Kalita Wave Troubleshooting

Brewing your coffee slowly, with precision, often yields an optimal cup. The Kalita Wave is one of my favorite hand-pour brewers, as it brings out subtle nuances coffee flavors, and it is so easy to learn. I have been experimenting with this Japanese invention for a while, but it seems something is quite odd. Sometimes, my Kalita chokes, which slows down the brew time significantly. So, in this Kalita Wave troubleshooting guide, we will provide definitive answers on how to fix common inconsistencies.

Choking

Some coffee users have complained in barista forums of their Kalita Wave choking at the end of the brew. Besides brew time, choking can strike you if you are accustomed to certain recipes or roast beans. This often happens when you let the grounds dry between pours.

How to Fix Choking?

These are some of the tricks that have worked for some Kalita Wave users. 

Change the recipe, the filter type, grind size, pour approach, wetting method, and water temperature. To be more specific, try to experiment with different kettles if what you are using is giving you troubles. For instance, one user had issues with her new Hario’s copper kettle to a Takahiro kettle. It seems the latter excel when it comes to the control of pouring and stream. 

You can also reduce choking significantly by changing your pouring. If you are pouring about 7 times per brew, then you will likely have a lot of turbulence. So, decreasing to something like 4 times per brew can prevent choking. You should also be careful about how you are seating the filter. If it is held down when wetting, you might only get about 1 – 3 holes dripping. So, why not let the filter just sit slightly at the bottom before wetting? Kalita tends to have restrictions at the bottom of the brewer. 

The issue could also be related to pulses, bloom, and agitation, which often lead to channeling too early with a finer grind. There could also be something about your technique or recipe that might affect flow vectors in the slurry. Sometimes, you may also need to change the coffee you are using. Probably experiment with a different roast.

Clogging

The stainless version of the Kalita Wave is slower than its siblings, but that is not the main issue this device has. It also tends to clog more often. 

Why Does Clogging happen?

Clogging happens when the weight of saturated coffee grounds and water pull the paper filter down to the point of covering one of the drain holes. This is bound to happen if you are following a multistage pouring recipe. 

Typically, the main reason why coffee takes forever to brew is because of its moisture content. Fresher beans tend to have more moisture, making them less soluble. In such cases, the coffee allows less water to pass through. Using a hotter water temp might help to push the coffee down, but the downside of this trick is that hotter water might over-extract the finer granules. 

Also if you are brewing on an uneven surface, gravity might have an influence. It will cause the water to flow on the holes that are closest to the earth. This will result in uneven extraction. Other coffee geeks suggest a longer bloom stage.

How to Fix Clogging Issues?

So what do you do when grinds can get stuck in the waves on the edges? You can resolve this issue by pouring a few rounds on the edges to push down those grounds. The mistake that most people make is just to add water, which usually ends up down the sides. If you also try to open the grind, you will end up with sour coffee. 

Another simple technique is physically swirling the brew cone to sweep the stuck grounds out of the waves by adding some water. This technique is not only effective in pushing all the grounds down into the water, but it also results in a more enjoyable brew. 

It turns out that following a recipe that lets water level get too low or that involves using more than 2 pours will cause clogging issues. The Gorge Howell method, in particular, sucks for most coffee beans. So, you may want to go switch to the traditional method of keeping water at about ¾ full. 

With that said, you should keep in mind that even if you are using a proper recipe, some beans are just prone to unnecessary coarse grind or issues. Oftentimes, lighter roasts are more prone to shatter and usually more brittle. So, clogging is likely to happen if it throws more fines. To minimize this problem, change your grind settings each time you brew new coffees. Sometimes, you just need to try a coarser grind. 

A skilled barrister would probably overcome these challenges by adjusting the pour speed and grand size. Swirling is also a key step in pour-over, as it washes grinds down from the sides and prevents channeling. When you are through with each pulse pour, try to do a small swirl. You see, it is hard to eliminate channeling if you allow it to draw for too long. So, don’t be shy about it since a small swirl can make a big difference not only in solving the clogging issue but also in improving the flavor profile. 

You need to be careful with your flushing fines. Your aggressive style flushing fines will definitely clog the filter. Be gentle, especially if you are working with a small cup size. Sometimes, you may feel like you are under extracting the brew, making a bit more over agitated.  

You can also try placing a metal filter in between the device and the filter. This trick seems to work pretty well when your paper filter jams up the holes, thus slowing everything down. 

It also seems that each type of Kalita Wave has its own flow rate and personality. Notably, the glass and ceramic models drain a little bit faster than the metallic models. Furthermore, different Kalita Wave models usually have a wide deviation in terms of brew time. 

kalita wave troubleshooting

Sour Cups

Maybe you have just finished brewing your cup of coffee using, let’s say, the 4:6 method, only to turn very sour. Frustrating, isn’t it? You may start blaming water, roast, or grinder as the cause of the issue, but your partner is using the same and getting great results. The thing is that extraction can be a bit challenging and might take a while to practice. Sometimes, the issue could just be acidity. Usually, the first two pours are meant to control acidity. Having said that, let’s explore ways you can fix sour cups.

How to fix Sour Cups?

If you are using old beans, you may need to tighten your grind a bit for a well-extracted cup. The good thing is that The Kalita Wave is a very forgiving brewing method. You only need to get your grind on point. If coffee is under-extracted, you might get sour cups, mostly due to the fact that fruity acidity comes out first. 

The compounds that are extracted play a great role in the taste of the coffee. Typically, coffee has the following water-soluble compounds:

  • Sugars
  • Caffeine
  • Carbohydrates
  • Acids
  • Lipids

Controlling how you extract these compounds will, therefore, will have an impact on its tastes. To get the best flavors from your coffee, you should aim for the right level of extraction. On average, the ideal extraction percentage is about 18 – 22%. But you understand that each coffee has its character, so you should not focus on getting the perfect extraction percentage. 

In addition to this, you also have to understand the variables that control extraction, which include the following:

  • Brew time
  • Grind size
  • Water temperature and quality
  • Bed depth

Usually, extraction happens faster when you use finer grounds. A finely ground coffee can produce a more bitter flavor than a coarse one. Likewise, the longer the brew, the more extraction. Short brews tend to be sourer. The ideal water temperature to prepare coffee is about 195–205 (around 91–96 ). The lower the temperature, the slower the extraction. With regards to the bed depth, you should strive for consistency.    

All grinders will produce a mix of fine and coarse particles. However, you should expect more uniformity with Kalita Wave grinders. If your coffee turns out to be too strong or too weak, modify your grinder accordingly. If the coffee is too sour, it could be an indication that you are under extracting. In this case, you should try to use finer grind or slow brew time. And if it is too bitter, it means you have over-extracted. To rectify the taste, brew for a shorter time or use a larger grind to slow down the extraction time. 

If you are brewing several cups, then you might need to avoid inconsistencies. This often happens when some grounds are extracted faster than others, leading to a mixture of over-extracted and under-extracted grounds.

Summary

The Kalita Wave brings a dynamic and classic brewing method to the pour-over technique, similar to Chemex. It is a great pour-over brew technique not only for home use but also on the go. But you need the right skills. The key to mastering this Japanese invention is the slow spiral pour. Otherwise, you may experience clogging, choking, or sour taste issues. 

Hopefully, the above troubleshooting tips will help you resolve clogging and choking issues. If you enjoyed this article, check out our review guide of the Kalita Wave here.