend to anyone looking to make great coffee at home.

If you like the sound of that then here’s the Amazon link with pricing info and all that good stuff.

Otherwise, let’s get looking at the thing!

Initial Impressions

So here’s the Kalita Wave in all its glory. Hailing from Japan, this thing was not even sold on these shores until a few years ago when a US distributor got their hands on them.

You can see it has a ribbed, conical, metal design, this is important for reasons to do with extraction that I’ll get onto in a sec. It weighs about 5-6 oz (5.6 to be exact) so feels heavy enough to be sturdy but not excessive.

(Oh and by the way, that is my Kalita and all photos are mine, copyright etc etc)

The handle looks innocuous but is SO useful and convenient.

The next shot shows you the inside of the Kalita. This highlights another feature of the Kalita which is its three-holed design as opposed to the more common one hole.

Having 3 holes is a tool to get a better and more even extraction, making your brewing process less volatile and more likely to reduce the unpleasant flavors in your cup.

You can see the water will extract through the coffee and the filter and will then drip down into those three holes and into your cup which you have (hopefully remembered to) place underneath.

Here’s another one that shows you the body a little more. It’s made of metal – stainless steel – not plastic painted to look like metal and has a nice ‘clang’ about it, if that makes sense.

It feels like a quality product. The black handle is plastic of course but you want that so your hand is insulated from the heat!

And here’s a better look at the base with its 3-holed design where the yellow of the background is coming through…

Next here are the filters that you use with it. The filters and the design of the device work in a kind of harmony to produce the excellent Pour Over coffee it is known for.

That does mean you have to order the proprietary Kalita filters off Amazon or wherever rather than picking up your #4 filters at the grocery store.

If that sounds like too much hassle then I’d recommend something simpler like the Clever Dripper.


You can see that my filters are white, also referred to as bleached. You can also by the brown ones that are unbleached.

People will tell you that the bleached ones will have less of a ‘papery’ taste in your brew, but so long as you prewet you won’t get that anyway. (I’ll explain what prewetting is a little later in this article.)

You can see that these filters don’t look like normal ones, they have a wavy design which looks quite beautiful with the main Kalita device and really gets a lot of comments while you’re making a brew (I should stop making so much coffee at work!)

Here’s a shot of the Kalita next to a standard sized iPhone 7 so you can get an idea of the size. This is the 185 which is the larger version, you can also get the 155 which is smaller.

As a quick recommendation, I’d just get the 185, I brew a single (large) cup with it and don’t see any reason to get the 155 over it, but I’ll talk more about that in a bit.

Also here’s the Kalita next to the box it came in, you’ll notice that it has a funky Japanese design – Kalita is a Japanese company, you will no doubt be completely unsurprised to learn.

And I’m a soft touch for nice aesthetics like this.

So let’s take a look at a few more photos of the Kalita Wave but this time in action. Here’s the setup. Pretty basic, really. I’m using a snazzy gooseneck kettle for reasons I’ll get into in a sec.

This first one is with a filter in place and the ground coffee nestled snugly inside just waiting to be brewed.

I’ve used a medium grind here which is a good starting point, you can adjust this up or down depending on how it comes out.

Here’s the water being added from a gooseneck kettle. You can see it makes a fine stream which is very easy to direct and makes the process of getting a good extraction a lot easier.

It’s not a must, certainly at first, but if you like the idea of upping your Pour Over game then you can see the gooseneck kettle that I recommend here.

In the next photo, the Kalita has been filled and is happily brewing. You can see that I’ve used the gooseneck kettle and a spiral pour to make all the grounds sit in the middle and make a coffee bed – more on that in the ‘brewing tips’ section.

Here’s what the coffee looks like after the brew is finished. You can see how the coffee grounds are all tightly clumped at the bottom, this is best for a good extraction, if you have coffee grounds all over the sides then they will underextract and impart sour/acidic flavors into your brew.

This is easier to get with the Kalita because of its filter design, though also requires a little skill with spiral pouring and mixing your slurry up (more on that at the bottom of here).

(After careful re-examination, I realize I could’ve taken a better photo of this. The general idea is true though and very important.)

Et voila! Some nice-looking Kalita Wave coffee.

P.S. If you’ve got any thoughts or comments on these photos please let me know. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to make them better! And anyone who’s seen some of my older articles will know that’s probably necessary!

What Are The Big Selling Points?

1. Easy for beginners. It’s no surprise that Pour Overs are often a popular choice for those starting to get into making awesome Third Wave coffee at home – they’re cheap, they look cool, they make great coffee.

The thing is, some of them are actually not the most friendly for those learning to brew. The Kalita bucks this trend by having design features that promote an even extraction, compared to the capriciousness of the V60, for example.

Make sure you read my tips a little later on in this article and you’re good to go for great coffee!

2. Classic ‘Pour Over’ taste. The trademark of Pour Over coffee is one that is high in clarity.

Without wanting to bore you with the specifics (I’ll leave that for other articles!)… this means that the coffee tastes clean and bright and lets the notes of the coffee really shine.

There’s a reason why Pour Over is so associated with some of the amazing coffees coming out of Africa or Central America and the Kalita Wave embodies this as much as any other, in my opinion.

3. Promotes an even extraction. Anyone who’s spent some time making Pour Over knows it can be easy to mess up by overextracting or underextracting.

The design of the Kalita with its ridged filters and flat-bottomed design makes the drip a little slower and makes it easier to get a more even extraction than some other methods.

This is a lifesaver when you’re trying to fine-tune your brew and find that the changes you make are giving you better and better coffee.

4. Easy to clean. One thing you gotta love about most Pour Overs is the simple clean up. Toss the filter in the bin and give the device a quick rinse, no scrubbing out the thing to get every last coffee ground done.

What Kind Of Coffee Do You Get From It?

The Kalita Wave is a Pour Over device that uses what we call a ‘percolation’ style of brewing. That means that you pour the water over and it extracts the coffee as it drips down, leaving you with a cup of brewed coffee as opposed to espresso or anything like that.

The other big factor in Pour Over brewing is that the coffee passes through a paper filter which traps out lots of the thicker coffee oils and microparticulates which would find their way into a coffee made with a French Press, for instance.

This makes the taste of Pour Over coffee what we call ‘clean’ or ‘high in flavor clarity’.

It tastes less muddy or full-bodied than many other methods of brewing and also lets the subtle notes of the coffee bean shine more, particularly more acidic notes like the fruity notes of an African coffee.

Now, different filters do give different tastes. For example, the Chemex, with its thick filters trap a lot of these coffee oils which leaves you with a coffee that is renowned for its high clarity.

The filters that we use for a Kalita Wave give a very balanced taste, nothing too extreme for Pour Over at either end, which is why it’s a great introduction to Pour Over coffee in general and why when combined with its forgiving nature will give you great cup after great cup.

Should I Get Stainless Steel Or Ceramic Or Glass?

The Kalita that I own is, as you can plainly see, the stainless steel version. That is not the only option, however. There exist ceramic and glass versions, although I only seem to be able to find the glass version for sale online, at Kalita’s USA page.

Personally, I recommend the stainless steel version that I own. It’s unbreakable, which is the main appeal and the difference in material makes zero difference to the coffee that’s in your cup.

The only thing that might change is heat retention, which will keep your coffee warmer a little longer. Here’s a fantastic article that does scientific analysis of the differences in heat retention between stainless steel, ceramic and glass cups.

Basically, glass is by far the best at keeping heat in, then ceramic, then stainless steel. So if you like your coffee kept hot then that’s the order to go in.

Does it make a huge difference? I’m not sure, to be honest. I like my coffee to be bordering on lukewarm so I’ve not really spent much time in the area.

What’s The Difference Between The 185 And The 155?

If you’ve looked at buying a Kalita already, you’ll know that there are two different models, the 185 and the 155. I don’t know what the numbers mean exactly but they indicated different sizes.

The actual dimensions are 4.8 x 4.5 x 2.5 inches for the 185 and 4 x 4 x 2.5 inches for the 155.

Because they are both Pour Over, you can actually make as much or as little coffee as you like with either, the water just drips through and you add more in both cases.

The size of the 185 does make it easier to brew larger amounts though because you can fit more coffee grounds in and have more water in each time you pour.

As a rule of thumb, 155 is good for 8-16 fl. oz and 185 is good for 12-24 fl oz.

Where To Buy

So if you like the sound of all this then here’s an Amazon link where you can check it out.

I can’t tell you the price as it will jump around a lot so you need to check it out to see what the current price is. You can take a look at all the reviews on there as well.

One more thing that is very, very important: if you choose to get this make sure you are getting some filters as well.

Normal filters like Melitta #2 or #4 that you can get at your local grocery store will firstly not fit into the Kalita well or at all, but also by not using the proprietary filters you will not get the real Kalita Wave taste.

You may as well just buy any old cheap Pour Over. A link to the filters on Amazon is here.

Brewing Tips (Read Before Buying!)

1. Ratios. For a Kalita 185 you want to use between 18-30 grams of coffee depending on strength and mix that with around 10-16 fl. oz of water. A typical brew for me might be 20g coffee with 300g water (about 12 fl.oz) which gives a 1:15 ratio which is about in the middle in terms of strength. You can see based on all these numbers that it does help to have a 0.1g kitchen scale when making coffee, which I’ll expand even further on in the next tip.

2. Record and adjust. Making coffee is a lot like a laboratory experiment, fine differences can make big changes in the result. Generally speaking, if your coffee tastes too bitter or rich, you need to dial down the extraction by using a slightly coarser grind or cooler water. If your coffee tastes too thin or acidic, you should increase the extraction by using a slightly finer grind or hotter water.

3. Mix the slurry. What I mean by this is when you pour some water into the Kalita and it is brewing with the coffee grounds, use a spoon to swirl it all up and make sure all the grounds are saturated with water. Otherwise, you will get dry clumps in some places and the water you pour will channel through the other places that are wet. Scott Rao gives a great explanation of this in his book ‘Everything But Espresso’.

4. Learn to spiral pour. As I mentioned, we don’t want coffee grounds left up on the sides of the filter where they will extract less and cause the acidic compounds to be present in higher quantities in your coffee. This is easiest with a gooseneck kettle, start in the middle and go outwards as shown by me here…

Here’s the gooseneck I use (link is to Amazon), it’s pretty awesome if you’re really into coffee, it has a temperature and electric heating and stuff.

5. Prewet your filter. When you pour boiling water over a paper filter, it causes some of the papery tasting compounds to be released and get into your coffee. For some people it’s barely perceptible, for others it’s catastrophically brew-ruining. You can avoid all this by doing a quick pour then chucking out the water as shown in this little gif I made here.

6. Grind size. This variable is really important for Pour Overs and so the Kalita as you don’t have the ability to change the brew time. Start with a medium grind. Too fine and it will clog up and take an age to pour through, too coarse and it will go through too quickly and underextract giving you undesirable acidic flavors. Taste your coffee and if it’s too bitter, make the grind a little coarser, if it’s too acidic/grassy, make the grind a little finer.

Here’s the grind I used in the brew I made with all those photos.

How To Make Great Coffee With The Kalita

If you’ve read all my brew tips and have your Kalita in hand then you’re well on your way to really terrific coffee. There are a couple of things to point out if you’re moving in this direction though.

Use freshly roasted beans. Here’s the area where you can elevate yourself about 95% of home coffee drinkers instantly, just buy beans that were roasted in the last 3-4 days from a reputable roaster. There’s loads of great ones online these days and you probably have a few great local places too, you’re just looking for somewhere that advertises a ‘roast day’ on the bag, then you know it’s fresh.

Use freshly ground coffee. Depending on where you are on your home coffee journey, you may not be willing to pay the $100+ that is required for a worthy grinder, but just know that if you’re serious about getting the best coffee you can then this needs to be a gift you give yourself. If not now, make it an Xmas present or something, totally worth it. Here’s a great beginner grinder that everyone recommends and is not too expensive.

More photos!

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