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Way back in early 2018 we started kicking an idea around at Coffee Gator HQ.
How cool would it be to totally deconstruct the pour over kettle and come up with something better?
True, since our ancestors first applied fire to water in the local cave there have been some pretty impressive developments. But in the last, say fifty years or so, the classic gooseneck kettle has found itself stuck in something of a rut.
Sure, they do the bare minimum (in the main) of heating water and allowing you to pour it over coffee. Some, like our original kettles, even go so far as to supply you with a thermometer so you don’t need to guess how hot the water is. We were first to use a layered base so they’ll work on modern stovetops (induction hobs, we’re looking at you here).
We decided it was high time to change the landscape. We knew even making some slight tweaks could add up to massive pouring gains.
Between us, we know a lot of baristas. We speak to a lot of customers. We get feedback and thousands of reviews on our products. And, perhaps most importantly, we drink a lot of coffee (practically an obligation when you work for Coffee Gator).
So we took all this knowledge, threw it into a kind of giant idea blender (sheet of A4 paper) then chalked off all the stuff that just wouldn’t work in a gooseneck kettle. Having a small nuclear reactor attached to a heating element in the base of the kettle was discounted fairly early on. Using the actual neck of a goose followed hot on its heels.
But after we’d trashed all the things that wouldn’t work, we settled on what we thought would. Here’s the very first sketch we boiled our ideas down into:
We wanted our new kettle to be better than anything else in the following ways:
After we’d done that we were very pleased with ourselves. We drank coffee to toast our success and passed the sketch to our product designer.
I’d like to tell you he was blown away with our ideas and within a few short days, we were enjoying a superior cup of coffee from our shiny new kettle.
Unfortunately, that’s not how these things work. After he’d laughed heartily at our naivety, what he actually replied with was a long list of reasons why our ideas were impractical, or unworkable, or fantastically dangerous etc, etc, you get the idea.
Thankfully, he’s the kind of guy who not only laughs in the face of incredible stupidity but also in the face of impracticality and impending disaster. He came up with some sketches of something that had a much higher chance of doing what we wanted it to, minus the risk of seriously maiming unsuspecting coffee lovers.
Seeing our thoughts evolve from something that looked like it had been drawn by a toddler with a hangover to this was pretty remarkable. Over the next few days and weeks, we made adjustments based on what we thought wouldn’t work, what we wanted to emphasize and feedback from customers we’re happy to now call friends.
The evolution continued…
We had the hinged lid we wanted. That meant no taking the lid off for filling and dripping all over the place. Plus, the thermometer could be mounted in place, constantly monitoring the temperature.
In time we worked out we’d need to raise the height of the kettle to get an acceptable water capacity. That also meant adapting the shape of the handle to cope with the added weight caused by increasing capacity and making it bigger.
Once we’d worked out the best place to sit the steam vents so they wouldn’t melt anyone's fingers down to the bone, we were nearly ready to make a working version.
At the prototyping stage, things start to get really expensive. Your worst nightmare is spending a small fortune on getting a physical product made, only to find you’ve overlooked something critical. The classic chocolate teapot scenario is definitely best avoided. Once we’d made it clear we wanted our kettle made from premium stainless steel and definitely not cocoa-based confectionery, we took the plunge.
Here she is at various stages of prototyping.
Paper jacket, wooden handle and rudimentary welding aside, we knew we were onto something when we fired it up for the first time.
As we’d hoped, the rubber sleeve and lid touchpoint meant you had multiple options for a comfortable grip. Being able to rest your thumb on top of the handle or steady the kettle on the lid tab meant you could be incredibly precise about pouring water. The angle of the handle and spout led to your elbow and shoulder being in a comfortable and natural position.
The lid swinging open made filling it a dream. No more taking off the lid, finding somewhere to put it down while you turn on the tap and fill the kettle. No more water dripped from the lid and all over the kitchen surfaces.
Before we got too carried away, we realised we shouldn’t get too carried away. We wanted the water to flow from the spout more cleanly and there were plenty of other tweaks to be made.
There were also more plenty of tests to be done on plenty of new iterations before our kettle made it to mass production. But we duly tweaked (and twerked by mistake) tested and iterated until we had the golden formula the factory foreman was waiting for.
You know that when you upgrade your phone or get a new pair of shoes and you wondered how you coped before? Well, that was the difference between the prototypes and the final version.
The welds only a mother could love were long gone. You could style your hair in the stainless steel it was so shiny. We’d spent a long time worrying whether it was going to be too heavy. We needn’t have. Once the excess material was gone it was balanced perfectly.
The next thing on the long list of things to worry about was what the pros would think about it. Here’s the verdict from London Coffee Festival. Can you see the way that professional barista is smiling and giving it a thumbs up? That means he likes it. That makes us happy.
So that was the journey of the True Brew kettle condensed into a short enough version of events that at least one or two people will still be reading at this point.
Will it change the world? Probably not. But it’ll at least rock your world if you’re into coffee. The only true measure of success is whether it helps you #DrinkBetterCoffee. We think it will. Let us know.
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