Aug 19,2014. UPDATE

WORKSHOP BY LEXUS vol.11 – How we hacked into Coffee

7.22 Tue 19:00 START

Jeremy Kuempel(Blossom Coffee), Taishi Fukuyama,(the founder of consulting firm PRTL), Kenji Kojima (FUGLEN)

This WORKSHOP BY LEXUS looked at the success story of the coffee-machine developed by Jeremy Kuempel of Blossom Coffee, who was joined at the event by Taishi Fukuyama, the founder of consulting firm PRTL. In the second half, Kenji Kojima of FUGLEN, the coffee partner of INTERSECT BY LEXUS, joined guests in tasting the end product. WIRED Magazine Editor-in-Chief Kei Wakabayashi presided over the event.

First, Mr. Kuempel was asked about his coffee-maker. The founder and current CEO of Blossom Coffee previously worked as an engineer for Apple and Tesla. Mr. Wakabayashi asked him why a former engineer at these companies would branch out into developing coffee-makers. “Coffee is a subject that many people have an interest in,” Mr. Kuempel responded. “As an engineer, I was particularly interested in why a cup of coffee can taste different each time. I guess it all began when I started doing experiments on this phenomenon. I realized that coffee-making itself is a science and you can change the flavor of the coffee each time by controlling the temperature of the coffee beans.”

Mr. Kuempel worked hard to produce a coffee-machine that anyone could use to make cups of coffee that taste the same every time. The result was the world's only machine that uses a feedback algorithm to measure and adjust the temperature of the coffee beans. “During the experimental stages, we measured the pH levels and made qualitative and quantitative observations,” Mr. Kuempel explained. “In the quantitative tests, we used an AeroPress and produced six extraction temperatures, with extraction time patterns for each one, resulting in a total of 36 cups of coffee, and then plotted their flavors on a graph. By calculating a coefficient for the flavor, we were able to produce the best-tasting coffee every time. In a way, there is a similarity to music before the invention of records. Before we could record music, a piece could be preserved only in the form of sheet music. With eventual advances in technology though, and the ability to record actual sound, it became possible to listen to an artist’s performance and understand his or her true intentions. In our case, the machine is able to reproduce the flavor that was originally intended by the artist – in this case, the coffee-roaster.”

Mr. Wakabayashi then asked Mr. Fukuyama what it was about the machine that had captured his interest. He focused on the point that something as familiar as coffee could demonstrate such a level of innovation by incorporating technology. Also, the reference to music had stuck home. He pointed out that the places and methods people use for listening to music changed with the arrival of the internet. If a coffee-machine were connected to the internet, with alerts sent out in the event of a problem, timely maintenance could be provided.

In the second half of the event, the machine was used to make cups of coffee for the audience to enjoy in a tasting session. Mr. Kojima of Fuglen, who said he first laid his eyes on the machine only an hour before, commented that it had indeed created a more stable flavor than coffee made from a vacuum coffee-maker or an AeroPress and had accurately reflected the intentions of the coffee-roasters and extractors. He went on to describe the coffee itself as beautiful, with a pure and lingering aftertaste.

Blossom Coffee’s machine was essentially designed for commercial use, in locations such as cafés. Mr. Kuempel, however, said that he soon realized there was demand for such a machine not only from cafés but also from individuals who want to enjoy this kind of high-quality coffee in the comfort of their own homes. Just as people interested in photography will spend USD 1,000 on a camera, more people are now willing to spend a similar amount on coffee. He added that details of sales in Japan will be announced toward the end of September.

The workshop gave participants the opportunity to hear the story of how Mr. Kuempel developed this world-class coffee machine in his own words, while actually tasting the end product. The rich aroma of fresh coffee continued to fill the room and heated conversations among coffee enthusiasts continued even after the event came to a close.

A detailed report on the event is available at WIRED.