Osma Pro Makes it Easy to Prepare Fast Cold Coffee Brew for the Summer Hit.
For anyone who finds making cold brew a bit too complicated or time-consuming, look to Osma‘s portable coffee maker for a much simpler way to prepare the morning cup. The San Francisco-based company, run by CEO Joey Roth, has launched a sleekly designed and compact device that can make coffee in less than two minutes. Featuring a minimal appearance, the travel- and user-friendly brewing vessel uses biodegradable pods and can make about 20 cups of coffee per charge.
To see why, it helps to understand the way coffee is ordinarily made, which generally comes down to one of two things: soaking the grounds in hot water, or forcing it through the grounds under pressure.
In the first case, which includes drip and pour over, French press, and others, the heat of the water passively frees the oils and volatiles from the ground beans and then the solids, drained of flavor, are left behind through filtering.
The second case is espresso, in which the desired chemicals are extracted not just through heat but by the process of microcavitation. This is where the heat and pressure free CO2 from the grounds, forming tiny bubbles that quickly collapse, a process that leads to the flavor and aroma compounds being forced out as well.
Cold water can be used in the first method, with the advantage is that certain substances that would be destroyed by heat are retained, giving a different flavor profile. Unfortunately it can take hours or even days to brew to one’s preferred strength, and other desirable compounds degrade over that duration. And cold water can’t be used in the espresso process because steam is necessary to accomplish extraction.
Yet despite the inconvenience inherent to cold coffee, anyone who’s visited a café in the last decade can tell you it is enormously popular, year-round but especially in the summer. There’s endless appetite for the drink, even if all it amounts to is pouring hot coffee or espresso over ice. What if strong, delicious coffee could be made without heating it up, watering it down, or waiting for days? That’s the Osma proposition.
“This is a fundamentally new expression of coffee that needs to be experienced,” said Roth His reservation is justified, as the method really is completely different. In addition to using cold water instead of hot and an acoustic wave instead of high pressure to create cavitation, the Osma Pro is unique in that it uses a circulatory process instead of one-way.
Almost all forms of coffee making are unidirectional: water goes in, meets up with the grounds, and coffee comes out — with the exception of percolators, which aren’t exactly the aficionado’s first choice. The Osma method, on the other hand, sucks up the water, passes it through the grounds and agitates it, then puts it back in the same vessel, where it is sucked up and passed through again.
This circular process can be stopped earlier or later, giving a lighter or heavier brew, but there’s a sweet spot at about two minutes that Roth thinks produces the best cup for most purposes.
Creating the system was equal parts serendipity and ingenuity. Roth recalled boiling water at room temperature in a commercial vacuum chamber with his co-founder Dan Yue, which sort of worked but not really, and at any rate wasn’t the type of equipment you could resell to a consumer. Yue speculated that it was the microcavitation process that allowed this extraction without significant heat.
“We verified this with a number of other experiments and confirmed that microcavitation was indeed the magic switch,” Roth said. “From there we spent about two years developing what’s basically a mechanism to efficiently facilitate cavitation using acoustics in a tightly packed basket of ground coffee. With the help and insight of our partners James and Hiver (co-founders of Chromatic Coffee in San Jose) we developed this into the Osma Pro.”
Being able to pull a strong, cold coffee drink with espresso-like and cold brew-like aspects on demand could be a game-changer for coffee shops. At present they have to anticipate demand, making cold brew a day or longer before, risking shortages if demand outstrips supply, or otherwise offer hot coffee poured over ice, an accepted but rather incoherent approach.
At close to $700, the Osma Pro is a bit expensive for home use, but quite in line with the type of equipment used by most cafés.