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?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Spring Recipe

Now that the sun is poking its head out here in the Pacific Northwest, I thought I’d share one of my favorite recipes for the spring. We call this one the Vanna Banana Beast, and as you’ve probably guessed, it’s an iced coffee made with banana—sort of like an Hourglass smoothie!
So how do you make the Hourglass coffee even healthier than it already is? By adding fresh fruit. With this quick recipe, you’ll be sipping a springtime smoothie with the richness of a low-acid coffee in no time!

Vanna Banana Beast
  • 2 oz. Hourglass coffee extract
  • 2 oz. vanilla syrup
  • 4 oz. milk
  • 2 cups ice
  • ½ banana
Blend all ingredients in blender until smooth. Makes 2 servings.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Find Us at Whole Foods!

Shortly after we launched into retail sales, our team talked about different stores where the Hourglass would be a natural fit and what shelves we wanted to see the Hourglass on. We of course thought of our local Whole Foods—as the premiere grocer for the health-conscious, we knew immediately that low-acid coffee would complement Whole Foods' philosophy perfectly.

We contacted our local Whole Foods, and they loved the idea. So on a Saturday in December, we set up a demonstration, and after the 4-hour pilot, we realized we’d already sold through a third of our inventory! What got people interested was the idea of low-acid coffee, but more often than not, it was the rich smooth taste that got people hooked.

Tired at the end of a long but fun day, we realized we were right: Whole Foods and the Hourglass made a great fit.

We quickly got in touch with the Regional Coffee Buyer for Whole Foods, and were approved for all of the stores in the Northwest region—so that means you will soon be able to find the Hourglass in Washington, Oregon, and even Canada!

Working with all of the staff at Whole Foods has been great, and we’re thrilled to be partnering with them to offer more people a healthier, low-acid coffee.

Monday, February 9, 2009

One Word: Plastics.

Fifteen years ago, if you would have asked me if I filtered my tap water, I would have thought you were nuts. Like everyone else back then, to me, “clean” water just meant clear water, and it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that the word ‘Brita’ meant anything to me. Nowadays, however, like so many other health-conscious people, I only drink water from the Brita filter in my fridge, and I’m skeptical when anyone offers me plain tap water. Simply put, we know a lot more about water purity now than we used to, and as we learn more, our expectations of our products change.

We believe that in the future, people will expect all plastic they drink from to be BPA-free. You can read in more detail on this site about what that means, but the bottom line is that most standard liquid containers have been shown to leach BPA, a harmful chemical, into the beverages they contain, and that can lead to serious health side-effects.

I’m proud to say that the Hourglass is 100% BPA-free, and that when you’re drinking Hourglass coffee, you’re drinking only coffee, and no chemicals. That has always been, and continues to be, extremely important to us.

During the production process, there was a point at which we were encouraged to go with another type of plastic in order to stay on schedule. Thankfully, we stuck to our guns—we decided then and there that it was more important to us to bring the safest Hourglass we could to the marketplace, and that BPA-free plastic was worth the wait.

For as complex as things like BPA are, when I think about it, I suppose it’s simple: people who care enough to drink healthier coffee deserve healthier plastic. I suppose that’s what peace of mind tastes like.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Making Coffee Green

One of my favorite things about the Hourglass is that it reflects a lot of the values we took to heart when we were designing it. A big part of that is how environmentally friendly it is—what we like to call “Eco-Smart.” We set out to make a product that consumes and wastes less, and the Hourglass is the outcome of that intention (plus, thousands of development hours).

First off, the Hourglass uses no power. Zero. That means that it doesn’t need to be plugged in, and there are no batteries to recharge. As we like to say, the Hourglass is Powered by Cold Water & Time™, and nothing else. Consider a traditional coffee maker: plugged in, it may not consume very much power in a single day…but over a lifetime, that adds up to a considerable amount of wasted energy (and money).

The Hourglass uses no paper filters. The stainless steel filter lasts a lifetime, but more importantly, saves you from having to throw out damp, heavy filters every day.

The Hourglass uses a bit more coffee grounds to make coffee than standard coffee brewers and makes about 8 servings per brew cycle. But because you use every drop of coffee made, there is no coffee going to waste. Many Hourglass owners brew one batch of coffee extract at the beginning of the week, and use some each day until they’re out and the week is over. Those people tell me a lot about feeling relieved at not having to throw out coffee every day anymore!

It’s always been important to us that the Hourglass be as green as it could be, and although the savings may seem small, we believe that’s exactly how big environmental changes start.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Patient Product in an Impatient World

Recently, we had the honor of getting the Hourglass reviewed by, one of San Francisco’s premiere tech blogs. Gizmodo usually covers high-tech trends and products like laptops and cell phones, but no matter who is reviewing, we’re always excited to get feedback on people’s experiences with the Hourglass. (And let’s face it: geeks drink a lot of coffee, so many of Gizmodo’s readers are very likely coffee connoisseurs.)

The Hourglass frustrated the Gizmodo reviewer, who, from the sounds of it, was looking for a coffee maker that would provide a little bit more instant gratification. Unfortunately, the Hourglass isn’t really for people looking for instant coffee. (In my experience, that only gets you coffee that tastes like…well, like instant coffee. Yuck!) The Hourglass is for people who want the richest flavor possible from their coffee; for coffee drinkers who love the taste of coffee so smooth it needs no cream.

We were disappointed by the review at first, but then the comments from readers began to add up. And up and up and up (for 54 pages!). Like the comments for a lot of tech blogs, they were both insightful and colorful, but overall, one thing became clear: the people who identified themselves as gourmet coffee drinkers all spoke overwhelmingly positively about the quality and benefits of cold-brew coffee. Not everyone is ready to wait 12 hours for coffee, but those who do appreciate the reward.

In the end, we’re proud just to have been reviewed, and glad to be a part of the San Francisco tech blog universe, even if we were slightly misunderstood. We’re also still waiting to hear from the reviewer on how the coffee tasted, too!

Monday, January 19, 2009

When is Cold Not Cold?

Cold-brew coffee is named for the process used to make it: coffee grounds and cold water, left overnight, produce a rich coffee extract that is then combined with boiling water (or ice water) to make delicious low-acid coffee. Despite the name cold-brew, coffee doesn’t have to be cold! We made the Hourglass for hot coffee lovers as much as we did for fans of iced coffee. (It’s also great for people like me, who love both—the Hourglass makes enough extract for 8 servings, and I usually end up having just as many hot cups as I do cups of iced coffee.)

When people first see the Hourglass, they ask what it is, and I’m often not sure what I want to tell them first. It’s a coffee maker that makes healthier, stomach-friendly coffee. It’s a low-acid, space-saving coffee maker made from health-safe BPA plastic. It’s a ticket to getting rid of the bitter bite of Starbuck’s daily grind.

It’s a cold-brew coffee maker, but believe me—it’s just getting warmed up!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sands of the Hourglass: How We Got Into the Coffee Business

When Todd and I first had the idea for the Hourglass, we were excited at the prospect of creating an easy-to-use, cold-brew coffee machine because of the taste, but also the versatility of the hot and iced coffee drinks it made. We envisioned it as the solution to the long-standing problem for coffee drinkers like us—a way to make gourmet coffee with minimal effort.

Then, two things happened that changed everything: (a) we began to do our research, and through that, learned about what low-acid coffee means, and just how much healthier it is; and (b) we started to have to make some decisions about the kind of product the Hourglass would be. It was through both of those processes that we grew to be personally invested in the Hourglass, and how it could make coffee better for everyone.

The Hourglass’s patent pending cold-water infusion process, which is how it makes coffee, produces coffee that’s nearly 70% less acidic than traditional hot brewed coffee. Not only does low-acid coffee taste better, but more importantly, it’s easier on the stomach. That means that for the thousands of people with sensitive stomachs, GERD or acid reflux, the Hourglass makes coffee an option again. As we learned more about the positive effects of low-acid coffee, our mission expanded—the Hourglass became about delivering not just tastier but healthier coffee, and that’s something that we’ve quickly become passionate about.

The production process also helped us establish the identity of the Hourglass as we came to each decision. Very early in the process, we saw the chance to make the Hourglass Eco-Smart, and making it environmentally friendly seemed like a natural fit; health-conscious people are likely to be environmentally conscious. It’s designed to operate without electricity, and we customized the process to minimize coffee waste. Then, we picked the safest, BPA-free plastic we could find.

The result was not only pure, rich cold-brew coffee, but a coffee maker that stands for something: health, environment, and of course, flavor.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Big Idea: The World's Coolest Coffee Maker

I should start by confessing: I’m a health nut who loves coffee. I've always always been that way, and those values are what led me to seek a venture that matched my lifestyle. The "big idea" for the Hourglass, however, originally came from my grandfather Winston, who insisted on making his coffee himself, without the aid of any fancy appliance. His secret to great tasting coffee was that he “cold-brewed” it in a homemade contraption. He had his own techniques, but growing up, all I knew was that he made the best tasting coffee I’d ever had.

One day in 2004, I mentioned my Grandpa Winston's unique way of brewing coffee to my friend and business partner. Todd Maas. A few weeks later, Todd sent me an article from the Wall Street Journal that went on and on about how great cold-brewed coffee tasted, and how much the writer loved it. It was at that point that the light bulb went off, and we realized that this wasn't just my Grandfathers secret; many others were discovering this lost art of brewing coffee.

At one point, Todd and I were talking about the cold-brew contraptions we’d seen on the market—all the pieces, all the mess! And we started to think: What if we could create a cold-brew coffee maker that was functional, yet stylish, and convenient, without the mess?

The rest, as they say, is history—but it was those first conversations that propelled us through the early development of the Hourglass. We started out with a simple mission: to make a product that would bring the cold-brew process into the present; to help others enjoy the kind of coffee my grandfather used to make. Since then, it’s become much more than that—the Hourglass not only produces coffee my grandfather would be proud of, but it’s healthier too, since it’s lower in acid than traditional coffee.

But in the end, the idea has always been about making great tasting coffee that’s good enough for coffee snobs.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Welcome to the Hourglass Coffee Blog!

If you're one of the over 40 million people who have a sensitive stomach and would like to enjoy coffee again then this is the coffee maker for you...The Hourglass produces a raw coffee extract with 69.6% less acid because it uses a cold pressed process. Brewing great tasting, smooth coffee without heat.

Heat causes bitter, unhealthy acids to form in coffee but because the Hourglass uses no heat to brew the bitter acids and oils are never released. Without the acid, coffee made in the Hourglass is rich, smooth and never bitter.

The Hourglass is eco-smart using no electricity, comes with a lifetime stainless steel filter (never buy or throw away paper filters again) and is made with health safe BPA free plastic. The Hourglass is completely portable making it great for travel, camping or even the college dorm.

The Hourglass is available online at