Saturday, April 11, 2009

Tales from the Housewares Tradeshow, Part Two

We’ve told you a little bit about how much people at the Chicago International Housewares Show loved the Hourglass Coffee samples, but I’d like to pause now to give a sense of how fun and chaotic the rest of the show was.

Before arriving, we didn’t really have a sense of how many people and how many exciting products were going to be at the show—we knew that ‘housewares’ means anything that’s useful in the home, but had no idea that we were going to see so many great products, from space-age flatware to cookbooks!

Because McCormick Place is so big, there were literally thousands of products to see, and we really would have loved the chance to go exploring and meet some of the other vendors. It was amazing to feel such a large space electrified with the hope and anticipation of so many new product-makers.

Thankfully, the Hourglass® really stood out in the crowd, not only because we had a steady stream of people coming to sample (and re-sample, ha-ha!) our coffee, but because it was one of the few products that was bringing something new to market—a cold-brew coffee maker that makes healthier, smoother coffee. Even those familiar with cold-brew coffee were excited to learn about the Hourglass infusion process, and we were surprised with how many people were intimately familiar with the benefits of BPA-free plastic!

When the show was over, we left completely thrilled that we’d accomplished our mission: we were able to establish some important relationships for the Hourglass® and officially introduce the Hourglass® to the market—all the while sharing our favorite part: the flavor!

The Hourglass Goes Camping

Now that spring has arrived, here in the Pacific Northwest that means only one thing: it’s camping time! As much as we love the vibrancy of Portland’s urban setting, there’s nothing quite like retreating to the mountains, or spending a weekend by a remote lake with nothing but the evergreens to keep us company. Thankfully, Kim and I have an annual camping trip with our friends that we take, so we make sure we always get a chance to unplug over a long weekend each year.

This year was our first year being able to take the Hourglass with us, more specifically coffee brewed in the Hourglass but in the portable Bean Kanteen™and we were excited to try it out in a new setting. Some of the friends who join us on this trip each year are people we don’t see that often, either, so it was going to also be our chance to introduce them to the Hourglass in person.
Everyone got there on a Friday afternoon, and we spent the evening setting up camp. The campsite was as perfect as it is every year: remote, under the trees, and a short walk from the lake.

The next morning, as everyone was getting up, I noticed my friend Doug, half-asleep, struggling with a French Press. He had set some water to boil on the campfire, and was unpacking the press that he’d brought with him, looking at the parts and briefly trying to remember how they went together. After a few minutes, he declared to the camp that he wasn’t sure how good the coffee was going to be, because his French Press had gotten cracked in his bag on the trip up to the campsite.

I told everyone that Kim and I had brought enough coffee extract for everyone, and that with just some hot water, we’d all have our morning coffee in no time. Within minutes, everyone had both hands wrapped around their own mug, happily enjoying their morning coffee. Doug looked a little bit disappointed to not be the one making it, but the look on his face after his first sip of Hourglass coffee told me that he was glad about how things had turned out.

With the Hourglass, we were able to have quick, easy coffee on our camping trip, in a container we weren’t worried about breaking. The best part is that next year, we know we won’t be the only ones with our own Bean Kanteen™ full of coffee extract on the trip!

Why Does Low-Acid Matter?

One of the things that makes the Hourglass so popular among the health-conscious is the fact that it’s almost 70% lower in acid than coffee from a traditional coffee maker. To the average person, that may not mean a lot—except, of course, that it’s not bitter tasting, like hot-brew coffee—but to the thousands of people with sensitive stomachs, it means quite a bit more.

The Hourglass takes a drink that’s traditionally considered a high-acid beverage, and significantly reduces the amount of acid in it. That means that while it still has some acid in it, the Hourglass makes coffee a “sometimes” or “often” instead of a “never” option for all the people around the world with sensitive stomachs, or conditions that require or greatly benefit from a low-acid diet (and there are many, from IBS to GERD). Even the healthiest of us can easily suffer from the most common symptom of a high-acid diet—acid reflux—and the Hourglass produces coffee that is much better tolerated by people with sensitive stomachs when compared to standard hot-brew coffee.

There are many different reasons why so many people choose to consume a low-acid diet, and the truth is that the scientific community is only beginning to learn about the health benefits. I tend to think of acid like I do sugar: the more I can do to limit my intake, the healthier I am. Of course, because low-acid coffee is so much smoother than regular coffee, aside from being healthier, the switch to low-acid coffee was one of the easiest and most delicious choices I’ve made.

Hourglass Showdown: Iced versus Hot!

One of the best things about the Hourglass is that when you first make a batch of coffee extract, you don’t have to decide right away how much of it you want to drink hot and how much you want to drink cold. Each time you’re ready for coffee, you can either add it to ice and milk, OR you can add it to boiling water—and save the rest of the extract for later. But lately, we’ve come to a bit of an impasse: which is better, hot or cold? I (Bob) love it hot, and Kim loves it cold, and we thought our Blog would be a good place for each of us to settle it once and for all.

The Case for Hot (from Bob)
To me, the best coffee is hot coffee—there’s just something about a piping hot cup o’ joe that demands the drinker’s attention and really delivers on the flavor of whatever kind of coffee I’m using. I like coffee to jumpstart my day, and a big part of that is the kick of that first sip that almost burns my tongue, while drenching it in flavor. The Hourglass perfects the coffee experience by removing the harsh bite of bitter flavor that usually comes from regular coffee. I can’t get enough Hourglass coffee when served hot!

The Case for Cold (from Kim)

The Hourglass really changed my coffee-drinking habits, and I think that’s because I now know that I can drink great iced coffee, anywhere without a fuss—I just grab my extract, add it to ice and a little bit of milk, and voila! Hourglass coffee bliss. It’s perfect for my mid-mornings, when I crave a snack but it’s too early for lunch, and it’s ideal after dinner with a splash of vanilla syrup, ice and milk…dessert anyone? Because I’ve become such an all-the-time coffee drinker, having a cold cup around is pretty much a delicious necessity for me!

And the Winner Is…

…The Hourglass®! Kim and I love to debate about whether or not the Hourglass produces better hot coffee or iced coffee, but the truth is that no matter which you prefer, the Hourglass system lets you change your mind, and your favorite coffee drink, as often as you like. Because each batch of extract makes up to 8 servings, we’re able to each drink Hourglass coffee the way we like it whenever we want—no disagreements required! As we like to say, the Hourglass is better for stomachs—and relationships, too!

Tales from the Housewares Show, Part One

As we wrote last month, we were recently given the opportunity to attend the International Housewares Show in Chicago—an incredible opportunity! The event in a lot of respects marks our official launch of the Hourglass® coffee maker, so we’ve been excited and frantic, to say the least!

I’m happy to report that the tradeshow was a massive success, and after 3 long and wonderful days, we’ve returned to Portland exhausted, happy, and amazed.

The show was a blast! Each morning, we got up at 5:30 a.m. to catch the shuttle from our hotel to the absolutely gargantuan McCormick Place. Once there, we found our way through endless tunnels, hallways, and stairs to the show floor, where we set up our booth and got to know the other vendors with exciting new products for the home. McCormick Place is Chicago’s premiere convention center, and walking through the massive halls, I couldn’t help but get a sense of how far the Hourglass has come.

We knew the Hourglass would be a hit, but we had no idea how popular our coffee samples would be. Over three days, we gave away more than 500 samples. That’s four gallons of extract! At first, it started with just buyers coming by, initially skeptical of a healthier coffee, waiting for the catch, and then finding themselves happily surprised after their first sip. Then the vendors from nearby booths caught on, at first making small talk over Hourglass samples…and before we knew it, people from all of our surrounding booths were coming to us for their morning coffee! In fact, by the last day, the staff from a very well known coffee company (I won’t embarrass them here!) were sneaking over to our booth, asking for samples.
So much happened over the course of the trip, and I’m excited to share more of it here with you soon—but for now, check out the pictures, and look for the Hourglass in your favorite stores and catalogs soon!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Hitting the Road!

The average person has probably never heard of Chicago’s annual International Home Housewares Show, but in the world of coffeemakers, it’s the World’s Fair of trade shows. Each year, more than 20,000 buyers from 60 countries come to the show in search of new products to add to their product lines, and we’ll be giving them the chance to experience Hourglass coffee in person March 22nd through the 24th in the Gourmet Home District. This is truly the world debut of the Hourglass, and we couldn’t be more excited.

When we launched retail sales of the Hourglass last November, we had no idea we’d have the honor of attending the International Home Housewares Show so soon. But when we got the chance to go, we jumped—so we’ve spent the last several weeks putting together everything for our booth, from making custom backdrops to deciding what kind of coffee we’re going to bring with us to the show! Not only will buyers have the chance to learn about the Hourglass’s cold-water infusion process, and the benefits of low-acid coffee, but they’ll be able to taste the difference for themselves.

We’ve had great experiences and a fantastic response from retailers that we work with right now, and the show gives us the opportunity to build on that success, and bring the Hourglass to even more coffee drinkers. It’s a dream come true to be able to bring the future of coffee to the International Home Housewares Show—we’ll report back soon on our adventures!

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Hourglass Takes the Barista Test

Today, the Blog is in for a treat: our first guest Blogger, Tara! Tara is a college student in Portland and was a barista for four years. More importantly, she’s a coffee fanatic, and one with the demanding lifestyle of a student. We asked Tara to spend a week with the Hourglass and report back with her professional opinion—here’s what she had to say!

I’ve always made good coffee. I’m not sure where I picked it up, but I’ve been making coffee since I was little, and I’ve enjoyed the ritual of making coffee as much as I have drinking it. Trying out the Hourglass made me nervous at first—I’m used to coffee from high-end equipment, and I expect a lot from my coffee’s flavor. After the first week, I can honestly tell you that I’ve loved drinking it—it’s just plain good coffee—but more than that, I’ve loved making it.

Making Hourglass coffee is different than making traditional coffee in a lot of ways, but they have one important thing in common: it’s all in how you serve it. I made my first brew of coffee extract on a Sunday night, not knowing that the real nuances were yet to come. Monday morning, I took a hot thermos to class with me made with a small amount of extract; it was actually hard to concentrate in class, because I kept stopping to drink more! It wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon that I tried iced Hourglass coffee, which was perfect just before my 3-hour lecture. I was able to arrive to class both satisfied and alert. Each time I had another cup, I got to experiment with the amounts of extract to include, how much to serve at once, and each time, I got to experience a new subtlety of the Hourglass coffee’s flavor.

That first batch lasted four days, and by the night of the third, I was already busy thinking up new recipes and flavors to try with the Hourglass. The brew process fit perfectly into my schedule—I make it on Sunday nights with my Sunday-night homework. And with plenty of coffee extract, there was ALWAYS fresh coffee around, so I never had to worry about making too much or too little. If I started my day with piping-hot Hourglass coffee, I could still have a cold coffee with lunch with no extra fuss.

I still love the ritual of making coffee, and I’m still on the snobby side about my tastes in coffee. The Hourglass just changed my process, and evolved it to a way that works better for me on several different levels. Who knew change could be so yummy?